Thursday, April 07, 2011

Government vs. Church

It's been a while since I've written, mostly because I read The Hole in Our Gospel and Radical by David Platt back-to-back. And that's a lot to process. I'll talk more about Radical later, but for now it's enough to say that it's a pretty amazing read. To be clear, I am theologically worlds away from David Platt, yet I agree with his conclusions about what it means to follow in the way of Jesus.

But something else has been on my mind for a week or so, and that's the role of government vs. church. Lately I've been keeping up with two organizations that work to eradicate world poverty. The first is called ONE.org, and if you're not terribly familiar with it, it may still ring a bell because Bono is its co-founder and biggest champion. The other is called Bread for the World. Its president is Lutheran pastor and economist David Beckmann (as far as I know, he doesn't play soccer) and its mission is to "urge our nation's decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad." They do this mainly by mobilizing communities to write letters to their representatives in Congress.

ONE.org says that it "fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school, and improving futures.

I think that what I appreciate most about these organizations is that they are both effective in their mission of raising awareness about global poverty. They both also provide hope in that they show how regular people have made a difference, and they give "us" something to do.

But after reading The Hole in Our Gospel and reading about the resources sitting in the laps of American Christians, I wonder if we aren't just passing the buck by pressuring political leaders to make policy changes. Last I checked, the government of this country isn't obligated to make decisions that will eliminate poverty all over the world.

But the church is.

And if we are asking the government to make that task its responsibility, then we run the risk of absolving ourselves of that duty.

I'm still a member of both Bread for the World and ONE.org. I haven't written letters yet, but I am grateful for the hopefulness that both of those organizations bring to the feeling that "I'm just one person and I can't make a difference." But if I do choose to write letters, I will have to do lots of self-checking to make sure that I'm not doing so just to get myself off the hook.

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