Welfare Reform - EC335
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This is R. J. Rushdoony, Easy Chair number 335, April the fifth, 1995.
Our subject this evening is now welfare reform. One of the problems we face today is that welfare is eating into the future of this country. The cost is so great and we could add to welfare foreign aid because most of our foreign aid constitutes a kind of welfare. But welfare is so costly that it has made us deeply in debt as a country. On top of that it has cut into our financial resources to the point that the infrastructure of the United States is approaching, in many instances, the state of collapse. We are not told, but the number of bridges that collapse each year in the United States is a startling fact. In the major cities, the water mains, especially New York City are regularly breaking. Municipally owned power lines are often producing blackouts. In one sphere after another, including roads, the federal, state and county governments are no longer able to function as they once did because they are so deeply in debt.
As a result, there are those who are recognizing that the problem is a critical one and a critical area is welfare reform, because it is creating a class now, third and fourth generation peoples, who are dependent entirely upon reform and who are increasingly an expense in another sphere. They are very closely associated with crime. So the crime bill and the welfare bill, the foreign aid bill, these things are staggering in their implications for us.
I have heard it said—how true it is I cannot verify—that if we eliminated these or had not indulged in them the United States would today be in a net plus situation instead of a debtor nation. [00:03:05]
So welfare reform is a very, very urgent matter...
So welfare reform is a very, very urgent matter. Welfare has been destructive not only of the financial future of the United States and of other countries that have welfare problems, but it is also destructive of the moral future of every country that indulges in it. Welfarism creates a serious problem.
Saint Paul knew what he was talking about when he said, “He that will not work let him not eat.” Now the early church was very, very open handed in helping all those in genuine need, but the need had to be genuine and they were encouraged to work and were helped towards the working process. The idea was that they should not learn to be dependent because that dependency would create a moral problem.
So we have bankrupted ourselves financially and we have created morally a major crisis for ourselves as have other nations that are doing it.
Now, there is another aspect to this. The impact on those who receive welfare is very bad. But the impact on the others is not good either, because one of the things that happens when you have a large welfare population is it creates a major rift, whether you go back to ancient Rome or to any other culture between the people who receive the welfare and those who are working. There is a hatred both ways, a resentment, a hostility. It is a dehumanizing thing in that you begin to treat people as somehow unfit to associate with or unfit to live, although it is not openly stated so, but there is a hatred of the welfare recipient.
Then there is a self hatred of the welfare recipients. They are hostile. They are resentful and from ancient times they have been hostile to the basic culture of the country even though it is feeding them. There is no gratitude. They begin to assume that the welfare is a right and whether it is a Roman mob or an American welfare group, they insist that it is their right. [00:06:25]
Well, when you create a group that insists on rights...
Well, when you create a group that insists on rights and wants to live off the rest of the population in terms of those supposed rights, you have a major problem in society. Not many nations have been able to wean themselves from this problem. They are destroyed by it.
The great exception was Great Britain. In the early 1800s the fear of revolution with the example of the French Revolution led a great many English politicians to extend the dole and it created a major economic burden and a handicap for the country. Finally they simply cut it off and there were those who felt that in a few years mid century they would be faced with a major problem because of all these non working peoples and a major problem in terms of possible revolution and rioting.
What happened was that in a short time the people were gainfully employed and Britain entered into her greatest power in the latter half of the century into World War I, so that instead of suffering as was expected, Britain prospered greatly. So we do have that example which, incidentally, has not received adequate attention from historians.
Well, with that, Douglas, would you like to comment further on the whole subject of welfare reform?
[Douglas] Well, the ... the startling fact that this country is in debt to the tune of five and a half trillion dollars means that we have squandered all of the wealth that was built up during the industrial revolution and, in addition, we have mortgaged the future of our children for generations to come. That is an awful lot to throw away.
Along the lines of what you were saying, I heard a radio commentator within the last few days comment on the fact that there are now three workers for every individual who is drawing social security. And within 50 years, assuming that the purchasing power of the dollar stays the same—which we have no reason to believe that it will, judging on recent experience—that there will be two workers for every recipient of social security and the radio commentator said that he would like thank his two workers in advance. [00:09:39]
You mentioned Great Britain...
You mentioned Great Britain. I think the mindset is still there. They have... they pulled back from the brink only because they had a recent example that the French Revolution of what happens when things go too far and, unfortunately, people’s memories are very short and we don’t have any such recent example and I think that we are much less likely to pull back from the brink as Britain did, although you talk to many people in Britain and they still have, you know, the mindset that they want the government to take care of them and it is awfully hard to break people after successive, many successive generations of welfare dependency.
Frankly, I don’t see ... I see very little will power or backbone politically or culturally in this country to reverse that trend. If the sentiment was strong among the people to give up the dependency, welfare dependency, then there would probably be a little more political will power to do so. But we have seen successive attempts which have all been shams, have all been abandoned, Graham Rudman deficit reduction the... and there is a whole litany of deficit reduction plans that were politically timed prior to an election to give the façade of deficit reduction. But nothing has actually resulted in any positive results in that direction. And even with a more conservative Congress, there is still at least a third to a half of the Republican Congressmen who can’t bite the bullet. And they have fallen in the trap along with everybody else, because they are looking at three and a half million dollar pensions, individual pensions when they retire and they want to keep the game going as long as possible so that they get to collect. [00:12:14]
So the selfishness of all of these people and the selfishnes...
So the selfishness of all of these people and the selfishness in our society at large that they want to get theirs and they don't care what happens to generations down the road is, as Rush has said, is breeding a terrible contempt, a generational contempt that eventually will erupt, I think, in a major upheaval in this country. And I don’t see... the politicians are already, I notice this. It is very curious, you know, that there are some politicians that are saying ,”Well, the Church should take a bigger role in dispensing of welfare,” which to me means that none of them want to give up any power. They would like to take credit for the idea even though the idea of the Church taking care of people is older than they are. They still would like to take credit for expressing that idea and gain political mileage from it.
But it also uncovers a little that they harbor just a little bit of fear in the pit of their stomach that we are nearing the brink of no return where civil disorder will get totally beyond government’s control. And we may very well sink into the kind of wide spread violence that we have already seen indications of in the L A riots, the New York the lights went off and earthquakes immediately there are people out looting stores and so forth. It doesn’t take much. I mean the veneer is so thin.
[Douglas] That it doesn’t take much whether it is a natural disaster, whether it is an economic disaster, whether it is a political reversal, it doesn't take much to pull the plug on it and bring this house of cards down. And the recent drop of the dollar against foreign currencies means that the U. S. government has begun to print money and that the foreign currency traders and bond traders are wise to the game and they are not buying it. They are not going to buy any more U. S. dollars. They are unloading U. S. dollars and forcing the dollar down against other major industrialized countries currencies.
And so Mr. Clinton and Mr. Greenspan’s game here of trying to hide this deficit spending is not working, because they are operating in a glass house. And they are scared to death, the White House is scared to death of the bond traders and they have made a lot of very derogatory remarks about the economy being controlled by bond traders. [00:15:27]
But all of this has to do with when the government...
But all of this has to do with when the government breaks its promises to the welfare class which it is dancing around now trying to pull off, they want to cut a little here and cut a little there and cut a little somewhere else and you see the immediate reaction and it is not a mild reaction. It is not a complaint. It is a vicious reaction, the kind of rhetoric that is being used of accusing them of Nazism, using the vilest language, the strongest terms, the ... the strongest imagery that they can in their ... in their discussions in Congress to try to put down these cuts to the welfare class, because they know what the end game is. And I think it is very illustrative that we are getting very, very close to the point where government is no longer going to be able to control this economy.
Welfare reform will probably come as a result of economic collapse because when the money is gone, the welfare is gone and then something else will have to take over. And the only other option is the Church. It is the only other organization, it is the only other institution that knows how and it is the only other institution that has the unselfish motivation to do so. Whereas government has a selfish motivation at ever turn because it is how they maintain power by dispensing the goodies through welfare. It is how they buy the votes. But when the money is gone, they can’t buy the votes. So all of these people are going not go off in their own direction.
So welfare reform is, I don’t believe is going to come about through any political action. I think it is going to come about through economic upheaval and the Church will then have to step up to the plate.
[Rushdoony] Andrew Sandlin.
[Sandlin] Americans under 50 really don’t know what it is like to live in a society that is not undergirded by these social safety nets so I am going to cast the ball back to Rush for a minute. I want him to give us something of the history of the development of the welfare idea going back to FDR and the New Deal. Maybe that will give some perspective to some of our listeners who can’t conceive of a society except one that is a welfare society. [00:18:17]
[Rushdoony] Prior to about ...
[Rushdoony] Prior to about 1907 welfare in this country was local and private to a very great extent. It was only with the 1907 recession or depression that as an aftermath Prendergast, a Kansas City politician decided a good way to power was to persuade the voters that instead of having the churches and Christian organizations take over welfare in times of crisis, that the cities, counties and states do so. He went around lecturing and someone who knew him and recalled that told me about it years ago, that if a fraction of a penny were added to everyone’s tax bill it would provide an accumulation of funds to take care of such crises and the churches could go back to their business of preaching Christ.
Well, of course, Prendergast was not noted for being full of the milk of human kindness and what was a fraction of a penny became, in time, a tremendous part of everyone’s tax bill. In fact, in most counties today your property tax can run in its welfare and education costs between 60 and 80 percent of your property tax.
Well, that started it so that when Roosevelt proposed that now we have the nation do this, Congress bought it. The American people bought it. And it created Welfarism as we know it. It was a very ugly thing from the beginning. There were many, many terrible exploitations of Welfare recipients during the New Deal years which I think now are perhaps routine and nobody thinks anything about it. The sexual exploitation alone of the women on welfare was very, very ugly. [00:21:04]
But when you create power in the state over the lives...
But when you create power in the state over the lives of people through welfare, you are going to give them the welfare, what happens in time is that not only is the welfare boss so to speak, corrupted, but the recipient is corrupted. So we have had a tremendous corruption that has ensued and perhaps the major corruption is that Christians no longer see it as their responsibility...
[Rushdoony] ... to care one for another and for those outside the faith and to use these crises as a time when they can witness to people on the mercy that is in Christ.
[Voice] Yes. I think it should go without mentioning that we need to recognize that taxation for the purpose of redistributing wealth is nothing more than theft.
[Voice] And that means that we have a larcenist state that we live in as, of course, is almost all of Europe now. And we should also bear in mind that the modern welfare state tends to encourage immorality. And that is chiefly occurring in the case of a single woman who has numerous children. If this woman actually marries one of the fellows who impregnated her, then she is going to lose welfare benefits. But if she has more children out of wedlock then she, of course, is able to seize more state funds. These are all things that, of course, need to be changed. But I am... I suspect that a lot of the talk about welfare reform in Washington DC—and I have to agree with Douglas—it is nothing more than just paper talk. I am not sure that the people there of the most part are interested in principal change. I think they just want to slow the train down a little bit.
[Voice] I think a good example of the welfare culture or subculture are... are the Indians, that is the Indians, I mean, that stayed on the reservation. They have been promised for generations now that if you stay on the reservation you will get this privilege and that privilege and this amount each month. And they have been promised this now for several generations and what it has turned them into is completely helpless, completely non ambitious sub culture with problems with alcoholism. Their educational system, despite government funds is the poorest by all standards. And then massive amounts of the welfare has been misappropriated and it has been one of the... if... probably the worst government bureaucracy for many, many years. [00:24:18]
[Voice] ... recognized as such. And this... I mean this has been going for a longer, perhaps, than ... than what we normally think of as welfare aid to dependent families and such as that.
[Voice] And, you know...
[Voice] And this is what it does to people.
[Voice] You know, in our major cities have become, in effect, reservations for the white underclass.
[Voice] ...and the black underclass. Everything that you said there, point by point, could be applied to all of these other groups that are living in the inner city. The educational system has collapsed. The crime problem is enhanced. The drug problem is enhanced. The illegitimacy rate is enhanced. Every... they’re... they’re... recall prisoners, I mean, they literally can’t leave town. They can’t go anywhere because they don’t dare leave the place where they get their welfare check. I mean they are ... they are as much on the reservation as an Indian is. I mean, it is just a different geographical location.
[Voice] And the ones who do break out of the system whatever group they are in, when they break out of the system they are... they are viewed with nothing but contempt as though some how they have sold out ...
[Voice] ... and become... become one of...
[Voice] ...abusers because they have become wealthy and they have become ambitious.
[Rushdoony] I would say it is worse, Mark, on the ... in the inner city than on the reservation for this very good reason. In the early years when the reservations were set up, a little land was set aside for missions so that most of the reservations have a Christian mission, Catholic or Protestant. And this creates a kind of counter balance and counter culture, but the inner city doesn’t have anything comparable because whatever is there is treated with contempt and .... and I know of one instance where the only way the church could survive in the ghetto was to fill the cyclone fence around it and open the parking lot and the front door all fenced off only when a meeting was going to be held, because otherwise, the place would be vandalized.
[Voice] I think it can’t be emphasized too strongly that the Bible does not vest civil government with the responsibility of furnishing welfare and charity.
[Voice] That is just a modern fiction. And there are people my age and many of them older that assume, well, if someone is to be taken care of the only source of that care, the civil government. What other source could there be? That is why I brought up earlier your ... the need for you to comment on that, Rush, that we need to get back to the idea of first the family and then the church after the family and the Bible is clear that it should be family first and then the church to care for financial needs. [00:27:24]
[Voice] I think that is one of the problems is we ...
[Voice] I think that is one of the problems is we ... we have been... our culture has been creating its own need for the welfare state by destroying the family.
[Voice] Whatever we have destroyed the family. We have destroyed the church. We have pulled ourselves away from the church, I guess you could say. I ... and we have therefore destroyed the authority of the family. We have destroyed financial independence from the family through taxation, through inflation, through inheritance taxes. We have created an artificial need or an appeared need for the welfare system. Once government takes over anything it is almost impossible to reform it. That is why reform can’t come from the government.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] When the government takes something over how do you change the system? We have to change the government.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] That is... that is a massive task.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] That is why the government can’t really reform anything. All they can do is control it.
[Voice] Well, in every instance, when you ask the government to get rid of something you automatically get more of it.
[Voice] It becomes institutionalized.
[Voice] Rush, would you given Prendergast’s affiliation with organized crime would you speculate that perhaps he got the idea for this welfare scheme from the mafia who used to dispense favors in order to gain power and influence in the areas that they operated in?
[Rushdoony] He may have picked it up from them from observation, but as far as any direct information, I don’t know. But I think that is a good insight on your part. The mafia is increasingly allied with civil government and I was not surprised when somebody was at a dinner meeting recently. They sat down with prominent politicians and the local mafia boss. They walk on the same side of the street. They have close ties with one another and the people are the victims.
[Voice] Maybe we can discuss the furor created in Washington, DC the last few week as this is being recorded over any mention of any sort of welfare reform, especially, of course, the liberals were just crying and speaking slanderously about taking food away from children and all that sort of thing. That is one of their pet peeves, pet loves, rather, turned into a pet peeve when they ... when it was attacked, an irrational hatred, an irrational hatred for any statement of necessity of welfare reform. [00:30:25]
[Voice] Well, they became hysterical...
[Voice] Well, they became hysterical. I mean the ... the discussion, the rhetoric became hysterical.
[Voice] Yes, exactly.
[Voice] ...because they see their power base eroding.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] You know, I have to wonder how many people are there left in this country that don’t understand the linkage between the liberal establishment in this country and the power base that they... the constituency that they have created over the past 40 or 50 years.
[Voice] They have... they have bought votes for years with the promise of redistributing wealth. I mean, they have done that for many years.
[Rushdoony] Before going further, I would like to comment on a couple of things that you have called attention to, Douglas. We should not be surprised that the mainline churches and some not mainline have protested the idea of welfare cuts. They are receiving vast sums to maintain their traditional church charities from the federal government. The Catholic charities and the Protestant charities alike receive considerable funds. And I am sorry to say that even the Salvation Army now gets quite a bit of money.
Then there is another thing you called attention to that I would like to stress emphatically. You indicated that you believe that inflation was going to destroy Welfarism.
Well, now consider this fact that in 1938 I recall that when some jobs opened up at 150 dollar a month there were thousands who applied. Those same jobs go for 3500 plus at present. Well, the difference is inflation. Now, what will happen as inflation speeds up, as it will, in the near future? The process of raising taxes and raising welfare grants will not be able to keep pace so that people who are drawing inflation will find that suddenly their money is worthless. It is not doing what it once did and they cannot live on it. So it is going to create a major crisis for everyone drawing welfare when inflation takes off. [00:33:16]
[Voice] Well, the thing I have...
[Voice] Well, the thing I have... the argument that I find disingenuous and especially in the Republican side is that we can grow our way out of this deficit, that the... that there is limitless growth potential in the American economy.
[Rushdoony] Yes, that is right.
[Voice] What they fail to recognize or understand is that we no longer have an American economy. We have a global economy. The prices that we pay for things in this country are not set in this country. They are set by the world marketplace and unless the world’s economy grows, there isn’t going to be any increase in the number of...
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] ... you know, in the wealth in this country. We are not creating wealth. We are consuming wealth.
[Voice] That is correct. And there is... there is no more to divide up. If you can’t create more wealth, you can’t create a bigger pie, then you can’t make the slices bigger. And the politicians keep going back we have got to grow the economy by tax cuts and so forth and they absolutely will not address the spending side of the thing.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] And they... the political will.... it is obvious that the political will is not there and I don’t think it is ever going to be there to make the cuts necessary in these entitlement programs to get the deficit back under control.
[Voice] All they are really talking about in most cases ... well, they talk about ending a program, they cut... they talk about stopping the increases which is too little way too late. We have already past the point of no return. We need to think about major button. If we are going to do something about serious about the national debt with some integrity, we need to talk about massive government surpluses to pay off the national debt which nobody wants to talk about. Balancing the budget isn’t going to do it. We still have the national debt. It is more critical than the annual deficit. It has been accumulating for half a century.
[Voice] Oh, they have already proven that you give them more dollars and they are going to spend them. They are not going to apply them to the... to the debt.
[Voice] Well, we have been justifiably excoriating basically Socialism. Now let’s talk about what we need to do about it.
I would say, first of all, according to the Word of God, families must take responsibility for charity. I mean, the Bible is clear. Paul in writing to Timothy said that our piety must begin at home. Essentially he was saying first at home and not in the Church. The Church only comes secondarily, although it does have an important role. [00:36:03]
And I am going to bring up this topic of just the multiplici...
And I am going to bring up this topic of just the multiplicity of ... of rest homes. And I don’t want to talk a long time about that, but if possible, we need to care for our parents and... and older age and various relatives. This is made almost impossible today because of great taxation and that sort of thing, but these are things that we need to start talking about, families going back and taking care of these responsibilities that they have foolishly vested in civil government. And then, of course, we need to talk about the Church and her responsibility of charity. We need to take back these areas of welfare and charity so that the government won’t be able to do anything. I think that may be a start.
[Rushdoony] Yes. Paul tells us that we are to care for our own which includes those of the household of faith and that if we do not then we are worse than an infidel.
[Voice] ...worse than in infidel. Yes.
[Rushdoony] Well, historically the Church has done this.
[Rushdoony] From the New Testament times. Acts six tells us to the care of widows in the Jerusalem church and the creation of deacons which simply continued an old Levitical function.
The Church took care of all such needs and it did it for centuries. Only recently has it pulled out of this area since the early 1800s it has withdrawn from the area of help, although in this country especially we have a lot of specifically and thoroughly Christian hospitals until fairly recent years. Now they are church hospitals.
We had also into the early 1800s Christian schooling and we had Christian charity that took care of all needs. In fact, the office of deacon was created in the book of Acts as I indicated, to succeed the Levites in order to care for this. And over the centuries the amount of work they had done is enormous, enormous so that the Christian Church has had, Catholic and Protestant, a tremendous heritage of ministering to vast needs on the part of peoples. This has been abandoned. And it has not been good for the Church. It has led to a kind of wishy washy Pietism. [00:39:06]
[Rushdoony] ... to an absorption in getting to heaven rather than doing God’s kingdom work here on earth so that if anyone like Chalcedon reminds them of their duty and what God’s law has to say about this, somehow we are the people who are off base.
Now I feel very strongly about this and before I began Chalcedon I felt that there were three areas we had to address in addition to putting the Christian faith on solid theological, biblical foundations. So besides the work of scholarship, we have to enter education. And we have had our part there and we have someone dedicated full time now to the home schooling cause, Sam Blumenfeld. Then there is the area of Christian charity and we have more than one iron in the fire there all under the direction of John Upton. And I would like to stress with those who hear this tape that we do need money for that. We are taking over things that other people are giving up by default. Instead of moving aggressively forward at this time as Christian churches to increase the evangelization work and to increase the charitable ministries, the Church is pulling back in both spheres. And we want to help those groups that have been abandoned. This is of what, of course, we had a meeting about recently for two, three days, how to go about handling this problem.
Now we have a great many causes that are looking to us because they have been abandoned. And I hope the people who listen to us will increase their support and indicate that they will continue to do so. Times are harder for all of us, but this makes the need in the area of Christian missions and Christian charity all the more urgent.
[Voice] Rush, I want to extend one point that you brought up. We need to recognize that this work is not somehow less spiritual than... [00:42:02]
[Voice] ... evangelism and that sort of thing. This pietistic attitude that pervades Evangelicalism today would say, “Well, you folks at Chalcedon are sort of mimicking the liberal idea of the social gospel,” which is a total slander. They are more interested in, of course, in personal Bible study and revival meetings and that sort of thing and tend to denigrate what we are talking about, but it as the text that you mention indicates just the opposite is true. Our theology is not sound if it is not put into practice.
[Voice] ... in these areas. So we need to just completely abolish, if possible, this pietistic attitude that godly welfare and godly charity is somehow secondary to prayer or Bible reading as a... they are all important and we need to engage in all of them.
[Voice] I think it is important as we are talking about welfare that ... and charity the difference really ... and maybe we shouldn’t even be calling it Christian or welfare, charity, it is... it is based on love and showing Christ’s love to others. And charity cannot be without law.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] And welfare, as we know it today, is often a very lawless thing and it subsidizes people in a lawless and an anarchistic lifestyle. And it is completely divorced from any concept of morality.
[Voice] And it is self destructive.
[Voice] I mean many of these people have become self destructive. They get on drugs.
[Voice] And they destroy themselves. They destroy their children and their families. It is totally ... it is totally self destructive.
[Voice] Well, as Rush has pointed out for many years the main form of government is self government and that is what it destroys. Modern Welfarism destroys self government. It forces the individual to be reliant on the state and no wonder he feels so depressed and despondent and then after a while and first have to emphasize that he has certain rights, a right to a certain standard of living and that sort of thing, that is why there has to be the theological declaration that this is wrong, plus the putting into practice of the sort of welfare and charity that we are talking about.
[Voice] But we can... we can never really restore family welfare and private welfare as long as we carry this massive tax burden.
[Voice] Because to the extent that we are heavily taxed and we are paying 20, 25, 30 percent or more of our in come to the government we are slaves ourselves...
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] ...to the government.
[Voice] Yeah, but there is another tax and that is the ... the interest tax that you pay. People have go to get out of debt.
[Voice] And I mean totally clear of debt.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] Because that interest that you pay could go to much better purposes in Christian charities. And it is... it is a heavy burden for many, many families. [00:45:05]
[Voice] Yes it is...
[Voice] Yes it is.
[Voice] You know, if there is one major thing that people can do to get their life squared away and improve their ... their lives in many spheres, it is simply to get rid of the debt.
[Voice] That is right.
[Voice] But that debt interest... well, let’s take the major form of... of indebtedness most people go into and that is purchasing a home. The reason people feel pressured into purchasing expensive real estate is because of inflation and the assumption that if they don’t go into debt now when they are young, that they will never be able to own property. And the government has fostered that by giving tax incentives for indebtedness.
[Voice] They have fostered.... they have created the inflation because the real estate is a hedge against inflation. So the government has created this situation where people are in debt, where on one... it is hard to even call ourselves a capitalistic economy. We don’t work on capital as much as we work on manipulating debt.
The government manipulates debt.
[Voice] Yes, absolutely.
[Voice] People manipulate their debt and they invest their future in how we can beat this inflation and .. with our own indebtedness.
[Voice] And the great irony of this, I am always struck in reading Deuteronomy 28 how that the Lord says, “If you will obey my law, you will be the lender. You will not be the debtor.” And just the opposite is true today in the Church.
[Voice] The Church is so deeply in debt and I think that has to be, Mark, as you said, that has to be reversed. If we follow the law of God, long term, then we should be the ones that are lending. We should not be the ones that are borrowing and going into debt.
[Rushdoony] Yes. And many a church goes into debt figuring and deeply into debt they are going to cash in on inflation and now they are in trouble, because the economy is faltering and the church’s income is not very good.
[Rushdoony] And others have gone into vast building programs believing that they are not going to have to pay for it because the rapture is going to come and ...
[Voice] Yes. They are going to beat the dealer.
[Voice] Now, borrowing and speculating into future income is a foolish idea and all of us here have seen churches. I am thinking of one right now in Georgia that a number of years ago built a huge auditorium and got into terrible trouble because of that. It is just, I mean, utterly wicked. And, I mean, we need to say what it is. It really is wicked.
[Voice] Well, they fall into the same trap, many people do. They buy or build something that is far greater than they can afford, far greater debt than they can service and then the... the property values drop in a particular area and the lender is looking at a sure loss. [00:48:08]
[Voice] That’s right...
[Voice] That’s right.
[Voice] ...because if he had to unload the property they couldn’t... they couldn’t even recover the amount of money that is owed.
[Voice] You know, another factor, too. We think of young Christian couples getting married. There is this illusion that they must have everything all at once, brand new furniture all the time and new automobile and all that sort of thing. And they will go head over heels in debt to do it.
[Voice] And, as you will know, Rush, years ago that was not the case. And they strap themselves into debt and, by the way, we are not mainly talking about married, but one of the chief problems in marriage is financial difficulties.
[Voice] And that is one reason that if you are just so much a necessary divorce and family problems and that sort of thing precisely because of that problem with respect to debt and financial management.
[Voice] A lot of this is unrealistic expectations, too. And some of these unrealistic expectations are ... are generated by the parents.
[Voice] My daughter has to live in a big house...
[Voice] .... and drive a big car and so forth and... and that just... doesn’t work very well when you are first starting out.
[Rushdoony] I think one of the things every church needs to do is to say: What about the poor and the elderly in our midst or near us? Do we have deacons? Are the deacons doing anything about it? And if not, why not? We have got to empower the deacons the to do it. And if we are too small a group to be able to do something, we need to seek some other agency that can do it for us.
[Voice] That is right.
[Rushdoony] Perhaps a group in the community or perhaps a group elsewhere. We, to all practical intent, do have a deacon in John Upton whose work is to minister to these areas of need. And I think that there is no excuse for not making the deaconate, again, a key ministry.
I wrote some months ago an article on the unknown John Calvin and it really distresses me that I got virtually no response to it. But the point I made there was how important John Calvin felt that the deaconate was. They took care of the sick, of the needy, of the travelers, of children, of education, of health, a vast variety of things. And they took up an offering every Sunday for the church’s work and for the deaconate’s work. [00:51:06]
[Rushdoony] Can you imagine what congregations would think about that now? A double offering. They would be irate.
[Rushdoony] And yet the people in Geneva who were attending the services were not as prosperous as the average congregation is today. But they did believe and Calvin so taught that a church was to be defined by the true preaching of the Word of God and by the faithful ministry of the deacons to human needs. And we have abandoned that whole perspective.
[Voice] Exactly right. Most churches today if they are going to spend money want to spend it on a new gymnasium, the new Sunday school wing, in other words ecclesiastical creature comforts, something that they can brag about. And ...
[Rushdoony] Yes, those are very good, if ...
[Voice] That is right.
[Rushdoony] ...they have respect for God’s mandate with regard to the deaconate.
[Voice] Absolutely. I have been telling us they are not wrong, but I certainly... the priority is wrong if they are not concerned with godly charity.
[Rushdoony] Well, it would give me great joy if deacons were once again made important in the life of the church in terms of what Calvin set forth and what the New Testament did in Acts. It meant that the deacons were like the elders, very important. It was simply that they had different tasks.
Now the deacons are of very little importance in most churches.
[Rushdoony] ...in terms of their historic calling.
[Voice] I think there is one more point here that has always puzzled me. There has always been great fear when the government was going to impose regulations on Christian organizations that take money from the federal government. You take money from the federal government, you dance to their tune.
[Voice] Don’t take the money.
[Voice] That is right.
[Rushdoony] Yes. There is another interesting development here. The modern seminary has increasingly stressed the ministry as a profession. And they have tried to raise standards with regard to it and so on. In the process they have forgotten the ministry is a calling.
[Voice] That is right. [00:54:08]
[Rushdoony] And there is a world of difference between...
[Rushdoony] And there is a world of difference between a profession and a calling. And today the absence of a calling on the part of ministers, elders and deacons is quite pronounced.
[Rushdoony] And we need to get back to that. In fact, I think pulpit committees should try to ascertain whether the man they are interviewing for the ministry sees himself as a professional or a man with a calling.
[Voice] That is right.
[Rushdoony] The distinction is critical.
[Voice] And, again, we have been talking about the Church, but we should not forget about the responsibility of the family or family members. That, too, is an act of godly charity.
[Voice] And caring for family members and it is remarkable that there are so many Christians today that leave their family and want to go out and do a, quote, great job for God that will get them some popularity or notoriety, but really the Word of God is clear that they are, first of all, responsible to their... to their family members. And not a few homes have been destroyed, ministers homes and homes of others precisely because of that ... because of that failure, not... not caring for the... for the family.
[Rushdoony] Well, our time is nearly over. Do any of you have any statements you would like to make before we conclude?
[Voice] Well, I think if there is going to be any chance at welfare reform it is going to come from the bottom up.
[Voice] I just hope that it doesn’t come up too ... too quickly and turn the boat upside down. It is... the Church will have to recognize its responsibilities. Families will have to recognize their responsibilities and individuals will have to recognize their responsibilities and perhaps if that ...
I think it is beginning to take place already. I see, you know, a lot of hopeful signs where a lot of people are getting out of debt. They are getting their family situations squared away. And they are... they are getting in a position where they can help others. If you can’t help yourself, it is kind of tough to help somebody else.
[Voice] So I think that it is beginning to happen from the bottom up.
[Voice] Welfare reform is hopefully going to be a gradual process that will gain momentum and take over when the government collapses.
[Rushdoony] Well, thank you all for listening and God bless you.