Friday, June 24, 2011

Agape in Action

The current crisis concerning government debt and programs like Medicare raises another "WWJD" question that has occurred to me of late. What indeed would Jesus do (or say) about government social programs like these?

The answer is pretty simple, and its reflects poorly on our job as the church, stretching back quite some time.

The model given in Acts is that of a church where property was held in common -- not in the sense of a commune, but in the sense that one's resources were always considered to be at the disposal of all other members, such that if a need arose, the property and resources one owned were readily surrendered to provide for that need.

Paul compared this further to the way manna was distributed among the Israelites -- no one had too little, no one had too much. Jesus also referred to those to much would be given -- and from much was expected. The principle is clearly one of common sacrifice for the greater good of the ingroup -- the very essence and definition of agape love.

The answer to the WWJD question then is that if Jesus had had his way, we would never have needed any of those social programs in the first place. It it sometimes said that the government stepped in because the church failed to do its job. That's an accurate sentiment: Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, and all else are symbols of the failure of the ekklesia to do its job.

So, for example, if a church member was seriously ill, and unable to afford care, a collection would be taken to help this person with their medical bills. Now this sort of thing does indeed happen at times, and to that extent, we're following the intended model. But the process wasn't meant to apply only to single fellowships. Instead, the resource sharing would be coordinated at a higher level -- perhaps on what we would organize on a county of even statewide basis.

I'm not politically involved enough to speak to solutions to these problems as they now stand. I tend to assume that we'd be expected to have set up a rival system to such programs as Social Security; the rub is that the government certainly won't be canceling those programs, and most voters won't be inclined to either. Starting a rival system would mean "double dip" into resources to a certain extent, and may not be economically practicable, and it may be that our failure is so great that it is now too late to go back and accept our responsibilities, at least here in the West.

One thing I can say for sure: This is a hole we've been digging for ourselves quite a while -- and no easy solution will be had now that we're at the bottom of a pit, tossing shovels of dirt up and over the edge.

1 comment:

  1. This is actually a topic that has greatly interested me for some time. I am a Canadian, and here we have universal health care, thanks in a large part to the work of a former Baptist minister by the name of Tommy Douglas. Now I think you've hit it right on the head when you said that when you have a lot, a lot is expected of you in terms of working for God's Kingdom. What does that say if you're a Christian President or Prime Minister or even King or Queen. These figures have a lot of power and influence. Is it not their responsibility to use that power and influence to push social reforms and promote programs such as affordable health care for all? And what about our responsibility as Christian voters? Is it not our responsibility to be informed about the issues and elect people in who will work for God's Kingdom? I'm not a Communist as I still believe in having private property and working for a living. But I also feel that if I'm going to say that everyone has a right to life, that I should say that all have a right to the things that make for life.