Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

On Usurping the Role of the Church

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I try really hard to ignore Focus on the Family (FotF) and the Family Research Council (FRC) – something that’s particularly tough given the families both Hubby and I came from – but lately I’ve found it a bit more difficult than usual.  Not only does it tend to raise the blood pressure a bit, it also brings up memories of myself which can be  a bit cringe worthy.  It’s also a bit stretching in that it illuminates just how much of a minority we are in the county we live in.

This recent bit centers on a bit of a disagreement going on between a certain Fox News scare-monger  and Jim Wallis.  In the interests of full disclosure I have never watched this particular Fox News show (nor listened to his radio show).  I’ve only ever seen or heard bits and pieces on other shows (including of the broadcast in question here) so I suppose one could take things out of context.  In this case, though, I don’t think so.  It plays right into the polarization displayed in our country at present (like this one I talked about last year).

The recent tidbit I’m referring to is talked a bit on the Sojourner’s blog:

Now, having pushed back on the failure in civility, let me move more to the substance of the argument.  First, Tony claims:

The Bible teaches that the state has a very limited role, a view reflected in the Constitution.

Sadly, Tony does not provide us with any “proof texts” here, and it does seem his position has become what Stan Hauerwas calls “American civil religion” — a position that confuses being American with being Christian.  I would rather hear Tony give me his theological argument.  He goes on to observe:

the failed social programs of the past 40 years have shown, when Big Government usurps the role of churches, private charities, and voluntary associations, it creates dependence on programs that just don’t work.

Interesting. Is Tony suggesting we do away with Social Security? Is that one of the “failed social programs” he has in mind? One only need look at poverty rates among the elderly before and after the inception of Social Security to draw a different conclusion….And, of course, the idea that government “usurped the role of the churches” is historically absurd. Governments did not get involved because care for the least was going so well, but rather because it was not.

Based upon my personal experience in the Evangelical Church – most especially during my time on the “inside” as a pastor’s wife I have to say I agree with Chuck Gutenson as I say, “Seriously?”  When exactly has the American church, most especially the Evangelical/Fundamentalist circles, been involved in any of the “failed social programs” that the government supposedly “usurped” their roles in?  When have the current Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches been involved with attempting to take back their roles?  That is aside from the minuscule programs that gave out small gift cards or in the case of the church where Hubby was a pastor took turns with other churches in the area being on call to spend the limited funds they had allocated.  From where I sat in the churches I was involved in not so long ago the vast majority of the funds were spent on buildings and scrolling marquee signs to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.  When money got tight it was always the money spent outside of the church that was cut first making clear, at least to me, what was most important.

The worst part for me…I remember saying the kinds of things that the FRC is saying.  I was a staunch defender in the idea…that is up until the point that I got into a discussion with a co-worker and came to the painful realization that I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was talking about.  It was then that I realized that my Bible college degree from Moody Bible Institute (the quintessential Evangelical/Fundamentalist Bible college) hadn’t done a bit to prepare me for the realities of where life and faith intersected.

Mostly it wants me to ask them to “Show me the money!”  If the FRC and other Evangelical/Fundamentalist leaders really believe that the government has usurped their authority in those areas then isn’t that where they should be focusing?  Shouldn’t that be where the vast majority of their funds be spent?  I realize that there are a few organizations here and there within those circles who are doing it, but they’re statistical outliers – unique in what they do and most certainly not enough to stem the steady march downward our society seems to be taking.

*If* that’s what the Evangelical/Fundamentalists were doing *then* I think they’d have a leg to stand on when it comes to their missive.  As it stands…it’s divisive and scare mongering.  I for one tire of the constant warnings against socialism.  As compared to the rest of the developed world our maternal and infant mortality rates pale in comparison (did you see the recent Amnesty International Report?).  When it comes to subjective well-being (meaning how we perceive our own situation) Americans rank behind many of those same “socialist” nations with their high taxes that we’re told we should fear becoming.

There’s a disconnect somewhere and as long as FotF and the FRC continue banging this drum they’ll struggle amongst those in my demographic and younger.  I have difficulties reading the Libertarian/Capitalist principles touted by groups like this (and myself in the past) in the pages of the Bible.  It’s why we almost left the church and Christianity entirely and why I still struggle to this day.

I understand why this kind of language is used in the United States, but what I fail to understand is why it’s used by those who profess to follow Jesus.  Shouldn’t we of all people be better than this?  Note to self:  On a beautiful Spring day…stay away from the computer. (Although it’s also refreshing to read a piece like this afterward and know that I’m not alone.)


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