Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

June 6, 2013

In the House of Wood

Okay, it's preachy

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — I've come to the realization that people have forgotten what the role of government is supposed to be in our lives and allowed it to be the “end all, be all” of providing solutions. We've allowed the  government to achieve the same level as God or King, including within the church. 

I was recently asked by my minister and church board to represent my congregation at the United Methodist Annual Conference this weekend. We have a small church. I think a better representative could have been appointed, as the faith and servants of God deserve better. Nevertheless, I'm going to do my best. 

Since I've been added to the list of delegates, I've received “call to action” emails. Many of them came while the Legislature was still in session, and all of them were asking church representatives to encourage lawmakers to promote what I refer to as “liberal causes.” 

Most of these “liberal causes” were those that expand the role of government in people's lives. If you've never been on any kind of public assistance, the truth is that the more handouts the government “gives” you, they take that much more liberty. You have to rely on them to come through and pay when they say you get paid. If you're on government medical care, like Medicaid – which the church was promoting the expansion of – you see doctors they approve you to see. You have procedures they approve you to have. 

I know, there's probably not much difference between that and some insurance companies, but the big difference is that you're the insurance company's customer. You could leave. In the case of Medicaid, you're a subject of the government. 

That's not what God wants for us. God wants us to be free and choose to do His will on Earth. He wants to be your only King. He wants us to turn to Him, and each other when we need help. 

As Christians, and I'm guilty of failing at us up to US to be our brother's keeper. WE are the ones who are supposed to reach out to those in need. God does not want us to just pay our taxes and decide, “The government's going to care for those poor people.” Nor does He want us to occasionally give to the food pantry when we could reach out, interact one-on-one with each other and truly get to know these people to help understand what they need to ultimately help themselves. 

The UMC seems to have lost sight of that, as many pages of the conference's manual discuss social justice and the further involvement of government. There seems to be an entire bureaucracy built within the church itself, which is another form of government and yet another barrier between God's congregations in His churches and God. It's hard to bow down to the King, have any kind of relationship with Him or understand His purpose for you when you've got several people who think they know Him better, standing in the way. 

But the major issue is that this dependency, and bureaucratic way of life filtering into the church, makes it easier for the church to be utilized to advance political causes. The UMC is imposing unnecessary forms of segregation on itself, with boards dedicated to causes for specific ethnic groups. To me, any emphasis on skin color or background is a political cause. The church has even funded discussion groups on college campuses with Jews and Muslims. 

I'm all for having an open dialogue with those of other faiths, but is this the wisest use of church funds at a time when churches struggle to keep their doors open?  I was always taught that we are all one people, brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of our ethnic backgrounds. Instead of specifically pointing out these groups, why don't we try to just come together as people of faith? Why should the church continue to focus on our differences instead of strengthening those ties that bind us? 

So these are the kinds of questions I intend to raise at this weekend's convention. I don't know how far it will get me. I don't know if they will get me thrown out. All I know is that the church is in need of a reminder of, or at least a different perspective of, the role government God intended for us as individuals, we as congregations and all mankind. It doesn't bother me to try to be that guy. 

Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.