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There’s a vast chasm between how our culture cares for the poor and how people of faith care for the poor.

Society does everything in its power to make them disappear. It corrals them in woefully failing schools, turns its back as they migrate to ghettos or dilapidated trailers, offers a welfare system that creates dependency and strips them of dignity, and provides an inadequate public defense system that locks ’em up and throws away the keys, leaving poor families decimated. And if our culture can’t dispose of them, it laughs at them.

Enter Honey Boo Boo.

The 6-year-old star of The Learning Channel’s reality show and her family seem proud of their plight. Honey’s mother and other siblings revel in the little girl’s antics. Mom feeds her hyper-caffeinated “go-go juice” to escalate her already outrageous behavior. Honey rubs her bare belly and squeals, “A dollar makes me wanna holler!”

They clearly believe that this is their big moment, their lottery ticket to success. We know better—they’ve been snookered.

Our society has sunk to new lows by devouring reality shows that turn the poor into our court jesters. With “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” TLC has outdone even Jerry Springer in what one writer has called “poorsploitation.”

The church cares for the poor differently. We don’t pretend they don’t exist because Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11). We don’t ignore them; instead, we meet Jesus’ brothers and sisters where they are (Matt. 25:35-40). We don’t laugh at them, just as Jesus didn’t laugh when he told the story of one of his own wallowing in a pigpen (Luke 15:11-32).

The church, its supporting agencies, and its members actually help the poor meet their daily needs, get on their feet, and live with promise (Acts 24:17). Sometimes we have to use tough love (2 Thess. 3:10). As the body of Christ, we welcome the poor into our churches and befriend them, yes, and learn from them (James 2:1-13). We know that to defend the cause of the poor and needy is what it means to know God (Jer. 22:16).

The church should rise up in outrage at the way our culture treats “the least of these.” We must refuse to get the joke when God’s children are stuck in the mud. We must weep at the sight. Society must stop hiding the keys for success from the poor. Instead, we must share from our plenty. Or God help us.

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