The debate over food stamps continues in Congress this month, and the arguments are as red and blue as we would expect. Republicans, rallying for smaller government, argue for a reduction in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which would make 2 million fewer people eligible for the program. Democrats, supportive of government spending, favor the protection of SNAP.
And both sides are quoting the Bible, one saying, "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10) and the other, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these… you did for me" (Matt. 24:40).
I am a Christian without strong red or blue loyalties, but I do think rising food insecurity—defined by the USDA as lack of "consistent access throughout the year to adequate food"—should concern every one of us. As research continues to reveal the widening gap between rich and poor, many poor Americans struggle to overcome the systemic inequities that restrict their access to the resources necessary for their rescue.
Regrettably, I have only begun caring about the protection of SNAP since my teenage nephew came to live with us this year and began sharing with us his painful childhood stories of food insecurity. I confess to usually affording the insularity wealth buys, my life comfortably sheltered from the struggles of the poor. I am one of the rich getting richer, and borrowing Ron Sider's phrase, I don't often know how to live as a "rich Christian in an age of hunger." And yet I want to learn. I want to grow in generosity and compassion. I want to "do good, be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share," (1 Tim. 6:18).
My nephew, now 18, grew ...1
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