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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Do Christian Leaders Peddle Soft-Core Socialism?

There are a lot of problems in the world and Rick Warren wants to solve them all; ok, maybe not all of them--yet. Last year he rolled out his PEACE Plan that aims to "Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation" (cite). The PEACE plan combines the biblical mandates of the church, to plant churches and develop leaders, with the message that the Christians should also meet the social needs of the world. His concerns, motivation, and plans are noble to be sure.

February's issue of Christianity Today includes Andrew Paquin's, professor at Colorado Christian University, response to Mr. Warren's PEACE Plan. In typical academic fashion, he first calls upon his superior credentials as a "development professional and human-rights advocate" then puts Warren in his place as an amateur and novice, "Warrens' sudden access to vast resources must not be mistaken for expertise..." (cite) Instead of using his opportunity to address whether the Bible indeed mandates a response from the church to the social needs of a country, specifically Rwanda, Paquin takes an unexpected turn.

Ignoring years of warfare and corruption, Paquin says that Rwanda’s biggest obstacle to economic and social stability are the “injustices” of American agricultural trade policies. Attacking American policy is not new for higher education, but I would hope that constructive dialogue, at a minimum, would come from a Christian university. Blaming America for another country’s perpetuating poverty is a lie that I’d expect from a liberal democrat, but not from a professor at a conservative institution. To be clear on the issue, just as the nation is beginning to understand the need to become independent of foreign sources of energy, Paquin’s suggestion puts our national security further at risk by making America more dependent on foreign resources (cite).

Following this brazen suggestion, Paquin ridicules Warren for associating with the President of Rwanda. And while he may be correct in labeling President Kagame a corrupt official who may be responsible for “stripping Congo of its natural resources… mass rape, burning villages, and murdering civilians,” it seems unjustified to question Warren’s association with President Kagame. In my opinion, this cheap shot lacks qualitative value in addressing the issue; but, drawing attention to corrupt individuals actually provides a platform for the best solution for Rwanda. But first a few questions…

What church built Chinese universities? Was it the church that made India one of the fastest growing technological centers in the world? Who is more responsible for the increasing wealth of these countries, the church or the people? I appreciate that Warren and Paquin want to address the needs of people in poverty, but I question both of their methods and look to these nations as my proof.

India and China, while admittedly both still plagued with serious moral and social problems the accompany atheistic governments, are overcoming their social deficiencies (poverty, sickness, and education) by lowering corruption, increasing freedom, and building an infrastructure that can support a growing economy. They are now providing their own teachers, doctors, and with the assistance of Western companies, their people are starting to come out of poverty by the millions. They are addressing their own social problems without the help of the church.

The soft-core socialism that Christian leaders propagate does not solve social problems; it creates a culture of dependency. Increasing dependence on foreign aid does not decrease poverty. In much the same way that welfare has failed generations of Americans, countries that rely on American wealth to address their social problems fall short of addressing their greatest need. Providing doctors to the sick may heal the sick; but while producing valuable short-term results, it lacks the capability of addressing the long term needs of the country.

So, what good is the church? The church must maintain its focus on the power of God to change lives through Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is particularly effective in changing countries because of its power in changing individuals. Using doctors and teachers and achieve this goal is legitimate and effective; but, it must always play a subservient role. If the Gospel is effective in changing lives in Rwanda, then the corruption so prevalent will decrease as people learn to distinguish between right and wrong. As corruption decreases, the freedom that the Christian faith professes (and American democracy depends) will create a culture of freedom. This freedom will be built on the virtues of the Christian faith in the hearts of changed individuals.

As freedom takes root in the heart of the people, Rwanda will begin to express their own ingenuity in addressing their own social problems. They won’t need American wealth, they will create their own. By harnessing the power of freedom, they will establish their own infrastructure that consists of teachers and doctors while addressing the needs of their most vulnerable citizens. If we are effective in planting churches and developing leaders, then Rwanda’s own will assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation—regardless of American policy.

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Thoughtful Readers Speak:
Or, here's another explanation: America isn't a perfect utopia, and that injustices actually do still exist in its policies. And that the solution for people who are starving without your help probably isn't to continue not helping them.
JR, you sound more like a politician in this post than you do a follower of Christ and we know what He had to say about feeding and helping the poor, let alone loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
That's substantive feedback, Angel. Thanks.

Many times it is loving to meet needs; but sometimes it is not. The drunk who want money for his next bottle or the addict who wants it for her next shot. I

n the same way, I think many to approaches to dealing with povery amount to welfare, or wealth redistribution, and can ultimately be more harmful to the receiver than beneficial. It's not loving to keep on giving the welfare check to the person who could earn it for him/her self.

There's a balance.
Drunks and addicts need to eat, though; their self-destructive conditions aren't a justification for you to wash your hands of the problem. And many times, drug use and addiction are not the source of the problem but a failed response to it. Unemployment causes addiction and dependancy far more often than addiction causes unemployment. And unfortunately the efforts to correct that basic truth are the efforts you, in your ignorance, label "socialism." I doubt, somehow, you could even define that word if asked. Probably the best you could do would be "bad."
a good politician at that
True, JR ... but honestly, when I read the Gospels I never read where Jesus stopped to ask a beggar if they were on drugs or if they could work. He aided them regardless of their circumstance. And, if we base our dealings with our neighbors on the teachings of Christ, we have to do the same. Of course, that should be tempered with teaching those in need to care for themselves, and there will always be the few that take advantage, but no where in my Bible does it say that we are to hold back aid or judge those in need of it. It also says that we are to give with charity in our hearts and not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. I think that is so we won't try to rationalize holding back aid to those that need it or allow ourselves to become selfish.
JR has a number of words that just mean "bad" to him, regardless of what the actual definitions are.
how horrible, jr, you forgot to use your thesaurus again...gee erica, you're sooooo correct, how's it feel?
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