“Faith-based” alliances and partnerships are all the rage. Since January 2001 when George W. Bush — within days of being sworn in as president — created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (later renamed the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships), the lure of federal money to assist in community assistance programs has been irresistible. Churches and non-profits have lined up to take the king’s nickel, forgetting that there are government-mandated “strings” attached to that nickel.
In my home state of Arizona, the state agency responsible for administering welfare, “child safety,” job training, unemployment, senior, family and other social services is the Department of Economic Security. The DES.
Last week, Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order creating a new state agency: the Office of Faith and Community Partnerships. It is modeled after the federal program, which Barack Obama renewed in February 2009 — again, shortly after being sworn in as president. (Government control of churches and charities seems to be a high priority with these newly-elected presidents!)
I suggest a new name for this new state agency:
Department of Ecclesiastical Subordination
Its mission: to protect you from unwanted unconstitutional abuses like… being presented the Gospel and quoted inspirational Scripture verses by church workers or rank-and-file Christian volunteers who overstep their statutory bounds by inadvisedly sharing their faith with the people they serve in the context of showing their faith to the people they serve, while they are engaged in providing state-supported, publicly-funded social services.
It’s for your own good, you know. Separation of Church and State. Establishment of Religion and all that.
If I were a pastor or church worker, I wouldn’t worry one whit about the state controlling what I say or what I do while I’m “on duty” administering state-supported, publicly-funded social services. Nope. I would simply tell that poor mother or handicapped person or jobless or homeless person, “Sorry, Charlie (or Charlene), I know I’m a Christian. But since I’m helping you here using your hard-earned (or not) taxpayer dollars, I have to play by the unbiblical, religiously intolerant rules. I can’t say a single syllable that might be construed (by government or ACLU or SCA lawyers) as being “religious” or proselytizing, or else — BAM! — no more tax money.
And we can’t have that.
Better for you to be warmed and fed and spiritually-deprived than for us to violate agency rules and not gain more tax money! This is called high finance for high callings.
How does this work? It’s really very simple. Let’s say you’re pastoring a church that has a legacy of helping the poor and “underprivileged” in the community. But, the economy being what it is, you’ve fallen on hard times. Giving is down. Building projects and expansions are up. The needs are there. The means to meet them are not. What do do?
“Partner” with the state. Of course!
In exchange for some free tax money, you get to dole out services and shut your mouth. They’re not paying you to talk about Jesus and all that Christian stuff. They’re paying you to be the hands and feet of the state. Do good unto others, but don’t talk about Him who is good. They want the works without the faith. It’s the American way.
Why do Christians accept this? Why do Christians believe this?
Because they have been fed a steady diet of artificially-flavored, theologically-homogenized evangelicalism.
Because they have refused the solid teaching, the strong meat-and-potatoes of covenantally-robust, historically-orthodox biblical theology.
Because they have sat under preaching and worshipped in churches that believe in “no creed but Christ; no law but love”: antinomianism. Pietism. A perfect recipe for swallowing bad ideas wrapped in good intentions.
And because they have, for the most part, been “educated” in the public school system — a rigorously atheistic, pro-government, pro-socialist system that Christians overwhelmingly support and put their own kids through. But I digress. (But maybe I don’t.)
This kind of “partnership” is rightly called, Faith-Based Fascism. Churches get some extra money. Along with an extra muzzle. The state gets more useful idiots to do its bidding. And Christians get to feel like they’re “in the game” and “have a seat at the table.”
Seat at the table? What’s for dinner? Your faith and religious freedom of speech, that’s what!
If your pastor thinks this is a good idea, tell him that it isn’t.