Jul 2nd, 2005 · Categories: Uncategorized · No Comments

PCUSA: The poor are not our problem!

It’s disturbing what you might uncover when you turn over a few denominational rocks. My reading on the Presbyterian PAC led me to a creepy-crawly that should not live in a Christian denomination. Looking through a 2004 lobbying handbook published by the PCUSA Washington Office (“Christian and Citizen“), I found this astonishing statement on page 16:

… General Assembly policy has consistently and clearly stated that government has the primary responsibility for caring for the poor, along with the private sector: The 1997 General Assembly stated (and the 1999 General Assembly reaffirmed), “that while the church, voluntary organizations, business and government must work cooperatively to address the needs of poor persons and communities, the government must assume the primary role for providing direct assistance for the poor” (Minutes, 1997, p. 553)

The General Assembly has noted that the private sector is incapable of caring for the needy on its own. The 1996 General Assembly asserted that “churches and charities, including many Presbyterian congregations and related organizations, have responded generously to growing hunger but do not have the capacity to replace public programs (Minutes, 1996, p.784)

(Note: I have been unable to locate the General Assembly minutes for either 1996 or 1997 and so have not verified that this “policy” actually exists. The Washington Office has shown a willingness to ignore or distort policies of the General Assembly in order to promote its private political objectives; this could be another example. However, the citations of the relevant Minutes complete with page numbers lead me to believe that, in this instance, the Washington Office is telling the truth.)

What Bible are these folks reading? Perhaps there is a new translation that portrays Jesus himself as a lobbyist rather than a high priest. Here are some passages we might expect to see in such a Bible:

  • (Matthew 25:40): “I tell you the truth, whatever you lobbied the government to do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you lobbied the government to do for me.”
  • Luke 10:33-34: )”… a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and said “You poor man! Wait here and I’ll contact the Medicaid office and see if there’s any way they can help you!
  • Acts 10:2: He [Cornelius] and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he lobbied generously on behalf of those in need and prayed to God regularly

No, there is no translation or paraphrase of the Bible that says such things. God calls Presbyterians to compassion. We are to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, invite the stranger in, clothe the needy, and visit the sick and the prisoner (Matthew 25:34-40). We are to aid the bleeding man by the side of the road (Luke 10:29-37). We are to be devout and God-fearing, giving generously (Acts 10:1-2). These are acts of compassion.

Throwing in the towel, giving up, turning it over to the government and demanding government programs are not acts of compassion, they are acts of surrender and convenience. The PCUSA has given up and said that there are some jobs to big for the Body of Christ to undertake, that God is unable or unwilling to equip his Church to do what He has clearly called it to do. Besides, getting the government to do the dirty work leaves more time and resources for lobbying, protesting, organizing boycotts, schmoozing with like-minded secular leaders, and spouting pious excuses.

It is difficult to imagine a policy more rooted in left-wing political ideology and less rooted in the teachings of the Bible than “the government has the primary responsibility for caring for the poor.” Publicly stating such drivel is a measure of how far – and how willfully – the PCUSA has wandered from its calling.

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