Bush II is neither conservative nor compassionate. If he were a conservative, he would seek to preserve the moral center that is the tradition in our culture, never move our nation to the radical right, where the military and neo-fascist media deception rule. If he were compassionate, he would seek to help people in need, the elderly, the poor, the sick, never corporations or his rich oil company cronies. A compassionate man would never have ordered the “shock and awe” techno-war upon the People of Iraq, like a crazed overgrown teenager playing a macabre video game.
Bush II’s contrarian style is now becoming clear, even to the most isolated of persons in the USA. Whenever he advocates a populist policy, one should look for exactly the opposite to be the intended result. His popular rhetoric is the opposite of what he really wants to achieve for his corporate sponsors.
He co-opts great ideas and movements with ease, but then abandons them in the fog that emanates out of the oval office. A case in point is the Hydrogen Economy initiative. He did pay some degree of attention to it, and even allocated a paltry sum to start much needed research. Then, when the issue inevitably moves away from the "public eye", he simply “drops the ball”. The Hydrogen Economy initiative was left to die on the vine, without any further funds for the 2004 budget.
Evangelical Pastors should take heed of this contrarian tendency and look to the Democratic party for support of the Faith Based Initiative. He is using Christian compassion and the faith based initiative as political hot buttons, but he does not have the focus needed to clear the fog and move the initiative into legislation.
The Faith Based Initiative
The faith based initiative is a concept that validates and promotes the real compassion that is centered around the practice of faith, by allowing public funds to be allocated to social services that are operated by churches or other faith based institutions.
Focus for a moment on Mother Teresa of Calcutta, may she rest in glory. She started a hospice for the dying and showed great mercy in the care of the hopeless and forlorn. Surely no one would deny her public funds, if they were available, to help her purchase beds, food, and other items that the Sisters would need to help their patients.
The key word in the faith based initiative is compassion. Does the faith based social service provide a service that is compassionate, that provides for the care and rehabilitation of needy people, without regard to their religion, race, ethnic origin or sexual orientation?
Mother Teresa would never turn away anyone because they were not Catholic, or for any other reason, if they were truly in need of the compassionate care of the Sisters of Charity. They are able to discern the users and abusers from the truly needy, without means testing and a lot of burocratic paperwork.
Only in the United States do we have such an interlocked political system that can not adapt to social needs because it is bound by rules and regulations that make it impossible to give, or to accept, public funding for worthy causes because of their link to a faith.
A public school is not a compassionate social service, it is an institution that forms the democratic foundation of our nation. We should never allow ourselves to be segmented into rich/poor, catholic/evangelist, black/white on the basis of our schooling. For this reason alone, any use of public funds to provide a voucher for education that is discriminatory should be unconstitutional.
Funds for a faith based social service must never be used in the church, mosque ashram or synagogue that provides the service. This obvious restriction must be implemented by separate financial systems between the social service and the religious function. A social service may well receive funds from the tithes of a church’s members, but it’s ministry should never receive funds from the public. A minister may be paid with public funds for his work at the social service, but never paid to preach on Sunday.
The test that a social service must pass in order to receive funds from the faith based initiative must be at least three:
Is it a compassionate social service that provides for the care or rehabilitation of the needy?
Does it provide it’s service for all needy people, regardless of their faith, race, ethnic origin or sexual orientation?
Is the service financially separate from the faith based organization that provides it?
If we were to apply these tests, the Salvation Army shelters would receive funds, so would the Catholic Social Services, which provide food and clothing to the needy, or even the Alcoholics Anonymous, since they provide a faith based rehabilitation. There is a lot of need in America, a lot more need than charity alone can cover.
Those souls with an altruistic calling are best suited to provide compassionate care. Why not allow some of our public funding to go to help these very special workers and volunteers, so that we may see a growth in our own social dimension as a nation.
If we have the political will, I am sure that we can work out the details in the US Congress and in each state legislature. We must focus on compassion and service, rather than money and political power. May G-d help us reach an aware society with compassionate solidarity for all of His creation.