From “Scapegoats: The Gospel Through the Eyes of Victims” by Jennifer Garcia Bashaw
By the twelfth century, ecclesial writers had begun to allot differing roles to rich and poor. The duty of the rich was to give alms, or charity to the poor, and the duty of the poor was to pray for the salvation of their benefactors. By the thirteenth century, the church added a conditional element to the giving of alms, assigning a distinction between the authentic poor and the false poor, or those who were labeled lazy and undeserving. These church writers sent a harmful message and set up an exemption mentality that would plague the church for centuries. The harmful message was multilayered – that the poor and the rich were qualitatively different in the eyes of the church, that the oppressive social realities that create rich and poor were fixed, that the main spiritual responsibility of rich Christians was monetary and not holistic, and that poverty was something that certain people deserved. This last message created an exemption mentality – I don’t need to help people whom I deem undeserving – that would increase the suffering for many in poverty while exempting the wealthy from meaningful spiritual growth or change. These medieval mindsets persist in American Christians today.