Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Faith & Politics: Poverty & Hunger

In 2014  in the United States of America
  • 46.7 million people (14.8 percent) were in poverty
  • 15.5 million (21.1 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
  • 4.6 million (10 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
  •  48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children.
  • 14 percent of households (17.4 million households) were food insecure.
  • 17% of Rural Americans live below the poverty line

From FeedingAmerica.org

I don't know about you, but these statistics shock me.  Here we are the most
wealthy, sophisticated, most powerful nation in the history of the world and yet
one in five of our children lives in poverty.

Poverty is an issue that we tend to look at from two different positions:  
Individual Responsibility vs. Social Responsibility

Personal Responsibility is important.  Jesus tells many parables illustrating that God wants us to use our talents and serve God through our work.  (see for example Matthew 25: 14-30)  We are also told that everyone is needed in the Body of Christ - everyone's gifts are necessary for the whole to be its best (Romans 12: 4-5)   

Yet Personal Responsibility has its limitations.  Ask yourself - is there anything that you have accomplished in this life completely on your own? Parents fed, clothed and nurtured you so you would have discover your talents and learn responsibility.   In school you had teachers, administrators, counsellors to develop your talents and how you could use them in the world.  Your first jobs you had bosses and managers who showed you how to use your talents in the workplace.

Social Responsibility is the role that we as a community have to create a world where individuals can use their gifts, be paid a living wage, and have a safety net for those who cannot work or are hurt or disabled.

We as a society will pay for those in poverty one way or another.  We either pay higher price on our junk from Walmart so that the workers there can earn a wage that keeps them out of poverty or we pay higher hospital costs when they are sick from lack of care, cost to schools and our kids when hungry kids can't sit still, have more ADD/ADHD, costs in law enforcement when poverty pushes people to desperate actions like stealing or dealing drugs.  As a society we will pay for poverty one way or another.  The question is - are we going to be proactive and pay to help people have productive lives?

Here is an awesome way Utah became proactive in addressing homelessness: read and listen to the NPR report on their work

As you continue to watch those who are running for President, and as Iowa begins its legislative session for 2016, lets think proactive in addressing how we can be responsible together for ending poverty and hunger.

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