You wouldn’t expect an atheist head-of-state to put religious leaders in public schools. But Australia’s atheist Prime Minister Julia Gillard is doing just that. Not only does she support state funding for chaplains in both public and private schools – she is promising to expand the program!
Gillard doesn’t want to convert kids to Christianity (or Islam or Hindu, for that matter). But she recognizes that students have spiritual needs, and she has seen how the students rely on the state-sponsored chaplains for counseling to deal with life’s struggles.
It’s always interesting when an atheist looks to religion to solve a problem. Their unbelief doesn’t inoculate them against the need for spiritual growth, anymore than the poor can avoid malnutrition by refusing to believe in vitamins. At the end of the day, the need is still there, and it can lead to some strange behaviors, from nature worship to self-worship to the use of the Catholic liturgy as mere emotional therapy.
Spiritual health is no less of a basic human need than food, water, and shelter. That’s why Cross International Catholic Outreach takes a distinctively spiritual approach to serving the poor. We partner with Catholic religious and lay workers that offer prayers for the sick, moral instruction for school children, and the hope of Christ for the destitute. We want the abused, oppressed, abandoned, and downtrodden to know there is a Heavenly Father who loves them. We want them to have a transforming encounter with the God who sent his Son to give them life.
Faith-based charities do what secular charities cannot: meet the needs of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.