Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Tragedy of American Compassion****

The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky is a must read book by everyone that seeks to do any sort of mercy ministry. This book chronicles the early growth of American mercy ministry as New York and other major U.S. cities were rapidly growing at the end of the 19th Century. Mercy ministries were also rapidly growing in order to address the degradation and want that was expanding in those same cities. However, they had a vastly different approach than the modern entitlement mentality.

A universal principle of mercy ministry was 'that if a man shall not work, neither shall he eat." So strong was this principle that most ministries had work tests. They required men and women to work for any aid that they were given. This was seen as necessary in order to preserve the dignity of the recipient and prevent him from devolving into pauperism. In cases, where the recipient really was not able to work, these same ministries offered direct care of the truly poor through placing orphans for adoption, taking pregnant mothers into homes, or creating places of asylum (safety) for the mentally disturbed and in helping able bodied men and women find work. How far we have fallen!

Another universal principle was that of refusing to give money to those who were on the street because of alcohol or drug use. There were ministries that reached out to such men but they required the men to change and stop abusing alcohol and drugs or they through them out on the street. Today, we find such a willingness to allow men to receive the consequences of their sin, wholly without compassion. But true compassion of the biblical sort has accountability and accountability requires consequences.

Contrast this with our modern welfare system that has virtually no accountability structure. The able bodied poor have been sold a bill of goods. They have been taught to believe that they are worthy recipients of aid, various forms of welfare, and thus have become enslaved by the very system that purports to help them. This so-called 'help' is not help at all. It has harmed multiple generations of Americans that now see their only hope in the help of a government that only manages to keep them at subsistence levels. There is no hope of advancement or escape from these clutches. Quite the reverse, the hope is to be more thoroughly enslaved.

Having said this, let me also say that we are not in need of 'reform' of the welfare system.We need pastors, laymen and politicians who are bold enough to call to completely 'dismantle' the system. And the reason is not the typical conservative reason that it simply costs too much. It is true that America can no longer afford the entitlements. But the real reason they should end is that they are immoral. They completely demoralize the very people they purport to help. It is not a help to a man to give him a dollar to go by another pint of cheap wine. It is not a help to give families benefits with no real accountability to and from their own immediate and extended family, to their church or to their local community. All such help distances individuals from the real help they need, work, moral exhortation and freedom from entitlement and dependency.

We have hurt the poor. We have also absolved the family of taking on their true responsibility for their loved ones. We have absolved the church from fulfilling its very personal role in meeting the needs of the poor while holding them to Biblical standards of work and character. It is time we fully ended the governmental entitlement systems and got back to living like families, churches and communities.

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