SNAP–The Bible Has It!

One of the things that is particularly reprehensible about right wingers these days is their insistence on Bible-thumping assertions that we are not responsible for our fellow citizens.  The recent cut to food stamps and the asinine GOP talking points that we are running up the debt of the country by helping to provide for our poorest citizens is the worst kind of demagoguery. Not only is it patently untrue, it is completely wrong-headed.  Over and over we look at what Jesus Christ said about the hungry, and there is not one place mentioned in the Bible that He said something, anything to the effect of “What the hell, guys, these lazy assholes just don’t want to work.  Let them starve.”

Strong language, Apostate!

Yeah, well, The Apostate is a little irritated with the hijacking of the Bible to foment Christians into acting against their own spiritual best interests.  The Political Right Wing has every intention of leading the nation off a cliff into a strange new world of Corporate special interests, and the dystopian ideal of a purely capitalist society is not one I’m interested in living.

Today’s post, however, isn’t about governmental economic policies, but about Old Testament law and poor people.  Paul asserted in Romans 6:14 that we no longer live under the law, but under grace.  This has led to the cherry-picking of the Bible, in which any opinion given any verse anywhere in the Bible is spouted off by someone as fact, whether or not said verse is directly contraindicated somewhere else.

The verse that Right Wing conservative ‘Christians’ love in this case?  2 Thessalonians 3:10, in which Paul states:   Even when we were with you we were giving you this command: “If anyone doesn’t want to work, they shouldn’t eat.” (CEB)

I have no idea what was going on in ancient Thessalonika when this was written.  I do know that the early Church lived in a rather commune-like environment, and I can make some guesses about human behavior and how some people like to do less work than others.  This letter was written to a specific group of people at a specific point in time about that group of people’s specific behavior.  Other writers in the Bible, including James (the brother of Jesus), John and Peter advocate the support of the poor.  One can speculate that James, John and Peter knew Jesus the man significantly better than Paul did (Paul never met Jesus while he was alive), or one could simply say that at the Council of Nice the Priests putting together the Bible really liked Paul and his consistent misogynistic, poor hating attitudes and used them to keep people in their place.

So what does the Old Testament say about feeding the poor?  Well, basically, there’s a SNAP program for people that can’t afford food.  Wait, what?  Yes, the Torah provides an out for people that don’t have personal property to raise their own food (in that time, property and wealth were equal).  Property owners were not allowed to harvest all of their grain for sale.  They had to leave the corners and edges of the fields so that people too poor to own property could attain enough food to make it.  They were not allowed to harvest all of the grapes on the vine.  They were not allowed to harvest the olives off an olive tree more than once.  If anything fell off the cart and was left in the field, it remained there for the poor to come and pick up.  I’m sure that not everyone followed this group of laws the same way, and given human nature I’m sure there were generous landowners (as was spoken of Boaz in Ruth) and I’m sure there were significantly stingier ones.

Leviticus 19:9:   “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.”

Leviticus 23:22:  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 24:19:  “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

Leviticus 19:10: “And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 24:21:  “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.”

Deuteronomy 24:20: ” When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.”

(All English Standard Version for easy understanding)

So what we have here is essentially (hold the Megyn Kelly jokes) that Old Testament Law had a Supplemental Food Program for the poor.  I guess even the ancient Israelis understood that a really unhappy starving lower class ended up with a guillotine after being taunted by the queen.  “Let them eat cake.”  It worked out so well for Marie Antoinette, eh?

I see the attack on SNAP, WIC, and other programs by the ‘Christian Right’ who would have us believe that Paul’s words to one group of people at one specific point in time should be doctrinally obligatory policy of the United States and it makes me physically ill.  Actual disciples of Jesus Christ can look at the gospel, and see what is correct.  Jesus never turned away people in need of food.  Jesus understood that refusing people food and handing them a copy of the Torah wouldn’t work.  Jesus understood that hungry people aren’t nearly as concerned about their eternal souls as they are about where their next meal is coming from, and what they are going to have to do to get it.

These types of policies are ruinous for society as well.  What parents will watch their children starve?  These types of policies cause increases in crime rates, exploitation, sickness, and suicides.  What, precisely, is Christian about policies that increase crime rates?  What is Christian about making people sicker?  What is Christian about forcing women to exploit themselves sexually to feed their children?  There’s nothing Christian about supporting  a policy that will make people hungrier, more criminal, more desperate, and less educated.  There is nothing about any of this policy that is safe, sane, or humane.


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Cognitive Disconnect

I am concerned about the state of our Country.  It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot continue the way that we are being led.  The current economic policies of our country are increasingly making the boundaries between the haves and the have nots. Hate crimes are on the rise.  Police are shooting people at rapidly increasing rates raising legitimate concerns of whether or not they can be trusted.  Some of our lawmakers are continually attempting to punish our most vulnerable population by making their existence even more miserable than before.  

How long before our poorest children are eating out of dumpsters?  Oh, right, they already are.  Even restaurants have been caught ‘rescuing’ food out of dumpsters.  

The rightist movement would have us believe that it is not the government’s job to help the sick, the elderly, the poor, the imprisoned.  After all, their chosen prosperity gospel tells them if they were blessed by God they’d have money.  If they wanted to work they’d have money.  If they wanted to get up off their lazy behinds and move they’d have a job.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.  Ezekiel 16:49 tells us clearly that it IS a government’s job to do these things.  Once the government grows to the point where it takes this over from private charity–even if private charity still exists–it is the government’s job.

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Notice that the scripture says ‘your sister Sodom’.  They might well have said “your sister the United States” if this was modern.  Perhaps the people of Sweden are getting a parable here after we get bombed the crap out of for interfer-  I mean after fire and brimstone rain down from heaven upon us. Perhaps in a strange new world when people worship history, they’ll be studying what happened in the second great civil war when the poor had enough and a revolution that wiped the US from the face of the earth and turned them into a series of desperately poor agrarian nation states with very few survivors.  Given the mood of the country, and the availability of guns is it really that far of a stretch?

Given that our dear leaders on the right wing (yes, that was intentional) love to tell us how much of a Christian nation we are, I’d like to leave this post with Matthew 25:31-46 as a guide to what we should be doing with public policy.  Yes, I am a proponent of mixed economic government, leaning toward the left, maybe even toppling over.  What Jesus describes here as left and right, however, comes into direct conflict with what the left and right are doing as political entities in the US.  There is so much cognitive disconnect here that I’m surprised a wormhole hasn’t opened over Atlanta.


31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”

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Prosperity Gospel: How it Hurts.

Prosperity Gospel.  Everyone loves the idea.  It’s perfect!  How can you not love the idea that if you’re truly in the center of God’s Will for Your Life that He’ll be rewarding you financially, materially, with exactly everything you might want?  It sounds awesome!  Unfortunately, it’s not only untrue, it’s also very damaging.


Damaging?  Yes, you heard me correctly.  The majority of the followers of Jesus Christ worldwide are the poor and downtrodden.  People for whom even a hundred extra dollars a month would be a huge boon.  Heck, for some of them, twenty extra American dollars would be a huge boon, it would catapult them into the realm of wealth that they can only dream of right now.  It could buy a couple of goats, or a milk-producing, calf-producing cow that would make sure their kids grew up significantly better nourished.  


The idea of being materially rewarded for faith is sickening to me.  My father is a minister.  For most of my life, he’s worked two to three jobs just to make ends meet.  Do I think my dad is somehow less worthy than Joel Osteen?  Absolutely not, nothing could be further from the truth.  Do I think my father less righteous than Sandy Kowalski?  Pat Robertson?  Jim Bakker?  The very thought sickens me.


Everything that is wrong with the Republican Party right now can be traced directly back to Prosperity Gospel.  If those people were within the will of God, they’d have good jobs, they’d be making good money, they wouldn’t need government assistance.  Completely ignored are the facts that manufacturing, for the most part, has been moved out of this country due to corporate greed.  Manufacturing is the staple occupation for the middle class.  One could, in fact, argue that manufacturing makes the middle class.  The loss of it has certainly destroyed previously prosperous cities like Detroit.  


Why attack the poor anyway?  Do people really believe that the poor enjoy their lot in life?  Enjoy being looked down on when they use EBT?  Do they think that they enjoy the government lines and the way that they’re talked down to and looked down upon?  Do you really think that a large percentage of people do that stuff willingly?  Because studies show that you’re absolutely wrong if you do believe this.


Liberal policies regarding SNAP, TANF, WIC, and housing are not something to skimp on.  There are houses standing empty, why can’t people live in them?  The jealousy of the have-nots is disgusting.  “I worked for what I have, why should they get it for free?”  The rich would rather see empty homes razed to the ground than let a needy families live in them.  There’s something terribly wrong with that attitude.  They’d rather see vegetables rot than have them eaten.  There’s something wrong with that.  They’d rather see milk and meat spoil than let the poor provide good nutrition to their families.   It’s sickening.


Pure capitalism is more evil than pure socialism ever thought of being.  Socialism might diminish the desire to perform excellently, and I’m not sure it does, but pure capitalism destroys everything it touches.  The United States has in the past had a mixed system, and We The People need to demand a return to that.  There should be a safety net when people lose their jobs.  There should be a safety net when people lose their homes.  There should be systems in place for the poor to be able to access appropriate nutrition, health care, and housing.  The systems we have are woefully inadequate.


We love to call ourselves a Christian Nation, but our actions are anything but Christlike.  Would Jesus approve of cutting food benefits?  Would Jesus argue that we should burn houses to the ground rather than let the poor live in them?  Would Jesus be okay with just letting the sick die rather than providing competent healthcare from the country that frequently touts ‘the best healthcare in the world’?  I can’t believe that Jesus Christ would agree with any of this, and if He did, would I really want to be a Christian?

That, my friends, is why I’m an Apostate.  I can’t toe the Churchy line anymore.  I can’t agree with the Church that ripping food, housing, and healthcare from the poor is the right thing to do.  Seriously, I hope that you can’t either.

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