Congressman Fincher’s response is naive at best. While it is all our individual responsibility to be our ‘brother’s keeper’, this does not excuse our collective responsibility as a government. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and people of good will are feeding the poor, housing the homeless, taking in the orphan and caring for the widow and healing the sick. Can we do more? Absolutely? Should we be more reflective? Yes.
What I mean by this is that empowerment always trumps what my friend in Atlanta, Bob Lupton, calls ‘toxic charity.’ Toxic charity can undermine personal responsibility. And the faith community is certainly more adept at empowering people than is the government. Empowerment is about relationships and relationships are just more difficult than bringing canned goods to a food pantry. But relationships are the most effective way to really make a difference in the lives of those who are on the margins.
At the same time, Fincher has little knowledge, it would seem, of the systemic issues in our country that lead to poverty: generations of racism, discrimination, segregation, redlining, defunding of public education, and the list goes on ….much of that at the hands of ill advised government programs that can do more harm than good. This doesn’t excuse the government from its responsibility for the public good. In fact, government would do well to listen to those practitioners in the trenches that empower rather than handicap the poor.
There’s been much progress but there’s much to do. The faith community, people of good will and the government can work together, must work together, to empower the poor rather than ‘dis-empower’ therm. In the meantime, the food stamp program does not need to be dismantled. …tweaked, yes. But in a land where food is abundant, it is a disgrace that we have children going hungry. No Mr. Fincher, you are dead wrong.