This is especially evident in light of Pope Francis' emphasis on helping the poor. Last week, he went to one of Rio de Janiero's most impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods and gave a speech on poverty, hope, and social justice.
In his speech, he stated, "No amount of 'peace-building' will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself. The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty! Let us always remember this: Only when we are able to share, do we become truly rich. Everything that is shared is multiplied! I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: Never tire of working for a more just world."
President Obama often shares similar sentiments and is criticized by Republicans and Conservatives as being an evil Socialist. The Republican Party and its leaders frequently mock and hold in contempt the poor. Just recall Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous 47 percent comment last year. They consistently block attempts to raise the minimum wage, and they passed the Farm Bill without including food stamps. They resisted attempts to lower the interest rates on student loans. They frequently oppose the extension of unemployment benefits. Their policies on voting rights are disenfranchising poor people. Their opposition to ObamaCare and immigration reform shows contempt for the poor and middle class. Last week, they chastised President Obama's speech in which he criticized the wealth inequity in the United States. A Fox News poll of Republicans last week showed that George Zimmerman is twice as favorable as President Obama, who champions the poor and middle class. In general, they have earned their reputation as the political party that is cold-hearted and only cares about rich people.
As recent statistics indicate, the wealth gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has grown exponentially. As President Obama noted last Wednesday, the income of the top 1 percent has nearly quadrupled, the typical family's has stagnated. and the median household earns less than it did in 2000.
The Bible is silent about gun rights and abortion. However, it contains many passages about being compassionate towards the poor. Matthew 19:24 says that Jesus told his disciples, "Truly I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
As reported by the Christian Post in 2012, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 49 percent of white, non-Hispanic Catholics identified themselves as Republican compared to 42 percent as Democratic in 2011.
Churches, religious institutions, and individuals do great charity work. However, they need to be more outspoken about issues and policies that concern poor people. For instance, two weeks ago, Presidents of 88 Catholic colleges and universities sent a joint letter to House Speaker John Boehner urging that the House of Representatives pass comprehensive immigration reform. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Congress stating that the budget cuts on entitlements, supported by Republican politicians, were immoral because they would hurt the poor. There are times when it does happen, but they need to speak out even more.
Government can't solve all of society's problems, but it should favor policies that don't punish poor people. Christians and all religious institutions in the United States should follow the Pope's lead and demand that Congressional Republicans enact more equitable policies.
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