Last fall, Hurricane Katrina opened a window of awareness about the extent of poverty in America as the breached levees of Louisiana revealed the breaches in our society. We are painfully aware of the many Americans still living in poverty, the persistent connection of race and poverty, and the power of a political ideology that has eroded the idea of the common good. As Christians, we are called to be “the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (Isaiah 58:12).
Yet, as the months have gone by, the attention of politicians and the media has shifted to other issues and events. The need remains for a positive and comprehensive vision and policies that could truly begin to reduce poverty.
In response, the annual Call to Renewal roundtable in November became a “Faith Summit on Poverty.” More than 50 leaders and policy experts from denominations, faith-based organizations, and community organizing networks met to discuss a “Covenant for a New America.” This policy platform is intended to move beyond the debate between left and right by seeking to create a common commitment to identify, pursue, and bring about real solutions to poverty.
The Covenant lifts up both personal and social responsibility with policies that address the individual decisions and social systems that trap people in poverty. It identifies policies that move beyond looking solely to charity or only to government. It acknowledges that budgets are moral documents and budget priorities can help or hurt poor people—and that negative family and cultural values also impact low-income people.
A combination of policies are proposed in four major areas: