By Laura Acuff, Student Reporter
Christian speaker, author and theologian Ron Sider spoke Monday night at Chapel on the Hill about solutions to poverty in America, advocating faith-based programs in partnership with government to address both the spiritual and material needs of the economically disadvantaged.
“I think it’s true, my friends, that Biblical Christians have an extraordinary opportunity to lead the way,” Sider said. “The secular leaders are almost begging us, in fact, to do this. We’ve got a historic opportunity to lead the way that I don’t think we’ve had in many decades.”
Sider’s plan includes the development of additional, more specific ministries and improved public policies on the part of the government, in conjunction with various monetary rewards for working steadily and responsibly.
“I think that most Americans agree that people who are able to work have a moral obligation to work, and, if they do, work responsibly,” Sider said. “You can be as born again as you want, but if you can’t get a job that pays a family wage, and if the schools don’t work for your kids because you’re black or Latino, you’ve still got big problems.”
Animal and environmental science professor Dr. James Cooke appreciated Sider’s proactive stance.
“I’ve heard him speak before, and I’ve read his book, and I think he’s right on target,” Cooke said. “The Christian response should be much greater than it is. It’s a Biblical mandate. I think we need people like him to come and encourage us to be the best we can be and to make a difference. He is influential, and we need to think about these things. We kind of get complacent and content with our lifestyle, and we don’t see that we can really do anything, but the fact of the matter is that we can.”
Though Meghan Clark, freshman political science major from Olney, agreed that faith-based rehabilitation and charity programs have an important place in American society, she disagreed with Sider’s recommended close partnership between government and faith-based organizations.
“I didn’t agree with a lot of his views,” Clark said. “I thought they were overly idealistic, and I very firmly believe in the separation of church and state – that the government should never interfere with church policy or church programs and, on the other hand, that religion should not try to infiltrate the government. I think [faith-based programs] are great, and they’re definitely doing a great service in America and across the world. I just think that when the government begins to give you money or support, then you become accountable to the government to some extent, and if you really want to make this a faith-based initiative, then you want churches to be in control of it, not the government.”
Despite disagreeing with some of Sider’s fundamental points, Clark valued the opportunity to hear his point of view.
“I think [hearing controversial speakers is] a good thing,” Clark said. “I think we really need to address these controversial issues because otherwise we’re going to head out into the world unprepared to face controversies with kind of the Christ-like view. So I think it’s very important to have key-note speakers on controversial issues.”