Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bingo, Buses, and Bullets

My last post brought a lot of comments via private email and a few who posted. My thanks to all. Yet, there needs to be some clarification of exactly what I meant when I talked about the creation of programs that enslave. Some thought I was referencing welfare, etc. but my brush was painting a much wider swath than that. Some believed that Jesus would certainly support governmental social programs and that it was sinful not to vote for more of them.

Let me say this first: I am not claiming that Jesus and I are all of the same mind on this question. I have found that Jesus is claimed by every slice of the political piechart and I am fairly certain he did not intend to form an earthly kingdom so -- I will try not to make this a matter of salvation, an avenue of grace, or anything more than just the way I see things at this particular point of time. I have been wrong before. In fact, I'm pretty good at it. It might be my spiritual gift.

Let me tell you a story: in Morgantown, WV where I spent a wonderful eight years, the announcement came down from city government that they would have to cancel weekly bingo games at the senior citizen's center downtown. Their reason was that the bus company that brought seniors from out of town was giving notice that they would no longer do so. They complained that there was not adequate parking for the buses, therefore the drivers had to drive a long way away and park at the city limits, returning to pick them up later. Without a space to park the buses downtown, the company said, they could no longer offer the service. The city and county government looked at the issue and found that it would cost in excess of two million dollars to make a parking area for the buses; and they did not have the money so the games -- as enjoyable as they were to many -- would be stopped.

The seniors went ballistic. They demanded that the government pay for the creation of bus parking. Some of the city fathers and county supervisors agreed and pushed through a spending bill. The 30,000 residents of the town now had to find another two million dollars so that some could play bingo. If they refused to pay? What does the government do to people who will not pay their tax bill?

I think we can all agree that that was a silly example -- even though it was a true one. Let's do another story. Yesterday, a man came into my office looking for help. This happens quite a lot as we are on a main road and we have a big building so we're easy to find. He wanted help paying for prescriptions, for gas to get home, and he wanted to move himself and his eight children from the hotel they were staying in now to a cheaper one. I am not sure how much of his story was true or how deep his need was. However, as my habit is, I pulled out my own wallet and gave him money. I think it is what Jesus would do. Maybe he would have done more, but I am certain he would have done something! Note what I did NOT do: I did not go from door to door requiring the rest of the ministry staff to give him money, too. Nor did I, when someone refused, confiscate their property and threaten them with prison until they gave.

It is my responsibility to feed the poor, to offer the cup of cool water, to clothe the naked, etc. I am never given the right to require others to give, to name the amount, and to override any of their objections with bullets. Remember -- paying taxes is not optional regardless of what you might read on the internet, and the IRS is the only court in the country where you are guilty until proven innocent and the whole burden of proof is on the accused.

I am all for food stamps for the needy, free medical care for those who can't pay, new roads and sewers for depressed areas, etc. ad nauseum. However, where is the moral authority to force others to pay -- at the point of a gun -- for any program the majority wants? Where is that justified in scripture? The majority is not only NOT always right, sometimes it is evil and stupid.

Some social programs will have to be established because we are a fallen world and there is much we need to do to help each other along the way. But I submit that every social program falls into one of a few categories:

1. It is a result of the failure of the church to be salt and light. It is a result of the failure of the church to lead in giving, sharing, caring and driving back the darkness that invades our lives.

2. It is the result of pandering to a vocal minority, to posture for the cameras, and to insure re-election regardless of the immorality of forcing others to pay for programs they do not want.

3. It is the least efficient way to handle the problem. On the Gulf coast to this day (I've been several times recently as have my son and teams from this congregation) we see that billions of dollars spent does not mean any improvement made. Every single person we helped -- every one of them -- is still waiting for that first FEMA contact. They would walk us down the line and show us that every home that was repaired, every area that was cleared, was cleared by volunteers (almost always church groups) and not by government even though the money was allocated and taxpayers have been sent the bill. While honest people disagree over figures, most would agree that running the program through the government wastes between 20-40% of the money. Yet, if a citizen decides not to pay because of wastefulness or because they do not approve of the program (such as sex ed, free needles for addicts, funding for homosexual parades, etc.) they stand in very real danger of losing their homes, income, and freedom.

My reluctance to support parties (and Republicans are as bad at this as Democrats. The issues they push may be different, but they send the bill to the same people) is not that I don't want to do good. It is that I want to direct that good as I see fit after prayer and after receiving guidance from my elders and others I respect. I will not discuss this but suffice it to say that my family and I give until it hurts and then we give more (it eventually feels better). We love giving and will not stop. We just wish we got to choose where more of our money goes. And we will not support the unethical taking of money from those who do not want it taken, especially when their refusal puts their liberty at danger.

Now... are the waters muddy enough? Wouldn't it be great to be out of here and in heaven? One day. One day soon.


At 3/07/2006 11:33:00 AM , Anonymous Eric said...

Exceptionally well stated, Patrick. I often struggle with communicating my position on matters such as these. Thank you for seemingly speaking my heart.

At 3/07/2006 12:32:00 PM , Blogger Lee Hodges said...

Our elected officials have never been very good at the "Teaching A Man To Fish" principle. It is just easier to through money at the problem - our money!

When it comes to what we call "natural disaster", and please understand I have a brother who lives on the gulf coast, I wonder how much responsibility should be placed with those who "choose" to live in danger prone areas?

At 3/07/2006 12:39:00 PM , Blogger Suzie said...

I agree!! Wouldn't it be amazing if someday we didn't need the government to provide social programs because the church, neighborhoods, and individuals were doing it.

At 3/07/2006 01:18:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Double Ditto this time, brother!
I couldn't have stated my thoughts on this subject any better than you just did for me.

Keep em coming!

At 3/07/2006 03:28:00 PM , Blogger LEM'S Politics said...

I think if you look back at your previous article you might see the problem you had. You gave all the blame to the democratic party. I notice in this most recent article you include the republicans maybe you should have just said the government. I understand the Senator from Alaska who wants to build the bridge to nowhere is republican. just my thoughts on the subject.

At 3/07/2006 11:11:00 PM , Blogger Terry said...

You are right on where I am thinking today. I hated the fact that today in order to participate in voting I had to declare a party. Thanks for sharing and clarifying. You have helped many today.

At 3/08/2006 03:08:00 PM , Blogger Billy D said...

You have to declare a party affiliation? Here in NH we can just claim "I" and go.
The R's and D's are the same, with just a bit different window dressing. Each have their pet issues they scream about and run on, never with any real intention to solve them. (What would they run on next time?)
Vote for individuals, not parties, as there are charlitans in all of them.
I myself, tend to wander around in the libertarian party mostly.
I don't know about the conventions and such, but where I live we have a whole LOT of them (the free state project and all) and all the ones I know are good folks who want to be left alone, and want you to be left alone. Works for me.

At 3/08/2006 04:36:00 PM , Blogger Bill said...

I once casually mentioned who I voted for in the first presidential election in which I was eligible vote many years in the past. Roughly two hundred people were present. After the service, a couple of older sisters lovingly chastised me for getting too political. (They didn’t buy my explanation that I was simply trying to provide an historical reference point for the comment I was making.)

Several party-faithful gave me nods of approval after the service. Even though years have passed since this happened, I think they would still see me as their man. Others, those of the opposition party, still take me to task me every time they think I tip my hand politically. One in particular, lets me know from time-to-time that she’s got her eye on me. I think it’s all in good humor. I hope it is.

Interestingly, I’ve shared information about my party affiliation with a very limited number of people in the mix. I’ve shared my views on some issues. I’ve taught and preached lessons which certainly reveal my convictions on many hot button issues. But, I’ve done the best I possibly could to avoid sounding like I’m following some political party’s talking points.

Still, my suspicion is that most people think they have me pegged. They believe they know just where I stand on every issue. This amazes me, since I’m still not certain on some things—and I’ve been wrestling with them for over three decades. I guess if push-comes-to-shove there are people I can check with to find out for sure what I think on just about every issue. Or, I could just run up a trial balloon and see how people react to what they think I think. No. That just gets us right back where we started.

BTW, are you really in favor of Bingo?

At 3/08/2006 04:54:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

I have no position on bingo, if you mean the game. If you mean the farmer's dog, I'm all for him.

At 3/09/2006 03:14:00 PM , Blogger Mark Phelps said...

Here's a comment that showed up on my Google page this morning. Perhaps you've read it:

"A liberal is a person whose interests aren't at stake at the moment."
- Willis Player

Now, if I could get so lucky with a conservative-slammin' quote....


At 3/09/2006 08:59:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I have hesitated greatly in whether to publish a comment here on this particular post, Patrick, for all the reasons you have stated so well and for all the reasons all of your commenters up until now have expressed as well.

And I'm not going to say much here at all for the same reasons.

However - having made all of the above disclaimers, I will emphatically say here and now that I agree with you 100% in all you said and in all you mean. I offer you a sound Amen.

You continue to confound and amaze me lo these many months since I first started reading you and continue, without fail, to write in a way that is most unusual in that all you write is both profound and humorous (very witty), both at the same time.

I applaude you.

I also greatly identify with and appreciate what you said that:

"I have been wrong before. In fact, I'm pretty good at it. It might be my spiritual gift."

I suppose I'm just happy to find at least one other soul who falls in the same category with me when it comes to "spiritual gifts."

I really appreciate your sense of humor in your writing, Patrick. Very much so.

At 3/10/2006 02:13:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I really like your picture on your page now, Patrick. A lot.

I also have to tell you - I looked at all the blog pictures of the group that came down to Picayune, and your son is very handsome!

I don't know if you've had the time to stop by my blog the past few days to see what's new with us, but do if you have time. God is working mightily in very good ways in our lives right now (after such difficulties the past 4 years) and we are rapidly trying to sell our flood prone house here in Slidell and move up on a beautiful wooded hillside out from Picayune to build a home with a big creek way down in the back with lots of fish in it!

Please pray for us - WITH us - that God will continue to work with us to help us accomplish these formidable tasks in the next few months. So far, huge obstacles have all fallen by the way as we've approached them and God has lifted them up out of our way in a very uplifting way to me.

Hope you have a good weekend.



At 3/11/2006 09:53:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

I agree with you that it is our duty as individuals to be like Jesus.

But I wonder if our wish to "go on home" is part of the problem. Jesus led his disciples to be about the business of the kingdom "here and now".

Thinking it will all be over soon and we can rest in the arms of Jesus makes it easier for us to close our eyes to the desparation of people around us.

FYI- I am talking to myself...

At 3/11/2006 08:27:00 PM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

I'd just like to have a president who can keep his fly zipped AND who won't pay for his wars by cutting taxes.


Politically Ambivalent


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