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Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

America At Risk

Perhaps the warning is not new or unexpected. One pays attention, however, when a syndicated columnist points out what ought to be the obvious. In the Grand Rapids Press, July 28, 2001, Linda Bowles of Creators Syndicate, Los Angeles, CA writes:

We are on the threshold of America’s entry into a post-religious, post-constitutional era. Decades of liberal assaults on traditional values and institutions are bearing fruit—sweet or bitter depending on your allegiance. The final battles are under way, and the bulwarks erected to protect us from the dark side of our natures and from governmental tyranny are being battered down. The center is not holding.

The Constitution was carefully constructed by the founders to protect the people from overarching government. Centuries from now, historians will write that one of the greatest ironies leading to the demise of the grand American experiment was the fraudulent use of the Constitution to demolish the religious and moral underpinnings of the nation.

In 1984, Associate Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist in the case of Wallace vs. Jaffree stated: “The ‘wall of separation between church and state’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.”

Was Rehnquist right? The short answer is, yes. The First Amendment says nothing about a “separation of church and state.” It is a “hands-off” amendment, instructing Congress not to establish a state religion and not to make laws interfering with religious expression.

The founders did not set up a “wall of separation between church and state.” It was erected by slick lawyers, arrogant jurists and unprincipled politicians to isolate religion from the mainstream of American life and to discredit people of faith. It is not the first time in history that unscrupulous men saw religion as a barrier to their personal ambitions and ideological agendas….

The article concludes by presenting some interesting quotes from our “founding fathers” and others that are well worth considering.

In his farewell address, George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.” He maintained that “…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

No one explained it better than President John Adams: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

In “The Lessons of History,” Will and Ariel Durant stated: “The greatest question of our time is not communism versus individualism, not even East versus West; it is whether man can live without God.” They cited French historian Joseph Ernest Renan, who wrote: “If rationalism wishes to govern the world without regard to the religious needs of the soul, the experience of the French Revolution is there to teach us the consequences of such a blunder.”

Based on their lifelong study of the rise and fall of civilizations, the Durants drew the conclusion that: “There is no significant example in history before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”

The American culture is journeying through muck and smut, looking for lower ground, not of necessity but of depravity. Unless we change course, and soon, our destination is either moral anarchy and social chaos, or the surrender of all our freedoms to Big Brother in exchange for his promise to protect us from ourselves.

Amen!

So when George W. Bush was elected (chosen?) president, there was a collective sigh of relief from the conservatives of the land. We would go from one whose sexual escapades were broadcast across the land, from one who was impeached and almost removed from office, to one who has high family values (as far as is known). We have a man in the highest office of the land who is opposed to abortion and the smut and corruption found in our land. Here is a man who can perhaps turn things around so that once more we are a nation of high moral standards based upon religious truths.

Now we have a man in highest office who dares propose (despite the cries of “separation between church and state”) a “faith-based” initiative. Religious charities would receive government funds to assist them in their charitable work. Could not these non-profit organizations better distribute to the needy and help in their difficulties than could a bloated government with its layers of bureaucracy?

This proposal, at the time of this writing, awaits the approval of congress. When President Bush said that they were “considering arequest from the Salvation Army, the nation’s largest charity, to issue a regulation that would protect government-funded religious charities from state and local workplace discrimination laws that include sexual-orientation,” there was a great outcry. It remains to be seen whether this “faith-based” initiative will include exemption from anti-discrimination laws.

Is it not thrilling to have this kind of reversal from that steady slide into depravity and immorality and atheism?

However, is not this “faith-based” initiative an extremely dangerous, even evil, proposal? Is it possible for religious organizations to escape anti-discrimination laws? Will the government give funds to those organizations which refuse to hire homosexuals, and in fact condemn homosexuality as sin? Will the government continue to give funds to such religious organizations who dispense these in the “name of Christ”? Will these organizations be forbidden to seek the repentance and salvation of the sinner when dispensing these funds?

And these funds, given to “faith-based” organizations, will be given to whom? Will these funds be given alike to “Christian” as well as Muslim, Hindu, and other such religions? Are they all governmentally recognized as “faith-based”? How can a “Christian” president or Congress dare to claim this?

But there is another serious objection to this initiative. John W. Robbins of the Trinity Foundation eloquently expresses it. (The article is found on his web site: www.trinityfoundation.org.) He points out some of the statements of the president, who defended his proposal.

It’s not sufficient to praise charities and community groups; we must support them. And this is both a public obligation and a personal responsibility.

The War on Poverty established a federal commitment to the poor. The welfare reform legislation of 1996 made that commitment more effective. For the task ahead, we must move to the third stage of combatting [sic] poverty in America….

Government has an important role. It will never be replaced by charities. My administration increased funding for major social welfare and poverty programs by 8 percent. Yet government must also do more….

So I have created a White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Through that Office we are working to ensure that local community helpers and healers receive more federal dollars…. We have proposed a “Compassion Capital Fund,” that will match private giving with federal dollars.

And we’re in the process of implementing and expanding “Charitable Choice” — the principle, already established in federal law, that faith-based organizations should not suffer discrimination when they compete for contracts to provide social services. Government should never fund the teaching of faith, but it should support the good works of the faithful.

Some critics of this approach object to the idea of government funding going to any group motivated by faith. But they should take a look around them. Public money already goes to groups like the Center for the Homeless and, on a larger scale, Catholic Charities. Do the critics really want them cut off? Medicaid and Medicare money currently goes to religious hospitals. Should this practice be ended? Child care vouchers for low income families are redeemed every day at houses of worship across America. Should this be prevented? Government loans send countless students to religious colleges. Should that be banned? Of course not….

Robbins continues by pointing out some of the errors in the reasoning of the president with his proposal of “faith-based” initiatives:

Ronald Sider, writing in Christianity Today, unwittingly put it this way: Scholars…cite a wide range of studies showing that “religion is strongly associated with good citizenship and improved physical and mental health.” Active participation in a religious group correlates with lower suicide rates, drug use, and criminal behavior; better health; and altruistic behavior…. [While] Nonreligious funders [contributors to charitable organizations] may overlook a perfunctory prayer to start the day, …they often refuse to support holistic social programs run by Christians who think that encouraging the adoption of a specific religious faith is an essential component of their social program.

Sider makes it clear: The adoption of a specific religious faith is a component of a social program. This is theological paganism, a complete reversal of Christian doctrine and priorities, which teach that all social programs (if there are any at all) are secondary at best, and that the proclamation of the Gospel and the whole counsel of God is primary. Christians are to set their minds on things above, not on earthly things. They are to fear him who can destroy both body and soul, not him who can kill only the body. They are to recognize that a person is not what he eats, but what he thinks. They are to teach that God’s kingdom comes, not by might, nor by power, but by his Spirit working in the minds of men. They are to warn all men that this earthly life is brief, and the things of this world are passing away; that wrath is coming, and the life (or death) that follows the Judgment is everlasting. They are to warn everyone that what they think of Jesus Christ will result in their everlasting happiness or their never-ending agony.

The Great Commission is not a component of some larger social program; it is the whole program, and it is not social. Whatever charitable works are done by individuals, private organizations, and churches (not governments, whose purpose is the punishment of evildoers, not the ministry of mercy) are to be done in the furtherance of that mission. To reverse ends and means is to deny the Gospel. Christ said, contradicting Ronald Sider and all other proponents of the Social Gospel, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” To make earthly things the goal, and to make the kingdom of God and his righteousness the means, is a damnable perversion of Christianity.

Writing of an earlier proposal to bastardize Christianity and make it a useful contributor to good citizenship and a component of a social program, J. Gresham Machen said, “We find proposed to us today what is called ‘character education’ or ‘character building.’ Character, we are told, is one thing about which men of all faiths are agreed. Let us, therefore, build character in common, as good citizens, and then welcome from the various religious faiths whatever additional aid they can severally bring…. What surprises me about this program is not that its advocates propose it, for it is only too well in accord with the spirit of the age. But what really surprises me about it is that the advocates of it seem to think that a Christian can support it without ceasing at that point to be Christian.”

Robbins points out in his article that Roman Catholics generally and most Evangelicals support the president’s proposal. Robbins labels the proposal “Faith-based fascism.” He quotes figures showing which “conservative” religious organizations already receive government subsidies.

What must the Christian say or do? Robbins comments on the solution presented by the head of the president’s “faith-based initiative”:

In his speech to the NAE, DiIulio attempted to answer objections to faith-based fascism. To those who think it would corrupt their organizations if they were to participate, his answer is simple: Don’t participate. Good advice, but worthless. Under fascism, non-participation is not an option. We are compelled to pay taxes to support fascist government-by-proxy. We are compelled to obey the government’s proxies. The freedom not to participate should be extended to the collection of taxes, not just to the distribution of stolen property that DiIulio calls federal funding. One slogan of Italian Fascism was “Everything within the State; nothing outside the State.” Our home-grown fascists operate on the same principle, working to expand a political system that already penalizes those who oppose institutionalized and legalized theft and rewards those who favor legalized theft. Their goal is to politicize what remains of private charity.

Robbins presents some conclusions worth consideration and discussion:

Faith-based fascism will increase the size and scope of the federal government, extending it to organizations that have hitherto been outside the state. That is the explicit goal of the policy, as expressed by the President himself. “Everything within the State; nothing outside the State.”

Faith-based fascism will increase, not decrease, the constituencies of the welfare state, creating new special interest groups, government-funded religious organizations, that will pressure officials to grant them more money.

Faith-based fascism is based on a political delusion. John DiIulio and President Bush tell us that federal grants will be awarded and withdrawn on the basis of results. DiIulio asserts: “Opening competition for federal funds to all, including tiny local faith-based organizations, could usher in a new era of results-driven public administration. Scores of federal welfare programs could be cured or killed.” For someone who has co-authored a textbook on American government, DiIulio shows little understanding of how government actually works. Government-grant awards and denials are decided by political clout, political cronyism, and political biases. With the addition of government grants to faith-based organizations, we must add religious clout, religious cronyism, and religious biases. Tax funds will flow to political and religious friends and be withheld from political and religious foes.

Robbins makes this correct conclusion:

And let’s be clear about charity. Charity is not compelling someone else to give his money to the poor. It is giving one’s own money away; it is freely contributing one’s own time. Government charity is a contradiction in terms, for government has no money except what it collects by force from others. What President Bush proposes is not greater charity, but aggravated theft and increased compulsion. There is nothing Christian or charitable about it. It is a violation of the Ten Commandments.

This writer has heard no “Christian” leader give the correct answers to the President’s questions. They have already agreed in principle with the President’s faith-based fascism. Long ago they abandoned the whole counsel of God, choosing which Biblical doctrines they would believe and teach, and which they would ignore. Many of them have abandoned the Gospel of the substitutionary death of Christ for his people and justification by faith alone. Now they have denied what the Scriptures teach on private property, the role of government, and the social order.

The salt has lost its savor; it has become worthless; and it deserves to be trodden underfoot by men.

What do you think? The government will collect taxes by force from all its citizens in order, in part, to give some of this to the charities of the land. Robbins is correct—that is not what charity is all about.

Does not this growing alliance between “church” and state point out again the obvious development of the kingdom of the Antichrist?