Paul Ryan, The Poor, and The Failings of the Modern Church

07 Apr
Paul Ryan, The Poor, and The Failings of the Modern Church

Recently Paul Ryan (WI-R) released a budget that purports to solve our long-term deficit issue. The plan while quite ambitious is extremely flawed. Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias have been bulldogs on the subject and has given Representative Ryan no quarter. The main thrust of the criticism has been that Rep. Ryan targets the poor to shoulder most of the burden of solving the debt crisis with no tax increases and literally two-thirds of his cuts coming from programs designed to help the most vulnerable among us.

What has been known to political junkies and is being revealed to the public is the fact that politicians in both parties routinely build their policies on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. The logic goes that poor people, black people, etc. have no powerful interest groups arguing on their behalf in the halls of Congress so, naturally, Congress constantly overlooks or fails to protect them in the Democrats and Republicans demagogue a bit against them because hey they don’t vote or lobby anyway. For the moment let’s put aside the extremely cynical nature of our political class, who we were told as children were be doing the business of the people and not merely aiding the business people.

What I want to explore is how we got to the situation that the poor in America are a mere after-thought to those in power, what happened to their voice? The decline of unions and the history of discrimination definitely contributes to lessened solidarity among the poor but even during Jim Crow when many unions wouldn’t have a large number of black constituents if any the poor still made their voice heard and where still at the center of American concern when crafting domestic policy. These poor people didn’t have lobbyist in the halls of Congress then as they don’t now but they did have the collective concern of ministers who passionately reinforced the Christian notion of charity and caring for the least among us. Ministers led Poor People Marches on to Congress to better bring home the often hidden effects of poverty in our nation. Reverends Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton then worked to publicize and prioritize the plight of poor people of all colors in a way that could not be ignored. In contrast today’s churches do not see themselves as advocates for the poor as they did in the past. While many do invaluable work in their communities on the whole the modern Church is much more likely to preach the “Prosperity Doctrine” to its parishioners arguing that earthly riches are proof of God’s favor. In short the modern American Church has went from being advocates and protectors of those who couldn’t politically protect themselves to complicit in the limiting of resources to them. Instilling in many parishioners the idea that the poor are not only poor due to their own failings here on Earth but also because God’s divine favor doesn’t shine upon them as it does on the wealthy. It is no wonder that the poor are often the targets of the demagogue and the wealthy when even the Lord’s messengers have denied them.

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Education, Government, Money, Philosophy


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4 responses to “Paul Ryan, The Poor, and The Failings of the Modern Church

  1. primemeridian11

    April 7, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    I think a distinction needs to be made. Black churches have traditionally mobilized and served as political launching pads. However, as churches become more commercialized, received their 503 (c)(3) status’, they have become more careful about the separation of church and state as not to affect their federal funding. I think it has done a disservice to the poor and those that the church are called to protect. There are so many issues that people look for the government to fix sua sponte, when several issues were traditionally solved by the church. There are some advocating their views (Catholic church and abortion), but very few. Sad reality.

    • Chad Stanton

      April 7, 2011 at 1:29 PM

      I’m going to disagree with the notion that churches have become apolitical. Many churches participated in George W. Bush’s faith based initiatives including influential black preachers like Bishop Eddie Long and even my beloved Pastor Evans who hosted W. back in the day, matter of fact I was one of the kids in the choir behind old W. when he visited that’s how I met my high school girlfriend, also there has been an explosion in Evangelist backing the social issues agenda of the American Right and in ideological solidarity they’ve taken on some of the rhetoric concerning fiscal views, hence the wealth as God’s grace justification for avarice in the Prosperity Doctrine. Obviously this doesn’t apply to each and every church but on the whole I think we’ve witnessed a large shift in the thinking of church leaderships.

  2. primemeridian11

    April 7, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    Okay, that was the longest run on sentence ever. LOL! I think I get what you are trying to say. What I mean is that churches, especially black churches, are not mobilizing for a common cause the way they used to. I think this is partially because faith has become so individualized and subjective. I also think it’s a result of the aforementioned happenings. We don’t see black churches petitioning Washington for a common cause (i.e. education and healthcare) the way we used to.

    • Chad Stanton

      April 7, 2011 at 7:35 PM

      My bad on the punctuation, but those are valid points. Another thought I had was whether or not there’s another MLK out there. Someone who has a selfless social agenda coupled with the charisma and oratory skills to lead. I think the cycle that the church is in currently pushes those exact candidates into politics or non-profits rather then the ministry.


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