Lawmakers’ attitudes on food stamps are un-Christian

By Betsy Diedrick

I would like to respond to the April 2 Herald article regarding the SNAP program and Texas Republican Rep. Jodey Arrington’s comment “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

I find it extremely troubling on several fronts.

First, to all the Herald non-faith readers, please accept my apology for this poor representation of the Christian faith. Jesus was a man of compassion who deeply cared about the poor, the hurting, the sick and the hungry, which was why he multiplied the two fish and fives loaves to feed the 5,000. Taking food out of people’s mouths, by whatever justification, is not a Christian act. Nor is using Scripture as a club, or playing a reverse Robin Hood role by cutting benefits to the hungry while subsidizing big agribusiness. True Christians care about people and their welfare. You will recognize them by their actions.

My second concern related to the work requirements and lack of concern for the unemployed. When Wisconsin Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman, introduced a bill this week preventing the Secretary of Agriculture from granting temporary SNAP work-requirements waivers to states with high rates of unemployment, it speaks to the lack of concern for humanity in general.

Nevada during the recession was one of these states with extremely high unemployment. My relative, a large able-bodied man who desperately sought but could not find work, was given $16 a month in food stamps. Because he could not sustain himself daily on 50 cents, he began to sell his blood twice weekly to make enough money to feed himself. I became aware of his situation when he called to wish me Merry Christmas, and mentioned he was a little concerned because the weather had turned cold. He was getting too dizzy to walk the 2 miles to and from the blood bank, because he did not have bus money. His dire situation ended with our awareness, but not all have a safety net to fall back upon. Food is the sustenance of life. To deny that, places the judgment entirely upon oneself.

It may be easy for the well fed, the comfortable and the well off to make assumptions and cast aspersions upon those less fortunate. But there are numerous unseen reasons why people can’t work, many through no fault of their own. And yes, in every walk of life there will be a handful who game the system. Even some who are over-paid, heavily endowed with benefits, who refuse to do the work of the people, but it is not necessarily our place to judge.

To me, the real lesson from this article was the importance of the character of the people we select to represent us. Because we never know when our fortunes may turn, and we are the ones who need the helping hand up.

Betsy Diedrick lives in Arlington.

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