Government vs. the Church

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately…


There’s so much talk about the government infringing upon the rights of churches. As a Catholic, I am acutely aware of the impact that Obamacare (<– Obama himself has stated he likes the term, so I’m in no way trying to offend there) may have on Catholic-run institutions. I also think it’s important to realize that this is NOT “just about the Catholics.” It’s an entire change in precedent. A dangerous one, in my opinion.


But, even more than that, I’m thinking of roles the government is trying to fill that used to be filled by churches.


I think those with “conservative leanings”, shall we say, often get accused of not caring about the poor. Not looking out for the needy. Having no social conscience.


I don’t think that’s true. At least, I don’t think that’s true across the board. I don’t think a party line can be drawn on a desire to care for the struggling. Could we all just agree that there are idiots of all political persuasions?


What I’m witnessing, however, is a shift in responsibility.


Whereas, at one point, the burden to care for the needy among us rested on the shoulders of churches and neighbors, it is now somehow the responsibility of the federal government. While there was a time that second collections would be quietly taken up to help a struggling family buy groceries, the expectation is now that that family will go to a government office and apply for assistance.


While I’m not even close to suggesting that there is no need for social assistance programs, I am starting to question whether the criss-crossing of church and government lines is really ideal and, just as importantly, HELPFUL to the people who truly need the help.


I have no answers. Sadly, I have not solved the problems of the world or even our country.


But I do have questions. Questions that I think are important. Questions that I don’t think are asked often enough. What do you think? Is blurring the line between church and government a GOOD thing for the masses? Is it a critical step in ensuring equal help or are we setting up needless bureaucracy?


Let me know your thoughts.


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5 comments to Government vs. the Church

  • Had you written this last week I would say the gov’t should not infringe on the how the Catholics want to run their medical offerings. But now that my local hospital sold out to a Catholic hospital system I’m not sure yet. I have to find out how this really matters for our needs.
    But from what I can gather I think our local churches are hurting for donations. At least there seems to be lots of talk of the shortages at the food pantries and they only serve dinner once a week to the homeless. I’m thinking they are doing what they can, but they can’t do it all. And really I kind of feel like if you don’t even belong to a specific church is it even fair to use their limited resources?

    It’s a tough problem and no clear “right” answer.

    • I don’t know the exact situation of course, but I’m not sure I can blame the Catholic hospital system for a more “secular”, shall we say, institution selling out to them. I would also go out on a limb and say that many, many people receive excellent, appropriate hospital care without even realizing they’re in a “Catholic hospital.” It’s not like priests are flowing in and out pushing the gospel down the patients’ throats…

      I will also concede that my views are limited simply by my community. Looking at that little map up there? My whole county is in the totally white section. And that’s a fair representation. Here? We can afford to “take care of our own”. It’s not as pervasive a condition of suffering as some areas of the country. That likely skews my perception, I will admit. (And churches are just one example– schools, neighbors, local businesses… all of these have at times risen to the occasion to organize support for an individual or family with significant need.)

  • I’m not American so I can’t intelligently comment on Obamacare and all the rest of the political debate, but you’ve raised such an interesting question about responsibility. While I agree that government assistance is likely a necessity, does it absolve the church? I don’t think it should. I could go on, but this isn’t the place. Thanks for the post, JessieLeigh. Great questions to ask.

  • I completely agree that the church has foundered on their responsibility to provide. The New Testament clearly states that they were to care for the widows, orphans, and the needy!

    I think the change came when we realized we could throw money at a problem and not donate our time. So, who cares who is managing the problem? Just donate money and hope it gets used appropriately!

    There are plenty of organizations that are useful and God-fearing that seriously want to help and are perhaps unable due to funding, but there are plenty of ways that John & Jane Doe can help out, from soup kitchens to passing out blankets to the homeless, to greater things like building homeless shelters or adopting needy children who are desperately wanting a family of their own.

    I, as a member of the body of Christ, agree that we, myself included, have surrendered our God-given mission when it comes to helping the poor. Having the government demand money in the form of taxation and giving it away to those needy and those who aren’t does ruffle my feathers. If people are in need, fine, but there are plenty who can do for themselves.

    Times are hard, I agree, but we as the church should be praying for the needs to be met, especially the needs we, ourselves, can meet. God will provide if He calls you to a certain vision for your life. I believe the church should be on the front lines of ministry to the poor and the needy.

    Just my opinion.

  • Kathy

    I am a huge believer that the needs of the community should be the responsibility of the church and community. Those that say that churches don’t have the money any more; I will argue that their members would have more money to support the needs of the community if the government was taxing the people to cover the programs that don’t belong in the government. I know I am probably offending some with my comments. My family has used unemployment for a short time, but that in my humble opinion is because our society has been set up to force you into the system. The true needs of the people are not always solved with money. If the responsibility was put back on the church and community there would be people there to help/support/teach the individuals with needs how to get back on their feet if needed. There is a human nature that pride comes into play when you have to look your neighbor in the eye if you “choose” to go out to eat 3 nights a week while asking them for help. That doesn’t seem to happen around us when the check comes from the government. They don’t feel that accountability. I know that these programs can’t be just turned off, but boy I wish that we could go back to the time when we didn’t have them. Look at the close knit communities like the Amish or Mennonites, they take care of their own in all areas.

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