The Poor Among You

Poverty in America (source of picture, HERE)

The ABP site has just published a very powerful article on poverty in America. Here are a few excerpts:

…more Americans live in poverty today than at any time in more than 50 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The richest nation in human history now has the highest poverty level of any Western industrialized nation,” Sider writes in his new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit: A Balanced Way to Balance the Budget.

Underemployed or unemployed victims of recession, together with the ranks of the working poor who have been unable to rise above poverty, have forced growing numbers to rely on government welfare. Nearly 15 percent of all Americans—a record 45.7 million people—now participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Some Christians fail to consider the plight of the poor because they don’t recognize the emphasis Jesus placed on concern for one’s neighbor and compassion for the vulnerable, Everett observed.

“Many Christians are not well-versed in what Jesus had to say about the poor,” Everett said. “Caring for the poor is intrinsic to our calling as Christians. Every person is created in the image of God, and that means we are all interconnected.”

“Some continue to blame the poor for their own harsh realities and point to the rugged individualism of ‘my grandpa, who brought himself up without any help,'” he said.

That attitude finds its most extreme expression in the libertarian views advanced by mid-20th century writer Ayn Rand, who believed each person should pursue his or her own self-interests, not sacrifice for others, Sider noted in an interview.

“It’s astonishing to me that any Christian would embrace a philosophy that says we have no responsibility for our neighbors,” he said.

“In terms of responding to poverty, the church should lead the way, but Christians should use their influence to get others involved—to bring government, the nonprofit sector and the private sector to the table.”

Christians need to move from concern about the poor to hungering for biblical justice, Sider said. In Scripture, justice means more than procedural fairness in the courts; it also means fair access to society’s productive resources so people can earn their own way, he said.

“Biblical justice rejects the Marxist idea of equal outcomes just as it rejects limiting justice to fair procedures. But it does demand equality of opportunity up to the point where everyone has access to productive capital so that, if they work responsibly, they can enjoy an adequate income and be dignified members of society,” Sider writes.

Biblical justice also means protecting the interests of the vulnerable, he added. While Sider believes the current national deficit is “intergenerational injustice” and wants to see the government move toward a balanced budget, he warned against politicians who “want to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor.”

I have no idea how is it possible for American (and other) Christians not to understand these elementary things of the Gospel.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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