Once upon a time I worked for a large American corporation that was bought by a very large British corporation.
I found myself working in London as a communications manager for the British firm. And in London I was a double minority: American and Catholic.
The Brits, poor blokes, already had moved toward government intervention into the lives of individuals. As an American on a work permit, this didn’t have a huge impact on me. After all, I flew back to the colonies every couple weeks for a breath of freedom. But I did have the opportunity to mark the impact of government control on how people act and think. And I had a few small brushes with socialized medicine — enough to realize it is just plain bad.
Then there was the flood. It happened over a weekend, as several communities in western England were flooded and people lost homes, food, cars, etc. I charged into the office Monday morning prepared to communicate the company’s relief efforts.
I was the communications guy — the PR guy — and I assumed there would lots to tell about everything the company was doing to help the people in need. After all, the American company I worked for always did that where there was a hurricane, earthquake, flood or whatever that had an impact on areas where we operated.
I asked who was coordinating the company relief efforts and got nothing but blank stares. One of my fellow workers explained that the company would never do anything to help people in such a situation, it really wasn’t any of our business and that is what the government is for.
But don’t you think, as the largest company in Britain (apart from the government-run health department) we should do something, I asked? No, my colleagues replied.
But don’t you want to do something to help, I asked? Why, it doesn’t affect us, my colleagues replied.
So … the company did nothing. The people did nothing. The government provided relief using tax money from the company and people who did nothing. And I had an uneasy sense that something had been lost.
On my commute to work in London each day I passed dozens of churches that were either closed or repurposed to be theaters or dance clubs. And it occurred to me that had these churches been open and vibrant, perhaps they would have been rushing aid to the flood victims. Maybe along with food and blankets the people would have received prayers.
Think of what Paul said (1 Corinthians 13 1-3): “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
I don’t know which came first in London, the government being in charge of “charity” or the churches closing, but I sensed there was a connection. The government implemented “technical” solutions to problems that require people — and faith.
If people look to the government to solve their problems, they will stop looking to private social agencies. They won’t expect churches to help. Eventually, they will stop looking to each other. They will stop looking to God. And “charity” will lack love.
Jim Fair writes from Chicago.