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Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

My political thought of the day:

Earlier this week, a lot of my fellow progressives were passing around this meme:


Christian values require us to help the poor, specifically to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. At its best, the religion recognizes that poor people are often poor not because they’re bad but because they’re vulnerable. And many Christians fail horribly in our obligation to do this.

But this meme goes a step further: it says if you object to GOVERNMENT attempts to fight poverty, you are failing at Christian ethics. Many conservatives believe the government is too big and clumsy to fight poverty effectively. This is consistent with Christian ethics, at least in some forms. It’s also a misrepresentation of conservatism: some really don’t care about the poor or think poor people are poor because they’re lazy or stupid or bad. But not all of them. Many conservatives simply disagree on the best way to fight poverty.

Let me be absolutely clear about this: I don’t think private charity is enough. Charity lets rich people take away poor peoples’ choices in ways I find unacceptable. It’s also completely incapable of addressing the root causes of poverty like lack of education and opportunity, the collapse of the living wage, mass incarceration of minority men, etc. The government has a big role to play here, and we’d definitely be the worse off if we eliminated government programs and hoped charities would pick up the slack – even if they managed to do that. But this is different from saying everyone against welfare and food stamps doesn’t care about poor people. It’s nowhere near that simple.

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