By Bill Mefford
For the third time House Republicans blocked a $19.1 billion dollar disaster relief bill from moving on to the Senate because they either think the bill is too expensive or because it is not expensive enough and does include funding for militarization of the border. The reason has never been clarified, but what is clear is that House Republicans are opposed to giving people who recently suffered natural disasters money to recover and rebuild. The Republican party seems intent on creating disasters for people suffering natural disasters.
In what is passing for the good old days, it used to be that conservative lawmakers (in both parties) merely bifurcated the poor and vulnerable into two groups: deserving and undeserving. Of course, they were just codifying the apostate teaching they had received in their conservative churches that Jesus loves the deserving poor; the poor that at least mimic the values rhetoric of the American middle class – that anyone can become rich if they just work hard enough. And the adverse of this meant that neither Jesus nor his disciples were responsible or called to have much empathy for the undeserving poor; those who in the estimation of a privileged middle class did not work hard enough to move out of their situation.
Though the Bible, in passage after passage, clearly frames the root of poverty as an unjust distribution of resources and oppression as an abuse of power, the apostate teaching for much of the North American Church has been to view poverty and oppression as a problem of individual morality. It was (and still is) rather convenient that the deserving poor were far outnumbered by the undeserving poor because the fewer the deserving poor the fewer people we are responsible for helping and the more of our stuff we get to keep for ourselves. In addition, if poverty is the problem of the poor and not the system then there is no need for the inconvenience of changing the system. The problem, in essence, is not ours; the problem is with “them.”
And while conservative churches are known especially for this convenient split between the deserving and undeserving poor, they are hardly alone. Many progressive churches have created entire ministerial associations in order to direct the poor to official organizations which, again quite conveniently, keeps the poor away from their doors or their members. Many liberals are just more subtle.
But of course separating the poor into two camps and judging one of those camps as worthy of our aid and one of them as unworthy is unbiblical and is, I believe, the greatest heretical teaching of the church today. To judge others as unworthy of our love and generosity while we benefit from God’s overwhelming love and generosity for us is to deny what God has so freely given us. When we deem the poor as unworthy we deem Jesus himself as unworthy.
But like I said, those were the good old days. The Republicans in office now are intent on punishing even those they once deemed as worthy – the victims of natural disasters. Those suffering from tornados, hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires all have one thing in common – they are not worthy of the concerns for House Republicans who continue to hold up the funding bill from moving forward.
Over seven months ago a wildfire in Paradise, CA killed 56 people and devastated the town. They need money to continue to rebuild. But Thomas Massie of Kentucky, John Rose of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas don’t compassion for people in Paradise. They are unworthy of help.
Back in September of 2018 Hurricane Florence overwhelmed numerous parts of North and South Carolina and killed 53 people. Most if not all of these communities need money to rebuild and in some parts of North Carolina some people are still sleeping on their church floors. But Thomas Massie of Kentucky, John Rose of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas don’t compassion for people in North and South Carolina. They are unworthy of help.
Right now, tornadoes in Ohio and historic flooding in several states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, and the Dakotas have caused tremendous damage and have left thousands homeless and unsure of what will come next. But Thomas Massie of Kentucky, John Rose of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas don’t compassion for people in Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, or the Dakotas. They are unworthy of help.
This is not partisan politics. This isn’t just typical Washington DC dysfunction. This is meanness. This crushes the heart of God. And it is time for us to let the purveyors of such meanness know that we will not stand for it anymore. Please do not read this and shake your head and go on about your day. Take action and let’s annoy the hell out of these three particular members of the House (and the other Republican members of the House who will likely follow suit) by calling them repeatedly until the House passes the disaster relief bill. We are tired of this human-created disaster.
So, I urge you today and every day until the disaster relief bill is passed, please call the Capitol Hill switchboard three times and ask for the offices of John Rose of Kentucky, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas and demand they pass the disaster relief bill. Tell them there are people living in tents and sleeping on the floors of churches waiting for them to do the right thing. Call three times every day. Let’s annoy them until they cease from causing disasters for everyone else.