upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

poverty in america...what can we do?

Every night in my church about 20 men come and sleep. We aren't a shelter; we are their home. Just a block down the street a local Lutheran church is hosting Tent City 3, a moveable tent community that relocates every few months to another church, synagogue, or park. They are a community - with rules and leadership and all that is needed to form and maintain a community. Both the men who stay in the church that I serve and those living in Tent City 3 are part of the same organization: SHARE, Seattle Housing and Resource Effort. SHARE is only one of multiple organizations in Seattle working to advocate and provide shelter for homeless people. Poverty crushes both the soul and the body, and it is inexcusable that the United States would have 37 million people living below the poverty line...and that assumes that the poverty line actually measures the point at which poverty begins, which it doesn't.

Every night in Seattle about 8,000 people are homeless; many more live beneath the poverty line. Across the United States too many people, far too many of whom are children, survive in poverty rather than live with enough. Raising the federal minimum wage doesn't even begin to seriously address the growing problem of poverty in the wealthiest nation in history. Yet it is the first and most basic thing that we as a people concerned for the common good should do. What family of four can live on $19,971 (the government's determination of poverty for a family of four) a year? How can we stand to live in the midst of such abundance while withholding the most basic necessities to one another? Our metrics for determining impoverishment are woefully inadequate, but the government can't bear the consequences of changing them to accurately reflect the point at which people feel the crushing weight of poverty.

People of faith have a particular responsibility to act for change nationally and in our smaller communities. I remain astounded and ashamed at how much time we spend debating "family values" that don't include the immorality of poverty. January is Poverty in America Awareness Month, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)has a great website packed with important information and ways to get involved. It's user friendly and is the best site I've seen on poverty in the US. They also have a great two minute video. Watch it and see how you would budget for a family of 4 on $19,971 a year. People of faith, progressive Christians and evangelicals alike, have a moral and spiritual responsibility to be active and relentless to end poverty in our communities. Why not start the new year right by getting involved?



Mystical Seeker said...

I'm going to suggest something that is a little too radical for most Americans to accept. I believe that our system of free markets and corporate profits lies at the heart of the problem. As long as we live in a country where profits rather than human needs are the guiding force in society, poverty will continue to plague us.

rev katie m ladd said...

no too radical for me. the market has become our value system rather than a tool for helping us live in the world. i agree with you!

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