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Archive for September 22nd, 2012

Question: Where would society be if Christians stopped practicing charity and compassion outside the church walls?

Professor Alvin Schmidt has the answer.  His entire book, How Christianity Changed the World (Zondervan, 2001, 2004) is worthy of your read.  For now, I would like to provide you with excerpts from my friend’s book most appropriate for this discussion of the health care mandate.  Alvin is a very respected acquaintance of mine who has, over the years, been a popular pro-life workshop and keynote presenter.  He has been kind to encourage my speaking and writing.  Alvin is a retired professor of sociology, faithful Biblical Christian, and involved U.S. citizen.  Considering the times in which we find ourselves, I highly recommend your read of Professor Schmidt’s meticulous documentation of Christianity’s influence on the world.

From the earliest years of Christianity to the ninth century, charity needs in the West were regularly provided for by the church.  Church-dispensed charity declined sharply after the death of Charlemagne in 814.  Feudal lords were to take care of the poor on their lands, but they did so inadequately.  By the sixteenth century, charity had become largely secularized.  By the twentieth century, state welfare payments replaced much of the churches’ charity.  Today, millions who receive state welfare payments in the Western world probably know little or nothing about the fact that the payments they receive are largely the result of Christianity’s influence.

Modern state welfare grew out of the Christian practice of charity, but it’s important to note that government programs, welfare, and even health care cannot be equated with Christian charity.  State programs operate on the basis of coercion; funds are involuntarily gathered by means of enforced taxation.  This violates the spirit and method of true Christian charity.  Christian-based charities and organizations serve others by using funds that are donated or freely given as love-offerings.

Government welfare programs are at odds with Christian charity because they often produce unintended harmful effects by unintentionally encouraging the loss of individual responsibility and even rewarding it.  One such effect has been the continued rise in the rates of children born out of wedlock, a trend that has steadily increased from the mid-1960s to present day.  In 1960 the out-of-wedlock birth rate was 5.3 percent of all births in the U.S., while in 1998 it was 33 percent (an increase of nearly 600 percent).  Another consequence of government welfare has been the rewarding of the indolent, which nullifies the Christian admonition: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  Imprudent charity is not a good thing.  Another effect of government welfare programs at odds with Christian charity is that they often foster political demagoguery by pandering to the voters who are recipients of social welfare.  Political demagoguery, or appealing to the emotions of a certain group of people, clearly violates Christian charity, not only because it uses deception, but also because it benefits the selfish interests of the demagogues or leaders who reap political gain by presenting themselves as advocates of welfare.  This is Roman liberalitis, not Christian caritas.

Christian charity fosters freedom from all forms of slavery.  Government welfare tends to create a permanently dependent class.  The essence of slavery is being dependent on someone or some entity for one’s livelihood.  This demoralizes human beings.

Government welfare induces many people to think that government should pay for their needs that they feel they cannot afford.  Apparently when the government pays for people’s needs, it does not appear as though others are paying for them. Such thinking forgets that the government has no funds except those taken by means of compulsory taxation.  And that is what distinguishes state welfare programs from Christian charity.  Remember Christ’s example of the Good Samaritan?  He gave, not because he was coerced, but because he had a heartfelt, voluntary desire to help someone in need.

Finally, government programs are different from Christian charity because Christ said that His followers were to give “a cup of water in My name” (Mark 9:41.  Government welfare is not offered in the name of Jesus Christ.

Note: The second printing of How Christianity Changed the World
includes a Bible study for personal or group use.

THANK YOU PROFESSOR SCHMIDT!

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Testifying before U.S. Congress, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) President Matthew Harrison said: “Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government.”  That perspective will be tested in several courtrooms.

If the Health and Human Services (HHS) health care mandate is not overturned, our children and grandchildren will have less religious freedom than their parents and grandparents did.  The stakes could not be higher for Lutheran Christians privileged to live in the United States of America.

The LCMS is seriously concerned.  The health care legislation allows the government to define not only what a church is but also what a church is free to do, or not to do.  You see, the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is more than the freedom to gather with others for worship.  It is more correctly the freedom to live and speak our faith out in the community.  With the health care mandate, government is infringing on our religious freedom and rights of conscience.  It falsely defines Christian charity as limited only to work within our own church walls.  (Read more about “Charity and Compassion Outside the Church” in the next post.)

The HHS mandate directs many religious groups and institutions to offer their employees coverage for contraception and drugs that result in the death of a preborn child regardless of whether or not that religious group believes abortion or sterilization is obedient to God as the Creator of life.  This is a direct violation of our religious liberties and our rights of conscience guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

The largest historical question for my church body, the LCMS, is this: Does the federal government have the power to impose a heavy fine or tax on those religious groups who refuse to provide for their employees services that violate their moral and religious principles?  (Source: President Matthew Harrison on Youtube, and Timothy S. Goeglein in The Lutheran Witness, 9/2012)

The LCMS believes this matter is so crucial that it has set up a special website with the goal of providing Christian citizens of the United States with helpful resources.  Please take the time to visit www.lcms.org/freetobefaithful Listen to President Harrison express his grave concerns.  Then, respond by speaking up to your legislators, writing letters-to-the-editor, and talking to your family and neighbors.

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