By Don Boys, Ph.D.
In recent weeks, America has been pummeled by many natural disasters that have caught the attention of the world. The amount of help from faith-based groups has also come to the attention of the world.
Author Arthur Brooks points out that “Religious people are far more charitable than nonreligious people. In years of research, I have never found a measurable way in which secularists are more charitable than religious people.” Other researchers have revealed the same results: Christians are gracious, generous, and giving of their money and efforts, and they have been throughout history.
The atheist groups never seem to show up to help those in need.
History is replete with examples of Christians responding to those in need during times of destruction, disease, and death.
During Katrina, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Disaster Relief teams distributed aid and food and otherwise ministered to survivors. In fact, the SBC channeled at least $40,000,000 into Katrina relief plus millions of volunteer hours in clean-up. The Salvation Army, Adventist Relief Organization, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Samaritan’s Purse were also heavily involved. About half of the shelters in the first few weeks were operated by Christian groups.
Recently, Samaritan’s Purse was the first relief group to land on St. Martin with food, water, and other supplies. The Southern Baptists and other groups are deeply involved with relief efforts because of Harvey, Irma, and now Maria even before the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived.
According to Greg Forrester, CEO of the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), “About 80% of all recovery happens because of non-profits, and the majority of them are faith-based.” However, some of those churches who helped in Texas following Harvey want to be reimbursed by the federal government for their losses! Three Houston Texas churches sued FEMA for barring them from relief funding and the President took their side as do almost everyone–except me. The President is wrong.
Churches helping those in distress is one thing but getting reimbursed with tax dollars for that service or receiving money to rebuilt is something else. President Trump and many other political and religious groups want to provide financial support for churches damaged by Harvey. But churches should never get taxpayer money for any reason: day cares, schools, feeding the homeless, etc.
The churches’ attorneys claimed, “The churches are not seeking special treatment; they are seeking equal treatment.” Well, just a minute. The many other businesses that were destroyed do not enjoy tax exempt status. While it is praiseworthy that the three churches served 8,000 meals and housed the homeless, they do not deserve cash–a commendation is sufficient. Some will declare not getting reimbursed to be unfair and unreasonable, but in my mind it is unconstitutional to reimburse church benevolence.
The U.S. Supreme Court was wrong in its decision to fund a Missouri Lutheran Church school playground. Why should atheists help fund a Christian school? Why should Jews or Baptists support with their tax dollars a Christian school? The school’s supporters pled that all kids have a right not to get skinned knees. However, if a school does not have to use its money to provide a safe playground, then they can use their money for religious and educational purposes. Government should not be in the business of supporting churches or church schools.
No one has mentioned that the churches could have purchased insurance–another reason not to have taxpayers rescue them from their difficulty that any prudent person would have covered with insurance.
Someone asked, “Why would the government turn away humanitarian assistance from one of the biggest pools of support?” However, the question is not based on a solid premise. No one is saying churches cannot help during disasters; it’s just that they can and should help but should not expect to be reimbursed for their work or their losses. They should even refuse reimbursement! What would we think of the Good Samaritan if he’d been reimbursed?
Yes, Christian groups have been ubiquitous during the cleanup; however, they should be remembered, respected, but not reimbursed. I agree with my old “friend” and debate partner, Barry Lynn who said, “We know a lot of people in Texas are suffering, and we are sympathetic. But the fact that something bad has happened does not justify a second wrong. Taxpayers should not be forced to protect religious institutions that they don’t subscribe to.” Barry is right and Trump and most of my Christian Conservative friends are wrong.
Christians should want to help others and that attitude is taught in the Gospels but it is to be without reciprocity, reward, or recognition. A Christian’s attitude toward helping others is exemplified in Luke 10 where Christ told of the Good Samaritan who helped a hated Jew. The Samaritan (a hated minority) found a wounded man on the Jericho Road. The Samaritan cleaned and bandaged his wounds after applying medicine to them. Then placing the suffering Jew on his own beast (while he walked), he took him to an inn and paid for his care and promised to pay for any additional help. The kind Samaritan paid about $300 in our money to help a suffering stranger. And he didn’t expect to be repaid.
This was an astounding act of kindness since there had been visceral hatred between Jews and Samaritans for hundreds of years. While travelling to Galilee in the north, Jews would go out of their way to not go through Samaritan country lest they make contact with a despised Samaritan.
During this period, the whole land of Judea was infested with hordes of banditti; and it is not unlikely that many robberies had been committed on that very road to which our Lord refers, the major road that still unites Jerusalem and Jericho. In fact, that road that I’ve travelled many times was known as the “way of blood” and was fifteen miles from one city to the other with many opportunities for ambush.
At least twelve thousand priests and Levites lived in Jericho, and as their business was at Jerusalem, they constantly travelled that road. You would expect a priest or Levite to show compassion for a fellow Jew but they were too busy, in too much of a hurry, or too callous to stop and help a suffering man. After all, the Samaritan was “out of place” since he was not in Samaria. It is noteworthy that both the priest and Levite were “full time” religious servants but had no time for a suffering human.
This teaches that how we treat others should have no relationship to their religion, race, or rank; not that these are unimportant but they are irrelevant when it comes to common decency, kindness, and benevolence–even when the sufferer is considered an enemy. Otherwise, many suffering people will be left dying in a ditch along the Interstate of life.
Had the Samaritan sent the Jew a bill for his kindness or expected the state welfare system to reimburse him, it would have destroyed the lesson Christ was trying to make. Any church that asks to be reimbursed because they helped the unfortunate or seeks tax funds for help in repairing, or rebuilding, or replacing their damaged buildings is a shock to the principle of benevolence.
Historically, Christians believed they had a responsibility to help others, so during times of famine they shared their food; in times of sorrow they wept with the bereaved; and in times of pestilence, they nursed the sick and dying. The non-Christians and the pagans took notice of such kindness–and at a time when other institutions were discredited and often dissolved, the Christian churches were enhanced. When William McNeill wrote of Christians reacting to suffering, he observed, “Pagans fled from the sick and heartlessly abandoned them;” however, Christians stayed and served–and died.
But nobody got paid for their Christian benevolence since if one gets paid, it is not benevolence and he loses his eternal reward!
Boys’ new book Muslim Invasion: The Fuse is Burning! was published by Barbwire Books; to get your copy, click here. An eBook edition is also available.
(Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives; ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis, wrote columns for USA Today for eight years; authored 16 books and hundreds of columns and articles for Internet and print media publications; defended his beliefs on hundreds of talk shows. These columns go to newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations and may be used without change from title through the end tag. His web sites are www.cstnews.com and www.Muslimfact.com and www.thegodhaters.com. Contact Don for an interview or talk show.)
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