Monday, September 19, 2005

thoughts on helping the poor

As some of my readers may know, I work at Metropolitan Ministries, a large Tampa faith-based NGO which cares for the "homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services which alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ."

It is an awesome task and, due to the rising housing prices and the growing disparity between the richest and poorest Americans, continues to become an even greater responsibility. Interestingly, most of our partner congregations are those which do not criticize government's role in helping the poor through services, welfare, higher taxes and the rest of the list. Sadly, while we do exactly what more conservative churches (especially the SBC) preach (we do not rely on the government. we teach those we work with to be less dependent upon the government and we do our mission statement) many of those churches do not find it their realm of duty to help organizations such as ours. Now, if a church is doing their own such ministry, or supporting another like-minded ministry in the area, then all the more power to them.

However, too often these congregations and persons who take issue with the government's role in "causing this failure of a big government welfare state" by creating dependence and ursurping the church's role, still do nothing. It is if they are waiting for the government to step away from this role it has taken. When the government creates this vacuum, then these churches and Christians will step into the void. But, not a minute sooner.

Of course, this attitude concerns me. Why should the government trust that churches and people of faith will step up to the plate and take care of the poor, the widow, the orphan and the homeless, if they have not yet done so? Yes, I know there are good groups and churches of a conservative flavor doing work with the poor, but the vast majority have not taken upon their shoulders this very biblical responsibility, relying upon the government and others to help the poor, while harping on the "failure of the welfare state."

As a person in development in such an organization, recruiting and training volunteers to work with the poor in our community, I must say that I only care that our helpers find it their responsibilities to help the less fortunate. I do not care if they are those who support America's welfare state or those that want to destroy it. I find the "liberals" no less useful and no less willing to work for themselves, unlike the stereotypes I learned as a younger Baptist.

In fact, I have found none of those things I had heard about "liberals" throwing money at the problems and doing no work for themselves to be accurate. Conversely, I have found many "conservatives" very helpful when treating the poor with respect, especially conservative churches which are poor themselves. I do not care who helps. I just think we all should.

I mention this to remind those of all stripes that organizations such as ours need everyone to pitch in. Sadly, I just wish we could get more conservative churches, especially Southern Baptist Churches, to become as involved with the poor as the rest of the churches we have.

just a thought. I will share some stats later.

1 comment:

james said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Rick. Looking forward to the stats you have to share on the topic.