Churches in our society have been given special privileges, a kind of "welfare for institutions," in return for the direct social welfare services they used to provide for far more of than they do today. They don't pay taxes. The rest of us pay for their use of the country's infrastructure, health, safety, and other services. "Freedom of religion" individual rights are also extended to the institutions, giving them latitude to ignore some laws that the rest of us must follow.I'm forcing myself to skip a history lecture here so that I can explore Robert's concept of "direct social welfare services." I grew up in an area of extreme poverty--we didn't have running water, but where I came from, it wasn't the people with outhouses who were poor, it was the people without outhouses... and we had plenty of poor people in Boone County, West Virginia. The local economy consisted of food stamps, welfare checks, black lung benefits, and a little moonshine.
My father coordinated VISTA ("Volunteers in Service to America," one of the legal alternatives to the draft) in Boone County, and we had a constant supply of bright young college graduates in our home. Dad also worked for the West Virginia Mountain Project, an inland mission of the Presbyterian church, and entertained an endless stream of seminary students who were looking for ways to serve the poor. Dad eventually got the job title of "mobile minister to the poor" (essentially a Presbyterian social worker) and spent many of his days visiting people in jail, putting roofs on widows' houses, and helping people fill out government forms.
I say all that to say this--from what I observed in Boone County, government programs feed the body but kill the soul. My liberal friend Robert may not believe in "souls," so I'll use other terms--welfare as we know it alienates the recipient. It makes people feel less human. Some (but by no means all) of the "direct social welfare services" that churches offer, by contrast, make people feel more human.
This blog exists to explore the healthshare alternative to free-market health insurance and state-funded Medicaid. From my research so far, healthshares appear to heal the body and feed the soul. Can anybody say that about Blue Cross or Medicaid?