Whatever Happened to Helping the Poor?

by Abigail Knowles Wolfe (BPRW)

Whatever Happened to Helping the Poor?
It is important to understand that since the American Revolution, the distribution of wealth in this country has been significantly dependent on who controls the federal government. The 1980’s have been celebrated in some social circles as the pinnacle of wealth and the political ascendancy of the richest third of the population. However, the 1980’s were also witness to growing hordes of the homeless sleeping on heater grates as wealth was further accumulated in the hands of those already rich.

It is fascinating and disturbing, both, to note that the Bush-era has been defined by the agendas of the religious right and so-called evangelical Christians, yet I ask where do the poor fit into this equation? The utter failure of federal relief efforts to meet the needs of Hurricane Katrina survivors has penetrated this nation’s consciousness and invoking shear outrage in many citizens of this country. Picture President George W. Bush with his bullhorn at the site of demolished World Trade Center towers after September 11th, 2001 then remember his eventual and hesitant visit to devastated New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. The implications are heartbreaking.

Right wing religious groups such as The Center for Reclaiming America and The Christian Coalition spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress about pro-life and anti gay marriage issues yet never bring up social justice issues for the poor, one of Jesus Christ’s only agendas. Global warming, lack of health care coverage for millions and starving children living in our first-world nation are also not issues for these predominantly white, upper-middle class “Christian” organizations.

Right wing Christian conservatives argue that Biblical scripture speaks more directly to pro-life and marriage issues than to pressing issues such as global warming and poverty yet I find a major lapse in logic here. Jesus spoke a great deal about the rights of the poor and the meek inheriting the earth. He cared more, in fact, about the rights of the poor and the disenfranchised than he did about anything else.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"
-Matthew 19:23-24

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
-Proverbs 31:8-9

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"
-Matthew 19:21

"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."
-Proverbs 17:5

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."
-Proverbs 21:13

Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old African-American child from Maryland, died recently from complications of a dental infection for which his mother could not find treatment over a period of seven months. The boy's family is insured by Medicaid, however, the health department of Prince George's County lists only 50 dentists willing to treat the approximately 50,000 children with Medicaid in that county alone. What would the religious right have to tell Alyce Driver, a mother grieving a needless death because she could not find timely dental care for her child in one of the wealthiest countries on earth? My guess is that they probably wouldn’t care to comment. Deamonte Driver wouldn’t fit into their agenda.
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