Every Crisis Is an Open Door
It was almost dusk when they pulled into the hospital parking lot, flashers on. For Midland, it had been a sobering few days. Like other parts of Texas, the first wave of virus patients hit this week — leaving doctors and nurses alone to face the grim realities. Knowing their health care workers were probably exhausted and now isolated from their families, the tight-knit community had an idea: a car prayer chain, outside Midland Memorial Hospital.
Local churches had put out the word for people to drive to the parking lot across the road to pray. The sight — dozens of cars with their lights blinking — was meant to be a sign for everyone inside that the community of Midland was standing with them, interceding for them. The powerful image was caught on video by a local reporter, who was moved as he panned across cars where families were burning candles on their hoods or just sitting inside with their heads bowed. Across the front of the hospital, one Midlander had stretched a huge banner that said, “Heroes work here!”
For the faces pressed to the glass, looking out across the sunset scene, it was a poignant moment. It’s the kind of support, hospital CEO Russell Meyers said, that his team desperately needs. Like medical workers across the country, he knows the kind of risks his employees are taking just by “coming to work and doing their jobs” right now. “Keeping up people’s morale and expressing our appreciation to them is a vital part of the effort.”
Local restaurants are also pitching in, delivering free meals for staff. “There are a lot of folks out there — our first responders, teachers, nurses, police officers — who are working around the clock to prevent us from having a catastrophic situation happen here. [They] may not have time to spend an hour in line at the grocery store for their families or for themselves,” he said. We’re trying to feed them.“
It’s a mission Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Pastor Jack Hibbs knows well. His California congregation has been rallying to meet the demands pouring in from the community and local law enforcement. Thursday morning, the area police chief sent in a request for more water and food. By 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, an enormous truck had been loaded with stacks of soda, water, boxes of snacks, and fruit and sent off to the families in need. The police department was completely overwhelmed at how quickly the congregation had responded. "He asked me to personally thank you all,” one of the Calvary Chapel staffers posted on Facebook.
These are just some ways that the church is ministering to the enormous need — without putting their congregations at risk. You can too! Take a page out of Midland and host a drive-in prayer chain. In a lot of places, where hospital visitors aren’t allowed, there are probably extra parking spaces nearby or across the street. For more urban areas, even a caravan of cars driving around the block with their flashers on would be an encouragement. Think about ways that you, as a church family, can show your appreciation and support for health care workers. From my conversations with those working in our hospitals I know this is a very difficult time, they need our support.
In places like New York, where hospitals are overrun, nurses talk about not being able to sleep when the chance comes because their minds are so filled with the horrors they’ve seen. “I cried in the bathroom on my break," one said haltingly. "I cried the whole way home.” She sees their faces of fear when she closes her eyes. “I cry for the ones who passed away. I cry for my coworkers because we know it will get worse, and we are already at our breaking point. I cry for the parents, children, siblings, spouses, who cannot be with their loved ones who may be dying.”
There is so much hurt and suffering grabbing hold of our country. At the very least, pray. But then think about the ways you can reach out, as a church, and touch that pain with hope. Every crisis is an open door. Walk through it and love the people around you. For ideas, check out our special website, FRC.org/church.
Originally published here.
Coronavirus: Handle with CARES
A lot of Americans heard what Democrats tried to put in the coronavirus relief bill. What they don’t know is: what’s in it for them? Now that the aid package is headed to the president’s desk, the question on a lot of people’s minds is — can it help me? And how soon?
Thursday, on “Washington Watch,” FRC vice president Travis Weber helped break down the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and what most families and churches can expect. “We’re talking about a massive amount of money, a massive amount of legislation,” he pointed out. At almost 900 pages, trying to keep up with a bill moving at warp speed (by Washington standards) has been a challenge. But fortunately, it’s a challenge our government affairs team was ready for.
The most straightforward part of this relief plan is the direct payments to families. Anyone earning under $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a married couple will get a check in the amount of $1,200 or $2,400. “This obviously helps folks [survive] the disruption,” Travis explains, especially as so many people have been either laid off or kept home from their jobs. “Some have been hit much harder than others, but the goal here is to make sure that those who’ve suffered through this [crisis] — through no fault of their own — have money in their pocket as soon as possible to meet their immediate needs.” Couples with children will be impacted differently, since the government is providing an additional $500 for each child.
Of course, another way the bill helps families is through their businesses, which Congress is desperately trying to keep afloat. As part of the Paycheck Protection Program, Congress is setting aside $350 billion dollars in new loans for employers — including nonprofits with less than 500 employees — to help them cover health care and salaries during this time. It’s all designed to stop the hemorrhaging in the job market and encourage these small businesses — who’ve had to close unexpectedly — to bring people back on the payroll.
One very important aspect of that program is that it covers churches too, who are classified as nonprofits under the IRS guidelines. That’s incredibly significant right now, as most congregations have seen a huge decline in giving after they were required to stop meeting in person. This bill, which is headed to the president’s desk after Friday afternoon’s vote, would help them cover those expenses.
There are also, FRC’s Connor Semelsberger, points out, some changes to how the IRS would handle charitable deductions. “To encourage Americans to donate throughout this crisis, the Phase 3 Coronavirus relief package creates additional tax incentives for charitable contributions. Under this bill,” he writes, “charitable contributions up to $300 can be deducted on a person’s annual tax return in addition to the standard deduction.” That’s an important change from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, since churches are spending a lot of resources on outreach during the crisis. After the law three years, ago, a lot of filers decided to take the deduction instead of itemizing. Now, in the CARES Act, the $300 bump helps incentivize more giving on top of that. And hopefully, that will carry into 2021 and beyond.
For more on the timeline of this relief and what you can expect to see, check out Connor’s blog analysis here.
Originally published here.
A Not-So-Selective Service?
With all of the challenges facing America right now, it’s difficult to believe that anything but the coronavirus is being debated. But the country’s business continues to go on, especially as it relates to the nation’s military. While the rest of the country is busy fighting an unseen enemy, at least one commission is making plans for a time when the battle is more straightforward — and our volunteer force isn’t enough.
For a lot of people, the conversation about women in the draft goes back several years. The idea’s come before the Supreme Court, it’s been contested in Congress — and, most recently, the Obama administration. Of course, the lines started to get blurred when frontline combat positions were opened up to women a handful of years ago. From there, the question that naturally arose was: should women be required to register for the Selective Service too?
Congress, in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, decided to create a commission to study the system in general. “Do we need it? Should it be changed? And should women have to register?” Tom Kilgannon, president of Freedom Alliance and one of the commission’s 11 members, joined me on “Washington Watch” to talk about the report, and what brought them to the conclusion that females should be draft eligible.
“We debated it. We discussed it. We met with a lot of experts,” Tom explained. And, at the end of the day, a majority of the members voted yes. It was a conclusion, Tom said, that he didn’t support. “I was passionate about it,” he admitted, “but I was outvoted.” Fortunately for Tom and groups like FRC, who’ve voiced strong objections over the years to women being pushed into military service, the report is blunt about the problems of such a scenario.
“I’ll give this to the other commissioners,” he explained, “our report lays out [both sides] of women registering with Selective Service, and it [also gives rationale for] why we should keep the current system. And that is laid out in the report in full detail.”
For now, though, the group’s 164 recommendations are in the hands of Congress. And they, along with the president, will have to act on it. If they agree with the commission’s findings, then there are other big decisions ahead. How will it be implemented, for one? “Because there are a number of factors that go into that.”
And frankly, Tom points out, most of the commissioners thinks an all-volunteer force is the best option anyway. America hasn’t had a draft in almost 50 years, but if the situation demanded it, Tom cautioned, “we [do] want it backed up by a Selective Service system.”
Of course, none of the opponents of the idea are suggesting that women can’t or shouldn’t serve in the military. There are plenty of exceptional women who can and have. My objection, and the objection of other fathers, is in forcing them into combat. What does it say about a nation that sends its mothers and daughters into war?
As the report itself concedes (starting on page 119), “Many Americans believe that women hold unique status in society as wives, mothers, caregivers, and nurturers, and feel that their ability to perform such roles would be damaged by conscripted military service.” Others argued that just because women are “equal to men under the law…that lawful equality does not, and should not, require women to be conscripted into military service.” Does this really enhance women’s rights, another asked, or erode them? And what about military readiness? The physical differences between men and women put women at a greater risk in combat — a fact that’s been backed up by statistics from recent warfighting.
There are plenty of things to consider, not the least of which is this: It’s one thing for our daughters to choose to fight and quite another to force them to. Let’s hope Congress and this administration agrees.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.