I recall a proposal during the George H. W. Bush administration to reduce the dependence of the American people on government largesse. It made sense, it was ridiculed by the leftist intelligentsia, and it didn’t seem to go very far. Maybe it was the oft-touted lack of “the vision thing” that was used to make fun of Bush-41’s often imprecise language. Maybe it was a sincere conviction that government is the nanny of us all and should not be undermined in taking care of us. He called for “A Thousand Points of Light”—a metaphor to reflect the fact that the social structure and man’s inherent charity can often do a better job of easing life’s woes than a government bureaucrat.
The idea was that families, friends, charities, faith-based organizations can all help us when things go poorly. I don’t think that was a throwback to a long-gone generational concept. I’m pretty well convinced that if I’ve got a problem I’m more likely to be helped by my old buddies, my veteran’s organizations, my school chums, my family, my church, my fraternal groups, and the guys down at the local watering hole than I am to be bailed out by (pause for drumroll….) FEMA. Yep, charity begins at home. And goodness is its own reward.
But, what then of this piece from the Washington Post: Flickering Points of Light
When Katrina and Rita laid thousands low, there was a huge effort by those unheralded Thousand Points of Light to aid their fellow man. Churches, schools, small communities, groups of all kinds leaped forward to offer assistance. It shouldn’t have been unexpected. It’s what good people do. It’s right. It’s appropriate. It’s the essence of humanity.
But, what’s going on now with the expectation that FEMA and/or the federal government should be reimbursing churches for their charity? The blatant politicization of the issue is appalling. First, we’ve got politicians scrambling all over themselves to dispense money. Send a check from Washington and take credit when re-election time rolls around. And, there’s no downside. Later you can use the expenditure to clamor for higher taxes, demand withdraw from world responsibilities, support cuts in defense, and demonstrate to the masses the failures (if you’re in the minority) or the successes (if you’re in the administration) of your party and yourself.
Then, we’ve got the usual suspects from the secularist movements. No! God forbid (excuse the descent into religious-based vernacular,) that non-denominational money should flow into religious coffers regardless of the reason. That’s a non-hunting dog from the git go. If an organization, regardless of fundamental or fundamentalist beliefs, experiences a reimbursable loss, they should get paid. But, that begs the question of whether or not this is a reimbursable expense.
Third, there is the natural emotional reaction. “We”, meaning the nation as a whole and specifically the dispensers of dollars in the capital, should bear the expense and cushion the blow to the locals—even when it is a church. Sorry, but call me hard-hearted here. Emotion always makes bad public policy. Reason trumps emotion every time. If you give because it’s right, should you later demand repayment for the “gift”?
So, what gives here? If one of the “Points of Light” steps forward voluntarily and does what their faith directs them to do for their fellow-man, then they should take pride in their charity and go on their merry way. They should not expect reimbursement, particularly if there was no promise of compensation before the expenditure.
When I give to a church or a charity, it should be for the purpose of them doing good works with the money. That’s the essence of the gift. If I give to the church or charity for them to do the right thing, then they get reimbursed by the feds, where does my money go? Why should I ever contribute? What’s the point of the sermon about sacrifice, if there is no sacrifice involved? If Big Brother will handle it, why have private charitable organizations in the first place?