Took part in a conference call this week with the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives in D.C. This government organization was started by George W. Bush and has been continued by President Obama. The program is being run by Joshua Dubois, a friend who worked as a liaison to the religious community for Barack Obama when he was a senator.
Among other things, the CFBCI hopes to level the playing field by helping faith-based organizations who work with the poor and marginalized get access to federal funding. There are no “faith-based dollars” but the CFBCI will work with organizations to help them understand how federal funding works and how to apply.
In addition, the CFBCI has announced their four areas of focus, and I thought you might find them interesting:
1. Work to integrate faith-based organizations in the economic recovery.
2. Promote responsible fatherhood and healthy families.
3. Reduce the need for abortions.
4. Foster inner-religious dialogue between people of different faith backgrounds.
I’ll be meeting with the CFBCI about twice a month, when I’m able to sit on on the conference call, and I’ll keep you informed of their progress. It all sounds really good to me and I’m honored to be one of the people they’ve asked for input. I assure you I’m a small fish on the phone. Perhaps the smallest.
I’m sure many will have questions about the program, so let me try to answer a couple before they come.
1. Why should government be involved in helping people at all? Shouldn’t the church do that?
A: Perhaps, but I don’t think so. We are running an enormous government deficit right now (we ran a surplus during the Clinton years, but counter to many Republicans, Bush increased the deficit enormously) and we do have to pare down our government spending (Obama has increased it further with the stimulus package) so an argument could be made that we don’t have the money to spend in the first place. However, if we did have the money, is it right?
I tend to see people as people and don’t really differentiate between the government and anybody else. If the government can help, why not. They are people and we are people. It’s not like they are robots. As for whether or not the work should be done by the church, it isn’t, so somebody has to do it. The church could solve all problems of poverty, and when it does, I think the government could go back to building roads and putting up stop signs. That said, though, it is difficult for me to imagine how the church is going to help provide healthcare. So if we are involved in the church and think the government shouldn’t be doing this work, the way to make them stop is to make the work go away by doing it ourselves.
2. Why would Barack Obama want to reduce abortions when he is a pro-choice President?
A: President Obama does believe abortion is a dark and tragic reality. He understands the desire for pro-life people to end abortion. As a pragmatist, and in order to reach out, and also to care for mothers who face the difficulty of an unwanted pregnancy, President Obama wants to understand the factors that lead to unintended pregnancy and help mothers keep their children. Studies show that economic well-being and health-care availability help a mother decide to keep her child. President Obama, in part through the CFBCI, wants to reduce abortions through the careful provision of these needs, creating a culture of life.
(As a side note, I asked the Office of Public Liaison whether the President intended to sign the Freedom of Choice act that he promised to sign during the campaign. This was a major battle-cry from the religious right. The OPL stated that there was no current movement on the bill and the President has not and will not sign it anytime soon. This does not mean he will not sign it in the future, only that the bill is not moving through congress at this time.)
That said, this is a complicated issue that, at least during the campaign, created more heat than light. Please use other blogs for sounding boards on this issue. Many pro-lifers tried to take over my blog during the election thus driving away open conversation. I’m sorry but that isn’t the purpose of this blog and I’d like to be able to use it to communicate information on a variety of subjects. You should also know I don’t believe we can create a utopia, and don’t believe we will have a perfect system of government until Jesus returns. Until then, we are only trying to make things better. Thanks so much for your understanding before you leave heated comments.