Solutions: People of Faith & Faith Based Initiatives 

Brian Worley

In this short essay, I will quickly get to the heart of the matter concerning faith-based initiatives and why the secular community should reassess their opposition that obstructs the attainment of the common good in society. 

The rub with faith-based initiatives occurs when we view it from the top down (how) rather than from the bottom up (why) perspective. When viewing this from the top, funding for faith-based initiatives (FBI) invite constitutional scrutiny and separation of church and state concept concerns. I’d like to think that the motives for opposition to FBI come primarily from those patriotic defenders of our constitution, but I know better. 

For an example, who amongst FBI’s detractors are protesting unconstitutional government money flowing into disaster areas where people have sudden need?  Lets face it; the issue isn’t about helping people but who will be trusted to receive funding and distribute services. Prior to the installment of FBI’s nobody protested people of faith’s digging a little deeper into THEIR wallets to fill a need that most of those in opposition to FBI’s today get so worked up about. Plain and simple this is politics complicated by the age-old secular vs. faith antagonism. 

Who is concerned for those in need?

The lucid bottom-up view (why) would reveal that people of faith have historically been attentive/concerned for individuals and meeting their basic needs. I would remind my largely secular audience that people of faith largely view this from the bottom-up perspective that tends to be more of a humanitarian view. What everyone should be focusing upon is to find the best, cost effective means towards meeting these needs! 

Upon my return to the US, I stopped into a Maryland “One-Stop” (unemployment) center to gather information because my last two employers financially closed shop. I thought I was entitled to unemployment because I forsook the claim prior to my departure to Latvia. I soon discovered that my being away for longer than 18 months makes me ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. Here I had paid into the system all of those years and now that I needed the benefits the rules disallow me. So be it. 

The reason I tell you the story is because a “nosy” man from a Christian organization had ease dropped upon the conversation and instinctively asked me during those 20 seconds after I had received the unexpected news if I were homeless and if I had a place to stay? At first thought, I started to get annoyed that he butted into my business but quickly sensed that this was just another affirmation and reminder that this is part of the genuine modus operandi that people of faith consistently exhibit. 

People of faith are largely a bunch or do-gooders that many secular minded folks haven’t really gotten to know as well as I had during my 23 years as a Christian. Too many folks get “spooked” because they don’t understand them and proceed to question their every deed, often seeking to paint them in unflattering terms given the opportunity.  Look, I’m on record for having questioned the validity of their belief system; but questioning their motives as greedy or self-centered opportunists largely misses the mark. 

Having had first hand rescue mission experience, I can tell you the “biggest” concern I have is for the “preacher’s” penchant to force results in what is deemed to be fertile soil. Some ministers’ need of instant affirmation might drive them to push too hard, but this differs from twisting of arms or an implied imaginary boot out into the cold for failure to convert. I don’t see this happening enough to take the time to address it. 

I wished that secular folks were more concerned with meeting the needs of food, clothing and shelter rather than if recipients just might happen to hear what I consider to be a mythological story of Jesus dying upon a cross and etc. We major upon minors when we harp upon proselytization concerns. Consistent with other societal commercial practices, it is understood that you must first have to accept to endure the commercial before you are served the free item. Besides, skeptical anti-dotes are readily available should a partaker want a second opinion. 

Certain factions should quit tossing fictitious obstacles into the achievement of the common good. If you are so concerned, build your own secular rescue mission and have “thine” own way…you could omit the Christian song when you run the show! 

Economics of the issue  

The evidence wouldn’t support that the secular community places a premium upon helping those who are down and out. But, whenever a faith-based group that historically has labored to fill those needs gets funding, certain non-religious folks suddenly get interested with people getting their needs met in a faith-based setting. Forgive me for being so blunt here, but this is nothing more than secular greed and envy on display.  

From one skeptic to another: people of faith by and large are much better equipped to perform these functions than other entities (i.e. governmental or private enterprise). Whereas you would probably have to advertise and selectively hire and then pay people to meet these needs through the private sector; churches get enthusiastic volunteers who want to help their fellow man often without financial compensation. 

People of faith have the facilities, motive and desire to meet these needs and it makes economic sense when you compare and contrast cost effectiveness. This issue when reduced to its bare essence leaves those people outside of faith who oppose faith-based initiatives reaching for philosophical or political posturing. I’ll address a few of the weaker points they raise. 

 Remove any and all religious symbolism

This is just absurd, religious facilities can be used for multi-purpose functions and to do so is more feasible than the financial expense of erecting non-religious buildings to appease people who are “spooked” by religious symbolism. Get over it! Common sense should prevail, but to make someone jump through unnecessary hoops because someone has an aversion to religious symbolism is petty. 

Hiring / Employment Qualifications

Should a faith-based organization be mandated to hire the most qualified individual even if they scoff and think that their Bible is nothing more than literature?  

How about a Catholic church that is looking to hire a secretary? Should they be required to hire an unmarried woman who they know had an abortion within the last year and that is currently living with a man that she openly admits she won’t marry? 

These are questions pertaining to the following portion of the First Amendment: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

I’m no lawyer but I raised these two questions from the previous paragraphs to show that the very same people who cry about the Constitutionality of faith-based initiatives are hypocrites for suggesting that faith-based groups be mandated into adopting unconstitutional requirements and thus prohibiting people of faith the free exercise of their beliefs! 

Faith-based groups have certain principles that I as a secular humanist would frequently disagree with. For example, I don’t like that Catholics discriminate in hiring by denying openly gay people employment. But, this is their right to do so under the American Constitution. I’d remind everyone that progressive people of faith like certain Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists and others are less likely to deny employment due to sexual preference and thus might be more likely to actually hire gay people compared to other venues in society. 

Government is responsible for finding solutions to issues within society. Faith based initiatives can and should continue to be one of the feasible solutions geared towards meeting the needs of a portion of men, women and children within our society. As we know, these social programs cost money and good government demands that wise decisions be made with our tax dollar. Faith based initiatives aren’t that difficult of a decision because they make good economic and practical sense. I’m glad that churches are socially engaged because secular society and private enterprises are not well equipped to meet these challenges. If churches were to absent themselves from this sphere, tell me who would fill the void that they left behind? 

Unfortunately, FBI’s face strong opposition within the secular community due to valid concerns over possible church-state entanglements. What, should we ignore incessant societal needs simply because of our uneasiness and concerns of FBI funding being administered by people we frequently philosophically and intellectually disagree with? What hangs in the balance are the needs of economically needy people being unmet. While this might not be as an important of a matter to those with a fat bank account; it is an extremely urgent matter for parties in dire need upon the street! 

Perception vs. Reality  

While in a CVS Pharmacy checkout line, I watched a man of Oriental descent handing out something to others before me in line. I had heard the faint God bless you’s that he spoke to others and I had contemplated what I would say when he tried to hand me what my experience told me was going to be a religious minded gospel tract.  

Sometimes though we allow perception or anticipation to interpret activity rather than actually grasping the full scope of what is actually transpiring. Being an ex-minister, I could dissect every one of those Chick size gospel tracts it appeared he was passing out and tell someone the fallacy of that message. Funny thing happened though when he got to me, he didn’t hand me what I had anticipated. Instead, he quickly reached for one of those $1 dollar off coupons he had been saving for the paper towels that he had observed in my check-out basket! 

Here I had expected to be patronized with the gospel only to have instead been blind sided by an unexpected goodwill gesture that I would have missed if I had followed the perception rather than the reality!  

My experience has been that people of faith frequently stick their noses into other people’s business, which at times can be annoying and cause us to want to distance ourselves from them. But in my opinion, we would be foolish to try to hire someone else to clothe, shelter and feed people when the “best man” for the job all along has been he who was doing the same before federal money started being offered. 

Let us not be common good obstructionists upon the contrary side of people in need because we question the religious creeds. Ex-Minister sees through these secular erected smokescreens and challenges people of reason to actually BE people of reason, mindful of humanitarian concerns!   

Brian Worley   Ex-Minister.orgFebruary 12, 2010    All rights reserved

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