Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Church and State in Loving Embrace

Listen to (or read) the President's National Prayer Breakfast speech from February 3, 2011.

Notice that the church needs the government if it is to do its work of charity. Does that sound like Christ's vision for his bride and witness in the world?

My column on this speech explores the division between Evangelical left and right over the role of government in "a just and caring society." President Obama claims that the church and nonprofits are simply inadequate to the needs a round us. The government "must" be involved.

Of course, the president is looking at the capacities and willingness of non-governmental givers and providers in the context of a large-and-getting-larger government welfare system. We now have had generations of government that has been progressively crowding out private action by taxing away capacity to give and weakening people’s sense of their moral responsibility to care. It’s impressive that we give and care as much as we do! But any deficiency that we have privately in these is not an argument for more government action, but less.

The second problem I see in the president’s thesis is the equivalency with which he speaks of private and government caring activity, whether together or separately. When the American people’s charity is expressed through government, it is not received as charity but as entitlement. It follows from the nature of the relationship. As such, the effect is different. Charity ennobles and enables. Entitlements enslave and incapacitate. Charity tries to get you back on your own feet, functioning as an equal. Entitlements maintain you as a permanent client, dependent and politically supportive.

Read "Obama's Godly Government" (, February 16, 2011).

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