The city of Antioch — in modern-day Turkey — was beautiful and bustling in the fourth century. Various emperors and wealthy patrons donated money to build a colonnaded street through the middle of town. Well-to-do citizens decorated their marble halls with colorful frescoes and statues. They demonstrated their wealth by plating their walls and rooftops with gold. Even the city’s cathedral was called the “Golden House.” It would eventually seat a Patriarch, John, nicknamed “Chrysostom” or “Golden Mouth.”
This past February, as we have done for years, my daughters and I loaded a crockpot of taco meat, all the fixings, serving utensils, and dessert into the trunk of my SUV. My two busy teens claimed they had too much homework to stay long, so they drove a different car to the nearby town where we’d eat with homeless families.
A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals precarious conditions for workers in California. According to the study, nearly half of California workers — 47 percent — are struggling with poverty. A majority of Californians working and struggling with poverty — 60 percent — are Hispanic.
Reflecting rapid changes in the economy, 11 percent of Californians report participating in the gig economy in the last year, defined as being paid for performing miscellaneous tasks or providing services for others.
Starting in the 1890s, churches began to set aside the Sunday before Labor Day as a time for lifting up working people’s voices and experiences. Some pastors even turned their pulpits over to union organizers, who never failed to bring the fire. On Labor Sunday 1910, one Chicago painter matter-of-factly informed his Presbyterian audience, “Some of the worst enemies organized labor has are very ardent church goers.”
This year’s 50th Anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign provides a critical moment for our nation and people of faith and conscience to pause and conduct a moral scan of our nation’s progress in combatting poverty in America. Despite some progress, poverty in America remains deeply entrenched.
The July report by the Council of Economic Advisers uses an alternate way of measuring poverty, based on households’ consumption of goods, to conclude that poverty has dramatically declined. Though this method may be useful for underpinning an argument for broader work requirements for the poor, the much more favorable picture it paints simply does not reconcile with the observed reality in the U.S. today.
When’s the last time you received a warning from the pulpit about the dangers of wealth? How often have you heard “Woe to the Rich” as theme of a sermon? Perhaps no part of Jesus’ message has been rejected so completely by U.S. Christianity as the dire warning against wealth and how it leads us astray. Instead, we admire the rich, envy them, and aspire to become one of the rich.
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.
“Then we poor people will move on Washington, determined to stay there until the legislative and executive branches of the government take serious and adequate action on jobs and income.”
Sometimes, my great-grandmother used to sleep in the fields — not because she didn’t have a home, but because she wanted to make sure that no one stole her crop. My dad often tells me that she was ready to beat up any thieves that came at the dead of night and I’m sure there were instances where she did. I often picture this moment when I need strength. I think about her petite frame in a cotton sari knowing that she could tackle whatever danger came her way at night. But I also think about how she might have felt fear creep up and how she might have felt anger, too, if she saw someone attempting to sabotage her crop. Because no matter how nurturing and gentle she might have been, she could also feel anger and stand up for herself when she knew she was being wronged.
This week the Trump administration released a new idea for domestic food aid. They want to send boxes to people who are recipients SNAP/food stamps, while slashing about half of what they can use via Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at grocery stores.
Is any new job a good job? As cities scramble to lure Amazon’s HQ2, a look at what the massive influx of warehouse jobs has changed cities.
“Maria Rocha, a teacher in San Antonio, Texas, says it's gut wrenching, but she's trying not to show it in front of her third-graders. … It's even harder, she says, because some of her students are also at risk of being deported.”
“We aren’t sure what was different this year, usually he either calls for six more weeks of winter or an early spring, not unending self-inflicted spiritual torment.” #2018
The State of the Union speech last night reveals a divided nation. In the sharpest contrast, a “Unity Declaration” is being released today by a very broad and diverse group of nearly 80 Christian leaders focusing on the integral connection between racism and poverty — which, for us, are issues of faith we are committed to overcoming together.
The idea that government has an important role to play in human flourishing was made by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. In it, the pope argued that governments should promote “the common good.” Catholicism defines the “common good” as the “conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”
But Jesus said, if you would be perfect, go, and stop pretending racism doesn’t exist, stop supporting political leaders who lie and manipulate, stop being co-opted by political agendas, and stop slandering people who are different from you.
When Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused the non-rich of squandering their money on “booze or women or movies,” my progressive friends quickly denounced him, as they should. Sen. Grassley is clearly suffering from the senility of a political dogma long past its freshness date. But me, I kept my mouth shut.
This week, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on the Republican tax bill, following the House vote on a similar bill earlier this month. The proposed plan in the Senate is very complicated and it is being rushed through the political process with little time to consider it and draw public attention to it. But this milestone bill will determine social outcomes for many years to come. Its passage will create a complete shift in the social safety net as we have known it, and it will signal a change that government will no longer care for the needs of the poor — the criteria that the biblical prophets demand of all those who rule.
"Especially in this day and age, we already are living in tough times…I’ve seen people looking to things like film and television as a means of escape, so I have to acknowledge that people are spending their hard-earned money to go to a movie on a Friday night and want some sort of escape....My hope is that along with getting that escape, they will be positively motivated," says the filmmaker.
Orlando, Fla. is most known for the Walt Disney World theme parks that draw millions of visitors to the area each year. Yet few realize that the discount hotels they drive past on their way to the parks are occupied not by tourists, but by the homeless. They’re who The Florida Project director Sean Baker refers to as the “hidden homeless,” as they live, mostly unnoticed, at the fringes of the billion dollar resort. In The Florida Project, their stories find a platform.
Starting in the suburb of Ruiru, about 19 miles north of Nairobi, the train for the past five years has informally hosted a growing number of self-styled pastors and a makeshift, moving congregation eager to hear the gospel.
At least two coaches turn into “churches” each day, with Christians singing, dancing, and clapping as they prepare for a short sermon during the one-hour journey.