Hating The Poor….

Homeless“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.

SOURCE:  Craig M. Watts: Hating the Poor but Loving Jesus? | Red Letter Christians.

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…

8 thoughts on “Hating The Poor….

  1. I think what most people object to is the group of people in society who think nothing of forcing others to subsidize their bad choices or their laziness (and there’s plenty of both out there – I see it in my job every day). It’s a shame that the actions of this group taints the larger group who truly do need help: the elderly, the truly disabled, fulltime workers in low paying jobs, those temporarily down on their luck, etc. Unfortunately, the truly needy are often hard to distinguish from those who believe you or I “owe” them something…and a lot of otherwise decent, honest people are tired of being told they “owe” everyone something (particularly by politicians).


    1. Hi Eric and thanks for the thoughtful words. Yes, there are those who game the system to get things they don’t deserve but as you say there are many others who are truly in need. To reject the pleas of the larger group because of the gamers is to throw the baby out with the bath water.

      Many folks don’t like any words that come from a politician’s mouth. The same thing applies here but maybe in a reverse proportion. There are those who talk just to hear themselves and then there are those who truly understand and have empathy for others. I think the Kennedy’s among several others were in that group.

      Yeah, people don’t like to be told they “owe” but as I mentioned in the post isn’t that one of the core teaching of Jesus in the Bible? We indeed owe it to be our brother’s keeper. I simply can’t understand how so many evangelicals on the radical right can also throw those words out with the bath water. That probably disturbs me the most.

      Thanks again for the thoughts. Come back often with them. Your input is valuable.


  2. I am by no means a part of the radical right. But I have an up close and personal view of them. Most are extremely generous in their giving to the poor both through their churches and through their charities. They also give their time through distributing food and clothing and job counseling. They are misunderstood because they honestly think that many government programs keep the poor dependent. Their thinking may or may not be accurate, but I don’t question their intentions. I enjoy your blogs very much. We agree on most things spiritual and some things political…. and you often give me something to think about.


    1. Thanks Judy for commenting here. I too have friends who are very conservative and as you describe. But sadly to say there are also others who just seem to have a chip on their shoulders and see everyone else as some version of the enemy.

      As far as church giving goes it is a fact that over 90% of the giving stays within the congregation and a typical 2% or less actually gets to “the least of these”. In that regard most churches today are more like country clubs than churches of the early Christians.

      Unfortunately some of the most uncaring words I have heard in this venue were from a weekly bible class. Enough said…. Come back often with your comments. They are valued here.


  3. RJ – Excellent post. I always seek to remember that “they” (the poor) are really no different than me or us. They may have made wrong choices in their life along the way or had some particular difficulty in their upbringing but….so have I. I don’t understand why some end up on the side of our biking trail living in torn up tents and struggling with life while others are simply riding by on their expensive bikes enjoying the day and taking little notice of them. What you’re challenging me with though is more than just “connecting” with the poor but what do we do after that. And that is an issue I struggle with in my own life of choices to ind the right balance. thanks or resurfacing the issues again for me to reflect on. Mike


    1. Mike, this is one of the primary purposes why I blog here. We need to understand that yes some people have made some poor choices in their lives and are living with the consequences but that does not mean that they are any less loved by God than you or I. I am weekly knee-deep in people struggling just to live. For the most part they are a very loving group and appreciative of what time I spend helping them. I just wish others would take the time to realize what I have.

      I am currently writing a post entitled “There is no ‘Them'”. We need to get over that mentality. We are all God’s children and according to our faith belief we are all accountable to each other in this world. When we go about trying to separate ourselves into various factions we are doing much more damage than good. I better stop here or I won’t have anything to fill the post with 🙂

      Thanks for letting me know that my words have caused you to think about these issues. You made my day….


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