I saw a news item the other day on Hurricane Sandy victims which brought home a point I made here once before some years back. The interviewee, a man who had a good deal of his property lost and damaged, remarked that the government and other major organizations like Red Cross had done little or nothing for him, or had only done what they did in a manner that was less than timely. It was small groups that had really done the job of helping people in a timely fashion.
Naturally I won't presume to expand a single man's account to a widespread pattern. But it does bring to mind again the point that the government has stepped in to various places precisely because the church hasn't done its job.
Let's consider for a moment how life in America might be different if the church did do (or had done) its job.
We wouldn't have needed Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid -- because Christian organizations would be taking care of the needs those represent.
We wouldn't need unemployment benefits from the government, or food stamps, or even welfare, because churches and Christian groups would provide for the needs those represent.
Since we wouldn't need all of those programs, we wouldn't be facing the so-called "fiscal cliff." We also would have a lot lower taxes -- and there wouldn't be harangues about raising taxes on the rich. Well, not the Christian rich, anyway, because they'd all be something on the order of what is called "reverse tithers."
We wouldn't have big issues over abortion. Some of the chief arguments of the pro-choice coterie -- such as that a woman would not be able to support a child, so it is better off aborted -- would be emasculated. We'd also have a lot more moral authority and credibility on issues like gay marriage, and pornography, and capital punishment.
We'd be without Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, and so many other "prosperity" or feelgood preachers, because we wouldn't be seeing Christianity as a therapeutic tool.
(Hmm. Getting rid of Meyer and Hinn, and all those others? That ought to really motivate us!)
We as Christians wouldn't need private insurance -- not for health, not for property, not for any purpose. We wouldn't fear being bankrupted by a major medical emergency. Why? Because like the early church, our resources would be at the disposal of those in need.
We'd carefully tend our resources, and issues concerning the environment would virtually disappear. I expect we'd all drive a hybrid at the least, and that wind and solar power would have been in much greater use.
If this all sounds too good to be true, well, of course, it assumes a lot. It assumes widespread success in what all too many have failed at, which is following the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. But that's sort of the point, isn't it? The church HAS failed in so many large ways to enact what Jesus taught us; and who can blame everyone else for stepping in to do the job?
In the biography of Ulysses S. Grant I read, it told of how Grant was asked by an aide if some government funds ought to be set aside for some farmers who had been struck by disaster. Grant turned the request down, reasoning that those farmers would get aid from their neighbors.
It's too bad Barack Obama doesn't have the luxury of making such a reply today.