Poverty News Round Up

With a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

The newspaper:

1. Not having money is still the leading cause of poverty.

“The poor are different from you and me, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might have said. They have less money.

Yet it makes news when a charity simply gives the poor cash. GiveDirectly, which two years ago began to give cash to very poor families in Kenya that they could spend however they wanted, is getting a lot of attention”

2. Nonviolent protests are a practical way to bring about change:

“It’s commonly said that nonviolent protests work only in a context in which your enemies and the watching nation have a conscience to be appealed to. But that is often enough, apparently. A study by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in the journal International Security found that between 1900 and 2006, movements that used nonviolent means succeeded 53 percent of the time, while violent resistance campaigns succeeded only 26 percent of the time.”

3. The March on Washington had a profound influence on Joseph Stiglitz

“It was because I hoped that something could be done about these and the other problems I had seen so vividly growing up in Gary, Ind. — poverty, episodic and persistent unemployment, unending discrimination against African-Americans — that I decided to become an economist, veering away from my earlier intention to go into theoretical physics. I soon discovered I had joined a strange tribe. While there were a few scholars (including several of my teachers) who cared deeply about the issues that had led me to the field, most were unconcerned about inequality; the dominant school worshiped at the feet of (a misunderstood) Adam Smith, at the miracle of the efficiency of the market economy. I thought that if this was the best of all possible worlds, I wanted to construct and live in another world.”

4. Homelessness has been falling for the past decade. The sequester could undo all of that.

“As quietly as homelessness has fallen, so too it will go up quietly – unless there is major intervention.  The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that sequestration cuts from homelessness programs are set to expel 100,000 people from a range of housing and shelter programs this year. That’s nearly one sixth of the current total homeless population. Far from gently raising the homeless rate, it would undo a full decade of progress.”

5. Martin Luther King Jr. was very unpopular during the 1960s. It’s worth remembering why:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar.” – MLK Jr.

The Bible:

Be content with what you have. This simple and profound message can be found in most religions and stands fundamentally at odds with a culture awash in advertising and driven by creating new trends and technology for us to buy. This week, we hear it from St. Paul

“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”” – Hebrews 13:5

Consumer culture tells us that happiness is found by satisfying our desires (even if those desires are ones we suddenly discovered upon seeing the latest commercial). Paul tells us differently. Happiness is found by being content with what you have and finding the peace that comes through the grace of God. None of this is to say that material well-being is irrelevant. In this same passage, Paul encourages sharing food and shelter with strangers and to share whatever we have with others. The point is not that material well-being is bad, it’s a reminder that community comes first. Throughout the Gospels and the book of Acts we see a community that avoids poverty by sharing their resources together. It is a community driven by the love of each other, instead of the love of money.

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