The Least, First

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Poverty, government, and the Bible

with 11 comments

[Please note that many helps came via Ron Sider’s excellent but aging book Just Generosity: A new vision for overcoming poverty in America. This page is also saved as a post, under the title A Bible Argument for Government Aid to the Poor. The text is about the same there, but the comments of others—and my responses to them—are different. Thanks for thinking along!]



Madison Free ClinicEvangelicals often struggle with the idea of a government role in addressing poverty. Often, I hear questions like these, from an honest blogger called RenaissanceGuy:

  • I want to hear a reasoned biblical argument for government-run health care.”
  • … if people are coerced, though the income tax code, to support the poor, then are they actually pleasing our Lord?”

Others put it like this:

  • “Is it government’s job to care for the poor, or should the church and their families do it?”

While sectarian government is antithetical to American democracy, people of faith in the USA do have the privilege of holding and sharing political values consistent with what they understand to be good. Those values may not well fit in either conservative or liberal camps, but there will be common ground that can be shared with both.

In order to do that, people of faith have to be deeply aware of their own faith, and not just the arguments of right or left. So here’s an attempt to think aloud on one of those issues.

Especially for evangelicals:

a Bible argument for government aid to the poor:

First, some assumptions on which I think all can agree:

1. Jesus, as described in the gospels, is much more focused on the poor than our evangelical theologies have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

January 12, 2008 at 12:24 am

Posted in

A Bible argument for government aid to the poor

with 38 comments

[Please note that many helps came via Ron Sider’s excellent but aging book Just Generosity: A new vision for overcoming poverty in America. This post is also saved as a page, at the link shown in the blog’s title bar (above) called Poverty, Government, and the Bible. The text is about the same there, but the comments of others—and my responses to them—are different. Thanks for thinking along!]


Madison Free ClinicEvangelicals often struggle with the idea of a government role in addressing poverty. Often, I hear questions like these, from an honest blogger called RenaissanceGuy:

  • I want to hear a reasoned biblical argument for government-run health care.”
  • … if people are coerced, though the income tax code, to support the poor, then are they actually pleasing our Lord?”

Others put it like this:

  • “Is it government’s job to care for the poor, or should the church and their families do it?”

While sectarian government is antithetical to American democracy, people of faith in the USA do have the privilege of holding and sharing political values consistent with what they understand to be good. Those values may not well fit in either conservative or liberal camps, but there will be common ground that can be shared with both.

In order to do that, people of faith have to be deeply aware of their own faith, and not just the arguments of right or left. So here’s an attempt to think aloud on one of those issues.

Especially for evangelicals:

a Bible argument for government aid to the poor:

First, some assumptions on which I think all can agree:

1. Jesus, as described in the gospels, is much more focused on the poor than our evangelical theologies have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

October 18, 2007 at 12:09 am

Evangelicals and universal healthcare

with one comment

Intriguing thoughts at God’s Politics, for those with interest in Christian ideology and healthcare, by an evangelical seminary professor:

Chuck Gutenson: Is Universal Healthcare Unbiblical?

The question of universal healthcare is shaping up to be a rather serious focus in this election cycle. With costs out of control and each year seeing more and more of us without access to affordable health insurance or health care, many see universal health coverage as the best (and, perhaps, only) longer term solution to the problem. This piece on NPR focused on the difficulties of “making ends meet without health insurance.” It isn’t a pretty sight.

While many Christians embrace the extent to which this, too, is a moral issue, sadly we still have those who seek to erect ideological boundaries by misusing scripture. On my blog, I examine one of the common arguments against universal health care offered by a writer on the Religious Right. This writer seems to think that the primary motivators of a biblical position is one that is driven by “tough love” and “personal responsibility.” Yet:

Throughout the bible, God continually models giving people far better than they deserve. In fact, if one looks at Jesus’ own ministry wherein he feeds the hungry, heals the sick, and both characterizes and models God as one who blesses others without regard to merit (in the Sermon, God’s goodness itself is characterized as blessing without regard to merit), the value system espoused by this writer would make Jesus, oddly, pretty unbiblical! […]

Read the rest at God’s Politics. Grace to you!


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Written by Monte

July 28, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

with 5 comments

And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

Why people don’t have health insurance

with 4 comments

Jim B. raised an interesting question in a comment on the satirical Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Universal Healthcare. He’d known someone who was affluent enough not to need health insurance. Thus, he reasoned, perhaps I exaggerated the case when implying that people who don’t have insurance wish they did.

Fortunately, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides clarifying data. Here’s the CDC chart, which can be seen in context at the CDC’s website.

QuickStats: Reasons for No Health Insurance Coverage* Among Uninsured Persons Aged <65 Years — National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2004

Reasons for no health insurance

* Based on response to a survey question regarding the reasons a household member stopped being covered by health insurance or did not have health insurance. Persons might be counted in more than one category.

Estimates are age adjusted using the 2000 projected U.S. population as the standard population and using four age groups: 0–11 years, 12–17 years, 18–44 years, and 45–64 years. Estimates are based on household interviews of a sample of the civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. population.

§ 95% confidence interval.

Includes moved, self-employed, never had coverage, did not want or need coverage, and other unspecified reasons.

The answer, then? What percentage did not desire health insurance? We can’t tell exactly, but they are a subgroup of the “Other” category (see the paragraph just above, where I added emphasis). In other words, they comprise some fraction of 6% of un-insured Americans under age 65.


Related posts: Jane Bryant Quinn: Yes, We Can All Be Insured
What everybody knows about health care
Why pro-life should mean anti-poverty
Clinton healthcare called “gigantic subsidy” for insurance industry
A Bible argument for government aid to the poor
Abortion laws may not reduce abortion rates
World healthcare: three amazing maps
Top 10 reasons for single-payer healthcare
The World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems
Physicians for a National Health Program

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Written by Monte

December 28, 2007 at 3:18 pm