WASHINGTON -- Republican and Democrats sparred this week on where Jesus Christ would stand on food stamps, a federal program that supported 47 million Americans last year.
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee approved Republican legislation that would reform farm subsidies and trim the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by roughly $2.5 billion a year. Republicans want fewer Americans to qualify for food stamps simply because they receive benefits from another safety net program. Under the new legislation, more people would have to pass income and asset tests to be eligible for food stamps. Nearly 2 million fewer people would qualify.
Rep. Juan Vargas, a California Democrat and former member of the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order, said he favored a Democratic amendment to undo the cuts because Jesus made himself clear on feeding the poor.
"Jesus kinda fools around and gives you parables. He doesn't oftentimes say exactly what he means," Vargas said. "But in Matthew 25 he's very, very clear. And he delineates what it takes to get into the kingdom of heaven very, very clearly. And he says how you treat the least among us, the least of our brothers, that's how you treat him."
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes those who will enter heaven as anyone who gave him food when he was hungry, invited him into their homes when he was a stranger, clothed him, cared for him while he was sick and visited him in prison. "The extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me," Jesus says.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said during the hearing that he, too, is a follower of Christ.
"I read this chapter of Matthew 25 to speak to me as an individual," Conaway, a Southern Baptist, said. "I don't read it to speak to the United States government. And so I would take a little bit of umbrage with you on that. Clearly, you and I are charged that we do those kinds of things but [our government is not] charged with that."
Many religious groups lobby Congress on federal nutrition programs. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jewish Federations of North America, and dozens of religious and secular organizations signed a letter to Congress last week urging members to oppose food stamp cuts. "If SNAP is weakened, our nation will see more hunger and food insecurity, worse health and educational outcomes, and higher health costs," it said.
During the food-stamp debate on Wednesday, other Republicans disagreed with Vargas' position and his reading of the Bible.
"The Bible says lots of things," Rep. Stephen Lee Fincher (R-Tenn.) said. He pointed to Matthew 26:11, which says "for you always have the poor with you," then 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which says "for even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." Republicans have argued that programs like food stamps discourage work and make the safety net more of a hammock.
"Jesus made it very clear we have a duty and obligation as Christians and as citizens of this country to take care of each other. Democrat, Republican, Independent -- we should look after one another," he said. "But I think a fundamental argument we're having today is what's the duty of the federal government. We're all here on this committee making decisions about other people's money."
"It always looks good when politicians can go say, we brought a bunch of money to this project here or that project there, standing next to this big, giant blown-up check somewhere and saying, 'look what we did for you.' That's all someone else's money," LaMalfa said. "We should be doing this as individuals, helping the poor."
Several Democrats noted that even with 47 million Americans benefiting from SNAP, some people are still hungry.
"Christians, Jews, Muslims, whatever -- we're failing our brothers and sisters here," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said.
So, interesting question. Is our government charged with helpin the poor? If so, why? Mercy and charity are not exclusive Christian values; they're human values. If the government is not charged with helping the poor, why not? Then who is?
Answer by Dardenella at 6:32 PM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by sahmamax2 at 9:39 AM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by NotPanicking at 1:05 PM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by CarpeDiemV at 3:54 PM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by okmanders at 10:33 AM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by Dardenella at 12:47 PM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by HHx5 at 2:32 PM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by okmanders at 3:19 PM on May. 22, 2013
Answer by Dardenella at 6:27 PM on May. 22, 2013
Yes I think the government should help the poor, not for religious reasons but because its the decent thing to do. When Jesus spoke he was speaking to individuals not the government, however, helping the poor makes our society better. There will always be people who abuse the system, that shouldn't make us afraid of helping people.
Answer by RyansMom001 at 9:34 PM on May. 22, 2013
Next question overall
What are some fun ways you could tell you were having a boy/girl?