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This week, I interviewed Max Lucado, a great writer and pastor from San Antonio, for the television program LIFE Today. In his message, "What Katrina Can Teach Us," he explores the dual responses of people caught in the fury of the storm.
"We are people of both dignity and depravity," Lucado says. "The hurricane blew back more than roofs; it blew the mask off the nature of mankind. The main problem in the world is not Mother Nature, but human nature. Strip away the police barricades, blow down the fences, and the real self is revealed. We are barbaric to the core."
Into this mess of human depravity the church intervened, as it should. Even as the local, state and federal government struggled to engage in rescue operations, the churches across the nation were already in action. On the ground in devastated states, pastors and church members coordinated their efforts to take basic necessities to those in need. Outside of the affected areas, churches and parachurch organizations rounded up resources and manpower to send into the Gulf region. But beyond meeting physical needs, people of faith reached out to provide something the government cannot, by purposed design, provide: the comfort and compassionate touch of people who care.
Over the past two weeks, I have spoken with the governors of two states taking in evacuees: Texas Governor Rick Perry and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Both of these leaders praised the rapid reaction of their state's churches to organize and administer aid. Churches have sheltered thousands of families. Christians in businesses have sacrificed time and money to provide food, clothing, transportation and other assistance. The faith-based community has demonstrated the willingness and capability to care for those in need. And the fact that they do it out of a genuine concern for their fellow countrymen -- as opposed to doing it as a mere job -- makes a real difference in the lives of those on the receiving end.
When President Bush promotes his faith-based initiatives, he is often met with criticism and mockery. Yet the events of the past two weeks firmly establish the need for government to find a way to work with faith-based organizations to better care for the people of America. Like those stranded on the roofs of their homes in parts of New Orleans, the shameful misapplication of the concept of "separation of church and state" effectively cuts off aid to those who need it most. Government should not fund religious proselytization, nor should it discriminate against those who can provide immediate support and long-term care just because they mention God.
Crisis often reveals the true nature of unconditional love as it lifts people above the walls of religious tradition and political partisanship that often divides those who should always express concern for others.
Mankind cannot prevent the fury of nature, but we can positively influence human nature. The church must continue to operate in the role of provider and caregiver, unhindered by the behemoth of a bureaucratic government. Instead of working against each other, these two pillars of civilized society should stand side-by-side for the greater good of all mankind. With these institutions functioning in their proper parallel roles, our country will be able to withstand any storm and overcome every crisis.
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org
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