The Bible is the most popular book in the world, and so it makes sense that it means vastly different things for the millions of people that read it.
It's used to teach lessons, improve faith, do good, and, unfortunately, to justify some horrific things. On Tuesday, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) quoted the New Testament during a discussion on work requirements for unemployed adults in need of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP— formerly known as food stamps), and it sounded disturbingly like justification for the government to not feed those struggling in poverty.
"There's also, in the scripture, that tells us, in 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 3:10, he says, 'For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat,'" said Arrington at the House Committee on Agriculture hearing. "I think that every American, Republican or Democrat, wants to help the neediest among us, and I think it's a reasonable expectation that we have work requirements."
Arrington was reportedly responding to expert witness Josh Protas' quoting of Leviticus to make a religious case for feeding the hungry. Meeting religion with religion, the representatives' response was seemingly intended to give grounds for a "reasonable" requirement for employment in order to qualify for SNAP benefits.
It's not a new move, as Republicans have been known to quote the Bible in order to justify taking away government benefits from the impoverished, and it shows a bizarre tendency for some lawmakers to not only bring religion into government, but to attempt to use their faith to do away with it.
Joel Berg, CEO of the nonpartisan nonprofit Hunger Free America, said he sees Arrington's comments as stemming from a widespread ignorance about the SNAP program.
"The vast majority of people receiving SNAP are children, senior citizens, working parents, and people with disabilities," Berg said.
For the able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs), who constitute a small minority of those who receive SNAP benefits, there are already work requirements.
However, it is important to note that most ABAWDs are only temporarily unemployed. Others are making so little money at work that they cannot afford sufficient groceries. This is a reality for many doing public service in government volunteer programs like AmeriCorps, which Trump is attempting to do away with.
Those who fall into Arrington's line of thought need to start looking at programs like SNAP differently and in a way that does the realities of so many Americans justice. SNAP doesn't just get people fed; it is crucial to those looking to make their lives better but need a little help along the way. Arrington should think back to the last time he had to do anything on an empty stomach, imagine not knowing when his next paycheck is, and listen to himself quote the Bible.
Then he can (maybe) talk.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Ryk Neethling