“We Can’t Food-Bank Our Way to the End of Poverty” Says Liberal Clergy

on January 22, 2015

A group of liberal religious leaders who believe America’s government has a “biblical mandate” to curb poverty met on January 15 at the National Press Club. Circle of Protection, as the coalition of church leaders is called, gathered to urge 2016 Presidential candidates to make poverty a primary focal point of their political platforms. While at the press club, Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, stated, “It has to be unacceptable in the richest nation in the world for so many people to be poor. That’s all we’re saying.” But that isn’t quite all this collective Circle is saying.

On its surface-level, the collective mission is an admirable display of Christian concern for the well-being of our neighbors. However, the group’s advocacy to strengthen the nanny state and mandate wealth redistribution deviates from classical understandings of Christian social responsibility.

Guided largely by Jim Wallis’ Sojourners, Bread for the World, and Catholic Charities USA, the Circle also comprises liberal activists including Shane Claiborne, founder of the Simple Way, and Tony Compolo, author of Red Letter Christians. The group originated in the midst of the 2011 fiscal crisis in an effort to fight budget proposals to reduce our ever-expanding welfare programs and balance the federal budget. In 2013, more than 80 major religious leaders signed the group’s “A Pastoral Letter of Faith, Finances, and the Federal Budget,” which was sent to President Barack Obama and Congress to assert the immorality of budget cuts.

Also present at the press conference last week, Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World, suggested churches and charities were not sufficient to feed the hungry, and that is why government entitlements were necessary to national leadership. “We can’t food-bank our way to the end of hunger. Virtually every church, every synagogue, every mosque in the country is trying to help people in need.” He continued, “The people who are involved in that work know that churches and charities can’t do it all. The government has to do its part. Government has to provide leadership.”

Essentially Beckman asserted that if the government focuses on wealth redistribution, then the impoverished will be able to help themselves and their families. Beckman said, “The truth is, poverty in America hasn’t been a priority for the president or Congress for 40 years. And it shows!,” He continued, “So by January 2017, at least, we have got to have a president who says it’s time for us to get serious about hunger and poverty and we’ve got to have in place a Congress that’s ready to engage with the president to pass serious bipartisan legislation.”

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, added, “If we’re not moved by the plight of children in our country, then I think we’re not in a very good place.” Wallis added, “You want their families to be healthy and whole. You want their kids to be raised up in ways that are working for them.”

Conservative Christians  share Snyder and Wallis’ concern for the welfare of America’s families. However, we must also suggest that a major part of creating stability for children means defending and strengthening marriage. Children thrive best when raised by both a father and a mother, yet our friends on the Left continue to rally for the dismantling of the family unit. For conservative Christians, this is not compassion in action that will better children’s welfare.

In conclusion, Wallis stated, “You judge a nation by what’s happening at the bottom and not the top.” Wallis’ sentiments are surprising since “judge” is not typically a word the Evangelical Left likes to hear or use for that matter. But it seems Circle leaders believe advancing the nanny state is the moral choice. Yet, the Circle collection fails to acknowledge the immorality of indebtedness and national leaders’ accrual of debt on the backs of struggling middle class tax-payers.

As Circle of Protection raises the question, “What would Jesus cut?” IRD responds, “Whom would Jesus indebt?” As we have said, “The Good Samaritan did not use a government credit card.”

  1. Comment by Namyriah on January 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Most of “the poor” in America have TVs and microwaves.

    I do not believe that when the Bible refers to “the poor” that it had such people in mind. Jim Wallis and his fellow socialists define “the poor” as “people who have less than some other people.” That is not a biblical definition.

    But if it makes leftists feel good about themselves to stage these occasional blowhard-fests, let ’em do it.

  2. Comment by Mike Ward on January 22, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    I’m also not clear on what Wallis and his cohorts means by “poor”. Sometimes I think that they simply see class are more about power discrepancy that income discrepancy. A person living on welfare and charity who has a smart phone, HBO, and a PS4 still has little control over his life and virtually no power or influence. My problem is that income redistribution does not fix this. Sure they wind up with more stuff, but they just become even more helpless dependents on the state. Maybe that’s the idea though.

  3. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Strangely, those few who receive “benefits” from the Federal Government, ie, Food Stamps, etc. These same individuals can’t purchase toilet paper or even diapers with their Stamps. Now how stupid is that?

    I doubt that most recipients are in it for the free schwag. More than likely, they just want to eat! If they’re watching TV on a bigger screen than yours or mine, is that really going to be your complaint?

    For Christians, you guys sure seem uncharitable!

  4. Comment by ken on February 2, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Unless you have access to our bank accounts, and you don’t, you really don’t have a clue whether we are charitable or not. You’re telling us we aren’t Christians because we don’t support a high-tax welfare state. In the Bible and Christian tradition, behaving as a Christian involves giving of one’s own money and time to help the poor.

    The best judges of Christianity are Christians, not secular liberals. Telling us “If you were real Christians, you’d be like me” is foolish and childish. We are supposed to model ourselves after Christ, not bored agnostics trolling the web.

  5. Comment by MarcoPolo on February 2, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    I’ve never called you, or other (Christians) uncharitable. I was implying that as Christians, it seems imperative to be charitable, but there are some on this thread who seem to be otherwise.

    I’ve NEVER espouse that anyone should “be like me.” that’s your take on what I said, nothing close to the intention of my post.

    It always seemed to me, that if one were making more money than they ‘need’, then they would be compelled to donate it to Charity. That could mean the Church, Salvation Army, Community Foundation, etc..

  6. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 10:45 am

    If one is only going to define one’s conditions by how it’s described in the Bible, then what’s to come of those who don’t follow the Bible?

    Poor is a general term that doesn’t dictate whether you drive a Mercedes or an Ox-cart. So if a “poor” person has a cell phone, it doesn’t suggest that they are feigning poor.
    As President Obama suggested in his State of the Union address: If you think you can raise a family on $15,000. per year…Try it!

    Why continue to defend the Oligarchy? Compassion should trump tax breaks!

  7. Comment by Greg on January 22, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    How many of these religious leaders were at the pro-life rally today in DC?

  8. Comment by Phil Griffin on January 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    People are called to take care of widows and orphans, not pass the responsibility off to the federal government.

  9. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    How many people do you know who are capable of assisting all the widows and orphans in need today? Our Federal Government is there to protect us, and provide basic necessities (Clean Water, Fire protection, Emergency services, etc..).

    That’s why we agree to pay taxes!

  10. Comment by Phil Griffin on January 25, 2015 at 1:07 am

    The services you mention are local government services, not federal…

  11. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 25, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Thank you for distinguishing the difference.
    So a tax is for providing civic necessities, correct?
    Same reasoning that I don’t complain about my property taxes providing for public schools in spite of my not having any children of my own.
    “WE ARE the Federal Government!”

  12. Comment by yolo on January 23, 2015 at 5:52 am

    I posit that these people are speaking as Marxists rather than as Christians. That’s why he used the word “judge” since there is plenty of it in Marxism and on the left, too. The most judgmental people that I have ever met were neither Christian or orthodox, they were the “quality of life”ers who deride anybody who doesn’t eat exactly what they think that they should eat or shop exactly where they think that they should shop or consume period. There’s no salvation in that; there’s no salvation in Marxism.

  13. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Nobody…certainly on the Left will dictate what you should eat or drink, or where to shop! Free Market Capitalism is the force that insists on that kind of coercion, not Leftist Liberal Progressives!

    Trust me, I’m also a capitalist, as I work for money.

  14. Comment by yolo on January 25, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    The state dictates all of the time. The free market doesn’t concern itself with that. It’s free, meaning that it reflects the choices of most people. What most people do not choose will disappear, which is a good thing if you have faith in the decisions of people as opposed to some bureaucrat someplace or a tiny group of activists.

  15. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 26, 2015 at 9:19 am

    I’m not sure I understand your response, Yolo, but we agree that consumers are the final “deciders” on whether a market continues serving it’s offerings, or disappears.
    My point was that our Government does not dictate what you buy or what you eat.
    Yes, we expect our Government to ensure our foods are safe, but that is far from dictating what choices we make.

    The general paranoia that seems to pervade some sectors of our society, is based upon fear of loss.
    That fear dictates many people’s perspective on our relationship between private, and public entities.

    We are our ‘Brother’s” keeper, whether that help comes from fellow citizens, or the Public programs in place to make this a secure and safe society.

  16. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I’m never surprised, but almost always shocked, at the disparity of opinions regarding compassion among the religious right.

    Why, in a country as immensely wealthy as America, are there people who still go to bed hungry? It’s not entirely for lack of will or gumption. It’s not because the poor are a despised group, although sadly some think of them as such.

    This fear of the “Nanny State”, or Marxist tendencies of our Government that some claim as the downfall of our society, are missing the overall intent, and duty of a Government.

    Sure, the Church and other societal agencies hold the heavy end of this obligation, but why is there such disdain for raising necessary monies from the wealthy?
    If earthly treasures are not Godly attributes, then why is raising taxes on those who possess great wealth so vilified? Shouldn’t one be compelled to pay higher taxes if they earn more? That’s not robbery! It’s just the right thing to do!

    If the Government stopped bowing to Corporate greed, and plutocrats for political leverage, we might see a decrease in desperation of those whom we think of as ‘poor’.

    We mustn’t condemn those single parents struggling to raise a family just because they’re not married, so let’s concentrate on helping and leave judgement to the Almighty.

  17. Comment by mikeg on January 24, 2015 at 11:55 am

    If you want to give your money away to other people, do it. Forcing other people to give money away is called “theft.” Other people’s financial assets are not yours. A core difference between left and right is, the left approves of theft, the right believes it is immoral. “Generous” does not mean “generous with other people’s money.”

  18. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I think you missed my point, mikeg.
    I’m simply proposing that we go back to FDR’s policy of taxation during the New Deal.

    Collecting taxes is not theft, but the social requirement for supporting civic necessities for a healthier society.
    To those who have enormous wealth, the taxation would apply proportionately.

    As it is now, the tax code allows millions (perhaps) billions of dollars to be sequestered in off-shore accounts in order to avoid the duty of contributing to the Greater Good!

    Why do religious people defend greed? Isn’t that a sin?

    If I cleared a million dollars a year, (net income) I would probably live the same lifestyle I currently live, and donate half to charity. Thus benefiting those who depend upon the graces of our fair and Just country.
    After all, how much money is needed to live humbly?

    We are our brother’s keeper, ya know!

  19. Comment by DD on January 26, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Actually, we are not our brother’s keeper. Nowhere does the Bible or Christian tradition require us to support the idle and lazy. You call it “greed” for religious people to prefer to spend our money on our own families instead of being taxed out the wazoo to support welfare leeches. Your Christian-bashing isn’t too sophisticated if the best you can do is call people “greedy” for wanting to keep what we earn. Not wanting to be robbed is not “greed.” Also, you seem to have no clue what churches or individual Christians do out of the goodness of our hearts, do you? You assume – wrongly – that people who hate high taxes never engage in charitable works. You might want to try to actually meet Christians instead of parroting all the sophomoric propaganda – “Christians are greedy, but I’m caring because I support high taxation.”

    Btw, the phrase “am I my brother’s keeper” in its biblical context has nothing whatever to do with charity. Read the Bible sometimes, you can access it online if you don’t own one.

  20. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 27, 2015 at 8:47 am

    I think you’ll find that I’m not a name caller.
    I’m only referring to the greedy, as such. Not particularly Christians. Though some greedy people might also be Christian.

    The story of the Samaritan would better describe my point regarding charity, and that is certainly a Biblical story worth emulating.

    The entirety of my family are Christian. Some Ministerial, most just Laymen, so I DO understand and love your ilk.

    What I would hope for folks who think all Welfare recipients are leeches, would be to try and survive on the scarcity of money that many hard working families must live on.

    Taxes aren’t theft. They are the price of a civilized society that takes care of all people, of all religions and races within it’s purview.

    As always, I welcome your ecclesiastical instruction. If I ever misrepresent anyone, I would be disrespecting (the) Truth. And I adore (the) Truth, so I admit to my human foibles, and apologize for any offense, inferred.
    Note: You used quotation marks (in your next to last paragraph) to suggest a statement that I never made. Please be careful to avoid that, as it isn’t accurate.

    Continue in good health and keep the faith!
    Warm regards,


  21. Comment by yolo on January 24, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Some people are wearing Christianity on their sleeve while promoting Marxism and NOT Christianity. That’s the point. If the very affluent are contributing less today, there’s a reason (Godlessness?) why. Some people do not believe that (Godlessness?) needs to be addressed first. They believe that a nanny state CAN BE God. There’s no salvation in that.

  22. Comment by yolo on January 24, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    And it’s weird that they’re doing exactly what they accuse certain conservatives of doing, wearing it on the sleeve.

  23. Comment by MarcoPolo on January 24, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Are you suggesting that those who are doing there best to shelter their wealth instead of paying their fair share in taxes, are doing so because they are Godless?

    I might agree with that, and I know that will scare some.
    Greed IS a sin!

    I think it’s appalling that greed is tolerated among some of the more devout Christians. Why do Republicans (and many Democrats) defend the monied folks? Because they’re beholding to their re-election contributions instead of the Greater Good!

  24. Comment by Michael C on January 28, 2015 at 11:47 am

    “If you subsidize a behavior, you get more of it.” It’s that simple.

    If it’s a government policy to provide food to single moms and their kids, guess what? Single women will keep on having kids, men will continue to use women as semen receptacles, more kids will grow up with no dads, so more young males in prison, and on and on and on. Have babies, stick the taxpayers with the bill. The cost is huge, not just in dollars, but in fraying the social fabric.

    What is there about this that leftists don’t understand?

    And no, I’m not arguing for easy abortion. Absolutely no excuse for women not using birth control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.