A new book written by Calvin College professor Doug Koopman and two other scholars, titled “Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives,” which explores effectiveness of faith-based initiatives, is published recently.
Whereas most faith-based groups and Christians are supportive of the initiative, still the issue is floundering at the White House, as well as among many other Christians who don’t fully entrust the idea.
Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives supports the use of federal fund for faith-based social service and community development programs.
"The issue was a perfect fit for my background and interests. I worked on the Hill for 15 years before coming to Calvin so it was exciting to study an initiative that brought together Christian faith and politics," Koopman said.
Koopman started writing the book in the spring of 2001 with Wheaton College professor Amy Black and Dave Ryden of Hope College.
Koopman said that the book is a comprehensive, "insider" look at the successes and failures of the faith-based initiatives.
According to Koopman, there were two major mistakes at the start. The first was to not integrate the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives into the other White House offices. The second was for the White House and House Republicans to make the legislative push for faith-based initiatives a partisan, rather than a bipartisan, exercise.
Among other problems he noted include: the failure of most White House staff to make faith-based legislation the priority that President Bush clearly wanted it to be, lack of agreement on political strategy between sponsors in the two chambers of Congress, and the decision by the White House and House Republicans to let the conservative Christian Republican core interest groups control the details of legislation.
He then noted successes of the faith-based initiative:
"All the attention to the legislative failures ironically let faith-based staff persons in the executive branch quietly lay the groundwork for administrative changes," said Koopman, "which are now, almost four years later, well on their way to quietly making federal programs more faith-friendly."
Meanwhile, Methodists are carefully observing the Bush administration’s “faith-based” agenda. Whereas many faith-based non-profit organizations are in need of funding and some surveys witness the success of faith-based programs especially in prisons, Methodists are concerned of “Charitable Choice,” which is one of the central concepts of the faith-based initiatives, that allows religious organizations receiving federal funds to hire only persons of their own religious persuasion. It also permits religious organizations to directly receive government money without setting up separate nonprofit corporations, a practice of concern among United Methodists. Methodists are insisting that the initiatives must ensure “the tasks undertaken and expected outcomes are consistent with the United Methodist Social Principles."