Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It Says In the Bible Somewhere ...

I'm looking for the Scripture that says this is OK:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have provided shelter, food and supplies to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The payments with taxpayer money would mark the first time that the government has made such payments to faith-based groups at a time following natural disasters, the newspaper reported, citing FEMA officials.

FEMA is a division within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to the article, religious groups that operated emergency shelters, food distribution centers or medical facilities at the request of state and local governments in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama would be eligible.

( ... )

Kinerney said they would include "labor costs incurred in excess of normal operations, rent for the facility and delivery of essential needs like food and water," the report said.

The policy was outlined in a September 9 internal memorandum, titled "Eligible Costs for Emergency Sheltering Declarations."

Under the policy, religious groups, like secular nonprofit groups, will be required to document their costs and file for reimbursement from state and local emergency management agencies, which in turn will seek funds from FEMA, the report said.

Wasn't there a chapter in the Book of Hezekiah somewhere, in which God directed the Levitical priests to tax the people, under threat of force, to finance benevolences? I thought there was. Seems like I read it once. But I can't find the chapter. (Can't find the whole book, as far as that goes, but that's another issue.)

Maybe it was in Paul's first epistle to the church at Miletus. Let's see, 1 Miletians 2:15, if I remember correctly ... it says, "And I urge you, brothers, in view of the manifold mercies and rich provisions of our God, to file with Caesar without delay, for reimbursement of the denarii that you have expended to feed and clothe and shelter the hungry and naked and homeless, making certain to conform in your papyrus-work to all applicable Imperial standards." At least, that's what I think it said. But I can't find that one either. Must have been back there near Philemon or one of those other short ones.

This puts me in mind of the conservative analysis of the emergence of the large and increasingly alienated underclass during and after the 1960s, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the Great Society, the War on Poverty, etc. The idea was that the functional urban black family pretty much ceased to exist when the various poverty programs offered cash assistance to mothers only if the fathers were absent from the home. The analysis said that the government had effectively displaced and replaced the low-income father, causing (or at least facilitating and exacerbating) the whole familiar set of social pathologies that became widespread among poor blacks, and is now becoming characteristic of a fast-growing white underclass, also. (This was back when "conservative" meant something other than "mindless cheerleader for any war, anywhere, anytime, at any cost to anybody except me.") The mom, supposedly, found the government to be a better and more reliable provider than the father was, and so he was replaced.

Well, the Christian church is supposed to be the "bride of Christ" and is supposed to depend on Him for provision. Ah, but now, a different deal is being offered ... now the church can be the bride of FEMA! It's bad enough, I think, that the government puts the gun to everyone's head to shake loose tax money, allegedly for "benevolence" which, somehow, is always preceded by the muzzle of an M-16. Now, though, it invites the Church to become an accessory and beneficiary of its crimes. Again, from the news story:

The report cited a FEMA official in Louisiana as saying it is too early to know how many groups will seek reimbursement under the new program.

I'll be interested to find out just which "groups" sign up for the mammon of unrighteousness.


lemming said...

Leviticus 19:15 "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to teh poor or favoritism to teh great, but judge your neighbor fairly."

19:33-34 "When an alien lives withyou in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born."

Chapter 27 of Leviticus discusses the prices that are to be paid rather than giving up a family member or animal to God's service.

Not sure if any of that was what you're looking or - but I like your letter from Paul.

re: welfare only to single moms - ever read Linda Gordon's Pitied But Not Entitled? It's a history of this shift and the consequences. It's one of those readable academic books that I wish I could force politicians to read.

Bartleby said...

I think it is unquestioned that charity and benevolence are commanded in many Biblical passages, including the ones you've cited. The Christian is obliged to give generously of his or her material substance, time, and energy to meet the needs of those around him or her. I find, however, no scriptural hint that the Christian can discharge this obligation by forcing someone else to give and serve. The Samaritan in Jesus's parable (Luke 10:25-37) didn't lobby Caesar to tax the people to pay for the robbery victim's care; instead, he took care of the man, physically, and then dug into his own purse and paid for his further care. The difference, I think, is literally "crucial."

I really think that all this Bush-era "faith-based" stuff is incredibly dangerous to the Church. Every institution, like every person, is accountable to whomever provides for it. To the extent that the State succeeds in supplanting divine providence in this role, the Church is "playing the harlot" with a stranger ... and will, in due course, be disciplined.

I had not heard of the book you recommended it until now. I'll see if I can lay hold of a copy. I admire you for wishing to force politicians to read ... I must admit that I, too, have wishes involving the forcing of politicians, but my wishes typically involve activities that are ... well, less gentle. I need to work on my wishes, as you can see.