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Food Stamp Cuts Spark Bible Debate

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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/17/food-stamp-cuts-bible-debate_n_3293982.html

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?

 
Ballad

Asked by Ballad at 1:41 AM on May. 22, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 45 (193,996 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (15)
  • Personally, I am in favor of aid for those who need it.
    I am in favor of tighter controls, to prevent fraud.
    I am in favor of teaching those who are able to work the skills they need to get a job.
    I am in favor of teaching people how to grow a plant even if they have a tiny porch to help a little with fresh food.
    I m in favor of teaching people how to use the food that is available.
    I am in favor of food banks sponsored by whomever wants to do it.
    I am in favor of shelters sponsored by whom ever wants to do so.
    It does not exempt me (as a Catholic) from doing these things as an individual, even if my taxes or contributions go toward these programs..
    Dardenella

    Answer by Dardenella at 6:32 PM on May. 22, 2013

  • Why in the world is Jesus even being brought Into the discussion? That is not the place for deity discussion. It's sad that people need the words of supposed deity to make the decision to help our fellow man.
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 9:39 AM on May. 22, 2013

  • This is when it starts biting them in the ass. You can only pander to a religious group so long before their spiritual growth and your political kickback growth begin to diverge. They can only take the extremist stance so long on things like civil rights and birth control before people who normally are happy to sit with their head in the sand, go to church on Sunday because they have to, and vote R no matter the name, start to pay attention. It's religious companies (run by churches) and devoutly religious-owned companies that are leading the charge on stranding their employees and families with no insurance coverage at all - something else Jesus wouldn't do.

    This isn't going to bring only a political rift, but a religious one, too.
    NotPanicking

    Answer by NotPanicking at 1:05 PM on May. 22, 2013

  • if|f this is going to be a (Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or weVe got to acknowledge that J je commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."

    CarpeDiemV

    Answer by CarpeDiemV at 3:54 PM on May. 22, 2013

  • well...if the religious right wants this country to be a Christian nation then they better start acting like it. not that i think it is or even want it become that..but it does seem pretty hypocritical when you talk about Jesus & morals out one side of your mouth and then cut programs that help the poor with the other side.
    okmanders

    Answer by okmanders at 10:33 AM on May. 22, 2013

  • 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.
    This is a liberal (left) bringing Jesus into the discussion, not the right. Just to be clear.
    Dardenella

    Answer by Dardenella at 12:47 PM on May. 22, 2013

  • I see this as kind of a circular argument because who is charged with caring for the poor? We, the people. The government is supposed to be we, the people. But then the question should be how do we help the poor? Is it really helping them by giving them assistance that they may become dependent on and lose the ability to care for themselves.

    So, I have to agree with the republican guy on this because I think that the focus in the NT and the OT is on individuals to assist those in need, more specifically the widows and orphans. But we can't leave out the charge that family is responsible for caring for family. I think that is why the emphasis is on widows and orphans.

    I'm not saying that I'm against the government having a role as a safety net. I do think that the assistance the government provides goes overboard.
    HHx5

    Answer by HHx5 at 2:32 PM on May. 22, 2013

  • i think saying Liberals cant have it both ways (no God in school, God as a reason for aid) misses the point and is a "dont look at our faults" kinda argument.

    the Bible says "feed the poor" it doesnt say "teach the Bible in schools" or "celebrate Christmas in the public square" or anything close to the whining we always hear from Christians. if you get elected by spouting off things like "im gonna bring America back to Christian morality" then you should actually act like a Christian and do what Jesus told you to do instead of whining about how bad the country has lost its way. if one says, on record numerous times, that America should be a Christian Nation then maybe, just maybe, the should freaking act like they do more than sit in a pew on Sundays.
    okmanders

    Answer by okmanders at 3:19 PM on May. 22, 2013

  • If it offensive to have something as simple as a crèche on a government land, then it make no sense to use the Bible as a justification, no matter what you are using it to promote.

    The Bible says to feed the poor. This is true. It tells the individual to feed the poor. We are to clothe the naked. That tells the individual to clothe the naked. It tells us to visit those in prison. Individually.

    It does not tell the government to do anything.
    If this were a Christian nation, in other words there was not a single disbeliever, some of our laws might be a true reflection of the Bible, but even then we are called individually to do the above acts.

    You can't say on one hand this is not a Christian nation and so the Bible , or someone's interpretation, can not dictate something like gay marriage and then turn around and use the Bible as the argument to feed the poor.

    Dardenella

    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.

    RyansMom001

    Answer by RyansMom001 at 9:34 PM on May. 22, 2013

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