Almost everyday I see another family trapped in generational poverty. Men are absent from the family structure, except, perhaps, as occasional visitors. Mothers and grandmothers head up matriarchal family units in which welfare pays the rent and food stamps provide their daily meals. Teenage mothers are raised alongside their infants and toddlers, almost more like they are siblings rather than parent and child.
Often when young women come into the Center, they mention that their other children are at daycare. However, they do not have jobs; it is the state that allows them to send their children to a daycare center everyday, at no cost to them. I am happy for the hot meals these little ones receive at these places, but if the mothers are not working (or even looking for a job) why are they not caring for their own families during the day?
Couples trapped in poverty tend to not marry because welfare pays them more if they don’t. In turn, children born to single mothers are doomed to a life below the poverty level. Growing up with no money and little hope, they tend to repeat the patterns of their parents. And so the spiral of poverty begins, trapping more and more victims as it goes spinning through the years.
Ever since the War on Poverty in the 1960′s, our government has poured increasingly massive amounts of money into the welfare system. As spending increased, so did the level of those living in poverty. Hand in hand with this, the rate of marriage for those on government assistance plummeted as the numbers of children born to single mothers climbed higher and higher. In short, simple terms, the more we spent, the worse it got! (Sadly, the same can be said for our system of education, with healthcare soon to follow!)
Why am I bringing all this up? Obviously, as the administrator of a faith-based non-profit, I am concerned about caring for those in poverty. All our services are free. However, we do not provide long-term care; we look at ourselves as a safe place for women to come when they first discover they are pregnant and then to guide them to the help they need to have a healthy child. Unfortunately, for many the best we can offer is to assist them in receiving government-run Medicaid.
We have been praying for the Church in Omaha to join together and open a pre-natal clinic (an STD clinic would also be excellent!) Our vast community of Christian nurses and doctors could all take their turn in staffing it, and cost would be on a sliding scale. Ideally, there would be financial counseling also available. While we’re at it, a job training center would be amazing! After all, Christ called His people to care for the poor, not the government!
It has become rather vogue these days for authors who define themselves as Christian to espouse the conviction that it is the government’s role to care for the poor; that as believers we should vote for the candidate who will commit to expanding the role of welfare in our society. One of their chief arguments is that the problem is too massive for the church to successfully handle. Therefore, we should just toss in the towel and hand our funds cheerfully over to our elected representatives to feed the poor and care for the widow and orphan.
One of my favorite books on this topic is Losing Ground by Charles Murray. Mr. Murray, a social scientist, has done a detailed examination of the trends and statistics that have taken place in the United States since the 1950′s. He has come to three conclusions in summing up the reaction of individuals as far as work ethic is concerned:
1. People respond to incentives and disincentives. Sticks and carrots work.
2. People are not inherently hard-working or moral (in other words, sinners!) In the absence of countervailing influences, people will avoid work and be amoral.
3. People must be held responsible for their actions. Whether they are responsible in some ultimate philosophical or biochemical sense cannot be the issue if society is to function.
He goes on to prove statistically that when we began to financially support people who were not working, they eventually stopped looking (especially when they were penalized for having a job which paid them too much!) If you get free daycare when you receive a government check, but have to pay exorbitant fees for childcare when you work, aren’t you a fool to do so? In our desire to help the poor, all we’ve ended up is stripping people of their desire to work, along with their dignity. Somehow, we need to learn how to give that self-respect back. Tragically, after 40 years of handouts, the system is one, huge, ugly, bloated mess!
The more money we throw at it, the worse it gets! And yet, the only answer our government ever has is to (you guessed it!) throw more money at it! Whenever cut backs or reform are suggested, there are cries of hurting the poor and the elderly; of depriving hungry children of their only source of food.
I know I am greatly simplifying the situation. However, when I read the Bible, I find exhortations that if people do not work, neither should they eat. When the widows and orphans needed help in Acts, the church formed a committee to solve the situation (with a stern warning that those who were helped be without any other source of assistance and truly in need!) Throughout the centuries, governments allowed the poor to starve in the streets. It was Christians that built hospitals, orphanages and soup kitchens!
As a leader of a non-profit, I know that we are accountable to the gracious people who give their hard-earned dollars for every penny we spend. The generosity of God’s children astounds me, yet, our budget is dwarfed by federally funded Planned Parenthood. And yet, we are the ones doing the free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds (contrary to popular belief, PP charges either the individual or Medicaid for everything!) They even send women to us when they cannot afford their ultrasound fee.
Faith-based non-profits (including churches) do not have to have multi-million dollar accounts just to handle the fraud that occurs (like you know who!) They don’t have to pander to special interest or pay their directors huge, overblown wages with super-sweet retirement deals. Unlike the government, we have a definite cap on our funds, and borrowing beyond our means is out of the question. People who give to us have many fine organizations to choose between for their donation. We constantly have to prove we are doing an excellent and responsible job.
Voting for a candidate who believes in abortion and does everything he can to undermine the Christian faith, just because he will pour more money into a bloated and evil welfare system which is destroying our society, is not only an abomination to our faith but borders on insanity! I admit that those who are truly poor need our care. We must feed the hungry and clothe the naked. The mess we are in is not an easy one to solve. However, as a community of believers, I don’t think we have even begun to try. We need to repent and seek God. If we are sincere in our commitment, He will begin to make a way.
Keeping it true! Barb