Thursday, May 11, Senate Chaplain Mike Morris delivered the following prayer before the guests and members of the North Carolina Senate:
"This morning we offer thanks, O God, for the unexpected blessing of a $2 billion surplus in the State Treasury. We're also grateful for the Senators who understand such a sum. For the poor in our State, $2 billion is an incomprehensible amount -- a different monetary language. In their world, a few dollars more each month means the difference between despair and hopefulness. So to those of us who know the meaning of $2 billion, help us also respond to the language of dollar bills and pocket change."
After the prayer, I turned to a colleague sitting next to me in the gallery and said: "That prayer was decidedly progressive." In other words, the suggestion of the prayer was that North Carolina lawmakers ought to take the surplus and dole it out in various government programs for the poor.
Unfortunately, we are living in a time when most people would offer a whole-hearted "Amen" to the chaplain's prayer. Yet the chaplain is actually espousing a form of economic deviance -- one far from the teaching of Holy Scripture.
There's no doubt that Christianity is deeply concerned for the poor. But the Scriptures do not authorize the government to be involved in matters of housing, food, child-care, health-care, etc. Romans 13:3-5, the definitive text for understanding the role of government, says government is to bear the sword against evil doers and protect the innocent. The apostle Paul clearly delineates this to be the reason people should pay taxes -- to provide for sufficient military, police, and court services; to protect the public's right to life, liberty, and private property. It's neither altruistic nor compassionate, however, when the government coercively extracts money from one group and gives it as an act of public charity to another -- even when it's needed! Such is just another form of violating the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal."
It's hard to believe that America, which was birthed in part because of its opposition to unjust taxation, would so passively accept a tax burden that is considerably squelching its hopes at opportunity. Taxation that seeks a more equitable distribution of wealth by seizing the property and possessions of those who have in the name of those who don't, significantly suppresses a nation's ability to produce.
Moreover, this approach to economics undermines the strength of the national character.
Alexis De Tocqueville, the famous French philosopher, once warned: "America will last until the populace discovers that it can vote for itself largesse out of the public treasury." For those who might not know, "largesse" means: "liberally vote themselves gifts and handouts from public coffers."
Without question, today government has become the opiate of the people. We look to it to solve all our problems, but in doing so we preempt the genius of private enterprise, the power of private charity, and the profound influence of the church. All of these serve to make us a better people -- to nurture the nation's spirit -- to serve the public more effectively. When the public begins to look to the government as a panacea for all its woes, the end is indolence, vice, and less liberty. Can we honestly deny this is where public or state charity has taken us?
No, Senate Chaplain Morris' prayer shouldn't receive an "Amen," but an "Oh me." It was, whether intentional or not, an unholy alliance with socialism -- pure and simple. In a sermon titled, The Bible and Economics, Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries rightly notes that such "[i]nstead of drawing people to the church and God who is the provider of every good and perfect gift, it leads them to a more and more secularized state and engenders more and more of a disbelieving populace. Furthermore, it leads to a loss of freedom, to tyranny as we sell our souls to the government store. More and more people are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage or, as somebody said, a pot of socialistic message. They will end up as a people totally dependent upon the state and without liberty."
Indeed, perhaps a better prayer before the N.C. Senate during a time of surplus would have been:
"Our Heavenly Father, forgive us, for we are wise in our own sight, yet far removed from the true wisdom found in Your ways. Though we sought to help, we created hindrances. Though we sought to give, we were actually stealing. In this chamber, we now scramble and fight over that which is not our own. Today we humbly consecrate the $2 billion surplus in the State's treasury and vow to place it where it actually belongs. In repentance, we give it back to the people."
I feel relatively certain they won't be asking me to pray before the N.C. Senate anytime soon.
This article originally appeared on May 23, 2006.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.