Political commentators have been talking about Al Gore's conversion concerning the relationship between church and state. In a recent speech, he acknowledged that churches can serve society's downtrodden with greater compassion and efficiency than self-perpetuating bureaucracies. He has even proposed spending a significant amount of federal funds which presumably would be transferred to evangelical churches.
This is a bit of a puzzle, though, in light of the fact that Al Gore has been willing to vilify evangelical churches that are affiliated with the Christian Coalition. During the 1996 presidential campaign, he repeatedly referred to the "right wing group, Christian Coalition." He talked about its "extremist agenda." And in 1994 he referred to supporters of Senate candidate Oliver North as the "extra-chromosome right wing." Well, now Al Gore believes that churches have a place at the table.
Marvin Olasky believes that the key swing vote in the 2000 election will not be soccer moms, but seeker moms and dads: "agnostic parents who sense holes in their own souls and some connection between school shootings and the removal of religion from public places."
Although it is tempting to wonder if all of this rhetoric is merely campaign positioning, for the moment I would like to applaud the vice-president for talking about faith-based organizations.
He says that solving poverty-related problems "takes something more than money or assistance–it requires an inner discipline and courage, deep within the individual." Is he saying that the poor have responsibility and are not just victims? I hope so.
He contrasts "one-to-one caring" with "self-perpetuating bureaucracies." Is he suggesting that the Urban Alternative, Voice of Hope, and World Impact can do a better job dealing with poverty than the bloated federal bureaucracies? I hope so.
It all may just be campaign rhetoric. But I hope it's a whole lot more.
I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.