How does one know when they’ve become too conservative? Case in point: Ken Blackwell, after he recently pronounced the draconian cuts made this past week to the SNAP (food stamps) program as the “the Christian thing to do.”
Blackwell embraced all of the stereotypes that the TEApublican base wants to hear, assuming that everyone on SNAP is lazy and only wants to continue receiving those “huge” government handouts. He claims that throwing 4 million people off of food stamps is the “Christian” thing to do since it will encourage them to go out and find a job.
He also claimed that kicking people off of food stamps liberates them from their “dependency on government handouts, making sure they are participants in their own upliftment and empowerment so that they, in fact, through the dignity of work, can break from the plantation of big government. When I was growing up, there was fundamental belief, that there were times in people’s life when they needed a hand [out]. There was a temporariness to those programs where they were structured so that they didn’t breed dependency.”
Of course, he’s ignoring the fact that a full 30% of those receiving assistance through the SNAP program are indeed already working but cannot keep their heads above water and feed their families. Many are seniors who are living solely or largely on Social Security while others are the families of people in the military.
These are the people that Mr. Blackwell feels are a drain on our society and somehow lacking in moral character and simply lazy.
Actual Christian advocacy groups do not seem to share Blackwell’s views. The General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA, Roy Medley, said in a letter to the House of Representatives that “cutting SNAP and taking away vital nutrition assistance from children, seniors, low-wage workers and persons with disabilities will not address the larger economic trends or create more jobs with adequate wages. Instead, this type of bill will punish those struggling to get by.”
Medley is joined with other religious leaders in their appeal coordinated by the Circle of Protection, founded in 2011 by Jim Wallis. Wallis also said in a September 9 letter, “These immoral cuts are incongruent with the shared values of our nation, they demonstrate the triumph of political ideology and self-interest over sound public policy and concern for the general welfare.”
The Reverend Gary Cook, Director of Church Relations for the advocacy group Bread for the World, thinks that these cuts will only further marginalize the most vulnerable among us rather than motivating more people to work.
“In the whole kind of Biblical frame, God made three provisions for hungry people,” Cook said. “One was the tithe, which was literally a tax, because the government was the same as the religious order and allowed widows and orphans to eat. Here in the Bible, hungry people have access to food as a matter of right, not as a matter of charity.”
So it would seem that actual men of God are at odds with Mr. Blackwell’s assessment of what “morality” is. When everyone became hungry during the Sermon on the Mount, didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to feed them?