The government shutdown may be over, but cuts to social programs that help the poor are very much still with us. In my church work, I meet people every day who are hurt by cuts to food programs and other federal assistance. Can congregations make up the difference? I wish we could, but the answer is absolutely not. Brie Loskota writes at Religion Dispatches:
Groups like “Jesus Loves New Jersey” are stepping up to show how “the Church” can fill the gaps left by the shuttered government. While these types of efforts are very much at the core of what many congregations see as their role—to meet the unmet needs and to serve those who are hurting—they can also perhaps unwittingly reinforce the notion that government’s functions can be best met by private efforts spurred by individual and shared values, with congregations being uniquely suited to lead the charge.
In a column at Religion & Politics, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, notes:
The Hartford Institute for Religion and Research estimates there are 335,000 religious congregations in the United States. If the House’s proposals to cut SNAP by $133.5 billion and $36 billion are enacted, each congregation will have to spend about $50,000 more annually to feed those who would see a reduction or loss of benefits. The message from the House is that every church in America—no matter what size the congregation—must come up with an extra $50,000 to feed people every year for the next 10 years to make up for these cuts. Churches do amazing work in their communities to meet the needs of the vulnerable. However, without the help of government programs, this responsibility would be too much for religious organizations to bear. It just doesn’t add up.
See Loskota’s full story here.