During a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Obama, and Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam chided Christian religious organizations for focusing too heavily on “divisive issues” such as abortion and gay marriage.
The New York Times reported that President Obama, “chided religious organizations for sometimes focusing too heavily on issues like abortion rather than keeping the pressure on politicians to confront poverty.”
President Obama said, “This is oftentimes viewed as a nice-to-have relative to an issue like abortion…I think that there’s more power to be had there, a more transformative voice that’s available around these issues.”
The Washington Post reported that Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, went even further. Referring to Catholics and Evangelicals, he said that they “are the two largest faith communities in America. They have historically been involved in the public square. They’ve been emphasizing homosexuality and abortion and issues related to sex. If they employ the same strengths that religious institutions have on behalf of poor kids as they have on other issues, it would make a real difference.”
What President Obama and Mr. Putnam misunderstand is that religious institutions strengthen families, and strong families beat poverty. Marriage reduces the likelihood of childhood poverty by 82%. The Heritage Foundation reported that:
“Most poor children live in single-parent families. Seventy-one percent of poor families with children are headed by single parents, mostly single mothers. Compared to children raised in an intact family, children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; and drop out of high school.”
This means that the Christian religions focusing on marriage and the right to life fight poverty in a very real and meaningful way. The government already gives money to the poor, and has been for almost a century. But that has not gotten rid of poverty. Teaching the people about marriage, counseling with them, and helping them with the knowledge and resources to maintain strong marriages and families will give the people the resources they need to get themselves out of poverty.
The divisive issues of gay marriage and abortion are intimately related to family. Strong families believe in the right to life, and strong families lead the world in the fight against poverty.