Far Too Many White Christians Embrace Harmful Myths about Poverty

Looking at disturbing new statistics, John Gehring writes:

A new survey from The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation offers the latest dispiriting news about the troubling state of white Christianity.

Christians, the study found, are more than twice as likely to blame a person’s poverty on individual failings than Americans who are atheist or have no specific religious affiliation. White evangelical Christians, who voted overwhelmingly for President Trump and continue to be some of his most steadfast supporters, are especially wedded to this worldview. Half of white Catholics also cited lack of effort — read: laziness — rather than difficult circumstances as the primary reason why people are poor. Less than a third of African-American Christians agree….

Too many white Christians sacrifice the gospel’s radical solidarity with the poor and oppressed with comfortable, self-serving ideologies. Prosperity gospel preachers affirm the cult of consumerism and individualism. Evangelicals rally behind political leaders who make a holy trinity out of tax cuts for the wealthy, attacks on social safety nets and anti-government propaganda. A majority of the descendants of white Catholic immigrants once feared and loathed in this country voted for a president who ran on an explicitly nativist message.

In this upside-down world, white Christians can justify taking away health care coverage from struggling families and blindly worship the false idol of “trickle-down” economic theories that Pope Francis has rightly called a “crude” and “naïve” fantasy. Climate change that already displaces the most vulnerable around the world is denied or blithely dismissed as liberal hyperventilating.

A strain of American Christianity has always been interwoven with a secular creed of “rugged individualism.” Work hard and sacrifice, the dogma goes, and you will reap rewards both material and spiritual….

The fact that child poverty in the U.S. is dramatically higher in the United States than in most industrialized countries has nothing to do with morally deficient children and can’t exclusively be blamed on the flaws of their parents. Personal responsibility matters and culture can influence decisions, but specific policy and political decisions play a far greater role.