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Throughout this century and, indeed, since the founding of our republic, American Christians have aided the poor. Millions of us volunteer our time to help needy individuals and families. Because of this involvement, many of us are keenly aware of the strengths and limitations of the private sector as well as of the need for meaningful reform of governmental efforts to assist and empower the poor.
The welfare-reform debate is important to us as Christians because the God revealed in Scripture is deeply concerned with the poor. God judges societies in part by how they care for the poorest, the weakest, and most marginalized.
In Washington, welfare reform has become highly politicized, which often creates an inhospitable climate to effective policy-making. Nevertheless, what should be clear to all is that we need more than welfare-policy reform.
Our country needs a reformulation of the welfare-state concept to "rehumanize" our governmental system of assistance and to achieve a long-lasting reduction in poverty. Welfare programs that move beyond keeping families and individuals at subsistence level should energize and empower the poor by forging new partnerships between government and the private sector. This fresh approach will enable the poor to overcome chronic poverty and revitalize our national welfare programs, which now cost about $171 billion annually. Research has shown that in many cases, people in a crisis initially turn to nonprofit charities before the government. Also, the evidence is increasingly clear that religion-based, nonprofit ministries doing drug rehabilitation, job training, inner-city medical clinics, and so forth produce better results. Why not design new strategies to enable these ministries that are effective to do the job on a larger scale?
Rechanneling federal support through such mediating agencies could be less costly and far more effective, provided they remain free of meddlesome federal regulation. Federal support for ...