How about a Bread for the World chapter at Rick Warren’s church?

How about a Bread for the World chapter at Rick Warren’s church? April 17, 2012

So the simple idea here is to try to get a Bread for the World chapter revved up at Saddleback Church, the Southern California mega-church led by Rick Warren.

This would be a Good Thing. It’s something that ought to happen. It would, I think, be a big help for Saddleback, its people and its pastor. And it could be a big boost for Bread and for the hungry people it represents.

Bread for the World is an ecumenical, nonpartisan Christian lobby for the hungry. That’s all they do — speak on behalf of the hungry. That intense focus makes them far more effective at what they do than you might expect from such a lean, modest operation.

Bread isn’t what you probably imagine when you hear the word “lobbyists.” They’re not glitzy or glossy. They’re not big on schmoozing, fêteing and hobnobbing. They keep their heads down and their eyes on the ball, and whenever a bill or a budget affects the hungry, they go to work to make sure that the concerns of the hungry are not forgotten in the debate. They do their homework and they bring the data, backed up with the kind of resolve that only comes from standing up on behalf of someone else.

Bread for the World’s biggest weapon is genuine grassroots support. When they get involved, lawmakers get letters — enough letters that they have to listen and they have to respond.

Bread organizes what they call an “offering of letters” through local congregations. A bunch of people get together after church and write polite, informed, firm letters in defense of funding for WIC or for international development or for whatever the specific current issue at hand may be. Before long, their members of Congress are sitting at their desks looking at dozens of such letters, all from constituents in their districts — from Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists and members of the local Calvary Deliverance Bible Chapel. That’s effective.

In recent weeks, Bread has been fighting to defend SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.

SNAP Helps Stuggling Families Put Food on the Table,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, with way more supporting data than anyone could possibly require. It’s an efficient, effective program providing vital help to families that desperately need it. Most of this help goes to children and to the disabled and the elderly. Most of the rest of it goes to people who are caring for children or for the disabled and the elderly.

Because it’s so efficient, effective and necessary, SNAP has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for most of the past 40 years. The more anyone understands the reality of the program and the reality of the people it serves, the more they tend to support it and defend it. The slurs and mythologies of its opponents just don’t stand up to the facts of the matter. Talk of “lazy welfare queens” seems repulsively ignorant once you realize the genius for home economics it takes to feed your children on the modest budget food stamps provides. Condescending talk of “dependence” just seems perverse once you realize it’s directed at children, the disabled and the elderly.

I’ve been a bit harsh lately in criticizing Rick Warren for promoting and repeating those ugly lies about the poor. (For a more patient take from someone closer to Warren theologically, see Morgan Guyton’s recent series: “Considering Rick Warren’s Economic Principles,” “‘The land is Mine,’ the importance of Leviticus 25:23” and “‘Government handouts’ that ‘create dependency.’“) It’s unlikely anything I’ve ever written to or about the man has even appeared as a blip on his radar, and in any case my evident anger and irritation with his nonsense would probably make him unlikely to listen to me.

But Rick Warren desperately needs someone to explain to him the cruelty of the ignorance he’s embracing when it comes to things like SNAP and other irreplaceable, essential assistance to the poor. He seems determined not to learn that truth. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Yett I think there’s a chance Warren might be receptive to learning the truth and to unlearning the lies if the message were coming to him from members of his own flock.

Imagine that one or more of the small groups at Saddleback Church were to join Bread for the World, joining their voices with those of other Christians throughout the U.S. in support of the hungry. They could share Bread’s materials with others at Saddleback, using their excellent resources to explain the simple, clear facts of the matter. And they could try to meet with their senior pastor to share those materials with him.

Would he listen? I don’t know. But it seems worth a shot.


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  • I have always been puzzled by how much of the support for guys like Warren and Romney comes from working class folks, and even from people struggling to stay above the poverty line. Why would anyone shoot themselves in the foot this way?Then I got this (from a woman who had just been angrily posting about how the Democrats are the ones making war on women, because they won’t admit being a stay-at-home mom is real work):

    “I expected this question Jess, and it is a hard one to answer without coming off other than I intend. But I’m going to try to answer anyway. I think if welfare were structured differently people would make better choices in the first place.We are no longer a society who takes care of just those who ‘can’t’ but also of those who won’t. If I didn’t mary a man who works harder than anyone I know (with no college or handouts ever. btw) I would do what I did before work 2 or even three jobs use places like the country doctor or a women’s health clinic and most definitely not have kids. I would survive on my own and work towards making more opportunity. I wouldn’t give up because I was being taken care of. Now days, a lot of men CHOOSE not to work simply because they can, and they know their families will be taken care of. I don’t think welfare should be disbanded. I firmly be leave no child should go without. But I don’t think those families who work hard to have a better life should have to support those who just WONT.  

    Welfare is often a cycle, a parent is on it and that’s what the child see’s and then they grow up and get on welfare and do the cycle again. They have no HOPE of a better future because the system is what they Know. I believe welfare should be a stepping stone. Help those who genuinely need it and then help them help themselves get off it. Watching your parent work is what gets the child to dream of a better future! There is dignity in work. People in my position, that is stay at home moms work too! We work to budget and to manage our home so that the funds don’t run out and maybe if we are lucky save for the future so our spouses can retire and we won’t have to rely on any assistance. When there is no goal of ever not having said assistance to rely on, then it is sitting back and waiting for a handout. We should all be taught self reliance!”


    It’s all about pride.

    A terrible, heartbreaking pride that ignores all contradictions and admits no arguments.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    This contradictory postion that the Romneys and this woman seem to be endorsing is that being a stay-at-home mom is real work…unless  you get paid for it.

  • twoforjoy

    I agree that it’s about pride, and it’s heartbreaking.

    I wouldn’t overestimate how much support for these folks comes from the working class, though.  Rick Warren’s church is a wealthy church in an affluent area.  The less money you have, the more likely you are to vote Democrat.  And, unfortunately, the less likely you are to vote at all.  

  • a lot of men CHOOSE not to work simply because they can, and they know their families will be taken care of

    I would bet that she thinks the men who “choose” not to work are black. I recommend “The Wages of Whiteness” by David Roediger to understand this stuff.

  • MaryKaye

    It’s a reasonable kind of pride when it amounts to “I won’t take handouts”–though not when that means your children get sick or die.  But it’s something a lot nastier when it means “No one should get handouts.”

    One of my in-laws was very poor as a young woman and has since become quite wealthy.  Rather than feeling sympathy for those who are poor now, she seems to take out all the pain and fear she felt as a young woman on them.  It’s emotionally painful to her to imagine that someone else might get more help than she did.  I think she had to somehow accept her suffering as normal in order to endure it, and hearing that others might not need to suffer as she did upsets that internal accommodation.  

    What I can say–anecdata–is that this is a terrible mindset for the person herself, never mind those around her.  Despite being wealthy she hoards and saves and causes herself a lot of unnecessary stress, and she is constantly angry at others’ good fortune.   Her house is clogged with stuff to the point that she can’t stand to live there and is looking for a new house, but she can’t bear to let the stuff go.  She is not a happy person, and I believe that this is tightly connected with her lack of concern for the poor, who after all represent the people she grew up among, and her own younger self.

  • It boggles my mind that people like Rick Warren would have more Christian influence in the government, but complain the loudest when the government does something as central to the supposed Christian doctrine as feeding the hungry.  It’s almost like he’s incensed that someone is showing the world how bad he is at his so-called job.

  • olsonam

    The title to the pie chart is misleading. It should say “More than 3/4ths of recipients are children, etc” – after reading the title I thought that the 37% was the non elderly, non disabled adult portion until I looked closer.

  • As a matter of fact, the person in question is black herself.

  • Tricksterson

    So they’re Commies.

  • Tricksterson

    My grandmother was like that, as well as other unsavory things. 

  • Ken

    Am I reading too much into the fact that Bread uses a .ORG URL, but Saddleback uses a .COM?

  • P J Evans

    Her house is clogged with stuff to the point that she can’t stand to
    live there and is looking for a new house, but she can’t bear to let the
    stuff go.

    That’s the poverty speaking through her – she can’t give it up because that’s how she knows she isn’t poor any more. Short of having a fire marshal or someone from the health department show up and explain to her that she can’t keep everything without it being dangerous to her, I don’t know what can be done.

  • I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Mullah Warren forbade the establishment of Bread For The World at Saddleback on the grounds that it was Socialist or some such nonsense. It’s interesting to me that Fred talks about Mullah Warren with such vitriol but fails to make the connection to his “Left Behind” work. Specifically, the fact that Rick Warren is exactly who the Jesus was warning us about when he and his apostles spoke of “whited sepulchers,” “false prophets” and “antichrists.”  Speaking personally, I didn’t leave Christianity because I disagreed with its central principles as I understood them. I left it because I concluded that it had been so coopted by the Cult of Mammon that it had become intrinsically hostile to those very principles. Or to put it another way: Rick Warren is a kinder, gentler Pat Robertson and nothing more.

  • That possibility is why I didn’t say that she was probably white. Internalized racism. Of course, there’s a lot more going on in that quote too. Sexism and victim-blaming being the things that most jump out at me. 

    Imo, it’s not rooted in pride: it’s rooted in abject terror, like all victim-blaming. If she admitted that it’s not rare for people to be in terrible situations that aren’t their fault, and that 100% perfect judgement is not possible, she would realize this could happen to her. She would have to admit that she cannot control everything that happens in her life, and that she never could. Yes, she made some choices that turned out to put her in a good place for the moment, but all of that could go away with one piece of bad luck. Deep down, she and those like her know this, like all victim-blamers, and that’s what makes them so tenacious and angry.

  • Noah40

     Have you guys read Art Spiegelman’s Maus?
    It illustrates something alarmingly like what you describe: the author’s father was a victim of both the Great Depression and the Holocaust, and exhibits a lot of the coping mechanisms he learned then for the rest of his life – 40 years, give or take.

    On a note maybe related to the OP by Fred, I wonder what the level of (for lack of a better word) “ex-poor” participation is in organizations like Bread for the World.  We’ve heard a few stories of people who grew up poor turning their backs on those who share their upbringing, do we know any that did the opposite?

  • My father, his brother, and my paternal grandmother, to name three people I know personally. There are too many historical figures who did it to bother starting a list. It’s rare for people who used to be poor to turn their backs — that’s why people remember it. (And MaryKaye’s in-law sounds like she has some very serious mental problems, I don’t think using her as an example really works.)

    And btw, I am poor now. If I achieve middle class status again, the likelihood of me becoming a right-winger is slightly less than Rush Limbaugh recanting his entire career, becoming a feminist, joining the ACLU, and developing a good aesthetic sense.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    We’ve heard a few stories of people who grew up poor turning their backs on those who share their upbringing, do we know any that did the opposite?

    Do you mean people who grew up rich then turned their back on riches, or people who grew up poor and didn’t turn their back on other poor people?

  • Elizabby

    >>One of my in-laws was very poor as a young woman and has since become quite wealthy.  Rather than feeling sympathy for those who are poor now, she seems to take out all the pain and fear she felt as a young woman on them.  It’s emotionally painful to her to imagine that someone else might get more help than she did.

    Yes, one of the guys I work with is like this. He came from a poor area, immigrant non-English speaking parents, unresourced local public school, etc. He worked and sweated and is *incredibly* smart – and now he’s a fully qualified specialist surgeon. BUT when it comes to breaks for the disadvantaged (even education) he’s downright cruel. Nothing for anyone – on the grounds that he did it, so if anyone else *doesn’t* pull themselves up by their bootstraps they obviously just aren’t trying hard enough. :(

  • One thing IS true: humans are generally inherently easy-path seekers. Why would people want it to be a freakin’ Rube Goldberg maze for everybody else to achieve the same success they did?

  • Tricksterson

    They want it to be easy for themselves.  They want it to be difficult for others because they see them as at best competitors, at worst potential predators.

  • GDwarf

    Yep, and I think people overestimate the influence of fear, that assumes a fairly rational mind, with athat hindbrain that can make cause-effect links across several steps, which it really can’t.

    Instead, I think that there’s just an innate human inclination towards believing in a just world, which becomes reinforced by society into becoming a habitual way of thinking.

  • AnonymousSam

    For my parents, it’s simple: they drank the Fox News Kool-Aid. They believe Obama ruined America. They believe he’s a Muslim who was born in Kenya and that he’s slowly but surely driving the economy beyond all possible repair. They think he’s pouring money into corporations because he’s nothing but a corporate puppet, and at the same time, is giving money away to illegal foreigners. They’re not so much Pro-Republican as they are Pro-Anything-Not-Obama, but their perspectives are now very closely aligned with a lot of Republican dogma.

    Here’s something they posted on my Facebook page before I finally had to stop watching them-

    The folks who are getting the free stuff, don’t like the folks who are paying for the free stuff, because the folks who are paying for the free stuff can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff.

    The folks who are paying for the free stuff want the free stuff to stop, and the folks who are getting the free stuff want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they are already getting!

    Now… The people who are forcing the people who pay for the free stuff have told the people who are RECEIVING the free stuff, that the people who are PAYING for the free stuff, are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

    So… The people who are GETTING the free stuff have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their free stuff, and giving them the free stuff in the first place.

    We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than those paying for the free stuff.

    Now understand this. All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded. The reason? The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

    The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 235 years ago. The number of people now getting free stuff outnumbers the people paying for the free stuff. We have one chance to change that. In 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it.

    A Nation of Sheep Breeds a Government of Wolves!

    I’M 100% for PASSING THIS ON!!!

    Let’s take a stand!!!
    Obama: Gone!
    Borders: Closed!
    Language: English only
    Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!
    Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!
    NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!

    We the people are coming

    Only 86% will send this on. Should be 100%. What will you do?

    “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. — Margaret Thatcher

    It makes me very, very sad.

  •  Do you even try to talk with them about it? Do you take any sort of stand? Or do you silence yourself out of a misguided effort to keep the peace? I was 29 when I politely but firmly asked my father never to use the N-word in my presence. In the 13 years since, he has never uttered a single negative word against blacks in my presence, and in 2008, he voted for Obama and stood up to rejection by some of his own peer group for doing so. I wonder how many of those peers (now in their 70’s and 80’s) never had children willing to stand up to their parents’ bigotries and so will carry them to the grave.

  • AnonymousSam

    Oh, we argue all the time. They still see me as a child, even though I’m now older than they were when I was born, so everything that comes out of my mouth is due to a lack of experience, knowledge, and naïveté.

    The sad thing is, this is a new condition. They were totally on the same page as I was when George W. Bush was in office. It wasn’t until we parted ways and moved in separate directions across the country, me to the west coast, they to Texas, that things went downhill. Now they get their information from Fox News and think Glenn Beck’s only problem is that he’s too into religion. Nothing I say will get through to them because they refuse to believe any other news source as being legitimate.

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  • Tricksterson

    So obviously they’ve been Stepforded.

  • AnonymousSam

    They don’t smile nearly enough for that. They do show many of the signs of Fox News Geezer Syndrome though, minus the Geezer part. They started watching and gradually become bitter, xenophobic and increasingly racist people.

  • Leonard Andrew Spencer

     I’ve been reading a lot of Joe Bageant’s essays, and his argument is twofold: Impoverished americans don’t recieve a good education so they’re easily tricked by Fox and the rest of the right wing propaganda machine, and that the left and liberals aren’t communicating with them, and write them off as bigots and idiots because of classism. Not that he’s saying those things aren’t true, but that we shouldn’t just decide it’s too hard to communicate with these people and give up but instead talk with them about their problems and help them better understand politics and start to demand better from their representatives.

  •  Good article,this is really useful for me.