Election seasons present difficult decisions for Christians. We're unlikely to agree with any candidate on every issuehow do we discern which candidates come closest to sharing our vision?
The biblical imperative to overcome poverty calls us to care for the widow and orphan, to welcome the stranger, and to act in justice and compassion for those who are poor. Seeking God's help, we begin with our own commitment. However, we can not accomplish this goal by ourselves. Government at all levelslocal, state, and federalhas an important role in developing, promoting, and implementing public policies that can help to overcome poverty.
Call to Renewal's Campaign to Overcome Poverty identifies seven specific goals for a good society. We are not committed to any particular ideological method or partisan agenda to achieve these goals, only that they be achieved. Accomplishing these goals will require the development and implementation of specific policies. Candidates for office will have views on different policy objectives, but do they share our concern that the seven objectives be achieved?
Call to Renewal invites you to use the questions listed under each of our societal goals to determine which candidates' views are closest to your own.
A good society should achieve:
1) A living family income for all who responsibly work. Statistics show that most poor people work, often more than one job. How will you help those who work, but are still poor, to rise from poverty? Over the past decade, workers at the bottom of the economic ladder have seen their incomes decline. How will you address this problem?
2) Affordable, quality health care for all, regardless of income. More than 40 million Americans, including children, have no health insurance. How will you address this most urgent need with long-term solutions? Despite desperate need, thousands of people cannot access treatment for drug addictions and severe mental health concerns. People suffering from mental illness and drug addiction make up large parts of the homeless and incarcerated populations. How will you address this growing problem?
3) Schools that work for all of our children. How will you ensure that every child, no matter where they live or what their family income, has access to an excellent education?
4) Safe and affordable housing. What role will you play in creating more affordable housing?
5) Safe and secure neighborhoods. What policies do you support to help keep all neighborhoods safe and drug-free?
6) Family-friendly policies and programs. What policies do you endorse to support working parents?
7) Zero tolerance for racism and make racial justice and reconciliation top national priorities. How will you address the persistent problems in the criminal justice system, evident in discrimination in the treatment of juveniles, racial profiling, disparate prison terms, and disproportionate death sentencing?
MEMBERS OF Call to Renewal have committed themselves to making poverty and people who are poor a "Sunday morning" issue and an everyday commitment. We will encourage congregations, denominations, and faith-based organizations to devote an increasing percentage of our resources to overcoming poverty.
Three final questions for all candidates...
- The government, people of faith, and the private sector each have ideas for overcoming poverty. How will you ensure that each sector does its fair share and does what it can do the best?
- Many Americans have not benefited from this era of unprecedented economic prosperity. What steps are you prepared to take to eradicate poverty by the year 2010?
- Will you sign Call to Renewal's Covenant to Overcome Poverty?
When this article appeared, R. Carter Echols was national organizer for Call to Renewal. To get involved in Call to Renewal's Campaign to Overcome Poverty, contact Call to Renewal, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 328-8745; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.calltorenewal.com.