A controversy has erupted over a decision by the South Fulton, TN fire department to allow a rural home in Obion County to burn to the ground because the owner did not pay the requisite $75 annual fee to secure fire protection.
The fire department was called when Gene Cranick's grandson accidentally set his property on fire, but made no attempt to extinguish the flames, for the simple reason that they had no legal or moral authority or responsibility to do so. When the fire endangered the property of Cranick's neighbor, who had paid the $75 fee, the fire department swung into action and put out the fire on the neighbor's property. Cranick's home meanwhile, burned to the ground after his family had fled for safety.
The backstory is that, while South Fulton had a fire department several years ago, the county did not. Rural residents approached city officials and asked them to extend their fire protective services outside city limits. Fine, said the city. We will provide fire services to any rural resident who pays an annual $75 fee. You pay the $75, you just bought yourself a year's worth of fire protection. You don't pay the fee, that's fine too, it's your choice, but be aware that you are making a deliberate choice to forego fire protection.
The fire department did the right and Christian thing. The right thing, by the way, is also the Christian thing, because there can be no difference between the two. The right thing to do will always be the Christian thing to do, and the Christian thing to do will always be the right thing to do.
If I somehow think the right thing to do is not the Christian thing to do, then I am either confused about what is right or confused about Christianity, or both.
In this case, critics of the fire department are confused both about right and wrong and about Christianity. And it is because they have fallen prey to a weakened, feminized version of Christianity that is only about softer virtues such as compassion and not in any part about the muscular Christian virtues of individual responsibility and accountability.
The Judeo-Christian tradition is clear that we must accept individual responsibility for our own decisions and actions. He who sows to the flesh, we are told, will from the flesh reap corruption. The law of sowing and reaping is a non-repealable law of nature and nature's God.
We cannot make foolish choices and then get angry at others who will not bail us out when we get ourselves in a jam through our own folly. The same folks who are angry with the South Fulton fire department for not bailing out Mr. Cranick are furious with the federal government for bailing out Wall Street firms, insurance companies, banks, mortgage lenders, and car companies for making terrible decisions. What's the difference?
Mr. Cranick made a decision - a decision to spend his $75 on something other than fire protection - and thereby was making a choice to accept the risk that goes with it. He had no moral, legal, ethical or Christian claim on the services of the fire department because of choices that he himself made.
What angry folks fail to realize is that if Mr. Cranick had been able to get away with this - if he'd been able to wait til his house started to burn, then offer $75 and immediately get help - it wouldn't be long before everybody else stopped paying. Why bother if you can wait until the emergency hits? If you pay when you don't need to, that just makes you a sap. Pretty soon nobody would have fire protection at all since the city can't afford to fight fires at $75 a pop. The city would have to withdraw its offer to the county, and everybody, especially responsible folk, would be less safe.
This story illustrates the fundamental difference between a sappy, secularist worldview, which unfortunately too many Christians have adopted, and the mature, robust Judeo-Christian worldview which made America the strongest and most prosperous nation in the world. The secularist wants to excuse and even reward irresponsibility, which eventually makes everybody less safe and less prosperous. A Christian worldview rewards responsibility and stresses individual responsibility and accountability, which in the end makes everybody more safe and more prosperous.