Poverty

Brian E. Konkol 4-16-2014
Payday Loans vendor, photo by Steve Rhodes / Flickr.com.

Payday Loans vendor, photo by Steve Rhodes / Flickr.com.

The United States hosts more than 23,000 payday lending stores, which outnumbers the combined total of McDonald’s, Burger King, Sears, J.C. Penney, and Target stores. These payday lenders do not make conventional loans as seen in most banks, but instead offer short-term loan amounts for short periods of time, usually until the borrower’s next paycheck, hence the name “payday loans.”

While some borrowers benefit from this otherwise unavailable source of short-term and small-amount credit, the payday lending business model fosters harmful serial borrowing and the allowable interest rates drain assets from financially pressured people. For example, in Minnesota the average payday loan size is approximately $380, and the total cost of borrowing this amount for two weeks computes to an appalling 273 percent annual percentage rate (APR). The Minnesota Commerce Department reveals that the typical payday loan borrower takes an average of 10 loans per year, and is in debt for 20 weeks or more at triple-digit APRs. As a result, for a $380 loan, that translates to $397.90 in charges, plus the amount of the principal, which is nearly $800 in total charges.

4-07-2014
I am continually reminded that we are a Christian country. Evangelist Jim Wallis has pointed out that there are several hundred references in the Bible to helping the poor. Taking food off their plates does not seem very Christian to me.
4-07-2014
I don't typically watch much television. But when I can, I watch The Daily Show. Jon Stewart brings humor, satire and truth-telling to the news of the day -- qualities also characteristic of the Hebrew prophets. When I once suggested that to Stewart, he immediately denied any similarity, saying, "No, no, no, I'm just a comedian from the Borsch Belt!" But further discussion revealed a selection of topics that evoke his moral passion and even a righteous anger at political hypocrisy.
3-26-2014
Remembering Dom Hélder, 1999: The periodical “Sojourners: Faith in Action for Social Justice” wrote of Dom Hélder at the time of his death in 1999: "The gospel is so contrary to the way of the world that it has to be shown, not merely told. Dom Helder Camara is one who showed the way. Helder Camara was the Brazilian Catholic archbishop who became renowned throughout the world as the inspirer of Latin America’s liberation theology movement. Barely five feet tall, Dom Helder never embraced the pomp and ceremony of his rank. He wore a plain brown cassock and a simple wooden cross. As a young priest he served in the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro. It was here that he first began to speak of the unjust structures of poverty, saying, "When you live with the poor, you realize that, even though they cannot read or write, they certainly know how to think." In 1955, Camara founded CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ council, the first organization of its kind in the world. In 1960, during the preparatory meetings for Vatican II, Dom Helder brought to Rome the agenda of a "preferential option for the poor." He even suggested that the pope give the Vatican and all its art to the United Nations for its work with the poor, and live in a humble manner as bishop of Rome. Camara himself refused the episcopal mansion, choosing instead a modest three-room house behind the church in Recife, Brazil. When Mother Teresa asked him how he managed to maintain his humility, Camara replied that he had just to imagine himself making a triumphant entry into Jerusalem—not as Jesus, but as the ass. Dom Helder Camara died on August 27, 1999, at age 90, lying in his hammock surrounded by his closest friends. We offer these memories of Dom Helder from more of his "friends," far and wide. —The Editors”
3-26-2014
I am continually reminded that we are a Christian country. Evangelist Jim Wallis has pointed out that there are several hundred references in the Bible to helping the poor. Taking food off their plates does not seem very Christian to me.
Shakei Haynes 3-24-2014
Homeless man, wrangler / Shutterstock.com

Homeless man, wrangler / Shutterstock.com

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to spend the night at the Metropolitan House Men’s Shelter, part of Washington, D.C.’s, Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church.

And in this experience, Henri Nouwen’s, In the Name of Jesus came to life for me. In reflecting on his own experience of transitioning from Harvard University to L’Arche, a house for mentally disabled individuals, Nouwen realized he had to rediscover his true identity. Up until that moment, Nouwen relied on his accomplishments, achievements, accolades, educational training, and social connections to legitimize his impact and reputation in ministry as a priest. However, at L’Arche none of the things he relied on seemed to matter, and he had to gain credibility with those he planned to serve — the mentally disabled. Nouwen states, “I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependent simply on how I was perceived at the moment” (28). Nouwen was forced to let go of his “relevant” self. Nouwen defines relevant self as, “the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things.” Nouwen would have to allow himself to become vulnerable while suppressing his “relevant” self.

Maria Shriver 3-19-2014
Image courtesy MariaShriver.com

Image courtesy MariaShriver.com

“There is no room for hate in love.” – A wise girlfriend once told me to remember that.

Let it land.

Soak it in.

She’s right. But, I would add another line: “There is also no room for judgment and shame in love.”

I just made a film, Paycheck to Paycheck, about an inspiring and courageous woman named Katrina Gilbert. It’s the kind of film that I believe will stay with you long after you see it.

Jeremy John 3-18-2014

For me, joy in the everyday begins with food. If I can take time to make food and drink holy, if I make my table a place of family and community, a place of health and wellness, a place of good choices that sustain creation, I am grounded. Food is the place where I began my journey towards social justice, as a self-righteous young vegetarian who lusted after meat.

Food is the thing we all have in common, and with it, Jesus set forth the Eucharist. Is that enough for you to believe food is important?

Do you ever wonder why Paul spends so much time advising his churches on food and dinner manners? It's because the Eucharist was a wine-and-bread-leavened feast that intentionally leveled the strict hierarchy of Roman society. This enables Paul to confidently state, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

Joe Kay 3-18-2014
Foosball table, OMcom / Shutterstock.com

Foosball table, OMcom / Shutterstock.com

In the days before video games, we had tabletop games that were a lot of fun despite their built-in shortcomings. We had an electric football game with a vibrating field; sometimes, the players would go in circles or simply stop in place. There was a hockey game with long rods that were pushed and pulled to make players advance or retreat, then spun to make them whirl and shoot; occasionally, the puck would wind up in a dead space on the board.

At those moments, you had two choices: Call a timeout, or raise your legs a bit to tilt the table and get the player or the puck headed in the other direction.

Naturally, this was frowned upon. It was seen as cheating — giving yourself an advantage. If you got caught raising the table, you were penalized. A tilted table was considered unfair.

In real life, we all sit at tilted tables.

Allen Johnson 3-06-2014

New studies reveal the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the people nearby.

3-05-2014
Last week, Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners wrote about how views of food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) have changed over the years.
3-05-2014
After living a year in Washington, D.C., my husband and I are returning to Peoria. While in D.C. I visited our congressional leaders several times regarding producing a moral budget and the “Circle of Protection” for the poor and disadvantaged. Being an observer in the galleries of the House and Senate was instructive and often frustrating. I sometimes wondered why anyone wanted to work there.
3-05-2014
Alec Hogg @alechogg Follow Jim Wallis at closing ceremony of #WEF14: "Skills are not the most important attribute. Sacrifice is. Nelson Mandela taught us that."
3-05-2014
"The transformation of the world, which many of us long to see, requires the changing of frameworks, ethics, and, most of all, our decisions; and that will not happen without taking risks, a true leap of faith."
3-05-2014
Sojourners @Sojourners Follow Can we get an amen? "It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode." @SojoWomen #SOTU
3-05-2014
Poverty is the new slavery. --Reverend Jim Wallis, God's Politics
Lisa Sharon Harper 3-05-2014

Counter to the stereotypes, a new study shows that African-American men are exceptional fathers.

Evan Dolive 3-04-2014
UNRWA via Getty Images

Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on Jan. 31. UNRWA via Getty Images

Last week amid the closing of the Olympics, the national debt, and the latest pop culture ‘news,’ this photo was published that encapsulates the volume of pain and suffering that is happening in Syria. For years, the conflict in Syria has gone through its ebbs and flows; it has been in and out of the media’s attention. Even though thousands of people have been displaced and families have been forced to eat animal feed, this is not worthy for American front-page news. Sadly, travesties around the world, or even in our backyard, are categorized as “out of sight, out of mind.” Too often we are consumed by other things than those outside of our limited purview.

When I saw the photo of the suffering of the Syrians, I was shocked; I was shocked that so many people were in line to get food, shocked that despite their best efforts there is not enough food to go around. I felt sad for the people who, by no fault of their own, live in a country that is being ravaged by war, violence, greed, and power struggles. I felt embarrassed for all of the times I whined and complained about my own “problems.” All of them collectively wouldn’t even begin to compare to what people are facing in Syria at this very moment. I wanted to find a way to do something, to raise my voice for them ... anything.

3-03-2014
Jim Wallis’s On God’s Side comes in two parts. In the first, he argues that biblical Christianity involves not only the personal, individual standing of the Christian before God and the individual’s relationship with Christ, but also a deeply communal element that inspires genuine concern for one’s neighbors. In the second, he fleshes out how these sometimes-competing concerns ought to inf luence Christian political thought and engagement. Wallis’s inspiration for the title of the book is a quote from Abraham Lincoln—“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side”—and he uses this second half of his book to explore exactly what being “on God’s side” would entail, tackling several prominent and hotly debated issues ranging from the structure of the American political system to specific policy issues.
3-03-2014
As Stephen Mattson wrote in a post for Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog, reveling in #SochiProblems really feels like “Hey, let’s laugh about how other people actually live.” Or — more accurately — how many (probably most) people in the would be lucky and grateful to live.

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