Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives and Katrina
ED GORDON, host:
Churches across the country have opened their doors and their purse strings to offer shelter, food and supplies to hurricane survivors. This week, FEMA announced it's going to reimburse those religious organizations that provide aid. Commentator John McCann is glad to see the Bush administration stand behind its pledge to support faith-based communities, but, he says, there's still a lot of work to do.
President Bush has been pro-church and faith-friendly ever since he took office, often touting how the Lord helped him put down that liquor bottle. Now in the wake of the recent hurricanes that caused so much destruction down there in the Gulf Coast, I'm prepared to hold my president's feet to the fire on one of his pledges: his pledge to give the faith community a higher profile in matters of government--and not just in times of crises, like the one we face now in the aftermath of the hurricanes. I'm talking about turning churches into welfare agencies that care for people in poverty. And why not? Church folk know how to come through in the clutch.
For the skeptics out there, I'm right there with you, wary of gold-toothed pastors and--I don't know--10-button suits with coats so long they drape their matching gator-skin shoes. Don't forget the matching the sweat rag, too, hey, man. But for better or for worse, I'll take my chances with the church handing out charitable gifts, especially when you consider that a long-venerated organization like the American Red Cross isn't beyond reproach either. If you'll recall, back in 2001, after the terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, there was a scandal about how the Red Cross money you gave for September 11th relief wasn't getting to the victims. A congressional probe ensued that ultimately ended with the Red Cross president resigning. So all I'm saying is give the church a shot. I mean, any organization that can turn sales from chicken dinners into sparkling family life centers deserves at least that.
Now, church folk, if Uncle Sam comes calling, will you answer? No time for shuckin' and jivin', amen? No time for fights about women wearing pants in the sanctuary or the color of the choir robes. It'll be the hour of truth, the opportunity for the church to be the church.
Now let me tell you something that's real because--amen--the truth will set you free. See, if the church was being the church all this time, let me submit to you that a lot of those poor folks in New Orleans wouldn't have died because of Hurricane Katrina because there would have been no poor folks. Read your Bible, over there in the book of Acts, where Brother Luke writes about the early church and how the believers had everything in common. Like this: If you and I were church members back in the Bible days and if I knew you had a need, I'd sell some of my land so you could feed your family. You'd do the same for me.
Now if the church had kept on doing that, the poor brothers and sisters trapped in New Orleans probably would have had a car to flee the city, or at least cab fare to make it out. But somewhere along the way we got hooked on New Deal legislation and welfare. And that New Deal became a raw deal as the church sat idly by eating more chicken than it was selling, buying bigger suits to compensate, content with looking out for the next pair of gators instead of looking after each other.
Will the church be the church? Eh, I don't know. Depends on how you respond to that single mother having a hard time with all them kids. Depends on whether you're storing up treasures in heaven or if you want it all for yourself here on Earth.
GORDON: John McCann is a columnist for The Herald-Sun newspaper in Durham, North Carolina.
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