Mercedes White, via Andrew Henderson for the New York Times
Many families pay for groceries with food stamps.

The U.S. House passed a bill last week that would cut the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or, in common parlance, food stamps — by $39 billion over the next 10 years.

Soon after the legislation passed, people with irreconcilable views about food stamps began invoking Christianity in an attempt to solidify their side of the argument.

The liberal political blog Think Progress published a post Wednesday with the partisan headline “How House Republicans Are Preaching a False Gospel About Food Stamps.” Writer Jack Jenkins reported about an exchange that took place late last week on the official Facebook wall of Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).

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Jenkins wrote that a North Dakota man “appealed to the lawmaker’s Christian faith by quoting Matthew 25:36-43, a biblical passage in which Jesus compels his followers to, among other things, feed the hungry. Cramer responded by posting a Bible verse of his own — 2 Thessalonians 3-10: ‘For even when we are with you, we would give you this command: If you are not willing to work, let him not eat.’”

Previously, the Christian Post crystallized the theological schism over food stamps with an article headlined “Should Christians Support Food Stamps Cuts? Depends on Who You Ask.” Published Saturday, that article quoted leaders from the lobbying group Family Research Council and Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger advocacy group. A sampling of those quotations:

  • Ken Blackwell, senior fellow for family empowerment at Family Research Council: “(There’s) nothing more Christian (than) not locking people into a permanent dependency on government handouts, but making sure they are participants in their own upliftment and empowerment so that they in fact through the dignity of work can break from the plantation of big government. … I think through empowering others and creating self-sufficiency (therein) lies the path to sense of worthiness.”
  • Rev. Gary Cook, director of church relations at Bread for the World: “The people who take advantage of (food stamps) are some of the poorest of the poor people in the country. Their average annual income is $2,200 a person. They are among the most difficult to employ. … What churches do in terms of the kind of generous giving to poor, hungry people is amazing. But their work is worth $4 billion annually, which is essentially equal to the annual cut Congress is proposing in food stamps.”
Earlier this month the Deseret News’ Mercedes White wrote an article exploring a quirk in SNAP that essentially incentivizes the working poor to remain mired in prolonged unemployment: “Federal policy stipulates that no matter how small the income or how large the family, persons with assets more than $2,000 — which include savings accounts — are not eligible to take part in SNAP. According to many social policy experts, this rule needs to be changed.”