Faith-based initiative channels tax funds to churches
Government funding of social programs through "faith-based initiatives" appeals to religious groups who have no qualms about breaking down the historic wall between religion and government. They substitute certain charitable services in a religious
environment for more broad and equitable government programs. These initiatives bypass the historic implementation of the First Amendment by channeling taxpayers' dollars to churches and other religion-based providers of social services under
contrived rules that allow for proselytizing and putting religious tests on hiring employees. The initiative even provides taxpayers' money to build and renovate houses of worship.
There is no doubt that the goal is to finance programs that are clearly religious, and the annual level of somewhat surreptitious government funding through religious institutions has now reached about $2 billion.
2000: Greatest challenge is growing chasm of rich vs. poor
As the year 2000 approached, I was invited to speak at a major forum and asked this question: "What is the world's greatest challenge in the new millennium?"
It was an interesting question, and I replied, with little doubt, that the greatest challenge we face is the growing chasm between the rich and the poor people on earth.
There is not only a great disparity between the two, but the gap is steadily widening. At the beginning of the last century, the 10 richest countries were 9 times wealthier than the 10 poorest ones.
In 1960 the ratio was 30:1. At the beginning of this century, average income per person in the 20 richest nations was $27,591 and in the poorest nations only $211, a ratio of 131:1!
Habitat for Humanity: build homes for poor, without interest
One of the most natural ways to reach out to needy people has been through Habitat for Humanity, with its international headquarters just 10 miles from our home. We lead a group of volunteers for one week each year to build homes somewhere in the world.
We have done this for more than 20 years in ghetto areas, rural towns, and in Mexico and South Africa. We plan to build homes in India in 2006.
We work side by side with poor families who will be able to own the houses because Habitat follows the biblical prohibition against charging interest.
This has been an enjoyable and heartwarming opportunity for us and many others to put our religious faith into practice, and it demonstrates vividly the importance and difficulty of reaching out to needy people.
Being "rich" means decent home, education, & health
My grandfather delivered the graduation address at my school. He said, among other things, that all of us sitting in that stadium were rich. "I'm not talking about bank accounts," he said. "A rich person is someone who has a decent home, a modicum of
usable education, and access to reasonable health care. Rich people like us feel that the police and the judicial system are on our side and think that if we make a decision, it'll make a difference, at least in our own lives."
And then he went on to ask how many of the rich people in that stadium knew a poor family well enough to invite them over for dinner, or go to their house and have a cup of coffee. He suspected it was very few. "Why is that?" he asked. "We tend to live
in an isolated environment which we create, and we rarely look toward other people as equal or deserving." He then told stories about several of his friends, "rich in every way, who decided to live their lives among the poorest people on Earth."
Spends one week per year building affordable housing
Each year, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter give a week of their time -- along with their building skills -- to build homes and raise awareness of the critical need for affordable housing. The Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) for Habitat for Humanity
International (HFHI) is held at a different location each year, and attracts volunteers from around the world. The 2000 JCWP built 157 houses in New York City; Jacksonville, Fla.; and the Carters’ home of Sumter County, Ga. Other recent JCWP builds have
taken place in the Philippines (1999--293 houses), Houston, Texas (1998--100 houses) and Kentucky/Tennessee (1997).
“We have become small players in an exciting global effort to alleviate the curse of homelessness, ” Carter
said. “With our many new friends, we have worked to raise funds, to publicize the good work of Habitat, to recruit other volunteers, to visit overseas projects and even build a few houses.”
Source: Habitat for Humanity web site, www.habitat.org
, Dec 25, 2000
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