By Dan Walters
In regard to Brother Jeffery Kingry’s review (June 22) of my review (March 2) of an initial article of his on poverty (Sept. 15, 1977), I shall first deal with his arguments and then with his personal attack on me. Brother Kingry maintains that since he was not writing on the welfare system, I should not have brought it up. In fact he attacked the slogan, “I fight poverty-I work,” and the songs and jokes about the “welfare Cadillac” as examples of a wrong attitude toward the poor. Surely Brother Kingry is aware that the first slogan was a direct reaction to the late President Johnson’s War on Poverty; the latter slogan is a reaction to welfare abuse. By attacking these slogans, he implied that we should not ridicule the wasteful Federal welfare program, since that is the only thing these slogans were ever intended to do.
The Federal statistics he uses to “prove” widespread poverty in America are from 14 to 18 years old, and thus obsolete. Professor Martin Anderson of the Hoover Institution in a recent study, Welfare: The Political Economy of Welfare Reform (Hoover Press, Stanford, Calif.), demonstrates that real poverty in the U.S. has been practically abolished. The government is now spending a quarter of a trillion dollars annually to help poor people.
I do not say that a person has to sell all he has before he can be helped. I do say that he should sell expensive luxury items before he should present himself as an object of charity. The basic cause of poverty is sin, not always of the poor themselves, and as long as we live in a sinful world we cannot eliminate the causes of poverty. A rich nation like the U.S. can provide a free living for the poor, at tremendous monetary and human costs. Whether it should or not is a political question with some moral implications.
The churches of New Testament times helped those of their own who were in need; churches today must do the same. However, there are far fewer needy persons in modern America than in the old Roman Empire. This allows us to use more of our money for evangelism and edification. But if Brother Kingry had his way he would take all Christians off government welfare and put them on church welfare. He does not attempt to defend this novel idea in his second article. Neither does he defend his notion that special collections taken from individuals are unscriptural.
Because I had the audacity to disagree with him, Brother Kingry charges me with (1) being abusive and judgmental, (2) failing to meet the Holy Spirit’s requirements, (3) walking “not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel,” (4) having despised the poor, (5) being ignorant and prejudiced, (6) engaging in public foolishness, (7) being wrong, guilty of hardness of heart, and in need of repentance, (8) decreeing “unrighteous decrees” and writing “grievousness.” This personal attack will not help his cause or his reputation as a writer. I at least have the comfort of being in good company, since he earlier attacked brethren Yater Tant and Bryan Vinson as “bigots.” I have no charge to make against Brother Kingry other than to say that I am innocent of the eight charges above, which makes him at least mistaken.
If Brother Kingry regards me as a knave and a fool, that is his business, but it is of no interest to the readers of a gospel paper who want to study issues, not personalities. Brethren ought to be able to disagree on the exact application of scriptural principles without considering one another as outcasts. It is one thing to press a point with firmness, it is another thing entirely to slander a brother in Christ. I always regret a situation such as this because it lends support to the view that brethren ought not to engage in public controversies and debates. Remember that it is not the debate that is to blame; it is the poor attitude of some debaters.
Truth Magazine XXII: 35, p. 570
September 7, 1978