53% of white evangelical Protestants blame a person’s lack of work ethic for their poverty level.
A recent poll by The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation shows differences between Christians and other faiths. The poll exposes differences in thought between Christians and Jesus, the most important figure in Christianity. The poll, which was a survey of 1,686 American adults, sought to find out from respondents which was more likely to blame for poverty: lack of personal effort or the circumstances in which an individual finds themselves in?
46 percent of Christians were of the view that poverty is mostly due to a lack of personal effort, with 53 percent of white evangelical Protestants agreeing. This contrasts with 29 percent of all non-Christians who did not agree with them. 51 percent of Catholics also agreed poverty is due to individual strengths and weaknesses and not deep, systemic and structural issues.
Seeking to explain these results, Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary commented, “There’s a strong Christian impulse to understand poverty as deeply rooted in morality, often, as the Bible makes clear, in unwillingness to work, in bad financial decisions, or in broken family structures.”
Evangelical Christians think people are to blame for their own poverty – https://t.co/Wt8VSiySpH
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) August 7, 2017
Atheists and agnostics painted a different picture, with 65 percent of those polled believing difficult circumstances out of the reach of personal effort are to blame for poverty. This pull and push is also seen in the Bible, with Jesus often seen as praising the dignity, righteousness and faith of the poor, even going as far as saying those who serve the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God. However, the same Bible that records Jesus saying nice things about the poor also states in Thessalonians, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
The poll also highlighted political differences in views on poverty, with 72 percent of Democrats blaming poverty on circumstances whereas 63 percent of Republicans blamed poverty on lack of individual effort.
Last fall, Radiolab produced a podcast called Busted: America’s Poverty Myths. Episode 2 “Who Deserves To Be Poor?” explores this topic specifically. As per the episode’s description: “The notion that poverty stems from a lack of will power and a poor work ethic is as old as America. Why that needs to be dispelled.”