The President's Model For Faith-Based Initiatives 10/30/2003

Forty years ago, the President of the United States came to town to bolster support for his administration.  Tragically, he was murdered.  It symbolized a difficult time in our nation's history.  A time when we struggled externally, with the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, as well as internally, with the evil racism that oppressed our own citizens.

Wednesday night, the President of the United States came to town to bolster support for faith-based initiatives.  Hopefully, this visit will symbolize a time in our nation's history when we move to more effectively deal with the problems facing our people.

"The best way to help the addict, the person stuck on drugs and alcohol, is to change their heart," President Bush said in support of Dr. Tony Evans' "Project Turn-Around". "You change their heart, then you change their behavior."

"I know!" he explained, referring to his own battle with alcohol and how faith changed his life and direction.

The President spoke at length to explain the previous position of Washington -- one that basically told any grant applicant, "if you have any religious faith, do not apply."

But this administration focuses on results.  The critical question is, "Does it work?" instead of "Do you believe in God?"  While the President makes it very clear that the government should not and will not underwrite religious activity, he also makes it clear that if a religious organization -- be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or whatever -- has social programs that work -- such as a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, job training, and so on -- then that organization should not be shut out strictly because of their faith.

Finally, a little common sense in Washington! 

"The separation of church and state ought never to be equated with separation of God and good works," Dr. Evans told the crowd.  And he is absolutely right.  No amount of money would buy off the faith of most religious organizations.  Truly, the government should not be in the business of shutting down expressions of faith.  But at the same time, if the most effective social programs take place in the neighborhood church or synagogue, the government ought to maximize our tax dollars by allowing these programs to apply for grants on equal footing just as secular organizations.

Dr. Evans church sits in one of the most challenging areas in the state of Texas.  Crime rates are high.  Divorce rates are high.  Unemployment rates are high.  And racial tension runs high.  Very few fathers are in place; single-parent homes abound.

But Dr. Evans has begun to change his community one heart at a time.  His urban church is partnering with Rev. Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in affluent north Dallas, to develop long-term partnerships for positive change.  The upper-income people are helping the lower-income people.  They are working across racial lines.  Crime is dropping.  Families are staying together.  The partnership between Dr. Graham and Dr. Evans should inspire everyone to do the same -- even Democrats are Republicans.  After all, both ministers and elected representative should seek to meet the needs of the people.  In "Good Samaritan" acts of kindness, we offer hands and hearts as well as necessary funds.

Under President Bush's leadership, Dr. Evans' social programs are now eligible for government funding as well.  That means that the most successful programs for developing job skills, parenting skills, marriage skills and other community-building characteristics can be recognized and aided on a federal level.  Instead of continuing to support programs proven to fail or creating new, untested programs to deal with social ills, the government "of the people, for the people, and by the people" can now back those programs that we know will help the people.

"This program is a beacon for Dallas and this program is a model for the nation," President Bush said.

Now the spotlight shines on Dr. Evans' efforts.  We will all be watching and expecting more success as transforming light becomes "a city set on a hill."


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 675

Reference: President Bush's remarks at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship

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. For more information, log on to www.lifetoday.org.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.