I saw her in the month of mumps
puffed up in poverty’s robes,
a woman of fragments,
a shuffling quilt with running threads—
more holes, really, than skein.
You could read history in the headlines
she wore, partial untruths, incomplete
fictions. All of her lovers
failed to match the shoes she put on.
Every child she birthed missed having
national sunshine and two names.
She dodged taxes on her home;
it never had an address to speak of and
moved like wind-spinning, clanking aluminum cans
she chased for pennies.
Her boudoir looked like a butcher’s sleeve;
stolen ketchup packets from McDonald’s
provided ambergris for her perfume.
She was disqualified for any entitlements
except for open dumpsters on eyeless streets.
But mail always waited for her
no postage due; she was the patron
of the discarded; on winter nights the USPS
coated her from the leprous jaws of the wind.
She slept at the homes of three different zip codes
one January; always leaving at dawn’s early light;
she thought the flag needed to be washed.
Several years ago, Sojourners asked that question, leading a campaign to remind our leaders in Washington that: “A budget is a moral document. Our faith tells us that the moral test of a society is how it treats the poor. As a country, we face difficult choices, but whether or not we defend vulnerable people should not be one of them.” As we look at the priorities outlined in the Trump administration’s 2018 budget released today, it’s worth asking again: What would Jesus cut?
We are living in a time of unprecedented economic disparity between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. Masses live in poverty so that a handful of people can live as they wish. The world’s three richest people own more than the combined economies of 48 countries. The average CEO in the US is making 400 times the average worker.
In the midst of so much death, how can we Christians celebrate Easter?
These questions can be paired with questions regarding our own sense of worship on that day. How much have we Christians replaced justice with worship, not taking one into serious relation with the other? Are we accustomed to worship in the total absence of justice?
Poverty is not inevitable. It is a systemic sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to partner with the poor to end poverty once and for all. “The poor you will always have with you” is actually one of the strongest biblical mandates to end poverty. Matthew 26:11 quotes Deuteronomy 15, one of the most liberating Sabbath prescriptions in the Bible, and an instruction on how to follow God’s commandments to end poverty, forgive debts, and release slaves.
If I’ve learned anything since my time in Rome, it’s that people — not just Catholics — are hungering to connect peace with justice. This is why those of us who traveled to Rome just before the election, accompanied by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Houma-Thibodaux, La., Bishop Shelton Fabre, are preparing for a regional WMPM meeting in Modesto, Calif., in February.
Pope Francis on [Nov. 11] made a surprise visit to meet several men who took the controversial step of leaving the priesthood and starting a family.
A Vatican statement said the pope left his residence in the afternoon and traveled to an apartment on the outskirts of Rome, where he met seven men who had left the priesthood in recent years. The pontiff also met their families.
A common misconception is that to be a pro-life Catholic, one simply has to be anti-abortion and anti-contraception. For years this “pro-life” definition has largely been unchallenged. That is, until recently.
A poll conducted in 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute found a majority U.S. Catholics favor greater government involvement on economic issues via minimum wage increases, infrastructure investments, and universal healthcare. Furthermore, U.S. Catholics believe that to promote economic growth, the government should raise taxes. These aren’t just pro-growth policies, they’re pro-life policies.
Harper’s account of the Gospel in her new book is shalom-based. Drawing deeply from a theme that runs through the Bible but is especially strong in the Hebrew prophets, Harper tells a story of a God who acts in Jesus Christ to bring shalom, or holistic peace and justice, in every part of creation.
For the nation’s 50 million public school students, another school year is about to begin. Are they ready? Even if they get new backpacks, notebooks, and pencils, most of our students are not prepared to do the schoolwork expected of them.
Two out of three American eighth graders can neither read nor do math at grade level. Schools serving low-income communities perform particularly poorly on a whole range of measurable outcomes including language, reading, and mathematics — critical skills for performing well and succeeding in society.
TWENTY YEARS AGO, President Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it” by signing into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, otherwise known as “welfare reform.”
Controversial at the time, the law placed a five-year time limit on government financial assistance to those in need and instituted work requirements for welfare recipients. With two decades of hindsight, there is now sufficient evidence to evaluate its effectiveness, the holes it created in our nation’s social safety net, and what needs to be done to address them.
One of the best examinations of this law’s effects is the insightful book $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. Scholars Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer note that welfare reform has succeeded in important ways. “Poor single mothers,” they write, “left welfare and went to work in numbers that virtually no one expected. In 1993, 58 percent of low-income single mothers were employed. By 2000, nearly 75 percent were working, an unprecedented increase.” While the Great Recession reversed some of this progress, the employment rates remain “above pre-reform levels.” Child poverty rates also fell after welfare reform’s passage and remain down, though the authors note that additional measures, such as the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and increased government spending on child-care programs, also factor into this decline.
But the outcomes are not universally positive. In the first 15 years after passing welfare reform, the number of people living in “$2-a-day poverty” had more than doubled.
The geography of poverty and its proximity to such opulence is one of the oddities of the city. Juxtaposed against the seeming wealth of the church, a community has formed — they live, literally, on the margins of this great structure. The church allows it. That the city frowns upon it is another story.
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Pope Francis has blasted employers who do not provide health care as bloodsucking leeches and he also took aim at the popular “theology of prosperity” in a pointed sermon on the dangers of wealth.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said repeatedly that he isn’t running for president, but that hasn’t stopped him from making numerous public appearances to talk about his vision for the Republican Party and the United States.
A recent study published by the Pew Research Center offers some interesting data about economic inequality in the United States. In 1982, the top one percent of families took in 10.8 percent of all the pretax income. The bottom 90 percent got 64.7 percent. By 2012, it was 22.5 percent for the top one percent and 49.6 percent for the bottom 90 percent. In a more disturbing trend the top one percent owned 35 of all the personal wealth in 2010. The bottom fifty percent owned just five percent.
“… We’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.”
Should the country do whatever it takes to protect the environment? The number of Republicans who say “yes” has decreased in the past 12 years.
The failure to provide clean water to Flint, Mich., residents has sacrificed their safety and hindered their access to one of the most basic human needs — water. It also drastically diminished the capacity of citizens to exercise leadership and stewardship because lead poisoning stunts victims’ brain development. Plus, the town of Flint, itself, is the “least of these” in the state of Michigan. It is the state’s poorest city.
I think there is a very real need for us to grapple with an idolatry of justice. As technology affords us both an instantaneous and relentless awareness of myriad justice causes, and the often-illusory perception of our capability to effect change, it becomes very easy to puff up our justice egos and enlarge our savior complex. Pragmatism and good ol’ work ethic drives us to advance our movements by documenting success, hitting program goals, and mining visible storytelling of dramatic life changes of the people we rescue.
April 4, 2018 — two years from now — will be the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
April 4, 2017 — one year from now — will be the 50th anniversary of his speech to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, at Riverside Church in New York. There he warned us of the “deadly triplets” of racism, militarism, and materialism that were endangering America. (And still are.)