Recently I wrote about the church abdicating responsibility for caring for the poor and oppressed. A natural response to that is that the government has picked up the slack. I received one email written from the position that the government has taken the responsibility from the church. My perspective is quite the opposite. For the most part, I think it is the chicken and the egg. I believe that the church failed, forcing the government to care for people. Others believe that the government usurped the church's responsibility and therefore its ability to help people.
Ultimately, I think we agree. The church should be doing what the government is doing.
Let me cite one example of the church doing its job regardless of the activity of the government: The Amish. The Amish are taxed in the same way as everyone else. I am sure they are beneficiaries of many government programs as well (examples could include unemployment compensation, but I am not certain of this). I do know, however, that the Amish do not participate in government sponsored insurance programs. The church itself cares for members who are ill, have lost a home or are in some other need. The church can and should care for people regardless of what the government is doing. (An interesting side note: The average Christian gives about 3% of his income to the church. If Christians would tithe, we could care for those who need and cut our taxes.)
One more thing: I had a disagreement with my mother-in-law recently. She was upset about the proposed health care reform bill (this was before it passed). She said, "Everyone I know has insurance. I don't see what the big deal is." When I began to tell her the names of the people I know who are uninsured (about a dozen, many that she also knows) she was amazed. I think it is easy to think about those in poverty as having an entitlement mentality, but when you spend time with them you can see the world through different eyes.