Friday, February 6, 2009

February 7- Two Governments complimenting


“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Matthew 22:17

Calvin: “Now, since we have established above that man is under a twofold government, and since we have elsewhere discussed at sufficient length the kind that resides in the soul or inner man and pertains to eternal life, this is the place to say something also about the other kind, which pertains only to the establishment of civil justice and outward morality. For although this topic seems by nature alien to the spiritual doctrine of faith which I have undertaken to discuss, what follows will show that I am right in joining them, in fact, that necessity compels me to do so. This is especially true since, from one side, insane and barbarous men furiously strive to overturn this divinely established order; while, on the other side, the flatterers of princes, immoderately praising their power, do not hesitate to set them against the rule of God himself. Unless both these evils are checked, purity of faith will perish. Besides, it is of no slight importance to us to know how lovingly God has provided in this respect for mankind, that greater zeal for piety may flourish in us to attest our gratefulness.” (IV.20.1)

At the National Prayer Breakfast Obama said he would continue to have the government work with faith based charities. I believe Obama has seen first hand the power of Christian groups to help those in need. I think he has seen the power of Christ to change people for the better, and to help people out of their misery. He said at the national prayer breakfast, “There is a force for good greater than government.” I am glad he sees that.
I understand that in his campaign and his advisors are saying even now, that the government will require religious groups to be blind in their hiring of people for such “secular” endeavors as helping the needy and feeding the hungry, but allow them to hire only believers for the religious side of things. Alas, this is another misconception of how faith works. Faith not only provides money to help the needy, but it also provides the fire, the motivation to leave comfortable homes to go out on the streets to help the hungry, the downtrodden, the homeless. In my opinion, with these rules in place, faith groups would do well to avoid government hand outs and grants with such strings attached. There is more to helping people than government money.
If Obama can require top executives to make $500,000 or less (many of their underlings now will apparently make more than they do), will the government not also seek to micro-manage the way religious groups help others? I went to Cuba in 1993 to visit some of the persecuted churches there. The government had a secretary of religion. His job was to monitor all the churches and organizations in Cuba, and to control them. At one time people stood outside the doors of the churches and took names of those who went inside. To go inside a church meant you were put on a list that would keep you from buying a new car, a new home, getting a good job, or sending your children to colleges. This was from the “Faith Based Office” of Cuba. My concern is when government gets involved, it doesn’t know where to stop, sometimes (though maybe with good intentions) destroying the energy and purity that motivated people to help others in Christ’s name.
I have always believed that government would do well not to pay a church to exist. In South Carolina in the mid 1700’s the Episcopalians were the official tax-supported religion in South Carolina though Presbyterians and Baptists outnumbered them. Government recognized marriages couldn’t take place in non-Episcopalian churches. Church members who were not Episcopalians had to pay taxes for the upkeep of the Episcopal church but had to pay out of pocket for their own church buildings. I appreciate separation of church and state in the true sense. However, it harms society for the government to not allow churches to help the needy along side of government programs. The Salvation Army does a wonderful job. I was amazed at the number of church groups in Louisianna and Mississippi (many still there) after Katrina. The government redid the infrastructure- the roads, water, hauling off debris (this cost billions). But the churches helped so many people rebuild their homes. And the casinos… well they helped rebuild the casinos more inland and a bit more established.
When homes, schools, churches, and government are working toward common goals complementing each other, the whole world is becoming a much better place. When they are constantly bickering or afraid of each other, the good of the common person is being overlooked. The zealots in Jesus day wanted to catch Jesus saying something bad about the Roamn government. He refused, but gave his famous "render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God's." Jesus refused to speak evil even of the government that would kill him.
There are two governments- one by God and one by the state, as Calvin said. It is best when these two governments compliment each other pulling together for the common good.

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