Doc Hancock

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Why do many politically conservative American Christians oppose social welfare programs when the Bible calls on Christians to help the poor?

It seems that there is a disconnect between the secular mindset of many conservative American Christians who oppose welfare programs and the call to help the poor. Why?

  • Aug 13 2013: As a constitutional conservative, I follow the founding fathers in absolutely opposing all laws that support or protect religious organizations. That includes tax free status and letting members get away with child abuse or neglect, which are WELFARE for religions.
    I support welfare, socialized medicine and food stamps for people. Why? Because sickly, ignorant, ill educated kids become poverty stricken, unemployable, sickly adults.
    American political conservatives oppose religious laws, such as those restricting birth control, and tax preferences for religions and religious practitioners and schools, but support a healthy, strong, well-educated population. Those kids are the soldiers, fire and police forces, teachers and doctors and chefs of OUR future.
    Social welfare is not granted to punish or reward good or lousy parents who have too few or too many kids, depending on religions position, but because healthy, smart, educated kids grow into healthy, strong, employable adults.
    This is thinking long term.
    All the kids in this country are OUR kids. They will be OUR citizens. we will have to rely on them.
    That is why we should not allow OUR children to go hungry, be sickly, ill nourished and poorly educated regardless of the circumstances of their parents, which are not the fault of the kids.
    All Americans pay the price of neglected kids.
    It has nothing to do with religion or do-gooders. This is based on capitalist long term thinking of the good of the country as a whole.
    Remember, the founding fathers provided us with free public libraries. They also invented copyrights and patents to encourage business, but you don't hear much about denying businesses these protections because they are welfare, although they are.
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      Aug 21 2013: Those are all fine opinions, but I wouldn't depend too much on the "founding fathers" for support:

      "I follow the founding fathers in absolutely opposing all laws that support or protect religious organizations."

      The founders didn't actually oppose this. The US Constitution prohibits the Congress from making any law regarding the establishment of religion, but that's because the founders wanted to seriously restrict the power of the "general government", as it was called then, leaving more power in the states. State legislatures were perfectly free to make laws about religion, and many of them did (continuing their colonial laws), requiring a profession of Christianity before holding public office, for example. It was not until 1947, in Everson v. Board of Education, that the US Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment restriction on Congress also applied to state legislatures, thus finally making the First Amendment rights actual national rights.
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    Aug 9 2013: The association between political conservatism and christianity has always intrigued me. From an aetheists point of view the New Testament reads like a socialist manifesto.
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      Aug 9 2013: Hello, Peter. Thanks for joining the conversation. Would you mind elaborating on "socialist manifesto"? Thank you.
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        Aug 11 2013: You replace Jesus with the authors name and "lord" with state and you have a group of people who are duty bound to do what they can for the good of everyone and as long as you follow the teachings of the author, all your needs will be provided by the state.
        • Aug 11 2013: Sounds reasonable. So are you saying that all politicians and government leaders need to repent of their sins, confess Jesus is Lord and be baptized first? I didn't think so.

          The Bible compares good deeds to menstruous clothe. You can wipe up the blood but now you have a sinner with a bloody clothe. You are going to give the charitable donations of Americans to sinners, as a result the money will be stolen and everyone will be jaded about giving.

          Judas was the man holding the money bag. This sounds like an idea that Judas would love.
      • Aug 12 2013: Peter Lindsay, I am both most Politically conservative, a Christian and studying for ministry work. And here's the disconnect that confuses most people who do not believe in a higher being.
        I believe that Jesus was God in human form. Being God he was truly willing to die for humans all humans. Even the one who betrayed him and sent him to his death.
        It is this type of whole hearted selfless love that is required in order for socialism to work. We Christians aren't Christians because its cool, or lucrative or a creed we follow blindly (true Christians) we do it because we feel compelled for everyone to feel and know the love we have from our God every day.
        I don't believe that the government welfare system works. I give and volunteer in nonprofit organizations and would give more if I had more to give. I have put my money where my mouth is by leaving a six-figure career to go to Seminary.
        And so I do follow Jesus' teachings but as with all of Christianity it's all voluntary. The closer you are to God the more you want to share His love. Sometimes that's financially, sometimes it's listening, sometimes it's providing a service like a car ride to a doctor's appointment. I do not believe the government which is a bastion of waste, greed and corruption does "helping the poor" right.
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          Aug 12 2013: Thankyou for the eloquent reply. My position regarding government welfare is that it is necessary but should be minimalist. If your government is a bastion of waste greed and corruption, maybe you should try to fix the government so they can run a good welfare program.
        • Aug 13 2013: What you believe and have been taught about Jesus may not be anything like what Jesus taught. If you believe in the old testament, you are what he was fighting against. If you believe in an eye for an eye, you are opposed to his teachings. He never states that it is wrong for the people to provide for the poor through the government, does he? He never taught spare the rod and spoil the child, did he?
          Perhaps he is not the lord you are worshipping, but some later day invention of your church or of politicians who actually oppose his teachings. He never taught that it is wrong to borrow or lend or that men should beat their wives, did he? What does your church teach that contradicts him? What does it teach that he never taught?
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    Aug 9 2013: Let me explain.
    Let's say the toothbrush makers of America lobbies congress and it passes a law that free toothbrushes be available for poor people. They can make a toothbrush for 20 cents and cost to the consumer is $1.

    The government enacts a tax of $10 per citizen to fund the program.
    An office in Washington is created to administer the program. There goes $1.
    This office has to open offices in each state to distribute the funds - another $2.
    Each state has to purchase toothbrushes and needs office staff to purchase said toothbrushes. along with all the purchase orders, government accounting, and oversite. Let's say 10 cents per state. Another $5.
    Then they have to distribute the toothbrushes and open a grant for charitable organizations to obtain said toothbrushes. The charitable organizations need to set up staff and office space in the neighborhoods to do so. Let's say that is another $1.
    When all the bureaucracy is all set up that leave $1 worth of toothbrushes that actually goes to the poor. One person gets a toothbrush for my $10.

    It's not that conservative people are against helping the poor. It's the social welfare part that we oppose. Most of the money winds up in the pockets of people who are NOT poor. And a 500% PROFIT is made by the toothbrush makers. That is about as greedy and unChristian as it gets.

    I could do much better with my $10. Ten people could get a toothbrush.

    The Salvation Army office in my neighborhood had a operating budget of 100K per year (~10 years ago). The head dude in the uniform made 60K/year. He had a fully staffed office and paid office workers. They distributed 8K worth of assistance per year.

    I do not donate to charitable organizations any more.
    • Aug 10 2013: Linda, I would like to add another example of the toothbrush makers to suport your idea.
      The current government hired additional welfare agency workers who get paid in the range of $60+K including their pension and health care benefits. Their work involves soliciting potential federal beneficiaries to be paid with less sringent requirement. The government expenses for these additonal workers will either be derived from federal taxes or from the increased federal debt which would be piled upon our backs whether we are willing to donate to it, or not.
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        Aug 11 2013: Geepers. I swear it seems that Obama is trying to channel Robin Hood...
  • Aug 8 2013: How can one describe Christians as conservative or liberal? Maybe it doesn't make sense? and they aren't.
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    Aug 10 2013: I am not a politically conservative American Christian, but those I know who oppose social welfare programs do so because they do not believe they actually help the poor, or they believe that there are better ways to help the poor.

    With this perspective, the two positions would not conflict.
    • Aug 11 2013: I am an American Christian but am not sure where I fit on the political spectrum.

      I am not against social welfare programs and feel that you do not want a purely capitalist system as it is inhumane. I feel we need a balance of socialism and capitalism, which is why I support the police department and fire department (two of my favorite socialist programs).

      However, I do agree with those that claim the US govt is a very poor steward of charitable donations. Politicians cannot control the funds without trying to figure out some angle in which they will personally benefit. Also, I feel charity is best if it is local, personal and direct. Therefore I would much prefer a law in which you could substitute tax burden with charitable donations (50 cents on the dollar).

      I think anyone who wants to make US senators and congressmen the middle man for their charitable donations is either a fool or else a senator or congressman.
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    Lejan .

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    Aug 10 2013: Interesting question.

    On first thought it appears to be a clash of doctrines, in which the politically conservative 'there are no freebies...' took over the 'help the poor...'

    Many Christians only carry that title, yet couldn't care less to act accordingly. To those I would count any, who oppose welfare programs. Anything else wouldn't make any sense.
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    Aug 9 2013: Doc, (Is that short for Dr of Theology) Just to clear the dust .... Could you better define the call to help the poor.

    I can think of many ways to help the "needy" which is not limited to the "poor". We can do so by nourishing the body ... enabling the spirit .... providing succor in times of distress .... and instilling pride.

    I consider myself an Independent and attempt to evaluate and select what I consider the most viable path for my family, those I care for, and the country in general.

    It is my opinion that welfare should be a temporary solution. I believe it is stated that if you give a man a fish he will eat for the day .... teach the man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. We in the United States have created generational welfare families. IMO this robs a man of pride and makes him dependent upon others. They are no less dependent up on others that a addict is dependent upon drugs.

    The young lady on the Oprah show stated that she, at 16 was the bread winner for her whole family. She had three kids by three different men and was expecting again. She was on every welfare program available and made the equivalent of $80,000 a year in cash, goods, and services. She said that having babies was her career and was planning on having more to increase her income. Is this the welfare mentality that we should strive to promote?

    It has always been my practice to give a hand up .... I refuse to provide a hand out.

    I have heard of Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, Jewish, Muslims, .... but I have never heard of the Church of Conservative American Christians. I would like to attend a service of this church so I could better respond to your conversation.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Aug 9 2013: Hello, Robert. Thanks for being a part of the conversation. PhD from accredited seminary. Focus of question is mainly on helping those who do not have basic life necessities. Conservative American Christians, of course, come from all denominations.

      Amen to what you are saying about hand up. That is the focus of my work. But let me ask you to comment on providing aid to children who cannot get up in the morning and go to work. How do you apply "hand up" to them? Thank you.
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        Aug 9 2013: By children, I must assume you mean children of God, not people under 16 or so. I must further assume that these people cannot get up for a reason other than sloth.

        The Puriian Ethic Law was not totally heartless. If you were capable of working and chose not to then the "comforts" were not shared. If a tree fell on you and you were laid up you did small tasks within your means.

        There are plenty of city jobs that they could perform and earn the state dole out. They may not be pretty jobs but need to be done. Cleaning out lots ... and then charging the owners .... policing the parks .... highway trash pickup .... tree trimming .... etc. The point is that they would be getting up and doing something for their keep. I believe that is both mentally and physically healthy. This would also release full time city employees to do the technical jobs they were hired to do.

        A few years ago a DES supervisor put all welfare people in line for their check on a bus ... took them to a city blight area ... told them to clean it .... as they got back on the bus they got their welfare checks. He was fired. The city sued.

        The Whizzer if ID said it best in a political speech. I promise you, housing, food, medical, transportation, phones, and a share of the good life, also I will provide you with jobs. A citizen said with all of that why would I want to work? Exactly.

        The idea is to not stop helping people ... but to stop generational welfare ... instill pride .... If I feed a animal everyday at the same spot ... he will soon move closer to the spot and stop hunting / foraging for food and become dependent upon me. That is what is occurring with federal and state programs. How ... about work so many hours get so many food stamps. Restore pride, integrity, and be a role model for the good and break the chain of generational welfare.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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          Aug 9 2013: What he said ^
          Nice summary Bob
          I also wanted to point out that eventually dependency becomes entitlement.

          Where you OWE me housing, food, medical etc. simply because I have need. I am entitled to what you have because I have nothing mentality. And the current administration feeds that mentality.
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          Aug 10 2013: No, I am referring to young children. Thank you.
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        Aug 10 2013: Doc, You caught me off guard there .... when young children cannot get up in the morning and go to work??????

        Should we not be more concerned about them getting up and going to school?

        Could you expand on this so that I might respond properly.
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          Aug 10 2013: You stated that you refuse to give a hand out. Does that include giving to young children who are not capable of working or taking advantage of a hand up? Thank you again for your interest in responding.
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        Aug 10 2013: Doc, we have a disconnect ... here is your quote:

        Amen to what you are saying about hand up. That is the focus of my work. But let me ask you to comment on providing aid to children who cannot get up in the morning and go to work. How do you apply "hand up" to them? Thank you.

        I ask if you mean young children and you said yes.

        My reply was "should we be more concerned about them going to school?"

        Could we start at this point ....

        I am not in favor of young kids getting up and going to work. I am concerned about them getting up and going to school. That is where we are in the conversation ..... I asked if you could explain so that I might respond properly. Thank you.
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          Aug 11 2013: No problem. I try to converse without leading and sometimes without being face to face lose something in the process. So... My response to your comment about school is - If they are hungry they are not going to perform well in school. Again, No disconnect, just trying to see what is important to others as we continue the conservation. Sorry if not clear enough to stay on target. Thank you for hanging in there with me.
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        Aug 11 2013: Doc, There are so many "programs" out there that we are supporting ... there is little reason for any child to go to school hungry. There is not a school that does not have a free breakfast and free lunch for those eligible. There is food stamps, WICK, shelters, JOBS, you name it there is a program for it. Want a free phone no problem. Quota systems for hiring and education opportunity. After Katrina many things came to light. New Orleans had the highest percentage of welfare in the US. Everyone was being paid under the table and getting all the "programs". The 4th district is still in shambles even though billions have been spent. Ray Negi and others are indited for their part in the "problems".

        I bring all of this up because these programs did not work there ... the donations never got to where they were intended .... the FEMA funds were never applied where needed .... yet we continue to "throw money at the problem".

        I need help .... has become .... you owe me. This is not, in my opinion, a help to anyone.

        People like yourself and others in positions of responsibility must outline long range plans to resolve these issues and stop the welfare mentality.

        The last figures I saw said that over $300,000 per man woman and child had been spent in New Orleans .... That type of inefficiency and waste in federal, state, and local management can no longer be hidden or tolerated.

        It is a waste of time isolating one group (conservatives) ... it would be more productive to isolate the problems and work toward a resolution.

        Places like NO are going to have to get tough ... make rules ... follow them ... long range plans are required .... stop the political stupidity ... jail the thieves and con men.

        Being tough does not mean there is not love.

        Just one mans thoughts .... I wish you well. Bob.
  • Aug 8 2013: 1. They believe in the "American Rugged Individual" myth where you worked hard and do not ask for help and get through it. Many have forgotten the trouble and trials their original ancestors who immigrated to the USA went through and the number of people who helped them.
    2. When they hear the number 16 million children are starving in the US, they do not see children just a number and say what are the parents doing?
    3. They feel empathy for their neighbors and people in situations they understand. They do not feel empathy for people who are not their neighbors or are in situations they do not understand.
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      Aug 8 2013: Wayne, thank you for your sharp insight. I believe that you are correct and have made a very good contribution here. Thank you again.
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      Aug 8 2013: Is this something you feel only applies to conservative minded Christians?
      • Aug 8 2013: -nope applies to many people of all religions and some would apply to liberals also - 8>)) I never trust anyone who say they have the answer without modification.
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          Aug 9 2013: I would say it applies to most people in general. Honestly, I find most people who claim to be altruists doing so for their own personal glory, or using it to get a vote. Prime example, 90% of politicians.
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    Aug 21 2013: Where's the conflict? Many conservative Christians donate substantially to programs that help the poor, most often to programs not run by the government. Many of these people give more for the poor than non-church-goers, since they also pay taxes. How do you know that "many ... oppose welfare programs"?

    You don't specify "government programs," but if that's what you meant, the question of the usefulness of specific "welfare programs" of state or federal governments can and should be evaluated apart from one's religious beliefs. Not all "programs" are worthwhile, some deserve to be nixed, others revised, and all need to be scrutinized. There are often good reasons to question particular government programs. We know from experience that many such are high-overhead, bureaucratic and inefficient operations. Skepticism toward them does not necessarily conflict with "the call to help the poor."
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    Aug 8 2013: Calvinism is alive and well.
  • Aug 8 2013: Doc,

    There isn't a disconnect. The difference is that conservatives desire social welfare programs to be used the way FDR intended them to be used- as a means to an end of poverty and a way to reach a new beginning; a way to get a person back on their feet and into a new career.

    What has happened to cause such a conservative backlash is that the current administration (along with a few select others before it) have created a poverty vacuum- a culture of societal dependency that is now been socialized into more than a few generation of Americans. This must end, strictly from a fiscal standpoint, because the US cannot afford for half the country to work and pay taxes for the other half to live off entitlements (meanwhile the deficit increases).

    The welfare programs must be adjusted to get people in and out of the system and back into the work force (but we'd have to have more jobs for that to happen, which is a tangent for another day). This is the stance of most conservatives, which is akin to the old adage:

    "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

    Its not a lack of compassion- its a fervent desire for a broken system to be corrected and ACTUALLY help folks instead of making them perpetually downtrodden.

    Keep in mind that I'm a staunch secularist, but from a Christian Religious standpoint and the bible has this particular quotation to offer:

    2 Thessalonians 3:10- "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."

    God helps those who help themselves. If you want something, pray, yes, but also go out and take what you want. No one is going to give it to you if you don't try- not even my merciful God.
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      Aug 8 2013: Thank you Darlington. Let me ask you to follow up with your thoughts and how they relate to children.
      • Aug 8 2013: Well, as I said before, the cultural implications of an entitlement dependent society have vast ripple effects on children. The dependency becomes a cyclical tradition and gaming the system becomes the new skills set.

        Obviously, education could be a way out for children but with a workforce flush with 4 year college degrees that basically dilute the value of the BA or BS there is less incentive. I think that it would be prudent to start urging kids into artisan or craft oriented studies.

        I've seen this kind of approach work in person- a ton of my buddies from the small rural town I'm from get certifications in mining or welding and fair out much better than me and my BA wage wise.

        By whatever means, we've got to instill in children who face the dependent circumstances of certain parents that there is another way, meanwhile doing the same for their parents. There are a vast number of folks who use this system the right way- to get back in the workforce. Perhaps we can learn some by their example?

        Thanks for the question, Doc.
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      Aug 8 2013: Is "forget the others" a Bible doctrine?
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          Aug 8 2013: Forgive me for butting-in on your conversation with Doc but I was thinking you were representing the philosopy of "forget the others" as a teaching of Jesus Christ. Thank you for making it clear that it is not. Be well sir!
      • Aug 12 2013: "Forget the others" as I read it is a biblical doctrine. "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." -Matthew 7:5 which to me means do not worry about how much others help the poor or how they feel about it, simply help the poor yourself and forget what others are doing, feeling, saying. It's not only biblical but also "red letter."
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          Aug 12 2013: Thank you, I see your point, but I am focused on the idea of forgetting the others who do not trust in God and do right. I do not understand Jesus Christ ever taught that his followers were to forget the others who do not follow him. Jesus taught that the gospel was to be preached to the lost so that by hearing they might be saved. Perhaps Deepak meant the comment in the way you interpret it. If that is how he meant it there is no disagreement between us. Thanks for your thoughts
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      Aug 8 2013: Deepak, thank you for your statement, "Yes there is a disconnect between the secular mindset in every religion." Do you have any thoughts on how we can "connect" people to the teaching of their tradition and move them to care for the poor? Thank you again.
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          Aug 8 2013: Hello, Deepak. Yes, the Bible talks about the "poor in spirit." We should be concerned about every aspect of a person's life. My tradition emphasizes sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am trying to help them understand the need to "Serve" the Gospel. Thank you again for your thoughtful contribution to the discussion.
      • Aug 12 2013: Doc, I truly believe the best way to connect people is a multi step process. 1) serve others. Rich, poor, happy or sad, serve all people. Hold the door for someone carrying packages, buy coffee (or a meal) for the person behind you in line. Pay someone's toll on a toll road. That kind of thing. Heck, even smiling at someone is a form of service. 2) talk to people. And when you talk ask them about themselves and then listen to them while making eye contact. 3) when someone thanks you for one of your acts of service tell them to pay it forward. 4) let God work. Sometimes we plant a seed and God waters that seed and we never even see all the steps to the harvest nor the harvest itself. Be okay with just planting a seed or watering as you go along. Be okay with not getting the thank you. And finally advertise opportunities to help.
        Each year I organize the Samaritans purse operation Christmas child shoebox mission. But the entire church donates stuff to pack the shoeboxes and the Sunday school kids pack them. People who don't normally volunteer participate in this every year. Make volunteering,and helping the poor easy. :)
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    Aug 8 2013: I think it's more of problem with the execution rather than the theory of social welfare programs.
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    Aug 8 2013: I suggest you drop the "Why" from your headline because it bears witness to an assumption. You know what happens when we assume. Don't you really want to ask IF PCAC's oppose GOVERNMENT welfare programs and, if yes, why?
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      Aug 8 2013: Thank you for the suggestion, Edward. I already know that many PCACs oppose. It is the world I live in every day. Over and over I hear church members who are political conservatives complain about social welfare programs and they question why my organization is helping certain poor people. I am trying to connect the church to the teaching so they can help the poor. Thank you again, however, for your suggestion.
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        Aug 8 2013: May I continue? Are you saying most,or all , PCAC's are guilty of disobeying the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding helping the poor? I am asking an important question because you appear to be declaring how things are in the world of Jesus Christ's followers. Such a declaration, to have credence, must be substantiated by more than your own personal observations and assumptions.
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          Aug 8 2013: "Many" is the word I used in my question.
  • Aug 8 2013: Do we know that their opposition is related to their faith and not just a politically conservative desire for a balanced budget?

    As Pat mentioned, I think the concern of building dependency in those that could be working to provide for themselves somehow while the American Christians are sacrificing with donations they earned gnaws at them, even though the majority may be going to those that cannot help themselves. I also think Bart's point about distrust in bureaucratic administration of funds is a concern. It could also be that they want to be in control of who gets the welfare and what is required to get it, like adoption of a particular set of beliefs.
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      Aug 8 2013: Thank you for an insightful, concise response, Robert.
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      Aug 8 2013: Good question and thoughts, Robert. I am trying to help church members in my tradition understand that their responsibility to help the poor overrides any concern they have regarding politics, budgets, or any other contextualized issue, even the concern for dependency. With 20-25 thousand children dying each day from poverty-related causes, we should not, first, be concerned with dependency. We should, first, be saving lives and then work on developing independence. Sorry for my boldness, but this is my passion. Do you have any suggestions on how to connect people to the teaching of their tradition on caring for the poor. Thank you again.
      • Aug 8 2013: Yes, connect them with personal interface.

        Writing a check is easy, but detaches you from the problem. The amount given is based on the amount you are willing to accept as some sort of 'guilt relief'. Volunteering and seeing the problems first hand is a way that personalizes the experience. However, if you do this, realize that your congregation will be trusting you to ensure their personal security, as immersion in places where desperation is present, and being perceived as a rich spectator, might make you a target.

        One bad experience might grossly reduce your volunteers.
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          Aug 8 2013: Thank you again, Robert. I address your thought of "first hand" experience in one of my books. Knowing a person who is poor makes all the difference in one's response. Thanks again.
  • Aug 7 2013: Many Christian churches actually are helping the poor with contribution from church members. There were social welfare programs before 2008, but we didn't hear any objections to them by the Conservative Christians at that time. It's the current bureacratic mismanagement which they objected to.
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    Aug 7 2013: one time I was staying at a campground , they had signs posted at every campsite, "DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS WE DO NOT WANT THEM TO BECOME DEPENDANT ON HAND OUTS".

    I think this is the same philosophy behind the religious groups.