FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP)–“When you see a need, you don’t just sit there, you act,” Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said of individuals involved in faith-based ministries.
Addressing an annual benefit luncheon for United Christian Giving of Southwest Florida, Bush credited such groups for helping the state of Florida and the nation become better places to live by reaching out and helping the less fortunate with selfless acts of compassion.
“Acting on your own … to be able to be engaged personally in helping people … that’s what Christians are taught to do,” Bush told the luncheon, attended more than 1,000 people in Fort Myers, Fla., in mid-June.
Bush defined compassion in the secular world and government as the expansion of government and disbursement of monies to take care of people who have needs within the community. By comparison, he said his personal definition of compassion parallels that of the ancient Greeks who acted out of a real sense of consciousness, and he credited those present with the same urgency.
Bush’s address highlighted the basic reasons for community involvement in faith-based giving organizations, along with reasons why strong family life is vitally important to improving the condition of humanity.
“If I was able to receive one wish as governor of this state, it would be to restore wholesome, strong family life,” Bush said. The government doesn’t spend enough time looking for ways to lessen the demands they place on others, he said. If they would, “the demands on government would subside.”
Government always will have a useful role to play in partnering with faith and community based groups all across the state and country, said Bush, who presented United Christian Giving the “Governor’s Points of Light Award” in 2001 for its volunteer and community service throughout the state.
State programs like those of the Florida Department of Children and Families that currently take the place of the family will become less necessary, he said, as faith and community based groups lend a hand in improving society’s foundational cornerstone, the family.
“We need to restore family life,” Bush said. “Imagine a state that says families matter a lot more than we give them credit for. If we made marriage and being a parent a higher priority than it is today, we wouldn’t need a Department of Juvenile Justice, would we? We wouldn’t need 48,000 children in the custody of the state.
“I don’t believe that our founding fathers ever envisioned the Department of Children and Family being the moms and dads of 48,000 children,” Bush continued. “Family life really matters and organizations such as United Christian Giving support family life as well.”
Bush talked about myths he said imply a state government and organizations centered on faith can’t have partnerships geared toward improving the human condition.
“There’s a technical term for that — phooey!” Bush said. “Don’t believe it. There’s no reason we can’t create partnerships that protect civil liberties that do not exclude anybody — certainly not anybody wanting to improve community life throughout our state. Partnerships are being built up in our state like never before and I’m proud of it.
“This will not shatter the foundation of our democracy. The founders, I think, did not, when they created this free, wondrous republic, ever envision that the separation of church and state would be to [prevent] faith-based organizations and individuals from getting involved in social activities,” Bush said. “It was the other way around. They wanted to make sure they protected the freedom to express their faith openly. That is something worth protecting and it is also important now as we move into a new millennium. We need to focus on new partnerships.
“I’m also proud,” Bush said after a short pause, “that the president of the United States has recognized that.”
There are “hundreds” of ways people can make a difference through government or private organizations, the governor said.
“If you share the core belief that the greatness of our country revolves around individual freedom and liberty, grounded in responsibility, then it is imperative for you to be actively engaged in your churches or faith-based organizations,” Bush said. “I believe that we will build a compassionate Florida … more compassionate even than today.”
United Christian Giving’s president, Frank Helmerich, a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., and a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said he was grateful for the governor’s affirmation of the organization.
“It’s an exciting thing to see what God has done with this organization,” said Helmerich, who noted the group is looking to expand nationwide. “To have the governor of our state understand and support this type of ministry is something we should be proud of as well.”
Since 1997, UCG, a faith-based charitable giving organization, has helped more than 40 evangelical Christian groups secure gifts totaling more than $200,000.
Reprinted from the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com. Regina Hicks is a correspondent for the Witness. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FLORIDA GOV. JEB BUSH.