Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Obama Does Zanesville

Barack Obama did a smart thing today. He visited my hometown and he went there to talk about faith. He knows that he needs to win Ohio. And he knows exactly where he needs to go to help facilitate that victory. He went to the Eastside Community Ministry to talk about his support for faith-based initiatives in government anti-poverty programs. Here’s the text of that speech and here is a link to his plan for a faith-based initiative.

As I read through his remarks in Zanesville, I was struck by a couple of things. First, he wants to distinguish his faith-based initiative from that of his predecessor. He does this in the following way:


Well, I still believe it’s a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grassroots groups, both faith-based and secular. But it has to be a real partnership – not a photo-op. That’s what it will be when I’m President. I’ll establish a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new name will reflect a new commitment. This Council will not just be another name on the White House organization chart – it will be a critical part of my administration.
Second, his faith-based initiative seems less a way to help these groups to do their jobs than a way to get them dependent on government in order to do what they’re already doing. And, of course, this means that his sort of folks can direct what it is that these groups do (because, after all, you can’t expect people who "cling" to God and guns to know anything about helping the needy):
First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.
The takeaway line from this story today is Obama’s call for "all hands on deck." I’ve heard this repeated all day on radio and t.v. news. But the full context of that quote is this:
You see, while these groups are often made up of folks who’ve come together around a common faith, they’re usually working to help people of all faiths or of no faith at all. And they’re particularly well-placed to offer help. As I’ve said many times, I believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.

That’s why Washington needs to draw on them. The fact is, the challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.

I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

This is, rhetorically, very smart and it has had the desired effect. He’s doing what Bush should have done about the war. He’s explaining why the American people are needed to help in the effort--except Obama’s "effort" is "saving our planet" and "ending poverty." (Hey, at least he’s ambitious!) This flatters people who, naturally, love their country and want to be a part of something good and larger than themselves. But the fact is that Obama’s call for "all hands on deck" is telling. A captain orders all hands on deck not because he feels they have some new insights to offer on swabbing it. He calls them up top to work according to his will. This is what Obama’s faith based initiative appears to offer too. Groups will have to agree to be secular and "non-discriminatory" even in their hiring . . . so Catholic Charities could not, I presume, require that their efforts be led by a Catholic? They will not be permitted to proselytize? And what will we call "proselytizing"? Could it be that even a conversation about Jesus might cause a group to lose its funding? And God-forbid we suggest that these groups do a better job at lifting people up (because they do). Suggesting that might put the Democratic party out of business.

Discussions - 8 Comments

If he opens the door to a discussion on "faith," then Republicans need to make sure that others become a part of that "discussion," id est: Wright, Pflegger, Farrakhan, et al. He "opened the door." The idea of a guy who spent most of his adult existence in the pews of Wright's "church," daring, ------------------------- daring to initiate a "discussion" on "faith," ought to cause the GOP to absolutely Tee off on him.

We can't allow him to broach such a discussion without immediately morphing that discussion into a referendum on whether Wright, Pflegger and Farrakahan are kooks or not.

That's what Lee Atwater would do. "Faith" allows him to evade discusing energy, it allows him to evade discussing the economy, his health care "mandates." Every day that he spends discussing "faith," is a day that the false messiah is allowed to skate on the real issues du jour.

This is an issue that allows him to speak, to speak, to speak, without really saying anything. It enables him to get out there, exude a certain "leadership" style, without having to do any real leading, particularly not on energy. The false messiah shouldn't be able to initiate anything regarding "faith," without knowing that Wright is immediately going to be placed front and center.

A scary thought. Obama's "faith based initiative" is essentially the government buying out religion, and unfortunately, many of our churches will probably sell.

Is ending poverty any more ambitious than stopping terrorism? Or going to Mars? Or finding a cure for cancer? Why do you belittle that kind of talk?



I'm put off by the government working with "faith-based" initiatives. However, I think it's good to have government oversight over such things. I know Ms. Ponzi believes that these groups do a better job at "lifting people up" than the government, but that's just not true from my experience (all of you from Ashland - take a good look at Pumphouse Ministries). I'm sure there are some good ones, but I don't think we can just say that keeping the government out of it will make it better.



Your theory about Obama sneaking Jesus out of faith-based initiatives is entertaining and (to me) somewhat attractive. I don't think that's what Obama has in mind, though. But . . . whatever . . .

That's what happened in Europe. The state effectively took over the various denominations, as soon as they assumed responsibility for funding them.

To ensure that the Church maintain independence from the state, it must have a funding source separate from that state.

Of course there's another way of looking at it. This is a device to fund various small churches, with small congregations, and those pastors whose theology isn't mainstream. Protestant splinter congregations, which then splinter themselves, and which are barely treading water, will find financing because of their "charitable" activity from an Obama administration.

How can you end poverty?

In short: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

It is almost funny that the last time I was in a church it was in Zanesville and the last time I was deer hunting was also in Muskingum county. The church was for a wedding and the deer hunting was with a different cousin, but I was struck by the fact that almost all the young christian people(my age) I talked to were pro-Obama even if against abortion. The thing they all shared in common was considerable mission trip/habitat for humanity type experience.

They want to change the world and my jadedness has little relevance for them, which is just as well by me since on some level we all bennefit from those who are more naive. In this spirit then I say more power to Obama and his supporters, even if it is probably the damn lawyers that will ruin it.

The way I see it, it is impossible to make all sides happy, so the most grown up side if going to have to pretend. If we want change from the ground up then being upset when someone shares faith is just absolutely ridiculous. The way I see it, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. If a christian group is out helping others primarily as a means of evangelizing, then what good is it to come in with lawyers and establish a whole layer of pretense about motives in the first place? Give me a break.

I tell you one thing if I am not going to get off my butt to go help out with a proselytizing group who is actually doing some good, I am certainly not getting off my butt to go stop them from doing good just because they are proselytizing.

To the Obama supporters I know in Zanesville I say: Ignore the bah humbug, if it is inevitable then it is inevitable and if que sera sera then que sera sera and if le plus ca change, then as Mr. Frisk points out le plus ca change le plus c'est la meme.

A captain might call all hands on deck (a captain being considerable more rank than the 0-3 it is in army, fyi)...but even in the army a captain calls his first sergeant and the first sergeant calls the sergeant and the sergeant calls on the specialist who goes over and graps a PFC and a PV2 and figures out how to do the least amount of work that will pass muster. Certainly the standard on paper isn't set by the SPC but in many ways it is. So despite the fact that the job done maybe average on each level going up the vocabulary used to describe the facts of the job gets embellished considerably.

So in my view the fact that Obama is at least aware that change occurs bottom up is a good thing. In my opinion this means that he is at least aware that the top is just kidding itself when it stipulates the "ideal". Our paperwork loving lawyer class may love stipulating answers and criteria for what constitutes good work, but even the chain of command in the army doesn't work quite so smoothly as all that. It really will all depend upon who the "NCO's" in the program are. Some NCO's take a very strict view about the letter of the law, and certainly some charities will be manned by such personalities, but far more likely in my view charities will always be manned by opinionated evangelizing type people, with very subjective perspectives upon how to swab the deck, the letter of the law be dammned...after all they may just be swabing the deck, but in some regard they are doing so for some sort of "Reason".

I hate to bring up Hegel again, but notice how this comes back to "subjectivity" clashing with "authority/way of the world"?

If the government and the lawyers are too heavy handed one of two things will occur. Either people will quit volunteering for a cause that no longer allows them to accomplish a not so secondary aim, or they will ignore and undermine the law. When they ignore the law, liberal/secular interest groups will sue them and if the secular interest groups win then more people will withdraw from the charities, because they will not be able to find meaning in them.

So that is my theoretical grounding based in part on military experience, for saying that there is no way to make everyone happy unless people grow up.

Unless the mission is the most important thing, and people realize that the "subjective" aims of different groups are important "spiritual" motivators for them, and because not all groups will, the Obama project is guaranteed to have some difficulties, but these are not difficulties that wouldn't have existed under a republican attempt of the same thing.

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