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June 28, 2009


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It is not true that you have to be a single parent to qualify for public assistance. While this article you discussed has merit (re: decline in giving) it is poor writing/reporting to state such a thing, and actually very ignorant.

To the the main article: everyone Christians included have come to depend on the nanny-state of government to "take care" of things---welfare, hunger, poverty; therefore Church and Faith and Giving become irrelevant. The prime situation is the beggar on the street. These days people want government to have a program and laws to get them off the street, whereas is it not a function of Christian values to care and take beggars in.

I would agree that as Christians we have fallen short in our mandate to help the less fortunate among us. But I wonder if the government hasn't influenced that pulling away from giving.
I think it was Lyndon Johnson who authored legislation that enabled churches to retain their tax free status as long as they refrained from being "politically active". Has this caused the church to withdraw into itself and eschew making an impact on society at large? I don't have the answer but it seems to me the "mega-churches", a mile wide and an inch deep, may be a response to a government that has since the "Great Depression" taken on the roll of caregiver for all of society.
Most effective, long-term outreach programs I have heard of or read about involve the recipient adjusting their lifestyle to access the programs. Government programs, on the other hand, appear to require showing up and receiving enough care to get by until the next appointment.


Not sure what you meant by the "mega-church" comment. The one's I have attended have excellent teaching and have done more to support the needy in local communities than the smaller traditional churches in our area.

You will find good and bad regardless of the size of the facility/congregation.

I agree. It always goes back to the condition of the heart and servanthood. Unfortunately, we have made such a mess of things that even going back to the basics seems insufficient to address the issue.

Whose hearts should be retransplanted first, the leaders of the church or the members of the body? Why has the body become less responsive? Should television ads, radio ads and every communication medium feeding the BIG FAT lie that we need to buy buy buy to feel good and be successful be exterminated? The entire economic structure is based on buying more. To buy more, you have to work more. You work more to buy more. Hence, the vicious cycle of work, buy, throw away.

This is also the generation of entertainment. We love to be entertained. It is now the national pass-time.

The result: we are too busy accumulating and being entertained that we no longer see, nor feel compassion for the needy - harder to hear and see God with all the noise. Our lifestyle has made them invisible. We have let the water (world culture) sip into the boat (Christian life). The enemy has been very busy but I am thankful that God is in control.

So what is the solution? Going back to the basics but not of our own capabilities - Praying for "one another" (the body). But who has time for that.

The Welfare state is the result of a couple of things:

1) President FDR
2) The Great Depression
3) The Church
4) Entitlement mentality

The Great Depression created a level of need that the church wasn't equipped to deal with. FDR took action, but the problem began when those moves made under his leadership didn't have end dates. So the government programs (some, not all) continued on rather than being limited, and over time they evolved to what we have today. The Church then never stepped back in and said that's our role, now that our country is no longer in peril we can take it from here. Through this an entitlement mentality grew in our culture, to where now today people simply think they deserve it, that it is their right. These are often the same people who always have enough money for beer, smokes and cable TV, but not to buy necessities. It's that strange new math I guess.

I think there are a few issues here, as pointed out by the variety of responses you've received. The most important thing, for me, is that we don't live in a Christian State. The US government is (supposed to be) free from bias toward religious ideas/ideals. And, many of the founding fathers of our country were not Christian, but were deists - they believed there is a Creator-God, but not one specifically Christian or any other religion.

This argument is actually a distraction from the real issues of the welfare state, and its successes and failures, or the idea of the welfare-state in general.

The idea of welfare, separate from religion, has to do with the responsibility of a nation's people to support the members of its populace who are unable to support themselves.

Starting from that idea, the questions/issues arise - Why can't they support themselves and what do we consider as valid reasons for receiving welfare? How much welfare should we provide to an individual before we cut them off, or should there be a cutoff? etc.

The idea is, ultimately, that, by supporting people in need, they can get back on their feet and support themselves...but more importantly - they can contribute to society again. And that's where everything comes from/returns to - society.

I think the biggest breakdown in our society is the breakdown in our society itself. Where is the common language? Where is the pride in being part of our common society?

Social Security is a form of welfare. It is supposedly paid out based on your contribution, however, almost all of your social security check comes from taxpayer dollars/gov't revenues.

As our society becomes more and more atomistic - every "individual" responsible only for him/herself - we will continue to see breakdowns in the fabric of our society. Hopefully we turn around, and begin to care for one another again...

worst charity wins

if you are in need of assistance, would you rather just fill out some paperwork and get a check, or go to an organization that requires some effort on your part?

when the government began to create a safety net, it was done in such a way that it required less of the recipient than other non-government groups providing the safety net.

therefore the growth in government charity and reduction in non-government charity.

additionally, government assistance has an army of bureaucrats whose job it is to show how many more people they are helping, therefore the goal is not to teach people how to be independent, but to find more ways to get people to come to them for assistance.

You don't take into account the fact that most churches and charities have much stricter means testing than the government, so it's easier and less humiliating to go to social services. As the government took over, churches had less work to do for the poor. Not only that, but the poor were encouraged by the values-free assistance to remain poor.

I believe that if more giving were required, Christians would be more generous. Personally, we give about 13% of our income, so this is not an attempt to assuage my own guilt. As it is, there aren't very many widows and orphans left to help. We could be much more innovative and generous in giving our time, though, and that would make more difference than money, I think.

I hasten to add that churches and charities are absolutely correct to have stricter means testing. Churches (and government welfare) aren't doing anybody any good if they're paying the electric bill so mama can support her smoking habit with her own money.

The combination of Christianity and conservatism is lethal to truth. The outright lies in the article about "welfare programs", for example that benefits based on numbers of children increase family size, is typical of the right wing conservative movement. One observation is correct though: Christians are NOT charitable.

I'm sad to say this is true. So many Christians, who should take mercy on those who are less fortunate as Jesus did on us, seem to look down on them. It is so sad that in many instances, we Christians are becoming more like the Pharisees when it comes to reaching out to help those who need it.

no, because you'll still have plenty of deadbeats out there.

a couple of thoughts.
1) The church never has done a great job of helping the poor. Previous to the great depression there was still a great deal of poverty in this country, and of course, looking worldwide, both historically and currently, hundreds of millions of people have faced food insecurity, homelessness, and overwhelming poverty. There is no 'golden age' of charity when the church was generous, and everyone had enough.
2) one technique to avoid giving money to churches who just use it on bigger buildings is to give directly to those that help the poor. Our church has a close relationship with a local food pantry, and we refer those who come to the church for assistance to the organization where we give generously. I think its OK for Christians to cut out the middleman of congregational leadership as part of their tithe.
3) Christians are the cause of the welfare state for a more direct reason. It was Christian activists who pushed for larger government run social programs, the end of child labor, benefits to children who should not be held responsible for their poverty, and the like. Welfare was developed by Christians in Government, because they thought that the government was responsible for a basic safety net for people who struggled to help themselves.

@Bill - Nor are non-Christians charitable, what is your point? Way to make a non-point. Oh, and the family size issue, sorry to burst your bubble but it does in fact happen as I witnessed it while working in a poor area of Florida. You need to try leaving your organic food store and actually mix in and work with the poor in this country before following the dogma of your politics.

As for the article, there is much truth to it. I am a Libertarian but for that to succeed, people must be more charitable.

A funny thing is that red states give a far more greater percentage of their income to charity than blue states. Google it, you will find it to be true. I hate using these terms but you brought politics into this so why not put your money where your fingers are and make a donation right now to a charity (a real one too, one that helps people, not some waste of space like the cause celeb known as PETA).

Goverment assistance to the poor was not invented by FDR. Its roots lie in the Elizabethan Poor Law, which was implemented in a country where Christianity was the state religion!

"a government that prohibits even the mention of Jesus Christ within the public realm."

This is also blatantly untrue. I'm not sure exactly how ideologically blinkered you have to be to fail to notice the frequent references to the Christian God in the speeches of the members of the House and Senate and, yes, that terrifying ogre Obama.


There are a HUGE number of orphans. Where are you getting your information that there are not that many?

Without having the column on my computer (it was in the New York Times several months ago), there was a study that showed how conservatives gave a higher percentage of their income to charity than liberals and Christians are typically more conservative than liberal. The column pointed out several prominent Democratic poliicians whose charitable donations were putrid. If I ever had the chance to ask them, I'd love to know their reasons, but I have a feeeling I already know the answer. It would be great if Christians gave more, but why let liberals off the hook. After all, what's fair is fair.

Since PETA was brought up, I have a sister who told me she won't donate to anything except animal causes. It amazes me that some people feel certain charities are so much more important than possibly saving someone's life or helping keep a human being fed and sheltered.

Christian churches don't give much to the poor because they're so wrapped up in judging them instead.

You can see this attitude displayed by some of the commenters here. Lots of comments about restricting charity only to the "worthy" poor--widows and orphans (?). By implication all others are unworthy--teenage mothers, recovering drug addicts, the homeless, mentally ill, and former felons trying to get back on their feet. But marginal people and outcasts have always been the majority of poor people in every society!

Christ befriended prostitutes, beggars, lepers, and others deemed "unclean" by jewish leaders. And he didn't demand that they "prove" they were worthy first!

But it seems like many Christians haven't actually read the Bible.

I believe the question is much broader than a money question. In a recent post I asked the question Is Money the Solution to Poverty. I answered this question from a third world perspective not a North American one. However, my conclusion from experiences in the mission field is that poverty is a symptom of many more problems than just a lack of money. Therefore, poverty cannot be eradicated simply by enough people writing enough checks. Those I know who are involved in inner city ministry in America share similar conclusions.
Relationship and interaction with the worlds poor will make a much greater impact than money. Because we will know the causes of poverty and then know the best way to apply the charitable dollars we have. Furthermore, the closer emotionally we are to the poor the more financial responsibility we will take.
A friend in Africa recently said the greatest problem of poverty is a lack of significance. The world's poor want to feel like they matter. Relationship is the first step and money is the second.


Looks like you are doing a little judging of your own.

At my previous church, they would provide people with whatever they needed; food, clothing, a place to live, etc. However, there was a requirement that the person(s) would have to also work. If they did not have a job, the church would help find them one.

From what I have heard of other church programs, they operate in much the same way.

Perhaps you should first inquire with other posters as to what they also meant before jumping to a conclusion.

Agreed: specifically with your take on the article... which is very similar to my opinion.

I believe it is a problem that has happened slowly, over time, which is one of Satan's best tools. I would like to reissue the point that if Christians were giving more, many churches may not apportion the money correctly anyway.

So what's the answer?

In these turbulent times we all need to start with ourselves. If you have a problem with these topics, evaluate your own giving & see if it meets the standard you set forth in your comments here (or your thoughts while reading). That is the best thing any of us can do... make sure we are praying & giving according to the leading of the Holy Spirit which dwells inside of us.

"I'm not so sure many churches today would spend the money wisely even if they had it."

This. The same people who aren't giving(time or money) are the same people who are running the churches.

@Craig - Great comment!

I agree with your post FMF. If Christians did what they are called to do, government would not have to intervene as much as it does.

America is not a wellfare state. Proof: "On any given night in America, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless, according to estimates of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty [1]." This considering America has only 300 million people and a GDP of $13 trillions. If America was a wellfare state, there would be far less homeless people. America is great capitalism. Wellfare and capitalism don't mix much.

Throwing money and giving money is not a solution. You can feed a hungry man for years, he's still going to be hungry after those years. The man needs to be taught and helped in how to go get his own fish.

Michelle -

Please tell me where childless adults can get public assistance. (Last I looked, there were fewer than a dozen.) Most states have dumped their General Asssitance programs some years ago.

Those states which still have such programs provide minimal benefits that do not even come close to covering rent for a room in a flophouse.

Re: "Why can't they support themselves?"

Many will disagree, but I believe the American economy is in protracted decline.

Clearly, there are not enough jobs for everyone who wants to work. Dave Ramsey isn't helping this situation by encouraging his audience to work a second or third job.

The employment figures of older (over, say, 50) have declined precipitously - while some voluntarily retire early, many are made redundant by the labor market.

I see vast economic opportunity in this country for those with either money, available credit, and/or skills. For those with none of these, there is an economic wasteland which will only expand.

er, employment figures for older MEN have plummeted; women not nearly as much.

The Church brings around 130 BILLION a year! Where does all of that go?

FMF i think you nailed it when you said that christians want a smaller government, and the ironic thing is that their generosity could eliminate big government.

On a side note, Outside of the increase through farming and herding the Israelites did not tithe a single cent of their occupational income. That means income from bankers, bloggers:), lawyers, doctors, and carpenters was not tithed on. I think you have to factor this in when you consider overall how much Israel gave to how much we give today.

- jared

Found the column if anyone cares:

I think giving by Christians/conservatives is more likely to be down BECAUSE of government welfare programs - not the other way around as you suggest. Maybe if such a large percentage of my tax dollars didn't already go to feed and shelter the poor, I'd be inclined to give more out of what I've got leftover.

And I think it's incredibly naive to suggest that if churches and citizens gave more to charity that the government would take note and voluntarily shrink its own welfare programs. Yeah freaking right.

News flash - no matter how much money you give to "the poor" there will always be "the poor." There will always be those who cannot or will not work, those who are sick, those who are orphaned, those who are drug-addicted, and so on. If people or the government decide to give more, those folks will simply end up with more/better food, less shabby clothing, fancier cell phones, and so on.

I think long ago what you are saying would work but not now. It doesn't matter how much we cna cut expenses, government will NOT because welfare and other programs gives them a lot of control and so they will keep requiring mroe and more funds to pay for their programs to grow government and their control.

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