Congressman Uses Out-of-Context Bible Quote to Justify Screwing Poor People


Sometimes I think Republicans have their own special GOP edition of The Bible. Via Think Progress:

The House Agriculture Committee convened earlier this week to discuss whether or not to cut as much as $4.1 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

As House members discussed slashing the budget for the Farm Bill, which funds SNAP, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) took issue with some Democrats who cited Jesus Christ’s call to care for “the least of these” when describing the government’s need to assist the hungry. Instead, Fincher explained that his support for the proposed cuts by quoting a very different Bible verse – 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

But while the use of 2 Thessalonians is a convenient tool for those who want to justify ignoring the poor, Fincher’s lukewarm Biblical argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. As many religious bloggers have already pointed out, the author of 2 Thessalonians was actually referring to ancient Christians who had stopped working in anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming. The verse is concerned with correcting a theological misunderstanding (i.e., don’t just wait around for Jesus, live an active faith), not passing judgement on the poor.

Worse still, Fincher’s use of the Bible to defend the slashing of food stamps isn’t just bad theology, it’s also bad policy.

Undergirding Fincher’s sloppy exegesis is an old conservative fiction that people who rely on food stamps are lazy parasites who mooch off the government and refuse to work. In reality, most of the country’s 47 million food stamp recipients are children or the elderly, and many are employed. A 2012 report from the USDA found that 45 percent of SNAP recipients were under 18 years of age, nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older, and more than 40 percent lived in households with earnings.

Fincher’s misguided Bible-thumping ignores the plight of America’s 8.9 million “working poor.” This massive group includes the thousands of participants from the recent fast food and retail workers strikes, people who, despite working full-time 40 hours a week for booming industries, often only make around $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year. That’s far below the federal poverty threshold of $23,550 for a family of four and leaves many working families with no choice but to apply for food stamps just to feed their loved ones. The strikers, who are consistently backed by droves of religious leaders, are clearly willing to work, yet lawmakers like Fincher (who made his millions with the help of government farm subsidies) stand poised to deny them access to the food they need by decimating funding for SNAP.

UPDATE: Local Charities Speak Out On GOP’s Effort To Slash Food Stamps

UPDATE: 50 Million Americans Are Going Hungry As Congress Considers Gutting Food Stamps

UPDATE: Krugman: “Get really, really angry” about GOP attack on SNAP

More info:
Congressman Who Gets Millions In Farm Subsidies Denounces Food Stamps As Stealing ‘Other People’s Money’

  1. #3 by brewski on May 29, 2013 - 5:55 pm

    Factually false in every sense of the word.

    • #4 by cav on May 29, 2013 - 9:26 pm

      Please pick a level or two, give them a link or flesh them out in your usual brilliant way, and, well, I’m sure everyone reading will be in your debt for the education.


      • #5 by brewski on May 29, 2013 - 10:41 pm

        50 million Americans are not going hungry.

        People on food stamps do not rely only on food stamps for their total food budget. I know plenty of people on food stamps today and they have plenty to eat. One neighbor of mine has food stamps, social security, medicare, medicaid. I know her finances intimately since I have helped her out with the paperwork numerous times. She is not hungry, has all the free health care she needs. Has a roof over her head. Warm bed to sleep in.

        These false claims and false statistics always have some asterisk or vague definition in them. What Richard’s link actually says is not what he says. These people are not “going hungry”. What his own link says is that they have “food insecurity” which means they live paycheck to paycheck, or benefit check to benefit check, or get by week to week or month to month. Which is true. But that is not by any stretch of the imagination “going hungry”.

        He lies.

        • #6 by Richard Warnick on May 30, 2013 - 9:23 am

          SNAP does not provide enough assistance to feed a family, and most recipients have to rely on charity in addition to SNAP (as noted in the article). To me, “food insecure” means not knowing if you will have enough food, or not being able to obtain good food. And sometimes going hungry when you can’t afford a meal.

          Congress ought to expand SNAP, not cut it. This is part of the low-wage business model, which enables employers to get away with paying less than a living wage. So it’s really a subsidy for the rich, which Congress normally approves.

          • #7 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 9:40 am

            Nothing you said addresses your lies.

  2. #8 by Richard Warnick on May 30, 2013 - 10:06 am

    What “lies”? I simply linked to a Think Progress article, which says:

    According to the International Human Rights Clinic of NYU Law School, the four biggest food assistance programs fall short for as many as 50 million food insecure households. Eligibility requirements are already so strict that one in four households classified as food insecure were still considered too high-income to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Even families considered poor enough for food aid only get a pittance that runs out quickly; for instance, the maximum benefit for a family of four is $668 a month, or a little under $2 per meal for each family member.

    Can you eat enough on a budget of $2 per meal, or would you have to go hungry or rely on private charity?

    Also, note that 50 million food insecure households obviously means MORE than 50 million hungry Americans.

  3. #9 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 10:24 am

    OK, your link lies in its headline.

    “50 million Americans Are Going Hungry” is a long long way from 50 million people are “food insecure” where “food insecure” does not mean that they are going hungry. It just means they are getting by week to week or month to month.

    Like I said, I know a lot of people on food stamps and who live below the official poverty level. They are not hungry. They do not rely on food stamps for 100% of their food spending. So the portrayal described in the Thinkregress article which you linked is false.

    • #10 by Richard Warnick on May 30, 2013 - 10:29 am

      The point of the article is that not all 50 million households that are food insecure can qualify for SNAP, and those that do receive a max benefit of $2 per meal per person. Nobody is claiming that they rely on food stamps 100% because that is impossible.

      It’s probably an underestimate to say 50 million Americans have to go hungry — if only because they are too proud to go begging at a charity food bank.

      • #11 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 12:29 pm

        In other words, you and Thinkregress have no evidence of any kind that 50 million Americans are “going hungry”.

        Thank you.

        • #12 by Richard Warnick on May 30, 2013 - 12:43 pm

          The evidence is plain. People can’t eat well enough on $2 a meal. John Stossel thinks there’s not a problem until he sees Americans dying of starvation. Sean Hannity claims that if you eat rice and beans then you can’t say that you’re hungry.

          • #13 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 1:59 pm

            They don’t.

  4. #14 by Richard Warnick on May 30, 2013 - 11:32 am

    John Stossel on Faux News Channel:

    [T]hink about the [Great] Depression. That was before there was any welfare state at all. How many people starved? No one.”

    There were cases of Americans who starved to death during the Great Depression. Much more significantly, malnutrition was widespread.

    Hannity: “This Idea That Americans Are Going To Bed Hungry” Is Not True — “You Can Survive Off” Rice And Beans

    If you have no bread, eat cake then. Duh.

  5. #15 by Ronald D. Hunt on May 30, 2013 - 2:22 pm

    The problem is that foodstamps make the true extent of the problem hidden from public view, During the great depression hunger was never hidden because you had to go to a soup kitchen for welfare/charity food.

    From a functional perspective food stamps is much more efficient then the old soup kitchen model at getting food to those that need it. And you don’t get problems of local businessmen controlling the kitchen and only providing food to men of working age, as to maintain their cheap labor source, or to exclude Blacks, Jews, Latinos or whatever other group they are racist against..

    John Stossel isn’t willing to say what he really desires, having no empathy towards his fellow man, he is still smart enough to not join the unhinged minority shouting let them die.

  6. #16 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 3:31 pm

    I have been struck how differently the leaders in the US behave with regard to the less fortunate than leaders in other countries. It is quite common to see Queen Elizabeth visit inner city schools, orphanages, hospitals and the like. When was the last time you saw a US leader inside a housing project? The same goes with our chattering class. Today I was enduring a conversation among a bunch of privileged white MSNBC prattlers prattle on about the poor, as opposed to having any actual poor person or expert on the poor contribute. Sorry, I’m not going to take the Connecticut liberals’ words for it.

    You are right. All of these problems are hidden. We don’t see it. We don’t listen to them. We don’t ask.

    • #17 by Richard Warnick on May 30, 2013 - 4:50 pm


      You’ve got a point. In defense of MSNBC, Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry do sometimes have actual poor people, such as minimum-wage workers, on their panels. But not enough.

      The larger problem is that the 99 Percent have got essentially no representation in Washington. Look what happened recently on the House Financial Services Committee.

  7. #18 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 6:29 pm

    My memory may be hazy, but somehow I remember Jimmy Carter spending the night in the home of someone in east LA when he was president.

    RFK campaigned in Watts.

    Don’t see much of that anymore.

    • #19 by Larry Bergan on May 30, 2013 - 7:04 pm

      Carter is one of a kind. I love the man.

  8. #20 by brewski on May 30, 2013 - 6:34 pm

    Obama made sure to stop by and collect checks from the Hollywood types behind the walls of their compounds. That’s who he considers important.

  9. #23 by Larry Bergan on May 31, 2013 - 5:40 pm

    David (sex scandal) Vitter – I could care less about the sex scandal, but I thought I’d throw it in there anyway – was saying we should deny convicted felons, food stamps.

    While denying food stamps to children is much more enraging, what are we going to do with the former felons, who can’t get a job and will be hungry. Maybe we SHOULD buy guns.

    Great Krugman article!

  10. #24 by cav on May 31, 2013 - 6:22 pm

    Now that confessed war criminals and ‘slam-dunk’ bank fraud prosecutions are seemingly null and void, there’s really no reason to deny ‘convicted’ felons any government perk they can, with their connections, wangle.

    But granny’s going under the 8p Flex-Trans with no apology.

  11. #25 by cav on May 31, 2013 - 6:38 pm

    If God hadn’t wanted to screw the poor, He wouldn’t have created them with such appropriate orifices…

    And, I always tune into Chris Hayes for my latest weather info.

    Wake me when Obama stops fucking with the weather.

  12. #26 by Larry Bergan on May 31, 2013 - 7:50 pm

    As it stands now, only felony DRUG offenders are denied food stamps.

    The image of somebody getting food stamps and sitting around using drugs just infuriates people to the point that they would rather have their house broken into by somebody who cannot get a job because they have a drug felony because they cannot get a job because they have a drug felony, because…..

    The “Let’s Go Light an Ant Hill on Fire and See How the Ants React” legislation – H.R. 1921.

  13. #27 by Richard Warnick on June 20, 2013 - 1:35 pm

    • #28 by cav on June 20, 2013 - 1:43 pm

      They’ll be back, with ‘improvements’!

    • #30 by Richard Warnick on June 20, 2013 - 1:57 pm

      A lot of Dems voted against it because it cut SNAP funding. And some Republicans voted against it because they wanted to cut more than $20 billion.

  14. #31 by cav on June 20, 2013 - 3:05 pm

    Wasn’t that Monsanto ‘poison-pill’, mysteriously slipped into this very Farm Bill? Reason enough to kill it right there

    Legislators may have become tired (been exposed) for rubber-stamping all that is corporate. I certainly hope so.

    Seems to me, any savings generated by down-sizing food stamps, should already be covered more than enough by the general cuts they passively aggressively whip-sawed through – Sequestration.

    • #32 by Larry Bergan on June 20, 2013 - 6:37 pm

      cav says:

      Legislators may have become tired (been exposed) for rubber-stamping all that is corporate. I certainly hope so.

      Wouldn’t THAT be a turning point for the country. I certainly hope that had something to do with it. And I think you’re right about this being the Monsanto bill.

      • #33 by cav on June 20, 2013 - 6:56 pm

        Someday I’d really like to give up my common disclaimer: ‘But of course, I live in a dream’ – give up my cynicism, and take comfort in the fact that politics has finally gotten a grip.

        Maybe my Grand kids.

  15. #35 by Richard Warnick on June 20, 2013 - 4:31 pm

    According to this article, there was bipartisan agreement to cut SNAP funding. What sank the bill was right-wing GOP amendments to let states drug-test SNAP program beneficiaries and set up additional work requirements.

    Food Stamp Cuts Derail Farm Bill

  16. #36 by Richard Warnick on September 18, 2013 - 11:41 am

    The Real Consequences Of Terrible Journalism

    Faux News Channel hit piece was part of a right-wing campaign to slash SNAP budget. While increasing subsidies for millionaire farmers.

  17. #37 by Larry Bergan on September 18, 2013 - 8:51 pm


    It’s a wonder Fox “news” hasn’t done a story degrading homeless people from getting one good, free, meal on Thanksgiving…

    or have they?

    This type of Activity should make the whole organization refuse to participate, but it doesn’t. Also, the congresspeople who pretend to be swayed by the reporting should hang their heads in shame. We seen so many of these fake stories before and it’s really messing with our heads.

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