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Hating the Poor

Posted by admin on August 6, 2013

poor2.pngThis, from yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer front page: “Many Americans disdain the poor — and science proves it. When people were placed in neuroimaging machines and shown photos of the poor and homeless, their brains responded as though the photos depicted things, not humans — a sign of revulsion.” (http://philly.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx)

Surely not, we say?

Unfortunately, poor-aversion is seen constantly in our society, say both scholars and social workers, and the aversion deepens as economic times get harder. 

A psychology professor from Yale points out in the article that “our society is based on the idea that if we work hard, we get more, and if we have less, we deserve less.” (Davidio)

Why don’t we care that Detroit went bankrupt? Why are so many people opposed to “Obamacare” and in favor of cutting Aid to Families with Dependent Children?

We don’t like the poor.

Here’s the problem: lf we don’t like poor people, we will try to dehumanize them. Once they become a statistic or a “problem,” we can ignore them. And ignore the poor we do. The separation of the classes in our country eclipses by far the segregation of races.

Why does this matter for the writer?

It matters because the world is made up of a vast number of poor people.

If we wipe the poor out of our consciousness, we wipe out our ability to portray life with any degree of truth. We also lose our ability to connect in truth with millions of potential readers.

It matters because the deepest characterization and the most effective conflicts are developed when two widely divergent classes appear together on the same page.

Let’s say we’ve heard that very thing, so we decide to have an upper class protagonist meet a lower class love interest. If we actually hate the poor, we might have two opposite problems in presenting our characters: either we sentimentalize the lower class character or we caricature him. In either case, we dishonor the character and keep him from becoming real. To create a real man or woman, we must like him and be willing to allow him or her the freedom to act volitionally. If the poor are, in our mind, undeserving leeches on society (our society), we will never write characters who live.

It matters because somewhere along the way we have heard that “compassion” is a good trait to exhibit. Back cover blurbs and reviews tout an author’s compassion, his compassionate treatment of his subject, her compassionate presentation of her characters.

Well, friends, compassion is empty, meaningless, unless we can look those who are “other” in the eye and like them.

What do you think?



Posted by Eileen Rife on
I think God mandated His Church and compassionate organizations supported by the local church to care for the poor, hurting, and abused. Sadly, we've dropped the ball. Yet, some are doing a great job; others, well . . .

Still, God's people are responsible to defend the rights of the afflicted and needy, open their mouths for those who cannot speak for themselves, care for the widows and orphans, and take a stand for justice. This is a recurring theme throughout Scripture.

Several passages come to mind . . .

Proverbs 31:8
Acts 2:42-46
James 1:27

And these are merely a few. As Pastor and author Bill Hybels once said, "The local church is the hope of the world!"

I believe this statement is in keeping with God's heart and plan for all people, including the poor and overlooked in our society.
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