We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Food Stamp Presidents

Matt. 25:31-46 as a Wordle (from "Rectory Musings")
In the video clip below, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) recently addressed the hot political issue of "the food stamp president" based on data taken from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It turns out that the food stamp program expanded more rapidly in terms of total amounts expended, number of recipients added, and benefit per recipient under Presidents Bush, Jr. and Sr. Rep. Gutierrez makes the further points that: (1) recipients are of every race, creed, and political persuasion; and (2) the primary purpose of food stamps is to prevent hunger among children and the elderly, which two groups are the program's main recipients.

In spite of these facts, certain politicians have taken delight in deriding President Obama for his support of feeding children, the elderly, and other Americans in genuine need of assistance in hard economic times.  What is particularly troubling from a faith perspective is that these same presidential aspirants habitually tout their Christian faith and habitually criticize the president for his supposedly "secularist" attacks on religion.  They call him a "socialist on the European model," further implying an anti-religious bias Mr. Obama does not actually have.

That is, a certain faction of American Christians have managed to find fault with the president for not only doing precisely what his predecessors did, but also for supporting what is clearly a government program that fulfills one of Christ's measures of true faith, namely feeding the poor (Matthew 25:31-46).  This faction of Christians has managed to appear hard-hearted, to be politically divisive, and to cast faith in Christ in a light that does not reflect his teachings and ministry.  Rep. Gutierrez thanked all three presidents for being "food stamp presidents," and so should we.  Amen.

P.S. You can read the transcript of Rep. Gutierrez's remarks (here).