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Our Brother’s Keeper

May 27, 2018

Hungry child (1900), Author Bain News Service, Source Library of Congress (Catalog https://lccn.loc.gov/2014713460) (PD-old-70-1923)

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother:  and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.  Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’  He said, ‘I do not know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?’  And He said, ‘What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground’ ”  (Gen. 4: 8-10).

Many Christians have come to view political conservatism as synonymous with morality.  By contrast, they view political liberalism as synonymous with unnecessary largesse, leading to (or rewarding) immoral behavior [1].   This is, at best, an over-simplification; at worst, a serious error.

Self-Righteousness

The single mother sins by having sex outside marriage.  Never mind that many Christians do the same.  No regard is taken of what may be her tender age, her destitute circumstances, her lack of education and employable skills, or the many factors influencing her – for instance, the desperate desire for love.

She then has the effrontery to raise the resulting child herself.  Never mind that her partner may be long gone by that point.  Never mind that Christians oppose abortion.  The child should bear the stigma of this sin for life.  His mother has chosen to bring him into a hopeless situation.  It is up to her to deal with the consequences, however dire they may be for him.

Is that really what we think?  Do these conclusions not smack of self-righteousness?

Or does our imagination run to even darker imagery?  Is this mother, in our minds, a strumpet, who thinks of nothing but momentary carnal pleasure?  Do we imagine that she is content to remain in her grim circumstances, relying on god-fearing taxpayers to pay for her mistakes?

Self-Sufficiency v. Child Hunger

Politicians calling themselves “conservative” frequently complain about the cost of safety net programs, arguing that assistance in any form weakens character.  But the safety net comprised of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps (SNAP), and public housing is not an unfair and unnecessary burden on taxpayers.  For the vast majority of recipients, it is a lifeline [2].

It may be true that we are raising an entitlement generation.  We should teach our children self-sufficiency and the value of work.  First, however, we must make sure they have enough to eat.

Dismantling the Safety Net

Is the so called “welfare state” responsible for the disintegration of the family?  Should we dismantle it, in the name of Christ?

HUD Secretary Ben Carson is proposing to triple the rent for the 5 million low-income households dependent on federal housing subsidies [3][4].  These include veterans, the elderly, the disabled, and impoverished children [5].

Meanwhile, another proposal would raise from age 50 to 62 the requirement that Food Stamp applicants work, and make it more difficult for states to exempt individuals at special risk for food insecurity, for example, those residing in high unemployment areas [6].  Unfortunately, the change would hurt the working poor, and eliminate critical food assistance to the unemployed.

Food Stamp applicants are already limited to 3 months’ assistance every 3 years, unless actively employed or enrolled in employment training.

Long Term Impact of Assistance

A recent study suggests that more than half of every dollar spent on Medicaid is later returned in the form of tax receipts [7][8].  With improved health due to good nutrition and reliable medical care, children actually grow up to become wage-earning, tax-paying adults.

Not so surprising, since Carson – the son of a divorced mother who utilized Food Stamps – managed to find gainful employment as an adult [9].  More than that, of course, Carson achieved great success in the medical profession.  Isn’t that what we want for our children…rich or poor?

Government can be a dangerous weapon.  It is not now, nor will it ever be, a substitute for Christ.  Dependent on who is wielding it, however, government can, also, be an effective tool.

The difference is not a matter of labels.  For many, it is a matter of life and death.

[1]  Liberal and conservative politics should not be confused with the liberal and conservative interpretation of Scripture.  Liberal scriptural interpretation sets aside the authority of the Bible (and correctness of church doctrine based upon it), relying instead on modern philosophic views and current scientific assumptions.  From the perspective of liberal scriptural interpretation, the Bible is not God-inspired.  Rather, it is merely a collection of human thoughts and feelings about God.  Liberal theologians tend to view as allegorical what conservative theologians view as literal.

[2]  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Policymakers Often Overstate Marginal Tax Rates for Lower-Income Workers and Gloss Over Tough Trade-Offs in Reducing Them” by Sharon Parrot and Robert Greenstein, 12/3/14, https://www.cbpp.org/research/policymakers-often-overstate-marginal-tax-rates-for-lower-income-workers-and-gloss-over.

[3]  Washington Post, “HUD Secretary Ben Carson to propose raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies” by Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey, and Jeff Stein, 4/25/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/04/25/hud-secretary-ben-carson-to-propose-raising-rent-for-low-income-americans-receiving-federal-housing-subsidies/?utm_term=.4393a95eb23d.

[4]  Washington Post, “HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to triple rents for poorest households would hurt single mothers the most” by Tracy Jan, 4/27/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/04/27/hud-secretary-ben-carsons-proposal-to-triple-rents-for-poorest-households-would-hurt-single-mothers-the-most/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3b2636819294.

[5]  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “National and State Housing and Fact Sheets & Data”, 8/9/17, https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/national-and-state-housing-fact-sheets-data.

[6]  The low wage jobs available in the marketplace are mostly part-time and/or temporary.  Gaps in employment are common.  Training in high-demand jobs is what moves people toward permanent, full-time employment.  See, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Making SNAP Work Requirements Harsher Will Not Improve Outcomes for Low-Income People” by Stacy Dean, Ed Bolen, and Brynne Keith-Jennings, 3/1/18, https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/making-snap-work-requirements-harsher-will-not-improve-outcomes-for-low.

[7]  NY Times, “How Medicaid for Children Partly Pays for Itself” by Margot Sanger-Katz, 1/12/15,  https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/13/upshot/how-medicaid-for-children-recoups-much-of-its-cost-in-the-long-run.html.

[8]  Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), “Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work” by Rachel Garfield, Robin Rudowitz, and Anthony Damico, 1/5/18, https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/.

[9]  Snopes, “Doctor Skew”, 10/29/15 (updated 11/13/15), https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ben-carson-welfare-meme/.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

13 Comments
  1. Good morning Anna. This morning I am teaching Sunday School about the role of Christians in government. Timely post for sure. I actually tend very conservatively, but your points are quite valid. Lack of compassion and equating Christian Faith with many social and political stances is an issue in the church today. We will be talking about it, and I suspect I will irritate some this morning, as the idols of Patriotism and Conservatism run rampant with my friends. I happen to be both Patriotic and conservative, but that does not define my faith, God’s Word does. Thanks for this, this morning Anna and I hope you are well.

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement, Wally. It means a great deal to me. Have you managed to cut back on your work hours at all? You carry a very heavy load. God bless you.

  2. Great post Anna,
    The souring cost of food does not help the poor.. working or not..
    I feel food assistance is needed.. but should be regulated..
    I see carts full of junk food and soda.. not healthy for any of the family..

    • You have a tender heart, Mary. As you say, the decisions the poor make are no wiser than those the wealthy make. Sadly, there is, also, a great deal of food wasted in this country. The US wastes about 150,000 tons of food each day https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/americans-waste-food-fruit-vegetables-study.

      • …When my wife and I were both out of work for 2 years we lived on unemployment and a lump sum severance amount. God gave us trust in Him and we didn’t reduce our giving at all. Our tithe to our church went down proportionately with the income but we maintained full giving to local non-profits. My wife said every time she had to write a check, she wondered if there would be enough money in the account. And miraculously she said there was always enough. Jesus has proven to me that he cares enough and is strong enough to meet my needs. I know Jesus can help others too…

      • Wow, I did not realize we were that wasteful..
        I am sure God is not pleased.. throwing away His blessing..

  3. Anna this is SO powerful and filled with wonderful insight. It’s one of my favorite posts of yours. Thank you!

  4. I read originally this post at 4-something this morning Anna,but it has not been far from my thoughts all day.I spent some time as well reading the articles you linked to and as always I appreciate the level of details in your posts. Your prior career is evident in your approach to blogging, something I find very refreshing.

    As one who champions the plight of the underdogs of society, this post most definitely struck a resonant chord with me. As you know, in my past career I was responsible for creating parts of budgets that ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a task made all the more stressful when one considers that not everyone can get their pet project funded. In other words, I understand when tough decisions must be made.

    That being said,as a society we all know that there isn’t enough money to go around. There never is, and sometimes spending must be curtailed. When it comes to human beings however, people, especially children,should never be put in the position of having to make the choice of rent vs. dinner.

    While it is true that Jesus said we would always have the poor among us, our elected leaders would do well to remember that the poor occupy a special place in His heart. To punish the defenseless simply because they are at or near the bottom of some arbitrary monetary scale is incomprehensible to my mind.

    Someone once said that we will make time for that which is important to us. Using that same line of thought, I also believe that we must find the funds for those programs that are critical to the survival of millions of the poorest among us.

    To do otherwise is an abomination before a righteous God.

    On another note, if I were your Pastor I would be doing everything in my power to prepare you for work in the ministry. There are untold millions in desperate need of an advocate such as yourself😉

  5. Thank you Anna for this new-to-me information. I thought Ben Carson, having known how tough life can be for the poor, would be a compassionate problem-solver for them. Instead, it sounds like he is neither. The mentally ill I serve will be devastated by this.

    When I was mentally ill and penniless, I cost the government thousands of dollars. But with the government’s help I got the right meds, recovered, and have returned to the society that helped me between $100,000 and $200,000 in taxes and charitable giving.

    By bending down to raise me up, the government has enabled me to bend down and raise others up.

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