Waging War On Poor People

I came across a recent Facebook post that has really stuck with me. It shows the face of a young girl. She’s being asked “are you Jewish? Muslim? Christian?” and she responds “I’m hungry.”

It made me wonder when, if ever, the culture warriors of every tribe will learn to look at other humans as humans–beings with needs and talents common to our shared humanity. It’s a question that becomes especially pertinent in times of war, but people’s penchant for inhumanity–for labeling strangers as “other”– isn’t limited to such times.

It also isn’t limited to our ethnic or religious differences. Far too many Americans also think of themselves as distinct from poor people–a different form of tribalism, and one that is particularly cruel, because it encourages comfortable folks to dismiss the needs of the impoverished–or worse, to blame them for their neediness.

We see it in our politics. Republican politicians recently went on record dismissing evidence that  government shutdowns disproportionately hurt poor women and children. In September of this year, when it last looked as if the GOP would engineer such a shutdown, the administration warned that millions of the country’s most vulnerable women and children would lose their nutrition benefits. The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program—which serves pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding mothers and their children under the age of 6—would run out of federal funding if the government shut down.

Those pious “pro life” Republicans dismissed the warning and instead used low-income mothers and their children as pawns in a  game of shutdown chicken.

Speaking of “piety”–The New Republic recently reported that a “new, antisocial strain of the prosperity gospel is making its way into pulpits and breeding new hostility toward the least fortunate Americans.”

Chief among the new doctrines is the idea that God rewards “seeding”—that is, the “sowing” of financial donations to churches, or favored online preachers—with a material harvest in return. The prosperity gospel might sound as old-fashioned—and feel as familiar—as a preacher in a three-piece suit, but a new and cynical version is making a comeback across ministries both old and new; among people who go to church and those who get their faith online.

A recent survey by Lifeway Research found that 52 percent of American churchgoing Protestants say their church teaches God will bless them if they give more money to their church and charities. That figure is up from 38 percent of churchgoers in 2017. 

We’ve seen some of this before, of course, but apparently, the prosperity gospel is also being “weaponized by some of the most right-wing elements in conservative religious circles as a form of retribution.”

In May, Jason Mattera, son of Joseph Mattera, one of the most influential modern prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation—which emerged from the Pentecostal-Charismatic tradition that is sweeping all of evangelical Christianity before it—wrote a piece outlining a new direction for prosperity theology. In the article, titled “A Biblical View of Work and Welfare,” Mattera junior opined that, while Christians should help to alleviate poverty, they are not “under any obligation to help indolent bums.” Such people, he added “are not entitled to our generosity.”

While the concept of prosperity gospel has always held some latent hostility to the poor—that your circumstances belie a lack of faith or at least that you’re not doing it right—Mattera’s view highlights an escalation of prosperity-gospel thinking that says the quiet part out loud.

In Mattera’s vision, which appears rooted as much in right-wing talking points as in theological ideas, “​​there are clear worldview implications for Christians to consider on the topic of work and welfare.” A hereditary influencer who made his name creating a “whites-only scholarship” while at college, he concedes that Christians should be at “the tip of the spear” when it comes to looking after the poor but largely for other Christians. The unfortunate, he writes, “have chosen the path of poverty.” 

This is no war on poverty–it’s a war on poor people.  

The belief that people are poor because they are morally defective isn’t new–it is integral to the bastardized Calvinism that permeated early America, and it was barely veiled in George W. Bush’s approach to welfare reform. Its appeal is obvious: if your hunger is due to your own inadequacy, you have no moral claim on those of us whose comfortable situations are evidence of our moral superiority.

And if that hungry young girl isn’t even a Christian…she certainly doesn’t deserve to be fed…


  1. The prosperity gospel folks seem to be mostly Protestants who have forgotten Martin Luther’s offense to Catholic ‘indulgence’ church contributions during Luther’s time to buy one’s way into Heaven.

  2. “…Christians should help to alleviate poverty, they are not “under any obligation to help indolent bums.” Such people, he added “are not entitled to our generosity.”
    Spoken like a true Christian of today.
    I saw a photograph of a bunch of GOP members praying on the floor of the House. Hypocrites and charlatans. Performative politics and performative religion.”
    “And the rubes will open their wallets and shall give unto them, and verily I say unto thee, Heaven will rain down wealth upon those who give everything they own to ME.” Thus sayeth the Prophet of Prosperity and Greed…

  3. History is replete with wars to resolve unrest when the “weak” possess something that the “strong” want.

    In the Middle East BCE, those who migrated there in the Great Human Migration out of Africa, where the species Home Sapiens evolved, established tribes based on cultures.

    The early history of the Middle East tells the tale of humanity’s insatiable curiosity about other places and times.

    Before Alexander the Great or the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire existed as one of the most powerful and complex empires of the ancient world. The Persian Empire emerged under the leadership of Cyrus II, who conquered the neighboring Median Empire ruled by his grandfather. From then on, Cyrus was called the “shah,” or king, of Persia. Eventually, he was known as Cyrus the Great.

    Islam is a religion adopted by Ahrabs. They drove the Ashkenazi followers of Moses out of the Fertile Cresent, the “Cradle of Civilization” https://history.howstuffworks.com/european-history/fertile-crescent.htm

    The Middle East has been coveted since World War II by both the West and the East for the energy in their soil in the form of oil. Countries with excessive wealth loved countries possessing excess fuel.

    The tribe known as Jews, both native and Ashkenazi, most recently from Europe, believes themselves entitled to a Jewish homeland in the Middle East.

    Before WWII, oil was found in the fertile part of the Middle East. There is no greater thirst for oil than the grand mobile militaries of the 20th century.

    It took WWII to “allow” the Allies to resolve some war issues by recognizing the inherent right of the Ashkenazi, then mainly in German prison camps, to have a homeland in the Middle East.

    I learned this from James Michener in his book “The Source,” published in 1964.

    The book explains Sheila’s lament today:

    “It made me wonder when, if ever, the culture warriors of every tribe will learn to look at other humans as humans–beings with needs and talents common to our shared humanity. It’s a question that becomes especially pertinent in times of war, but people’s penchant for inhumanity–for labeling strangers as “other”– isn’t limited to such times.”

  4. This essay today highlights yet another Republican-induced symptom of our decaying nation and society. The new Speaker’s last comment about the murders in Maine spoke volumes about what the GOP is at its core and in its ranks. “Pray for the families. We’ll leave it right there.”

    That little shit will do NOTHING to answer the 80+% of the people who want some sort of responsible gun control including the banning of assault rifles.

    Republicans are simply too stupid to understand their own hypocrisy, backwardness and self-serving idiocy.

    Meanwhile, over $35 TRILLION sits in foreign banks – tax free – thanks to Republican deregulation over the last several decades. Does anyone think that a trillion here or a trillion there could help solve our poverty/homeless problems? Certainly no Republican would entertain that concept while the gun lobbies pay them off.

    I’m glad I’m old.

  5. You would have to live and walk in those shoes of the less fortunate. sit at school,and see how meager a lunch bag was,or wasnt there. walk from school with a classmate and step into a dwelling that didnt have the paint and smells of mom cooking dinner. pavement hot or cold and gritty as people push and shove to get around you. stacked conviently housing that will never be
    upgraded which contains humanity that has been kicked to the curb by society for,its own needs first.
    slumlords that see greed in handouts from gov bills/laws to run a slum. you can not provide enough jobs in an area that is stacked with people. getting a job isnt just jump on a bus and make it on time. try it,move into a city,no car,no parking for one,insurance beyond your meager means.
    pay that high dollar rent,haul your few groceries in a bag home. make your living mere survival for
    following in a political system that has only rewarded those who exploit others over those who speak out. waking a society up over agross negligence of public policy wont get ya any votes, just more cheap rehtoric from those who control the buttons of public opinion,and the pulpit. the subject today should be opening those book$ of any religion, and see where that money goes. obviously, into pockets of those who vet the system for self ,and around them,gain. nothing like kicking someone to the curb for self gain,from the pulpit. might well give trump a vestment and send him to that tent in the valley..hes already there, and he took that seed and exploited it for his own needs first. The sickist photo op i ever seen was thise evagelicos touching trump as in some trance,
    making sure their pockets remain full with goverment support.

  6. Vern:
    if,that money was atleast in a economy instead of locked up and hoarded, main street would be bigger than wall street. ya get the picture? eat the rich..

  7. Long after Mattera is forgotten, Mother Teresa will be remembered. Only genuine commitment to the vulnerable speaks to eternal truth.

  8. So, the preachers say that their god-thing has ordained that people give their money to the preachers. How convenient. Our new speaker, Mike J. says “Pray,” and that’s all you need do, as it absolves anyone from taking any kind of action to fix a horridly broken culture, especially the congress of the supposedly wonderful god-fearing U.S.of A.!
    This Johnson is a very dangerous man, with a very dangerous perspective and recent history of being an enabler for President Traitor. If we do not watch out, he will soon have the government tithing to the church. GWB did that, in essence, with his “Faith Based” program.
    Johnson will, undoubtedly, be re-elected to congress in ’24, Louisianans probably swelling with pride about their new country-wide clout, but if the country, as a whole, does not repudiate the entire thing still going by its start-up lie as the Grand OLD Party, I will be right there with Vernon, glad I ‘m old.

  9. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

    That quote on the Stature of Liberty, originally welcoming immigrants to America, now applies to our own poverty ridden neighborhoods of Americans seeking that offer from our own government. The words from the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway hit “South Pacific”, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”, now applies to the reigning segment of a once proud political party. The Trump, Maga, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus of a handful of home-grown Republicans has bastardized the Grand Old Party (GOP) and we must now beware our own government who are blocked from protecting Americans abusing Constitutional protections. If not stopped NOW; their terrorism will become the law of this land.

  10. Just began reading “Poverty, By America” by Matthew Desmond. An amazing read already only 50 pages in. (Highly recommend his Pulitzer-winning “Evicted” as well).

  11. Dipping into religion is tricky but necessary for those who wonder how we got to where we are, so here goes: Those who profess to be Christians today seem to be ignoring the social side of their savior, who socialized with tax gatherers, lepers, whores, gentiles, and the generally oppressed of his day, all while chasing the money grubbing Pharisees from the temple and telling anyone who would listen to help the poor and love your enemy etc. etc. etc.

    The TV preachers are back in the temple these days and are faring well as the foxes in charge of the hen house since Calvin and his successors destroyed the gentle philosopher’s views of a tolerant and caring society, and I think Calvinism has morphed into capitalism as currently practiced which provides the moral underpinning for the so-called Protestant ethic of no work – no eat and other divisive ideas to keep the chaos (and their bottom lines) intact – and justified under the shadow of the cross.

    And while thinking, I think (as defined today with all the abuse heaped on the poor, minorities, and labor by Calvinized capitalists and their political and shareholder lackeys) that the gentle philosopher of some 2,000 years ago was a socialist.

  12. The followers of the Jesus in the gospels that I’ve read, were told by Jesus that, if they followed him they needed to sell everything and give the money to the poor. The problem with the “Prosperity Gospel” (PG) is that Jesus takes great pains to tell his followers that his kingdom is not on this earth and that their rewards won’t be here and now. I don’t see any of the preachers of the PG as even remotely poor, obviously they aren’t the ones intended by him to receive the money. Are they really Christians? I think more Charlatans than Christians.

  13. Many of the Christians I know are involved in ministries to help the poor or have ended up ministering to those who in prison from having made an unlawful decision.
    The wealthiest of the Christians I know give without touting their gifts. My uncle who passed had many different projects that he directed, gave to, or totally funded. His small baptist church is what we need, full of humble people tgat are interested in the balanced continual influence of the small church in the community.
    Shiela has a point some churches are prosperity faith based which is a concern. This is really a false premise for the church. Although the Government tax structure needs to be more focused on tax breaks that enable giving to become more at the forefront of our mindset. I had a concern over the new double give back structure of the government, much to those who never give.
    Sean McDowell has an excellent youtube channel where he hits upon the topic White Christian Nationalism and Prosperity theology from time to time.
    Yesterdays point of congress coming together could have saved a lot of grief and infighting but most of its problems come from congress not being disciplined in its ability to budget regardless of outside influences.
    Its as if congress is a runaway religious cult that never has any ability to self examine itself.

  14. I know a family who are devout protestant christians who give, volunteer, work for non-profits, etc., all to help the poor. They are wonderful people without a negative bone in their bodies.

    They just left their church and now worship as a family in their home because they could no longer tolerate the “prosperity gospel” thinking of their congregation in addition to the anti-gay, anti-dark skin, anti-modernity attitudes there.

    This is happening everywhere. The trend they have noticed in church is similar to red states in general. As the educated and intelligent people abandon these places, they become hollowed out and defined by the dumbest and least educated among them.

    We either catch this decline for the entire country, or we go the way of these churches. Many have their escape plans in place. When you no longer live in the greatest country, you generate other options.

  15. John S.

    Gimme a break…so the rich get “hurt” and they make a bit less; the middle class get “stretched” and the poor…oh, trouble affording housing, food, healthcare. The same???

  16. Peggy said it well.

    Jesus said “Even as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” (John Sorg – what is the exact citation?)

    The only self-made millionaires are the ones who, as solo prospectors, found a mother lode of gold and mined it ALL themselves alone.

    Every other millionaire made their wealth on the backs of working people who sold their labor to him and let him resell that labor to others with a markup. That is an ironclad fact!

  17. CGH,

    “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12)

    “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, but only the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. 22 Many will say to me in that day: ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them: ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’

    24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does them will be like a discreet man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Furthermore, everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house, and it caved in, and its collapse was great.”

    The judges in Israel were told: “You must not pervert the judgment of the foreign resident or of the fatherless child, and you must not seize the garment of a widow as security for a loan.” (Deuteronomy 24:17)

    “He executes justice for the fatherless child and the widow and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. 19 You too must love the foreign resident, for you became foreign residents in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10: 18 – 19)

    Not much interpretation needed to understand the concept concerning Christianity and Jews. Unfortunately, these preachers are the exact ones that are being mentioned in the scriptures. They are called workers of lawlessness! And, they will be slaughtered, deservedly so!

Comments are closed.