Why Evangelicals Don’t Help the Poor

Reasons Evangelicals give for not helping the poor:

1. Poor people are lazy

The apostle Paul said, “If they won’t work, neither let them eat.”

However, there aren’t enough jobs in the United States for all the workers. The unemployment rates are much higher than the published rates, some rates estimate that our unemployment rate is as high as 17%. The published rates are just the recently unemployed who have registered with the Department of Labor for unemployment benefits. After a year of not finding work, that unemployed worker is no longer counted among the unemployment statistics.

I’ve been unemployed before, after I quit preaching. Because I resigned from a job considered self-employment by the IRS (minister of a congregation) I was not able to receive any unemployment benefits, nor was I counted as unemployed. At the time I was unemployed in the southern suburbs of Detroit, there was 17% unemployment during a brutal recession in the 1980s. I couldn’t find a gas station job, a fast food job, a grocery store job, nothing. I found a temp job for a month, just enough to lift our wages high enough to make us ineligible for food stamps. The elder of the new church I attended wanted me to apply for a factory job spray painting. When I told him that I am allergic to petro-chemical fumes he decided I was lazy and not worthy of help from the congregation.

I sank into a deep depression, filled with anxiety. I had a 6 month old baby and a 2 year old son. I tried to finish the old house we had bought and were renovating. We put it up for sale.

Even in good economic times the ideal unemployment rate for businesses is 4%. That way businesses only have to employ the best 96%, and the bottom 4% sit at home. It also keeps the 96% from demanding too much money. One percent are homeless. 4.8% of house mortgages are in default. The fear keeps people working hard at jobs they don’t enjoy, for lower wages, and paying their mortgages. Workers near the bottom of the economic ladder put up with illegal pressure from their bosses because they don’t want to be unemployed. They apply for other jobs, but stay in their old ones until they can find something better. This is how a “healthy economy” operates.

u6-unemployment-rate-2017-04-02-macrotrendsOur education system is based on competition. Those at the bottom of the competition are subtly and not so subtly told that they will not make it in our economy. They learn early on that they are not wanted by our society, and become discouraged, prime candidates for all of the pitfalls evangelicals use to not support the poor.

Poor people are disproportionately made up of non-whites. Bigoted people, who don’t want to admit to themselves they are bigoted, can say: “Poor people are lazy,” and express all their bigotry, with the cover of a Bible verse to protect them. 

2. Poor people are addicts

The best research indicates that 100% of addicts have had severe trauma in early childhood. Evangelicals don’t like to help people with early childhood trauma, because it takes years of support and counseling. People with early childhood trauma have trust issues, tend to bring out the worst in those trying to work with them, and don’t recover quickly. These people challenge our faith in the redemption power of Christianity. We would rather these resource intensive people stopped coming to our church, and we only had to see people who are successfully recovering in our church, so we can feel good.

In India there is a theory that you choose your parents based on your past life or your need to learn lessons in life. This is the basis of the caste system. The Brahmins are at the top. They are not permitted to marry anyone from a lower caste. At the bottom of the caste system are the Untouchables and the Unseeables.

These people are horribly mistreated, and it is justified by the fact that they were born into their caste, they chose their caste themselves before birth. Therefore I can be as mean as I want to them, and not help them, because they are learning the lessons they need to learn, that they chose to learn. My religion justifies my bigotry.

It is an evil concept.

3. Healthcare is not a constitutional right

This was drilled into our heads from WW2 on: The communists are evil! The communists are atheists. The communists provide free housing, education and healthcare. Everybody is assigned a job. You have no freedom, all services are hopelessly inefficient, and everyone is dirt poor. Socialism is just communism in disguise.

Europe, Australia and Canada went another direction: mild socialism mixed with capitalism. In fact England, the powerhouse of the world economy, has socialized medicine. As does Hong Kong, and every major nation in the world, except the United States. Cuba’s lifespan is longer than that of the United States.

The richest people in the USA now live 15 years longer than the poorest people. 

Nothing can stand in the way of big pharmaceutical companies and big hospitals in the United States. Yes, the United States generates most of the advancements in medicine, but only the rich can afford to take advantage of these advancements. About one third of people in the United States have employers who supply medical insurance.

Someone called the police on my son when he was 15 years old because he was acting strangely after a concert. The police called an ambulance. We didn’t have medical insurance, so it cost us $1200, without our permission. Today it would be closer to $3,000 for an ambulance ride and 4 hours in the Emergency Room. We earned too much to qualify for Medicaid, and not enough to pay for our own health insurance. Medical insurance now costs $1040 per month for a family of 4 in the New England states, for 72% coverage. That cost is equal to $6.15 per hour for one full time worker.

4. Helping the poor should be done individually

Churches love to help one family, then brag about it endlessly., then ignore all the other poor people.

An unemployed relative in a congregation during the last recession was told to get a pizza delivery job, or a gas station job. He applied for those jobs and was told in a roundabout way that he was too old, and maybe too overweight. He lost his house and his retirement savings. He will never believe the church again. Nothing they say is real to him. Normally employed people who go through losing their house generally drop out of church after not receiving much help. So evangelicals can go to church with a clear conscience: nobody at church is in need. (Just like in the previous generation, anyone who went through a divorce, dropped out of church, and everyone could say, “Nobody at my church is divorced!”)

Man Looking At Job AdsMost unemployed people can stay positive for about 6 weeks. After that they give up. Giving up takes several forms, all of which become excuses the evangelical church uses to not help them.

Yes, helping the poor is frustrating. That is why most of the world has delegated this responsibility to the government, however inefficient the government is.

Evangelicals go every Sunday to church and hear how Christians are not to be selfish, then go home and vote as selfishly as they possibly can vote: no help for the poor, no help for the sick. Politics is all about one’s faith, or lack thereof.

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
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7 Responses to Why Evangelicals Don’t Help the Poor

  1. Jim Cowger says:

    Most poor people are lazy. People who come up and ask me for money I consider poor. I mention to each one of them, “Why don’t you collect bottles and cans?'”. But, no they don’t want to do that .. they want my free money. I think being lazy has a spiritual worthiness to it, too. Lazy people’s heart may not be what God is looking for. The Bible says we have to have a job, so we can support ourselves. I am poor, but I have a job. I am homeless, but I have a job. Labor Ready is my job, and I get income from it daily. Labor Ready is Construction Clean Up (manual labor). “But, it’s a job.” It comes down to, “What are you willing to do ?” I just make it work somehow. If I didn’t have a job … I would get one. It is very hard to recondition a lazy person’s heart back into that lazy person seeking work. Lazy people can be too much of a drain emotionally and spiritually.

    • Mark says:

      Yes, most panhandlers are professional beggars. But most poor people don’t come up and ask for money. They quietly sit home and get kicked out of their home for not being able to pay the rent or mortgage.

  2. Gary says:

    The biggest change in my life occurred when I questioned the piece meal sermons I heard and actually read the bible cover to cover. Anyone that does this will never be the same. The epiphany: 1) The old testament is at such odds with the new testament I found them not to be as related as I had been led to believe. The words of Jesus and the words of Paul are so different it’s like Pau, for the most part, missed the point Jesus message. Jesus was about changing the person from within – give and forgive. Paul was about building a church.

    One thing is for sure. If the words of Jesus were taken seriously, there would be no millionaire preachers or Christians. EVERYTHING would be given to those in need, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. There was no middle ground with Jesus – you were either all the way in or all the way out. The earth is temporary and nothing material is to be withheld. I personally never had the courage to let go of everything and follow Jesus, but I don’t kid myself.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Gary,
      Yes, when I quit saying “The Bible says” and changed it to: “Paul said” or “Jesus said” or “Amos said”, then my perspective changed quite a bit!

      • garycummings says:

        The Bible is an artificial construct coming from TA BIBLIA or “the books”. The alw, Prophets and Writings constitute the Hebrew Bible, and the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation. constitute the writings of the New Covenant or New Testament. All of these writings are by various individuals who were led by God. I value the words of Jesus above all.

      • Gary says:

        Hey Gary, thanks for the reply. Glad to hear you’re still pressing on at 70. I’m 62 myself and it sounds as though we’ve had a good run so far and still have the desire to keep plugging.

        I spent 20 years in the coC. I understand their positions perfectly. I taught coC doctrine and baptized people into Christ. My disconnect with them began when I studied the history of the bible and how it materialized over time. Quit a deep and complicated story there that very few people understand. “How the Bible came to be” is a story the coC and most other churches choose not to make known, and for good reason. The coC mantra is “speak where the bible speaks and silent where the bible is silent.” To back up their views, they need to believe the bible is the verbatim word of God. Old testament, gospels, Paul’s letters etc. 100% infallible – They say if we can’t agree that the bible is 100% infallible, then we really don’t know how much of it to believe. Knowing the NT was largely agreed to by a committee (some books were kept, some were thrown out and all were changed to some degree, it’s no wonder there are so many contradictions. To say the NT is perfect and that we really understand the context of the messages is not a leap of logic, it’s a shot in the dark.

        JESUS ALWAYS GAVE AND HE ALWAYS FORGAVE. I believe that is all any of us need to know. If we can accept that, the rest falls into place.
        Vivere Christos Est Et Mori Lucrum. (To live is Christ and to die is gain) gary

  3. garycummings says:

    I do not agree that most poor people are lazy. I have worked with the working poor for years. They are called CNA’s: Certified Nursing Assistants. They work hard taking care of a lot of people, mostly changing adult diapers and wEven now iping butts. They do some other care as well, like bathing, dressing and feeding. Many of them work two jobs, often 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. I have been a professional nurse since 1987. The CNAs I worked with worked hard, and they were poor. Many went to school on their off time and became LPN’s. A few of those made it to RN status, and could have a decent living wage. When I quit preaching in 1971, I did alternative service at minimum wage for the first year. My second year, I got paid nothing, and had to work part time to earn money. I lived at home after my dad died with my mother. I worked as a day laborer, cook, truck driver, etc. That was tough work. I then went in the Navy as a medic and had guaranteed health care, food , housing and a job. After that I got my first nursing license (LPN) and then became an RN. After that I did work hard at my vocation, and I got well paid for it. Even now bieng retired at the age of 70, I still work a couple of days a week doing specialioty IV infusions and get well paid. I see young men and women standing on street corners holding signs saying “I am hungry”. I feel for these people, and wondered if this was their job to be beggars? I am 70 and still working, and think can these young people at least get jobs as CNAs and work their way up? Are they addicts or psych patients? How did they fall through our safety net? Then I go to the office where I supervise about 24 CNAs, LPNs and RNs. Many of them work at nursing homes, 16 hours a day. They have to, as many are single moms or their husbands do not work. Some of their husbands are disabled, or have minimal skill jobs.

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