Poverty

What Is Left Unsaid in This Campaign

Photo by Daniel Weeks

New Orleans, seven years after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Daniel Weeks

Much has been said by politicians and the press in this campaign. In three presidential debates alone, we've heard the two contenders for our nation's highest office speak of tax cuts, deficits, jobs, and the middle class literally hundreds of times. 

But much has also been left unsaid. In those same presidential debates, poverty was hardly featured and the word "inequality"didn't appear at all.

How can it be that the Holy Bible refers to helping the poor and vulnerable more than 2,000 times, yet two professing Christians running for president of the United States disregard this unholy scourge?

As we did not hear in the debates, nearly 50 million Americans are currently living in poverty – more than at any other time in our nation's history – and between a third and half of all Americans are within a few lost paychecks of the poverty line. When a quarter of all American jobs pay less than poverty line wages for a family of four, systemic poverty and inequality become more than abstract economics: they are moral and Constitutional concerns. 

So they should be treated by the men and women who aspire to lead our country.

4 Things We Should Be Talking About Before Nov. 6

Voting symbols, VectorPic, Shutterstock.com

Voting symbols, VectorPic, Shutterstock.com

As the winds and the rain of Hurricane Sandy settle down, one bit of the aftermath is going to be another round of conversation about how climate change is affecting our world.

It’s not a conversation you have heard much of in the presidential campaign this year. Climate change is one of a quartet of issues that will have a huge impact on the future of this nation that have gotten short shrift by both President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.

Poverty. Guns. . Drones. Climate change.

Bring up any of those issues and watch the candidates make a quick nod of concern and then scamper away from any specifics. Yet those issues will be with us long after Nov. 6, so it is incumbent on those of us in the faith community to be laying the groundwork now for how we will address them in the coming year.

That work has already begun, of course. The challenge is not to let the post-election exhaustion sweep away those concerns like they were potted palms on a pier in the midst of the hurricane.

'The Line,' the 47 Percent, and the Food Stamp Professor

Poverty background, kentoh / Shutterstock.com

Poverty background, kentoh / Shutterstock.com

When I was a 17-year-old senior in high school, I was in several Advanced Placement courses. As the school year drew to a close, I wanted to take the AP test that would allow me to attain college credit. The AP tests, however, were very, very expensive. I went to my guidance counselor. She said that they could waive the fees for the exams if I qualified for the school’s free lunch program. 

I had avoided the free lunch program for years. I had been on the free lunch program in elementary school and middle school but was always embarrassed by it. So when I got to high school, I didn’t apply for it. I picked up a part-time job so I could pay for my own lunch. But now, I wouldn’t be able to take my AP exams if I didn’t fill out the free lunch program form.

So I agreed to fill out the form. Later that day, my guidance counselor sent a student aide with the form to my social studies class room, where in front of the entire class, she declared that I needed to fill out the free lunch form. I remember the shame of not only my classmates laughing at me that day, but my high school teacher bursting out in laughter as well.

Millennials' Reflections on the New American Values Survey

Sojourners' 2012-2013 interns.

Sojourners' 2012-2013 interns.

On Tuesday, the religion, policy, and politics project at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hosted a forum to release PRRI's fourth American Values Survey (AVS), a large national, multi-issue survey on religion, values, and public policy.

We sent some of our interns to listen in on the findings. Here's what they thought about some of the issues raised by the report.

Tripp Hudgins' Busted Stuff: Abundant Life

What do you have to say about "living abundantly"? How do you deal with anxiety when you think about the future of churches?

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

           ~ John 10:6-10

Values of a Public Faith (Part 2)

Paper Boat Creative / Getty Images

Paper Boat Creative / Getty Images

Editor's Note: This is part two of a three-part series from Dr. Miroslav Volf an a voice instructing us how to involve our values into our present politcal debates. To read part one go HEREFrom part one: 

In this year of presidential elections, I have decided to summarize key values that guide me as I decide for whom to cast my vote. ... 

6. The Poor

Value: The poor — above all those without adequate food or shelter — deserve our special concern. (“The moral test of government is how it treats people in the dawn of life, the children, in the twilight of life, the aged, and in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped” [Hubert Humphrey].)

Rationale: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 23:22). “There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the LORD is sure to bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a possession to occupy” (Deut. 15:4).

Debate: There should be no debate whether fighting extreme poverty is a top priority of the government. That’s a given. We should debate the following: How should we generate a sense of solidarity with the poor among all citizens? In poverty alleviation, what is the proper role of governments and of individuals, religious communities, and civic organizations? What macroeconomic conditions most favor lifting people out of poverty? What should the minimum wage be? 

Questions to Ask: Is overcoming extreme poverty (rather than fostering the wellbeing of the middle class) a priority for the candidate? For what poverty-reducing policies is the candidate prepared to fight?

 

A Lesson in Selflessness

Photo: Child sitting in the dust in  Attila JANDI / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Child sitting in the dust in Attila JANDI / Shutterstock.com

Peacemaking happens in many forms. Sometimes peace is offered to others, and sometimes given in unexpected ways.

It was early morning. The African sun had yet to rise above the mountains, and the sky was the soft yellow of newly shucked corn.

Beep, beep, sounded the horn on the old truck as it rumbled to a stop in front of my house. My old friends  Momadu, Madu, and Balamusa  greeted me with smiles, waves, and morning blessings.

We were on our way from Kenieba, a small town in western Mali, to Sitaxoto, a large village about two hours away over a broken dirt road.

A church was there, a little group of people who met each week outside under a big baobab tree to pray, study the Bible, share their stories and ask, How do we follow Jesus?

 

An Offering of Self

Offering hands, Antonov Roman/ Shutterstock.com

Offering hands, Antonov Roman/ Shutterstock.com

This morning, Madu walked the one kilometer path from his village to my house. He is married to Sirima and they have two children: four-year-old Sira, who they call Bonnie, and two-year-old Musa, who they call Papa. He told me that Papa had burned his hand and wrist in the morning cooking fire.

Maybe the path to civility and peace can be found somewhere along the path from my house to Madus village.

Do you have any medicine for a burn? he asked.

There is a hospital in our small town on the southwestern edge of Mali, but its small staff of doctors serve a large population of people without the use of technology, electricity, or even running water. Many times people come to me for help and healing before they go to the hospital because I have free first aid supplies, a generator, and a deep water well. I consulted my ragged copy of Where There Is No Doctor and turned to the section on the treatment of burns.

10 Reasons Climate Change Should Be An Election Issue

Arctic ice, Volodymyr Goinyk / Shutterstock.com

Arctic ice, Volodymyr Goinyk / Shutterstock.com

I’ll be traveling to New York tomorrow with a number of Christian colleagues. We’re having a rally — a Climate Action Prayer Rally!  And you can join us

I’m not sure about you, but I’m incredibly disappointed that our nation’s leaders – from all sectors, all parties, and all levels – continually neglect to take leadership on our climate and energy crisis. 

There are many reasons that climate change should be a top election issue, but here are just a handful of the most important ones.

Serving Joyfully

Serving hands, AjFile/ Shutterstock.com

Serving hands, AjFile/ Shutterstock.com

Washing dishes. This is how I remember Momadu.

Washing dishes is a chore, you know. In the pre-dishwasher days in America, my mom put "wash the dishes" on my list of things to do every day. I washed them, obediently though begrudgingly.

In the pre-dishwasher days in Mali, though, we asked Momadu to wash the dishes, and he washed them with joy.

How could he do something as mundane as washing dishes and do it with joy?

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