“Americans react to the poor with disgust,” said Susan Fiske, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and the originator of the neuroimaging tests. She has studied attitudes toward the poor for a dozen years. “It’s the most negative prejudice people report, greater even than racism,“ Fiske stated.
No doubt part of that response is aesthetic. Some of those who are very poor – especially those living on the streets – smell bad and are unkempt and shabbily dressed. But a deeper part of the response is moral. The poor are stripped of value in the eyes of many. They are seen as useless, and not just useless, but an actual drain on the more productive and affluent members of society. Not only do they fail to add anything positive to the world, they actually subtract value, like trash piled on a lawn.
How can we see God while despising the needy among us? Scripture declares that it is impossible. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). Spiritual blindness is the inevitable consequence of hating the poor.
In some ways it doesn’t surprise me that there is such a negative prejudice towards the poor. I know many of my more conservative friends simply can go on and on about all those who scream about how their hard-earned tax dollars have been leached away from them by people too lazy to work. They don’t use the term “the 47%” but they seem to be very much attuned to that notion. They, maybe unjustifiably, seem to just have an ingrained animosity toward those living on the margins.
But then there is the book so idolized by many called the Bible that has a quite different take on the matter. It actually tells us to give them the shirt off our backs. It even show where the leader of Christianity told one rich man to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor. These words are anything but hatred of the poor.
So, how can these to seemingly opposite characteristics be contained in the same body of people? Many in that group who have even bothered to think about it say that they are just sinners and therefore God doesn’t expect anything else from them. I don’t know about you but I call that a cop-out of gigantic proportions. God expects much more from us that we will ever admit.
But I am just a simple guy so what do I know…