Friday, September 30, 2005

Matt's recent AgapePress column

Caring for Jesus, caring for the poor...


At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Friedeman,

I was facinated by your article entitled, "Caring for
Jesus, Caring for the Poor". I live and work in Africa
with a Christian relief and development organization.
I think you are right on and particularly liked your
statement about the need to establish personal
relationships with the poor, find out what they need,
hold them accountable and help them take
responsability and apply spiritual answers to the
heart of the matter. I have found the their is both
"poverty" and "poverty mentality". Poverty can
generate a poverty mentality but there are poor
without poverty mentality. The combination of both is devastating.

Thanks for your article.

Timothy Albright
CAMA Services
Regional Consultant for Africa

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Meg said...

I read the full article, and I'm afraid you failed to mention several crucial facts:

1) It was a Democratic president who "ended welfare as we know it."

2) It was a Democratic president who initiated charitable choice and a Republican president who failed to fund the faith-based initiative to the degree promised.

3) Many people are living lives of sexual fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness, working full time, and still in poverty.

4) Reviving "welfare as we know it" is not in the Democratic platform. Finding solutions to the health care crisis is, and good thing because many people work for employers that don't provide health insurance.

I wish both parties were doing more to address poverty, but to say that present Democratic proposals are to restore the welfare state is dishonest.

I wonder why I don't hear many Christian Republicans challenging their party's rejection of cost-of-living adjustments to the minimum wage and proposals to make health care affordable to people who don't have the excess income for private accounts, and so on.

As a Christian Democrat, I most certainly contend for the lives of unborn children. Where are the Christian Republicans who are contending for the lives of postborn children with asthma who are hurt by pollution and are dying for want of medical coverage?

Put another way, how many of this president's policies are distinctly pro-postborn-life, and what are evangelicals saying about it?

Christian Republicans who really want to understand how pro-postborn-life the present administration is should follow the posthurricane money trail.


At 2:58 PM, Blogger Marsha said...

Why is poverty seen as a disease? Jesus himself would have been judged as impoverished.Maybe the American standard of living is too high. My comment on government is this-It shouldn't be on the shoulders of the government to shoulder the poor because they cannot hold anyone accountable because the government lacks morals.Only the church can ascertain whether help is truly needed with some level of honesty and integrity.

At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Meg said...

Marsha, here's where the discussion of poverty doesn't get anywhere.

If addressing poverty is all about extending charity--and thus determining who will use the charity for good and who will use it for ill, then assessment of the recipient's worthiness is indeed central to the conversation.

But again, most poor people are working. If someone is working full-time and living frugally and is still poor, the problem is not simply that we need more charity and that we need churches to determine whether this full-time-working person is worthy to wait for hours at a church food pantry. The problem is that the person is not receiving a subsistence-level wage.

Why, then, is the question always about the poor person's worthiness to receive aid? The question instead should be whether employers ought to pay their employees a living wage.

So then we must go back to scripture and rethink accountability. Are employers accountable to their employees? How so, and to what degree?

Our knowledge of human depravity should tell us not only that some poor people misuse the resources made available to them, but also that some people of means will fail to pay their workers adequately so they can keep more for themselves.

Before even discussing government vs. church response, Christians should be going to scripture to learn what it says about employers who deny workers their due. And if this study does not shift our discussion of poverty away from a single-minded focus on the worthiness of poor people to receive charity, then we need to ask whether we are allowing Mammon to be our god.


At 7:02 AM, Blogger Marsha said...

Perhaps you missed the whole point of what I wrote. Our standard of living is too high. We depend on material things tooooo much. Oh, and yes it is quit biblical to judge who truly deserves financial help. Many people will take advantage of a good thing. Hence, our welfare system as it is now. No, your arguments are part of the problem we have now.You can't take a firm position. That is one thing I love about God's Word. It says it and there it is. No apologies. I also think the government should not take money away from people to give to others. If people want to help it should be their decision.It is by the sweat of their brow their money is made so it should directly be their decision. Another point I would like to make, I think suffering has its blessings. It is through the hunger, the misery, the lonely times, the bruises and the tears I grew the most as a Christian. I learned how to trust God and not man.Man's love is shallow. God teaches.Responsibility for ourselves and each other should be given back to the people.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Meg said...

Marsha, I'm not sure what you mean by saying that my position isn't firm.

I'm saying we should go to scripture and learn what it says about poverty and its causes.

That's a pretty cut-and-dried recommendation, seems to me.

Here I have not made any recommendations about what should be done after that study is completed. But I did speculate that if we study scripture on this, it will move us away from reducing poverty-response decisions to a matter of worthiness-determination.

Let me give you a challenge. Get a Strong's concordance and open it to "poor." Set aside an afternoon and read--better yet, type out--every verse that contains that word, along with the surrounding context. Take in every scripture prayerfully, with an open heart and mind.

Then write back about your impressions.


At 8:49 AM, Blogger Marsha said...

You assume I haven't studied. I wouldn't come into an issue and voice an opinion if I had not already studied and continue to study the Scriptures.We both want to help the poor so let us labor together. I do wonder sometimes if the government has served to harden our hearts toward our fellow man. We assume the government will take care of them instead of us taking up our responsibility to help them. Some people on welfare will not help theirselves because it has become a sort of addiction for them so they give their responsibility for themselves over to others. Do you see what I am saying?I think there is so much more to the issue spiritually than just are people getting enough. So yes let us study Scripture because I have found the answer is always there. We just have to have faith that it is true.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Meg said...

Marsha, here's what I don't get, then.

Why does your discussion keep turning back to people on welfare?

Of course there are people who refuse to work and won't help themselves. But that is not the only cause of poverty.

What does scripture say about other causes?

Is there such a thing as economic injustice? What is it? What does the Bible tell us our orientation to it should be?


At 7:08 AM, Blogger Marsha said...

All of these subjects are related.

At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Meg said...

Yes, they are related.

So when it comes to how we respond to poverty, what does that mean?

If our response is just to try to fix poor people, then we're missing the point entirely.

There are plenty of poor people who are faithful in marriage or celibate in singleness, who are working harder than I've ever even imagined working, who live with extreme frugality, and who still struggle to meet basic bills.

If we know this is true, what does the Bible have to say about it, and how does the Bible inform our response?


At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Meg said...

Oh, regarding the American standard of living--it is indeed too high. But what I'm talking about is not whether people can enjoy a new car and a big home. I'm talking about whether people who work full-time and live faithfully and frugally can preserve their very lives, with a heated home in winter, enough healthy food to ward off preventable illness, reasonable enough work hours to attend to children's needs and get necessary sleep, and the wherewithall to see a doctor when necessary and to fill life-saving prescriptions. Basic stuff.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Marsha said...

I grew up poor in a very cold house,4th run hand-me-down clothes that were way too big for me because of how skinny I was due to malnutrition, no glasses to wear, abusive house, the works. Please believe me when I say the government cannot have the heart good Christian folk can have. I also live in an area hard hit by Katrina. The RedCross and churchfolk have done FAR more than FEMA or MEMA.To compare them would be and insult to the Church and the REdCross. I think you and I are on the same page we just say things in a different way.

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous meg said...

Marsha, I think part of the problem is that people treat government vs. church response to poverty as an either/or proposition.

When my friend went through a period of serious illness, underemployment, and homelessness, the government subsidized her day care fees, paid for her medical care, and provided her with food stamps. Church families were housing her, they divvied up the care of her children among themselves until she found the good day care arrangement, and so on.

When she was dangerously ill, Medicaid paid her hospital bills, and church people took in her children and cared for her after she was released from the hospital.

The government's involvement didn't keep the church from acting, and the church never would have been able to foot all her medical bills and so on.

This is especially an issue in churches in poor communities. There is a whole lot of mutual care that goes on within poor churches. There was a period of time when we were one of the only families we knew that didn't include children grafted into the family by way of adoption, foster care, or guardianship. But to collectively meet the medical bills of every member of the church who didn't work in an insurance-providing job--there simply wasn't the wherewithall.

If the church isn't doing its job because the government contributes, then it's the church's problem to solve. My disabled family members shouldn't have to pay the price of the church's insufficient action by having government benefits cut!


At 2:51 PM, Blogger Marsha said...

We could get into a discussion about the government mismanagement of Medicaid, the theivery of a person's paycheck, etc,etc but none of that is relevent if you take that responsibility away from the government. Without ANY government help maybe people's hearts would be stirred to do something for their fellow man. Maybe people would be motivated to do more for theirselves and for others. I know the our government would never relinquish this control because it is party/voter,backpocket money related. No for any real change to occur there would have to be a revolution. People's hearts are in their wallets.Does America deserve to suffer? Would it maybe benefit America? Would even our government seek God in humility? I will have to think about these questions.

At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Meg said...

Government mismanagement aside (public as well as private entities can have that problem), my friend's life was saved because she was able to get medical treatment as a Medicaid recipient.

Are you saying that maybe she should have died so the church would notice that they need to help?

What about people who are disabled? Should someone with congestive heart failure lose a government housing subsidy so the church will notice that shelter is necessary for survival?

If the church doesn't adequately notice need now, there's no guarantee that it will notice it then either. Who should have to give their lives or lose their homes for this experiment?

There is plenty of need to inspire the church's concern and action. We shouldn't create more to get its attention.


At 6:22 AM, Blogger Marsha said...

I am saying that government is not the answer to people's needs. Everyone will die. Government can't stop that. Your friend will one day die no matter what coverage she has. Can government ease our discomforts? For a short while but at who's cost? No it isn't right.This country is going broke over such programs. It just can't keep going. The cost of medical help is too high.Oh, and I agree. The church is placid and compromising. That is more of a depressing subject than the government.And you seem to miss my observation that in the mist of a person's misery maybe will seek God and eternal life instead of this temporary life which will end for each one of us. I think eternal life is much more important. We can and should take care of physical needs but spiritual is more important.Do you think maybe this country would turn back to God if we were suddenly made to suffer greatly as a country?

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Marsha said...

I don't mean to come off as hard and unfeeling.My mother has diabetes coupled with a myriad of health problems. She has Medicare and I am thankful for it.Lately, we have had cause to believe she may be going blind or she is suffering mini-strokes. She is very poor but all of her kids have done okay so she will be taken care of for the rest of her life. I am grateful for whatever help the government has provided.I also know how badly you are treated in hospitals if you don't have insurance.Pray for my mama and I'll pray for your friend.


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