Why My Governor’s a Goat

Why My Governor’s a Goat December 27, 2023

A goat wearing a red #29 football jersey seated behind a fancy desk with the Nebraska flag behind him and a pig figurine on the desk
Image Credit: Created with AI on 12/27/2023

My governor is a goat.

Not the G.O.A.T. as in how we’ve started to abbreviate the title “Greatest of All Time,” but goat.

As in a Matthew 25 goat.

The background

Let me explain—Nebraska is my home state. Last week, our governor announced that Nebraska would not be applying for eighteen million dollars of federal summer grocery aid for families who qualify for free or reduced school lunch programs. This would have given each child an EBT card with $120 on it to assist with groceries during the summer, or about $40 per month.

His reason? And I quote: “I don’t believe in welfare.”

He doesn’t believe in welfare.


Now, our esteemed governor is a practicing Roman Catholic. He’s a frequent church-goer and makes no bones about the role of faith in his life. To that, I give a hearty “Amen.” Good for him.

But there’s a disconnect between what he says about his faith and what he says about his political beliefs. Because if Jesus were standing right in front of him and said “Okay, explain to me why you weren’t willing to accept eighteen million dollars of free aid that would have helped 150,000 kids in the state you govern,” I wonder if his answer still would have been, “I don’t believe in welfare.”

As Dr. McCoy from Star Trek would’ve said, “Dammit Jim, they’re kids.”

The Sheep and the Goats

Churches that use the lectionary (a pre-planned cycle of Scripture readings for worship) heard several apocalyptic readings leading up to Christmas. One of those readings was from Matthew 25: the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Remember that one?

It’s the one where both the sheep and goats are confused because Jesus tells them that they had (or in the goats’ case, hadn’t) helped him at various points in their lives. And they for the life of them can’t remember ever meeting Jesus, never mind helping him with anything. But he explains by telling them, “Even as you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me.”

If my state’s governor attended his church in December, he likely would have heard this parable. Even if he didn’t, I’m pretty sure he would recognize it. The least of these. Who are “the least of these?”

“The Least of These”

Maybe included in that category are kids whose families, through no fault of the kids, are poor. Kids who during the school year rely on free and reduced-cost lunches for a good, relatively balanced meal. Kids who, when school is out, no longer have that safety net and whose parents suddenly have to make an already stretched budget stretch even further.

It’s not like the parents intentionally make their kids go without food. For those at or below the poverty level, SNAP (food stamps) can only go so far. Meanwhile, finding a better-paying job or taking on more hours just may not be possible (for several reasons—a great subject for a different column). And the less money you make, the greater percentage of your budget is eaten up by fixed expenses.

Christian Family Values?

Governor Pillen said that there are already summer lunch programs in place that are connected with camps and activities, and he would rather have kids outside the home being active, having supervision, and having the potential for assessment for further assistance.

That all sounds lovely.

That is, until you consider that it then requires all kids needing lunch to be enrolled in camps seven days per week to receive those lunches, not just weekdays. It also requires families to get their kids to whatever the daily program may be, no matter what the family’s transportation situation is. And if parents work shifts other than daytime or have days off from work, it requires the kids to be away instead of having family time together.

That’s why nonprofits across the state—those who actually work every day with those who would have been helped—lobbied the governor for months to accept the aid, only to have their pleas go unheard.

This is from a guy who ran on a platform of Christian family values, one of which apparently is saying no thanks to giving “the least of these” a little boost during a time of the year it’s very much needed.


Does he think that turning down this aid is going to incentivize parents to work? Because SNAP in Nebraska already is a “return to work” program. Refusing the aid does nothing to change that.

Does he think that accepting it would make families welfare-dependent? I’d like to challenge him to hold down an hourly job with no benefits and feed a family with those wages and SNAP. I’d challenge him to do it for one month, and to help out we could assume that nothing out of the ordinary happens that month…like needing a car repair or dealing with an illness.

I wonder if he’d believe in welfare then.

I wonder if he’d even consider the additional $120 as welfare at that point, or just be thankful for the additional opportunity to do what he feels is best to help his family. Especially when the other option for receiving extra help is to have the government decide what’s best, by requiring his kids to go elsewhere and eat what they were given.

Politics, Sin, and Goats

The decision our esteemed governor has made is light years from anything approaching “Christian family values.” It’s a willful decision to cast aside any thought of what the best thing would be for 150,000 Nebraska kids and their families, all to score political points.

When one invokes God’s name to get elected and then uses their elected power for political self-interest, that’s making a mockery of the commandment against taking the Lord’s name in vain.

And when it involves rejecting a gift that would help bridge a difficult gap for children in food-insecure families?

That’s when our governor may ask “When was it that we saw you hungry and refused to feed you, commanded you to strengthen your family and refused to make it easier, or heard calls for help from your advocates but chose to ignore them?”

And Jesus will answer, “Just as you did not do it for the least of these, you also did not do it for me.”

About Matt Schur
After graduating with a B.A. in English from Truman State and an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Luther Seminary, Matt Schur spent years wandering in a vocational wilderness before finally discovering his calling— assisting and advocating for the marginalized and vulnerable. He currently lives out that call as a case manager and housing specialist for people experiencing homelessness. He also serves an ELCA campus ministry part-time as its music director and pianist, and has published two books of progressive Christian poetry: “Cross Sections” (2021) and “Imperfectly Perfect” (2023). His writing has been featured in “Valiant Scribe Literary Journal,” “Unlikely Stories,” and “Cathexis Northwest Press.” You can read more about the author here.

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