Pastor Joel Hunter, the senior pastor at Northland in Longwood, Florida, and a spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, has a message that some small-government conservatives may not take too kindly to: It's impossible for the church to replace the government in feeding the poor and taking on other essential issues.
Hunter, who took the stage to deliver a short talk at the Q Conference this week entitled, "Government Is Not the Enemy," tackled the notion that the church could -- if stretched to its capacity -- meet all societal needs.
"Look at the math. It is ridiculous to even, just look at the SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the old Food Stamps program – it has been estimated by I think the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that the average church in America would literally have to double its budget and just take that extra budget and give to hungry people," Hunter proclaimed. "And that is just one government program. So let's not fool ourselves."
The pastor, though, did admit that the government doesn't have the ability to transform individuals' lives and to create the lasting change that is needed to lift people out of poverty.
"Government can't change lives, but they have resources we don't have. We can change lives with those resources," Hunter continued. "The point is government isn't the enemy, and government isn't the answer. But government is the potential partner that we look for, that we might need."
The role of government is currently a centerpiece in the debate over the 2012 presidential election, as conservatives generally maintain that the federal bureaucracy has grown too large; liberals largely defend massive federal programs and dismiss the notion that smaller government would operate more effectively.
As The Christian Post notes, Hunter also talked about the Bible's take on the role of government during his speech:
...Hunter discussed what the biblical view of government is. He said the biblical view of government is it is an instrument of God. Pointing to the Bible, the Florida pastor said there are two types of relationships that God's people had with the government: the outsider – a prophet that would rebuke those in authority, such as Jeremiah, Amos, or John the Baptist; and the inside adviser – a person who would speak and guide the unbelieving government, such as Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, and even Paul who used the judicial system of his time to give a witness of what Christ had done for him.
According to Hunter, God has always created scenarios in which believers have some role in government.
(H/T: Christian Post)