NC protests split on Bible's message to help poor - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

NC protests split on Bible's message to help poor

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Over the last two months, hundreds of protesters have walked out of North Carolina's capitol in handcuffs to show their opposition to policies by the GOP-controlled Legislature.
    
While a broader coalition of supporters is building around the "Moral Mondays" started by the state chapter of the NAACP, the inspiration behind the protests is a throwback to the biblical message of civil rights leaders fighting segregation in the Jim Crow era.
    
They argue that cutting benefit programs and cutting tax breaks for low- and middle-income families violates Jesus Christ's teaching to care for those with the least. It's running into another school of Christian thought followed by many Southern conservatives: The best way to help the poor is through private charity, providing jobs and promoting self-reliance, rather than government programs.
    
The NAACP, and other groups that are joining them in larger numbers, oppose a range of Republican policies, from refusing to expand Medicaid to about 500,000 more people to restricting eligibility for the state's pre-kindergarten program. Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in more than a century, have also cut unemployment benefits and abolished the earned-income tax credit, which serves low to middle-income people.
    
State bishops and church leaders from five major Christian denominations issued a statement supporting the NAACP's actions ahead of a clergy-led protest on Monday.
    
Robert Daniels, senior pastor at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, said Monday that he chose to get arrested to let legislators know that disproportionately hurting the poor wouldn't go unnoticed by voters or God.
    
"I want them to know that justice will win," he said. "God will show his hand that he's for the poor. It's only a matter of time."
    
Matthew Wilson, a professor at Southern Methodist University who writes about the intersection of religion and politics, said differences in responses to poverty historically come down to denomination. Roman Catholics and black Protestants don't oppose public solutions, but Protestants of evangelical or Baptist leanings often do. And those denominations - heavily clustered in the South - emphasize personal responsibility, an individual relationship with God and work ethic, he said.
    
"A lot of studies show that evangelicals give more money to private anti-poverty groups than any others, so they do take very seriously the biblical imperatives to help the poor, but they differ in that they see the biblical imperative to help the poor as being an individual imperative as opposed to a collective social imperative," Wilson said.
    
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he sees Christians as similarly concerned with prosperity for all, but divided over how to bring it about.
    
"Obviously there will always be those who have no concern for the poor at all, and that's clearly forbidden by Scripture, but usually the differences we have are over unintended consequences," he said. "And so Democrats and Republicans will disagree on what policy objectives will actually help the poor and what will put into place patterns that will, in the long-term, harm poor people.
    
The protests are dominating local news coverage and attracting national attention, but that doesn't mean they'll be immediately effective. Republicans maintain that they're doing exactly what the public wanted in electing them to veto-proof majorities and the protesters don't represent a clear majority. But the NAACP plans to continue its weekly protests indefinitely.
    
While some Republicans hesitate to apply biblical lessons to fiscal programs, that hasn't stopped a raft of legislation on private social behavior. In recent years, North Carolina lawmakers have pushed through a constitutional amendment for voters to ban gay marriage and new restrictions on abortion.
    
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg and a long-practicing Christian, said social legislation as well as economic policy are inevitably driven by worldviews, and among people of faith those perspectives are influenced by their religious beliefs. She said she and her family act charitably in private, but she thinks the best economic policies rein in spending and create a better climate for businesses.
    
"If we're spending money on this thing, we're taking it from somewhere else, but we can't do it at the cost of the ability of the person paying for the taxes to still have enough to provide for their own families and to create that environment for jobs," she said.
    
To other Christians, the Bible calls for reforms that more directly address systems of inequality.
    
Miguel De La Torre, a professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology and an ordained Southern Baptist minister, said he sees the NAACP's efforts akin to the Occupy movement but with more of a moral current. The one-time Republican candidate for the Florida House of Representatives said the more evangelical strain of Protestantism is tied to the American ideal of individualism, which he believes misses a clear biblical call to address economic strife.
    
"Having faith without the work of changing the structures is meaningless, which is where I think the NAACP is opposed to the more dominant evangelical view of Christianity," he said.
    
The state NAACP chapter president, the Rev. William Barber, argues it's impossible to divorce a call for collective social justice from the Bible, given that most of it was written under systems of exploitation and Christ focused so heavily on uplifting the poor.
    
"The problem with (private initiative) is, if you see a kid floating down the river, you can run in and rescue that one child. But if you see a bunch more, you have to go up that river to see who's throwing them in," he said. "If we didn't apply that moral critique we wouldn't have hospitals, public schools, universities, Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment (benefits), even labor laws."

  • Wake CountyMore>>

  • St. Aug's names interim president

    St. Aug's names interim president

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:13 AM EDT2014-04-23 15:13:05 GMT
    St. Augustine's has tapped Dr. Everett Blair Ward to be the university's interim president after the school's board of trustees fired president Dianne Boardley Suber earlier this month before she could retire.
    St. Augustine's has tapped Dr. Everett Blair Ward to be the university's interim president after the school's board of trustees fired president Dianne Boardley Suber earlier this month before she could retire.
  • Dr. Campbell: New treatments for migraine headaches

    Dr. Campbell: New treatments for migraine headaches

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:51 AM EDT2014-04-23 11:51:27 GMT

    The FDA has just approved a new device to prevent migraine headaches. This is the first device of its kind and may revolutionize the way we treat headaches.

    The FDA has just approved a new device to prevent migraine headaches. This is the first device of its kind and may revolutionize the way we treat headaches.

  • Man shot at Raleigh Internet sweepstakes parlor

    Man shot at Raleigh Internet sweepstakes parlor

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:38 AM EDT2014-04-23 10:38:43 GMT

    Raleigh police are investigating an early morning shooting.

    Raleigh police are investigating an early morning shooting.A man was shot at an Internet sweepstakes parlor in the 1900 block of Capital Boulevard.Crews took the victim to the hospital and have not released the identity of the victim. Call police if you have any information.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
  • Indictment: Prosecutor was target of Wake Forest kidnapping

    Indictment: Prosecutor was target of Wake Forest kidnapping

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 6:57 PM EDT2014-04-22 22:57:33 GMT
    The U.S. Department of Justice said Kevin Melton has been charged with conspiring to kidnap in relation to the abduction of Frank Janssen from his Wake Forest homeThe U.S. Department of Justice said Kevin Melton has been charged with conspiring to kidnap in relation to the abduction of Frank Janssen from his Wake Forest home
    Nine people have been indicted in connection with the kidnapping of a Wake Forest man whose daughter prosecuted a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang.
    Nine people have been indicted in connection with the kidnapping of a Wake Forest man whose daughter prosecuted a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.