Putting the Poor on the Map

A day of preaching compassion to Congress.

In this Washington summer, it sometimes seems the only issue gripping Congress and the media is the ongoing saga of alleged sex scandals in the White House. People who are being removed from public assistance programs are sliding out of sight and out of mind, with few stopping to ask where they are going.

On June 1, Call to Renewal convened a daylong "Capitol Preach-in" to bring the message of God's concern for the poor to the U.S. Congress. Hosted by Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio), a dozen of the best-known preachers in America participated in the event. Call to Renewal Convener Jim Wallis set the tone for the day: "The poor in America have become missing persons. We are going to put poor people back on the map in American politics."

Rev. Yvonne Delk, from Chicago, began by saying:

As preachers, we have come to bring the Word of God to the nation's capital. We are here to say that we will not continue to tolerate the fact that most people coming off welfare are not finding jobs, but instead are finding themselves on the streets, in shelters, and in increasingly longer lines for the soup kitchens.

One after another, the preachers proclaimed the Word in the House office building. Rev. James Forbes, of Riverside Church in New York City, declared: "We have all been under a powerful mandate ever since Jesus said that it is illegal in the sight of God to have any economic system that factors in the inevitability of a permanent underclass." Rev. Ray-mond East, of Washington, D.C., told us that God has already given us a welfare reform plan—it's in Leviticus 25 and it's called Jubilee! And Rev. Bill Pannell, from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, reminded us that preaching is not only about words but about announcing our intention to live out the words we proclaim.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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