Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christians and Poverty

I searched the blog "We Want a Christian President" to see what it said about poverty.

"No posts match your query."

Allow me to quote from CBS:

Sen. Barack Obama has touted his "personal relationship with Jesus Christ," and said he is “confident that we can create a kingdom right here on Earth." He has organized "faith forums," says he seeks to be an "instrument of God," and speaks of his religious conversion following community organizing in Chicago-area churches.

Along with conservative Sen. Sam Brownback, he spoke about fighting AIDS at evangelical pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California. And an Obama "gospel tour" in South Carolina, though not without controversy, drew thousands of black evangelicals over the weekend.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been less outspoken than Obama about her Methodist faith - which is perhaps why, among the frontrunners, she is seen as the least religious, according to a recent Pew survey. But behind the scenes, Clinton, who is thought to be deeply religious by those who know her, has been engaged in an impressive outreach program to win over religious voters.

Last year, Clinton hired Burns Strider, a highly-regarded white evangelical born and raised in Mississippi, to be her faith outreach director. She and Strider, who headed up the Democrats' outreach program following the 2004 election, are casting Clinton's faith as integral to her life and her policy positions on issues like genocide in Darfur. It's a strategy made more viable by the rise of pastors like Warren and Bill Hybels, who talk more about issues like poverty than the battles of the culture war.

Clinton has also done significant outreach among Iowa's relatively large Methodist community, according to Dan Gilgoff, politics editor at "She doesn't talk about it as blatantly, but her campaign reveals a very robust and sophisticated effort," says Gilgoff.

John Edwards, a Southern Baptist-turned-United Methodist, had a high-profile stumble with religious voters when two of his bloggers were discovered to have made comments before they joined his campaign that Catholics found offensive. But his populist message dovetails nicely with the new evangelicalism of Warren and Hybels - Edwards casts fighting poverty as a moral issue - and he has spoken eloquently of finding his faith following the death of his son in 1996. He has also been reaching out to progressive religious leaders.

Of course, any mention of Rick Warren immediately convinces certain members of the populace that the entire message is suspect. Including this?

Galatians 2:8-10 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

8For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

But what is the appropriate way to remember the poor?

If Christians are to embrace the “option for the poor,” they must first, in a whole range of policies to do with housing, minimum wages and unemployment, find out what that option is, they must identify it. If a physician would alleviate a disease, he must begin by discovering what it is that causes the disease. I am sure that all they that profess and call themselves Christians want to do what is right by the poor—in this they are united. They agree about the end and disagree about the means. There is nothing surprising about this kind of disagreement. There is nothing in the deposit of faith, nothing in the content of revelation that answers this question. There is no revealed solution to the problem of poverty any more than there is a revealed cure for cancer. Just as there is no revealed medicine, so there is no revealed economics....

Consider the following statement: “Rent control tends to decrease the supply of housing.” Surely this statement is not evaluative: it does not say that rent control is a good thing; it does not say it is a bad thing. Supposing the statement to be true, ought we to be against rent control? It all depends on what you want....

If an ethician or a theologian says that rent control is a moral imperative, there is nothing the economist can say against his value judgements as such. What he can urge upon him is the necessity of knowing exactly what it is he is evaluating....

Talk is heard about “so called laws of economics.” I read recently of a clergyman’s saying that we ought not to treat the laws of economics as if they were the laws of God.

But the laws of economics are the laws of God. They are in the same way that the laws of physics are the laws of God. They are laws, however—not legislation. They are the laws of God because He it is that decrees the existence of the entities whose nature it is to obey those laws: had He wanted other laws He would have had to create other things....

The mere fact that a minimum wage law was not followed by an increase in unemployment does nothing to falsify the economic law. Any number of factors could have maintained the level of employment in the face of the increased wage.

Yet again we must turn to scripture and evaluate the Word:

Matthew 25:34-36 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

There are some Christian political conservatives that realize the ramifications of this (I think of Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship here), but it seems that there are many of them that gloss over what we are called to do here. If a nation violates God's law by killing babies before they are born, then it certainly violates God's law by killing babies after their birth.

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