Matt wants to know who I think the poor are, here goes!
Well since I am taking a Latin American theology class right now with a heavy emphasis on Liberation Theology, the question of poverty and the poor is one I have been encountering from a third world perspective. Here is what famous liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez says about the poor.
“In the final analysis, poverty means death: lack of food and housing, the inability to attend properly to health and education needs, the exploitation of workers, permanent unemployment, the lack of respect for one’s human dignity, and unjust limitations placed on personal freedom in the areas of self-expression, politics, and religion. Poverty is a situation that destroys peoples, families, and individuals.”
In fact from this definition and other liberation theologians came a term that is quite popular with the emergent/mainline crowd, “institutionalized violence.” The belief that certain powerful structures, be they political, social, economical, cause great oppression to certain people groups.
This definition though by Gutierrez only highlights how difficult it is to define who the poor are in an American context. As you can see bits and pieces of his description fit many different segments of our population. Which is exactly what I was getting at in my last post, it is very gray and blurry for us in America to find who the poor are.
Yet we have a phenomenon that is not found amongst the third world poor and the Biblical poor, and that is a mentality/values crisis. As Bill Cosby has served to highlight over the last few years, there is a problem in many urban communities of a devaluing of education, lack of stable families, and drug abuse that perpetuates poverty. We also see this in other settings were many Americans lack the financial acumen to know what it takes to build and sustain a middle class lifestyle. Put that all together with a entitlement mentality that crosses all economic groups, of instant gratification and you have many people who find themselves getting in their own way of financial peace.
Education can solve some of these problems, but not all. Many are cultural and systemic familial sin patterns. Plus the beauty of America is that while these individuals may be below the poverty line, they may be more than content with their life and circumstance, so I am hesitant to use the poverty line as the end all for defining the poor.
So once again the group I find myself most concerned about are those who are working incredibly hard, and still because of factors outside of their control, come up short in being able to have the basic resources of health care, food, energy, and housing. This group is also known as the working poor and is estimated to number around 30 million Americans, and rapidly growing as the basics become more and more expensive. They often have no health insurance because they cannot afford it, and are one unexpected expense away from being homeless.
And to the last part of your question Matt the Bible constantly speaks to why and how poverty occurred. If a young dude buys rims, plays World of War Craft all day, doesn’t work and racks up massive debt and finds himself poor because of this behavior, Proverbs would tell him to stop being dumb with money, and quit being a lazy sluggard.
There is more that needs to be said here because in America some are poor in education, opportunity, or resources. I will try and write more about this in the next few days.
Filed under: culture, education, Ryan's Study | 4 Comments »