Darrow Miller and Friends

A Prosperous & Happy Society, Created by Individuals & Institutions, 3/4

A Recipe for Disaster

In my last blog, I talked about the unique role and contribution that families, churches and civil government play in fostering healthy societies.

Social disintegration and disorder occurs when these three institutions do not understand, or fail to fulfill their God-given role. It also happens when one of these institutions assumes the role of another. For example, in America today, we are witnessing a profound breakdown of marriage. Parents often have little vision to even have children, let alone to educate and disciple them. Because they feel inadequate to the task, they turn to local churches to disciple their children, and the civil government for other forms of education. Rather than reinforcing the essential role of parents in these tasks, churches and states simply assume them – often with the best of intentions. Churches essentially tell parents, “You bring us your kids, and we’ll run programs and hire staff to disciple them.” The state says to parents, “We’ll take care of the ‘secular’ part of their education, just leave it to us.” This has the unintended consequences of weakening families – the basic social unit of society.

When it comes to care for the poor – a responsibility that belongs fundamentally to the family and church – today, the state has assumed a significant role. Rather than challenging this, churches and families have simply gone along. The effectiveness of federal and state government in providing welfare services to the poor has been mixed at best. Under the Johnson Administration’s “War on Poverty,” huge bureaucracies were established, an army of government social workers were mobilized, and billions of dollars were redistributed. The result was a net increase in poverty in the United States, and a further weakening of families and churches. (For more on this tragic history, see  Marvin Olasky’s outstanding book The Tragedy of American Compassion.) Fortunately, the failure of the War on Poverty has been largely recognized and reforms have been implemented. Thanks to former President Bush, there is a renewed appreciation for the unique role of local “faith-based” institutions in caring for the poor on the part of the civil government, and a desire on the to see these institutions empowered. This is a positive development.

In socialist and communist states, the civil government expands its role to cover the functions of both family and church. The result of this usurpation led to the collapse of the former Soviet Union, where both families and churches were nearly destroyed. It is also reaping destruction in Western Europe today.

What’s the application? If you are a father or mother, understand that it is your primary responsibility – your joy and your honor – to nurture, disciple and educate your children. While many others can help you in these tasks, don’t release these responsibilities to others! Not only is your owning these tasks good for society, fulfilling these tasks actually leads to increased happiness (see my first blog in this series)!

If you are a local church leader, don’t assume the role of parents in discipling their children. Instead, envision, equip and empower them to fulfill this role. Further, be sure you are meeting the needs of the poor and needy in your congregations and communities. This is your honor. Don’t let the state take this privilege from you.

If you are in civil government, develop policies that protect the unique roles of families and churches and ensure they are robust and vital. Oppose policies that encroach on their roles and result in their weakening.

-Scott D. Allen

See the other blogs in this series.

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Scott Allen serves as president of the DNA secretariat office. After serving with Food for the Hungry for 19 years in both the United States and Japan, working in the areas of human resources, staff training and program management, he teamed up with Darrow Miller and Bob Moffitt to launch the DNA in 2008. Scott is the author of Beyond the Sacred-Secular Divide: A Call to Wholistic Life and Ministry and co-author of several books including, As the Family Goes, So Goes the Nation: Principles and Practices for Building Healthy Families. His most recent book is Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice. Scott lives with his wife, Kim, in Bend, OR. They have five children.