Saturday, December 20, 2014

Does government aid increase bigotry?

Many people believe that because we claim to live in a Christian nation, then the government should be responsible for tending to the poor.  Is this really what Jesus meant when he said we need to "care for the least of these?"

Lets start by defining the least of these. Who could we classify at the least among us? For many the poor would be considered, and indeed Jesus did speak about the poor much (see Luke 11:41; Mark 14:7; Luke 6:20) but were there others that could be considered "least" among us? (Matthew 11:11; 1 Cor 15:9; Luke 9:48) It would seem to mean anyone who does not have a leadership role, for many that would include more than just the poor, the in-firmed, the down-trodden. Our American definition includes anyone who cannot take care of themselves, the disabled, the mentally handicapped, fatherless, widows, elderly and unemployed.

But is sending these people to a government agency really "caring" for them?  Or did Jesus mean something else when He commanded us to "care" for them?  Caring, by definition includes, "to watch over; be responsible for" This means that we are to be personally involved in caring for them. We have instead set up a system of cold, sterile, and unfeeling agencies that the "least" among us must traverse; usually without assistance by the people who make a big deal about caring for them. But does sending them to the government release us from our personal responsibility to care for them?

For many people, raising taxes to set up government agencies to assist the poor is the only responsibility they feel to them. "I pay taxes that go to the poor, so I don't have to do anything else," has become an unfortunate reality in our world.  We feel good about ourselves because the fatherless are not hungry, the disabled get health care, the elderly are not left alone, and the unemployed are not starving. But is this really caring for them? Or is this simply removing them from our hearts? Do we feel personally responsible, or do we just want to get rid of them?

Are we telling them, "Here is your money, now get out of my sight." Instead of feeding them from our own table, we send them to the nearest food pantry or shelter. Instead of offering to see to the upbringing of the fatherless children we send them to daycare and let the gangs raise them. Instead of bringing them into our homes, we send them to the overcrowded shelters. Instead of giving them a job, we give them some money and send them out to find something themselves. Removing the personal responsibility of caring for the "least of these" and instead pushing them away into a cold unfeeling government maze only increases our own bigotry.

We feel that because we pay our taxes we have done our good deed for them. But instead the process that has been put in place actually makes them feel unattached from society, entitled to what they did not earn, and ungrateful. And who can blame them for being ungrateful when those who claim to "care" about them are so unempathetic towards them? The unfortunate side effect of our so called "Christian" government aid system is less compassion and actually more bigotry.