Poverty News Round Up

To paraphrase Karl Barth, one should preach with a Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other. To make that easier, we’re continuing to bring you the top stories in poverty for the week, and we’ve added some brief commentary based on the Revised Common Lectionary for each week. As always, leave a comment if you think we missed a big story.

The Newspaper:

1. The House passed a farm bill that does not include SNAP. It’s not yet clear what this will mean for SNAP going forward.

“House Republicans successfully passed a Farm Bill Thursday by splitting apart funding for food stamps from federal agricultural policy”

2. The House is unlikely to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“Meeting for the first time as a group to hash out their approach to immigration, House Republicans on Wednesday came down overwhelmingly against a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, putting in jeopardy the future of sweeping legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

3. From Christianity Today, poverty is complicated, but there are some clear solutions and best practices:

“But here’s the problem: Poverty, whether here in America or abroad, is one of the oldest and most complex problems plaguing the human race. It is tangled in social, cultural, economic, political, ethnic, geographic, and spiritual factors that challenge even the most skilled experts. Simple solutions just don’t work, and well-meaning amateurs can not only waste valuable resources but even cause unintended harm in their efforts.”

4. Poverty is spreading to the suburbs and straining resources:

“Poverty persists and increases because the infrastructure of poverty services has changed, said Tina Osso, executive director of the Shared Harvest Food Bank.

“In the past, people who lived in poverty were concentrated in primarily urban areas. We knew where poor people generally lived. So over the years, we built a support infrastructure around that geography,” she said.”

5. Fathers (and mothers) would like to spend fewer hours working and more time at home with their children. However, the economy isn’t set up to include part-time jobs that also pay well and have benefits.

“…nearly a third of surveyed fathers with minor children would like to be working part time, but as of 2012, just 5 percent actually were.

What barriers — financial, cultural, psychological — do you think keep so many fathers from working the shorter hours they say they would ideally like to work?”

The Bible:

The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is beautiful on several levels. The obvious compassion and understanding that all people in need are our neighbors is the usual take-home message, but that can lead some to overlook the more subversive aspects of the story. This story really, really angered the religious leaders of the day. The priests and levites are the villians, and what’s more, they are the villains precisely because they are carefully following the law and avoiding contact with what appears to be a corpse. The Samaritan, who worshiped God incorrectly (Jews and Samaritans had an intense disagreement over how and where to worship), becomes the hero because his heart was moved with pity.

The Good Samaritan beautifully summarizes a theme that is found throughout Isaiah, Luke, and Acts: Mercy is more important than purity. This theme is, of course, found elsewhere in the Bible, but it is a particular emphasis for the author of Luke and Acts, who echoes the verses found in Isaiah concerning poverty and justice.

I am also reminded, on a personal level, to allow myself to be moved by my experiences. As I study poverty it’s easy to get lost in cost benefit analysis and to plan out giving strategies in advance in order to maximize my impact. These are good things, and it’s important to use intellectual gifts to fight poverty. But it’s even more important allow our hearts to be moved with pity when we see someone who is hurt, or read about individuals suffering in the news. That compassion is at the core of Christianity and the true meaning of the law so ably summarized by the young lawyer questioning Jesus, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

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