Poverty, American Christianity, and The Church, An Interview with Ryan Abernathy

Seniors receiving assistance from the U.S. Government compare to animals in the wild. Stop feeding the animals, as the analogy goes, and you won’t have dependent human beings. Thank you, Oklahoma State GOP.

Oklahoma State GOP Trumps Poverty

Late yesterday my friend, and recent podcast interview, Ryan Abernathy tagged me in a FB thread. He, formerly a  registered Republican now an Independent, could not believe the Oklahoma State GOP posted the following,

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 8.34.18 AM copy

Would this not be a great illustration where the State GOP (Donald) Trumps poverty? It works like this. Continue to promote a myth because it plays to the manipulation of the Electorate. Based on an incredibly small percentage of abuse cases across a system one makes a sweeping generalization, a logical fallacy for those who care, and in the process misses one group most overlooked when the conversation turns to poverty.

Yes, Grandparents Receive Assistance

In  a recent two part series, Facts About Poverty in America, Ryan Abernathy notes,

Today, I want to focus on seniors. In part 2, we will look more closely at the working poor and the children affected by their plight. I start with seniors because they are the most likely to be overlooked when politicians and pundits denounce the recipients of government assistance (commonly called SNAP, but also including, TANF, WIC, and CSFB – the government will acronym you to death.)

Reading the piece further reveals the government assists about 4 million seniors a month. Abernathy notes, “These are our sons and daughters and our grandparents and great-grandparents. If they are nor ours, they are someones.”

Continuing to mislead to inflame the passions of individualism and foment animosity toward a group of people in need, is worse than deception.

People Not On Poverty Cheat the Government More Than Those On Welfare

We do not call it that, but it is. According to statistics, the rate of abuse among those receiving SNAP, the old Food Stamps, is 1.3%. Read that one more time. Abernathy provides a better illustration. That is $.01, or one penny, per dollar.

White collar abuse refers to their method as loopholes and tax advantages. Others refer to it as off-shore accounts. Corporatists avoid taxes like Superman and kryptonite. The fear is that one less million out of hundreds would render one helpless.

Some corporations and businesses that receive credit for charitable donations by providing food by weight do not have to account for the food’s condition when it reaches the receiving entity. That means, I can donate food knowing it will be bad before it arrives but I get to take a tax credit for my contribution. The giver gets the benefit. The agency fills its dumpsters.

Churches and Their Communities

If you took time to read Abernathy’s post, you would be discomfited by the Scriptural references to the poor. It is hard to escape that the Scripture point out that God is on the side of the poor and needy. If you read past those references, and subscribe to the Bible as your authority, go back and read them again.

Recently an Op-Ed piece made Time magazine. The author called for an end to the tax exempt status for churches. His premise was that churches no longer provide value to their communities and so the handshake with the government to do so in lieu of being taxed should now be withdrawn. I think he overstates his case and takes liberties with only a few anecdotal illustrations to issue his call, like those who think SNAP is awash in abuse.

Too many who hide behind their computer screens and do not get out into communities where churches who struggle, due to decreased giving and declining attendance, get calls weekly, if not daily, for help from someone who cannot afford to keep their air conditioning running in the summer or their heat going in the winter. They find it hard to stretch their minimum wage pay to meet the demands of their small families and so they call looking for food. Those who face on long illness that saps any reserves and gets them behind on their rent. And, what do churches do. Many give. And give.

Are There Other Myths We Believe

Myths are hard to undermine. When was the last time you walked under a ladder.

There are others related to poverty in America.

In this week’s podcast I interview Ryan Abernathy. Ryan works at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. He is also a pastor at West Metro Community Church. We talk about his two part article hosted at Marty Duren’s blog, Kingdom in the Midst.

Take some time to get the facts about poverty in American and some suggestions for Christians and Churches on related matters such as the current conversations around the Minimum Wage and Sunday School.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe to email alerts at the top of the sidebar.

Featured Image Credit: Poverty In America


About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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