Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Questions On God and Government


Grace Church With Broken Steeple, Slidell La

Evangelicals. People of Faith. Believers. They're everywhere down South, in Katrina's wake, the Christians. Baptists. Methodists. Presbyterians. Lutherans. Catholics. And more. Helping to clear yards, clean houses. Helping to feed people, shower them, clothe them, often with a beatific smile on their face while doing it. For every dark cloud there's a halo to be earned.

They come down in great convoys, and spill out of extended white Econovans, wearing matching bright t-shirts with hopeful slogans, and crisp tan Dockers, and new work boots. These new arrivals meet up with their local brothers and sisters, muddied and sweaty, already on the ground with a battle plan and a staging ground, and they all set forth like worker ants to fix the world one little bit at a time. It's very impressive, this show of giving, and solidarity, and it makes me feel a little safer that my people are in good hands....

I keep my eyes out for the governmental activity. The secular corollary. I see National Guard troops clearing roads with massive green machinery. I also see them efficiently handing out MREs, ice, water. These are very good things to see. But what I'm really looking, hoping for, is evidence of more personal effort. I want to see my government asking "How can I help you?" and "What do you need?" the way I saw the religious groups doing it.

But no. I mainly see the runaround. I see long lines and little help. I see their frustration with our frustration. I see a huge pile of our forced tax tithes being squandered. Not coldly, or calculatingly. Worse. Unthinkingly. Like a rich kid with a big allowance and no worries, clocking an easy part-time job just to look industrious.

Now, I'm an atheist. Free thinker. By our nature we tend to be individualists. We don't get together every week in a specially-built house and recite quotes from Darwin in unison. We don't sing songs together. We don't go in for matching uniforms. When we help people we don't ask them if they'd considered joining us in not believing in a higher power. In short, by our very nature, we don't have a strong collective voice, or muscle. We don't have the force and organization of the religious.

The closest we have to this is our government, and perhaps this is why it so pissed me off to see how ineffective it has become in recent years. Now, I don't want the religious to be less effective, less organized, I just want my government to be more effective, more organized. I want to know that when the shit hits the fan anywhere in the country, there are people working for us and with us, people who know what to do, who can coordinate relief. People who care, and have the tools to get the job done. But, no, we get incompetence and squabbling while the storm rages. Power struggles and finger pointing.

I see how effective the religious have been, and I see how useless the government's been. And this leaves me with a strange frustration, a feeling I'm torn in two, and nagging questions about the way this all mixes up, God and government. When I look at the bigger picture, I see that in the past few years it's been the religious that have largely taken control of the government, and I have to ask myself, is there some thread that helps connect these dots? Ascendant religion and diminished government. A turf battle. Do the religious feel that an effective secular government is a threat to them?

How can I reconcile my love for these people, my thanks at their massive personal efforts to help the survivors, with my nagging feeling that they are at least partially responsible for how badly hobbled government has become, and how that only served to exacerbate the disaster in the first place?

How can I resolve the idea that they are both helping greatly, and harming greatly? Is it possible for them to have a case of collective societal Munchausen's Syndrome?

No, I don't think it's that devious. I'm not saying they all intend to dismantle government, to neuter it, although a great number do, and not all of them religious. And I'm not saying any of them mean real harm in so doing. Far from it. I believe they are good, decent, loving people. But what I have to ask is, is it possible that, just as the atheists seem naturally incapable of collective private relief and action, is it possible that the religious have such a distaste for government, philosophically, that they can't help but render it ineffective when they control it? And that this ineffectiveness makes us all less safe in a thousand ways?

These are some of the questions I've been working on in the wake of Katrina. They're a tangled knot. A seemingly hopeless lot. But the answer feels important.

32 comments:

Kris said...

Wow. You make a good statement here on that particular mix. One I'll be thinking on myself for days to come.

Leslie said...

I hope you keep asking your questions.

killerhawk said...

I think we're getting a glimpse of how our founding fathers saw the future of their country - Americans being involved in each other lives - and helping one another through the tough times. Let's be realistic - is that really the governments job? No matter how "super" the govt could be, they could never be as effective as my neighbor.
In this current "gotta get mine" state our country seems to be in, we're missing each other.
Thanks Clayton - for your continued reporting during what must be emotionally and physically exhausting days.

seahorsekabob said...

Yes. It is the government's job to use tax funded relief organizations in order to help us through natural or manmade disasters in an efficient and fiscally transparent manner. Neighbors can't help each other if they are not allowed home, like the people from the 9th Ward in New Orleans, and other neighborhoods. http://www.motherjones.org/commentary/columns/2005/10/ghost_town_new_orleans.html

LakeviewGirl said...

The "religious" who are taking vans down to rebuild the Gulf Coast are not the same "religious" who control the government.

I was going to say, I know religious people all look alike from outside the church. But you've just described that they don't.

To quote an old gospel song I'm fond of:

"Everybody talkin' 'bout Heaven ain't goin there."

Foose said...

You raise many good questions, and the answers seem to be lost or burried somewhere, the next step is to uncover the answers, and have them if ever such a diaster happenes again..Humanity, and human kindess, have been lost in the govertment,it is up to the next door neighbors, and the relgious groups to step up and help. As I am writing this, I am listening to the song "stand by me",the version I have has Bono, and Bruce Springsteen, in it. I think Americans have learned, that the goverent isnt the going to say "how can I help you" or ask what "what do you". You along with many others have relized that it takes the small acts of human kindess from person to person, to take this mess, and work towards making it better....

spittinmad said...

I can't help but add to your questionings: After the initial relief outpouring, will these religious help EVERYBODY? There is a tendency to help people who resemble oneself, whom you identify with.

At present the aid is so pressing it goes to all... but over time the baptists will help the baptists over the catholics, the catholics will go back to educating there own , the evangelicals will go back to denying basic rights from the queers, the rich queers will call the punks degenerates, everyone will rail on the commies. Gov't is the least common denominator, or should be.



Check out common ground for a secular response option.

Anonymous said...

I'm agnostic, rather than atheistic, but I’d like to give you a few other possibilities to consider while you’re pondering matters of faith.

You may not believe in God, but He’s working through you anyway. He’s also working through those lovely people responsible for East of Eden. In spite of all that’s wrong, even evil, in this world, there is no possible way that the power of Good, Love and Justice is just random.

You may not believe in God, but He loves you anyway. That’s why, even though you were just being your normal decent self and trying to take care of your family because you love them, God rewarded you with a solution. You reached out to others and they responded to you. This is God’s favorite view in this world of ours – His children taking care of each other, putting others before themselves.

You may not believe in God, but He will help you anyway. He will give you miracles without you even asking for them…like East of Eden. He’s right there next to you, all around you and even within you. He’s just waiting for you to turn to Him. If you don’t believe me, just try it. Next time you are feeling frustrated, aggravated, helpless in the face of bureaucracy or indifference. Just ask Him, “Please help me.” And He will.

He knows what you need even better than you do. Would it have even occurred to you to pray for the solution you got to your problems? Did you even dream of the result you’ve ended up with when you started your blog? Talk about working in mysterious ways, what a journey you and your family have been on. Would it have been different if you hadn’t been trying to help? If your choice, your “free will”, had been to just take care of your family and not make public all of the fabulous pictures you took detailing all the facets of recovery along the Gulf Coast?

Just look at your life and try to figure the odds of a high school dropout having enough talent with words and cameras to achieve what you have in your career and, most recently, in your blog. Do you really believe you, literally, got to where you are today because of a combination of hard work and random events? Mmmm…I don’t think so.

I’m truly not trying to convert anyone. It’s just that I know how much easier my life has been in the last few years since I made faith part of my daily life, even though, materially, my life itself has not improved greatly. Everything is just so much easier to cope with and I love the peace, serenity and joy that I now have in my soul. I can’t even imagine anymore how anyone could stand to see or hear something completely heartbreaking, unless they are indifferent. I just immediately ask, “Please help them. Please help their families.”

I did this for you and your family, too, and I am certain I was not the only one, by far. So, was He rewarding you or answering our prayers, or both? Who knows? In my opinion, it doesn’t matter. As I said, I only venture into this sticky subject because I know that life in this world is so much easier when you let God carry most of your burdens. As I said, He’s just waiting for you to hand them over. Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

Still, I said I was agnostic and I meant it. As far as I’m concerned, Atheists are as capable as anyone else of being decent, caring human beings. And, I think, if you choose not to believe, you’re just making this life harder than it needs to be. As to the next life, I think you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

In any case, my prayers are still with you and your family. Best of luck.

Sorry this took up so much space. It's really not that complicated.
I like to think of mine as a simple faith. Like the blog. See if there's anything in this post that sounds plausible to you.

http://asimplefaith.blogspot.com/2005/10/i-believe.html

broken ladder said...

i think it's this government's way. since they want everyone to embrace religion and christianity they've made government less effective and efficient. if anyone needs help they must ask churches. government is no longer willing to offer assistance.

just like medicaid, headstart, food stamps and all the other neccesities this "christian" administration has seen fit to destroy.

if you need help you'd best be looking to jesus coz you're not going to get help from the government. and if you die in the process then maybe you should've prayed a little harder.

i don't think a secular government is a bad thing, i think it's a bad thing when they decide to do nothing and expect you to turn to jesus for help.

it's sad that bush can claim the higher ground and profess to be a compassionate, christian conservative when he is clearly none of the above.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe some of you are so naive as to believe that the government can magically wave a wand and become an incredibly caring, efficient organization overnight when disaster strikes. Hell, you can't even get a driver's license without standing in line forever, so how do you expect them to roll into a disaster area and be ready to cure all ills in 3 days (or 3 months, for that matter)?

This slow reaction has nothing to do with the current administartion wanting government to get smaller. Bush has done nothing to indicate he is willing to really make cuts, and in fact, his admin has bloated federal spending (non-defense) since he was elected.

clayton cubitt said...

To asimplefaith:

You're not an agnostic. You're a theist. Huge difference.

I'm glad that believing in a God makes you feel better. I'm glad that it helps you get through each day. I say, whatever you need, use it. To each his own.

"You may not believe in God, but He’s working through you anyway."

Groan. If I had a nickel for every time a religious person said this to me I'd have enough money to start my own church.

"Do you really believe you, literally, got to where you are today because of a combination of hard work and random events? Mmmm…I don’t think so."

Yes, actually, I do think so. I'm telling you, I don't believe in a God, Gods are not motivating factors in any of my actions, and I don't need fear of hellfire to make me act right. It's simple. Please take the time to understand what I'm saying, that there is no great puppetmaster controlling my actions from the sky.

"As far as I’m concerned, Atheists are as capable as anyone else of being decent, caring human beings."

Thanks, I feel the same way about the religious.

"And, I think, if you choose not to believe, you’re just making this life harder than it needs to be."

I disagree. If more people didn't put so much hope into some farcical afterworld full of clouds and harps and virgin harems, perhaps more of them would take more effort in making the presentworld a better place to live in.



To anonymous:
"Hell, you can't even get a driver's license without standing in line forever, so how do you expect them to roll into a disaster area and be ready to cure all ills in 3 days"

I think we should all expect them to be able to do both, efficiently, and with care. Demand it. Don't shrug and say "That's how government is," demand that they represent us. They do work for us, after all, right?

"This slow reaction has nothing to do with the current administration wanting government to get smaller. Bush has done nothing to indicate he is willing to really make cuts, and in fact, his admin has bloated federal spending (non-defense) since he was elected."

I didn't say they wanted government to be smaller (although some say they do, yet as you point out, they've done the opposite). I said they seemed to make it less effective. Less competent. Less able to do the job it was meant to do. And I asked, why is that?

The Creative Death said...

You're just an incredible writer!
Im jealous.
The inspiration you draw from your people and your experiences is just amazing.
You are so articulate and organized in your thoughts.
You've truly got a gift.

Rialle said...

To all of you guys arguing for religion:

Building off of what Clayton said, why should I think I can't do things for myself? Is this all written in the stars for me? How sad. Then why am I here except to walk a path already drawn? I'm not attacking religion-if you believe in a good greater than all of this hell-bent world, then fine, ok. I understand. I'm just tired of all of these people coming to this site just to try to convert Clayton and the rest of us like him. I'll give you a hint-it's not going to work. No, seriously. And Clayton, I'm an atheist too. I don't think there is a "puppet master" of any kind. I wish that, for a while, some of the relgious people that haven't done a thing would get up and stop trying to convert people. Instead, go down to New Orleans and do something. Anything. Maybe then I'd have more respect for religion in general.

To the rest of you who say I'm goign to hell, I have an idea. I'll beleive you...if you an prove it. No scripture, that's not proof. Tell you what: make a visit for me and bring me one of the devil's horns, ok?

Sedulia said...

Clayton, I agree with you about what you are seeing. I think the two things are related, and they are related in other countries as well. For example, Islamist charities have been helping the earthquake victims in Pakistan much more than the government. In return, they take male orphans off to become jihadis at their schools, and local people have a more positive view of the Islamists than before. Islamist charities are doing this all over the Islamic world.

It's not true that government is doomed to work badly. It works badly because people choose to slight it. Here in France, where I live (I'm from Louisiana), I've seen that government-run health care that covers everyone, allows everyone to choose their own doctors, and is considered the best in the world, costs less per capita than our American non-system that leaves tens of millions, mostly employed, with no health care. The post office here delivers letters the next day, and garbage is picked up 6 mornings a week. Sure, every country has problems, but the reason government services work better in France is that government service is something people take pride in and are willing to pay for. It's probably not an accident that France is a very secular country, too.

When did that pride in our government stop in the U.S.? Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt not taking care of Katrina victims?

Anonymous said...

I don't want to get in the middle of this debate and don't think that me sitting here and letting you know about my beliefs will change yours at all, but I did want to speak out after reading the post.

I do think that alot of people, regardless of religion, are helping in the wake of Hurricane Katrina out of pure passion and humanity and wanting to help others. That is the reason you are there, right?

Also, I read this blog quite often and love the pictures and stories you bring to those of us who are not able to work on the front lines. Regardless that we have different beliefs, I thank God that you are down there because of the work you are doing and I will pray for you and your journey.

WearerOfManyHats said...

I'm an Anglican Evangelical (read: quasi-Episcopalian) and have been following your blog for awhile, deeply moved by the words and images, and sharing them with friends. Your last post moves me to reply, not to attempt conversion but to try to maybe answer some of your questions from the inside of the other side, FWIW.

(Here's my personal philosophy, for reference purposes: God is Love, and God is Truth, both perfectly combined. Love without truth is easily misguided, tossed with the wind in any direction. Truth without love is a two-edged sword bringing more injury than healing.)

To answer your questions, admittedly imho.... government hasn't become ineffective only recently, down through history it has always been ineffective in meeting the needs of individuals. Politics has always been about power struggles and finger-pointing.

Government exists primarily to perpetuate itself. Christians are called primarily to serve others. When Christians get involved in national government, with some rare exceptions, we're generally just not very good at it -- there's a clash of objectives and loyalties. Which has the greater claim on our lives -- the President, or the Eternal King? If the latter, here come your white vans. If the former, here comes the depersonalized, ineffective government you see around you.

Christians aren't threatened by the idea of an effective, efficient government, in fact we'd like one so our damn taxes would go down. We're just not holding our collective breath waiting for it to happen. If we are responsible at all for the current state of government it's because the more intelligent and educated among us see no hope that secular government's problems are fixable and have dropped out of it, leaving only the incompetent and/or easily swayed among us to run for office. (BTW I & a few believing friends do not agree with this cop-out and are currently running for local office. But I digress....)

Where it comes to Christian involvement in national government -- attempting to infuse Love and Truth into a mammoth self-serving bureaucracy -- generally speaking we're in a bit of a quandary as to how to go about it. Constructive suggestions are welcome.

In the meantime, here in our small rust-belt town outside of Pittsburgh, we're still recovering from last year's flood, the remnants of Hurricane Ivan. Like you, we've found the government officials have come, frustrated us, and gone. Like you, we've found the churches still here, still serving, even though fully half the churches in town were themselves flooded. We feel an incredible bond with the survivors of Katrina, and even tho our town is still struggling, the local Presby church (where I work) has hooked up with a Methodist church north of NO.... we can't afford the white van but we'll be there shortly.

Adrienne said...

broken ladder said...
government is no longer willing to offer assistance.

Then perhaps I am no longer willing to pay taxes. No one wants to pay something for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Awesome insight; you have a unique gift of writing!

I wanted to share a poem by Mother Theresa. It is engraved on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.

If you are succesful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got ...anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God, It never was between you and them anyway.

Kate said...

The comments validate your point all the more, Clayton. Crazy.

Take care. I'm not praying for you because I practice zen and like you I don't need to believe in an afterlife or a god to act properly today. But I am thinking about you and your family.

Thank you our eloquent, courageous friend, for sharing your insight with us.

netfuel said...

http://www.wlox.com/

wlox ran a story on pearlington last night, look for it under the video section.

George said...

I am one of those Christians who is active in politics. I want government to be less intrusive, to promote justice and equity, to provide the infrastructure useful for a modern society, and to defend the nation. Often times this means opposing things other Americans want. No doubt many reading this great blog consider me, if not an enemy, at least an opponent. That seems clear from several comments: When Christians get involved in government, the reason must be to undermine it or to subvert it to our own evangelical efforts -- so that's why it doesn't work well anymore.

On the other hand, one commenter wrote: "Government exists primarily to perpetuate itself. Christians are called primarily to serve others." Well put. I would add that while government works to perpetuate itself, many government workers work to get paid. And they realize that they can get paid regardless of any achievement of results. Christians are out there volunteering and getting results because they believe God wants them to. Different motivation; different results.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Do you really think Christians are out to undermine the government? I have family members that call themselves Democrats and family that call themselves Republican, all call themselves Christians. Some of them have held local political positions. None of them got involved in politics to actively undermine the governments efficiency. All wanted to do good even though their methods might have differed. Do you believe that the Christians with matching outfits are sinister?

If you don't believe in a God and therefore some sort of absolutes then how do you even come up with a set of criteria with which to judge which is more effective.

This is going to sound ugly and jarring, but since I'm anonymous I'll say it. Perhaps the government, in allowing people to perish, is helping to control the population and therefore extend the resources on this earth. (Recall Philip Morris's brief campaign to European nations that smoking helped control government spending by curtailing the cost of caring for the elderly.) Perhaps the government by being less efficient is actually the morally superior agent in this operation.

Now that sounded really ugly, but if you don't believe in a God, then why isn't it a logical argument?

I choose to believe differently, that life is valuable, that you are valuable and that your family is valuable. Others do as well and are willing to wear silly matching t-shirts if that will help.

clayton cubitt said...

George-

You said "I want government to be less intrusive, to promote justice and equity, to provide the infrastructure useful for a modern society, and to defend the nation"

I'm with you on all that.

I never said, or intended to say, that when Christians are active in government that it is only because they want to subvert it for evangelical ends. Although there are many who do just that. More broadly, I'm asking is it possible that the very personality traits that make somebody very religious (not vaguely non-attending spiritual, as the majority of Americans are, but actually dogmatically religious), is it possible that this conflicts so much with the notion of a modern secular nation state that they can't help but jam the gears when they get involved? The square peg in a round hole effect?

""Government exists primarily to perpetuate itself. Christians are called primarily to serve others." Well put. I would add that while government works to perpetuate itself, many government workers work to get paid. And they realize that they can get paid regardless of any achievement of results. Christians are out there volunteering and getting results because they believe God wants them to"

Yes, the Church has shown no historical interest in perpetuating itself? Missionaries? The Inquisition? Crusades? All human institutions become interested in perpetuating themselves, whether government or churches or BINGO nights. I don't think the motivations are as different as you think.

To Anonymous (and they always seem to be Anonymous, don't they?)

You said: "Do you really think Christians are out to undermine the government?"

Re-read what I wrote. I simply wondered if the religious can't help but conflict with secular governmental thought. Some of the really hardcore amongst them certainly want to undermine it, though, yes, until they can weaken it enough to merge it with their church.

"I have family members that call themselves Democrats and family that call themselves Republican, all call themselves Christians"

Most Americans call themselves Christian, even though it appears only a small percentage actually live by it. In day to day life, in actual practice, most Americans would be better described as Deists with Christian trappings. Kind of like most of the Founding Fathers.

"Do you believe that the Christians with matching outfits are sinister?"

No, actually, I think they're kind of cute.

"If you don't believe in a God and therefore some sort of absolutes then how do you even come up with a set of criteria with which to judge which is more effective."

I use my brain.

"Now that sounded really ugly, but if you don't believe in a God, then why isn't it a logical argument?"

You're right, it was a bit ugly.

There's a vast difference between a logical argument and a moral decision, and a decent human being shouldn't need a Bible or the threat of a vengeful God to understand that. Are you saying that the only reason you behave morally is because you believe in a God? The only reason you don't kill other people is because a God tells you not to? These are not moral decisions you could ferret out on your own?

"I choose to believe differently, that life is valuable, that you are valuable and that your family is valuable"

I believe life is valuable, too. I believe you're valuable, too, even if a tad annoying. I believe your family is valuable, too. And I believe all these things without fear of eternal damnation, or hope of eternal reward. I believe this without being told to by some musty book or old Holy Man. I believe these things because it's simply the decent human thing to do.

If you need to be goaded into virtuous action, then so be it. I'd have more respect for you if you were good for goodness' sake. And you'd probably do better by Santa, too.

WearerOfManyHats said...

Clayton, you see the truth more clearly than many who call themselves Christian.... (here's a nickel, LOL)

Two more points and I'm done. First, and I get the feeling you already know this, but the Church (the institution) and Christianity (the faith) are two different things entirely.

Second, God is not a puppet-master or a vengeful tyrant. A lover and a gentleman would be a more accurate description. True people of faith are not bound to God by threat of hell or sense of duty. It's just that we've found a Love greater than anything this world can imagine and don't ever want to let go.

Anonymous said...

I think you can eliminate religion as a variable by comparing the Red Cross' performance versus the Central Government's. The Red Cross has to be reasonably effective because they live on voluntary donations that would evaporate like the fog off a mirror if they were caught doing the kind of stuff FEMA did. The Central Government is not dependent upon voluntary donations so why should they care?

I would love to have seen Bush flying out refuges in Air Force 1. I would love to see Bush driving his own PT Cruiser as he's exhorting people to save gasoline. I would love to see Bush living in a boarding house, as Thomas Jefferson did.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have seen Clinton WALK to a McDonald's.

clayton cubitt said...

anonymous- regarding your Red Cross observation, I see what you're getting at, but perhaps they're not the best example to point to in the case of Katrina, as they weren't much more effective than FEMA was, at least in all the areas I've been in. I think it's that they're huge, and the normal go-to charity people automatically give to whenever something happens, so maybe being so fat and spoiled takes away some of their incentive to quick action.

anonymous 02- What's any of this got to do with Clinton's fast food habits? Focus, please.

Susan said...

Clayton – You are an amazing writer. This is the first time I have visted your site and intend to keep coming back.

You have made some very interesting points (as have several others), some of which compelled me to respond.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a Christian and belong to a Southern Baptist Church. I am a democrat (although it may seem an oxymoron). I am not replying to try to convince anyone to “get saved.” I simply want to share my viewpoint with you.

I would also like to add that I am NO STRANGER to the effects of hurricanes. Hurricane Charley totaled my car last year and Hurricane Francis destroyed my house. Because it was not properly insured, now – more than a year later – I am still living in a rental. I can empathize, to some extent, with what many of you are going through.

FEMA let us down completely. Their rules, regulations and processes are sorely lacking. Each time you call… if you can get through… you speak with a different person that gives you a new series of fiery hoops to jump through.

I attend First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach and we have sent several teams to Slidell (along with semis full of supplies). The first team left within days of the hurricane’s devastating hit. (I am not sure if they traveled in an Econovan, but I do know they did not wear matching outfits! LOL) I know these people personally, and know that some really had to sacrifice to make the trip. They didn’t do it because they were afraid that if they didn’t they would be cast into the fiery depths of hell or that they would get an extra-special reward in Heaven, no “halos to be earned” (excuse my sarcasm). I am a bit of a cynic myself (more so a realist) and believe there is no such thing as altruism. However, the law that we live by is love. The only reward we get is the tremendous amount of joy we receive from helping people.

We are also joyful in our beliefs. When you say “…we don’t ask them if they’d considered joining us in not believing in a higher power.” You may not understand the underlying motives behind “witnessing.” It is simply that believing in Christ brings us so much happiness that we want to share it with others. Hypothetically speaking, if you found out what the meaning of life was (or any other great question), I am sure you would want to tell others, right?

I would also like to add that if “Christians” had “largely taken over the government.” Don’t you think there would be prayer in schools… would all religious symbols have to be removed from public places… wouldn’t abortion be illegal? I know I believe wholeheartedly in the separation of church and state. I don’t think that ANY religion should be forced on anyone. The primary reason for the failure of our government is not Christians, but voter apathy. Christians are passionate about how they feel about things, therefore they vote, unfortunately for our nation, most are VERY conservative. Sadly, however, most people don’t CARE!!! According to www.census.gov 56% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 didn’t even bother to vote in the last presidential election - compared to 31% of those that are 65+. It’s no wonder we are all unhappy with our representatives!

Sorry for being so long-winded and thank you again for your thought provoking blog!

BTW “Sedulia” – none of our disaster teams brought back any male orphans, and as far as I know, none of our churches are giving our children guns in preparation for a holy war! LOL

Please continue with your thought provoking work. I am currently part of a team that is continuing to raise money for Slidell and will continue to pray for you and your city.

locosassypants said...

I want to be like Mexico! (never thought I would say that...) During Katrina, the Mexical Army sent one of their 15 releif units to help out.

"The convoy includes two mobile kitchens that can feed 7,000 people a day, three flatbed trucks carrying mobile water-treatment plants and 15 trailers of bottled water, blankets and applesauce. The 195 Mexicans taking part include military engineers, doctors and nurses."

And the food was HOT and tasty (not MREs). Unfortunately, they were stopped in Texas and allowed no further.

Why don't WE have these units? Oh yeah, we are too busy shipping our military overseas on other missions.

BTW: big fan of your work. wish I could buy a photo to support the cause. Best I could do was tell all my friends. Thank you for this blog.

HurricaneHelper said...

Clayton,

I am a religious person, but I am not always proud of other religious persons. At our best, we feed the hungry, clothe the naked,help the poor, and strive for social justice. At our worst, we muck things up in our attempt to have our theology and our politics be similar.

Being religious does not mean being perfect or right. It means you want to be, you strive to be, you yearn to be in tune with your maker. We practice religion,but we are hardly ever good at it. That is why we admit our bad nature. Someone noted to me once about all the rascals hiding behind the cross and church. I said, "Think how bad they would be if they weren't going to church!"

So, give us a break. Accept the help for what it is. Don't blame us totally for bad government. Think of this. People are like the fingers on your hand: four pointed straight, but one always angling off the wrong way.

Remember, there is a meeting you should attend tomorrow, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Gulfport, Ms. at 10 am. Meet the people who are helping people.

Tom
Hurricanehelper
http://katrina-response.blogspot.com/

M said...

Hi
I think your piece is thought provoking, and it is a much needed discussion. I just wanted to add something on a slightly different note. I am currently in Guatemala, where hurricane Stan did some serious damage. They do not have the resources here that are luckily available in N-O. There are some foreign people helping out right now, but the real worry is when these people leave, the situation will be no better. Villages have disappeared, burying whole populations under mud, crops have been destroyed. There are many evangelicals here too, and although I do not share their beliefs in the slightest, they are doing some good, and when a situation is this bad, perhaps that is all that matters.

Kim said...

I don't think the problem is either religion or government. I think we have created a monster: we have given corporations legal "personhood" and so, in some mysterious way, they have taken on a "life" of their own and become "persons". Though they are persons without conscience, without pride in quality, without the things that make society work. They are focused solely on profit, and are ruthless. The government was supposed to keep them under control, but they have learned to control the government instead, and are slowly (or not so slowly) taking over everything, poinoning us all with their monumental greed and carelessness. It is much like the old space operas where the robots take over and enslave the humans....only, our "robots" are economic machines instead of metal machines.