Friday, December 09, 2005

Poverty. . .Causes, Actions, Struggle

You may have seen the post that Matt Elliot left for me several days ago. It was from Dom Helder Camara:

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."

Thanks, Matt for the reminder.

Camara points out a truth with which everyone who really understands poverty and the forces that create it must at some point grapple.

Charity doesn't provide sustainable solutions to systemic, generational poverty.

Rather, charity offers people with power a respectable means of maintaining control of their advantage. Most don't even realize how these forces work.

Next Wednesday, December 14, I plan on making a trip to Washington, DC to take part in a protest of sorts or maybe better, a peaceful demonstration rooted in spiritual power and the values of my faith.

The demonstration is to take place in the Rotunda of the Capitol building.

The action will involve prayer and scripture reading to protest the current proposal of our Congress regarding the FY2006 federal budget as it relates to low-income Americans.

Urban workers, non-profit leaders, community people and others from all across the nation will be there. The action is being organized by Jim Wallis and his team from the Sojourners' community and Call to Renewal.

Please pray for me and for the effort.

A young friend of mine, Krister White, a theology student at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, sent me a copy of the Baccalaureate Sermon delivered by Brian K. Blount to the class of 2005 at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The message is titled, "Pick a Fight!" This very interesting treatment of much of the book of Revelation in view of the purpose of spiritual leaders in a place and a time like ours is well worth reading!

If you are interested, it appears in The Princeton Seminary Bulletin (Volume XXVI, Number 2, 2005).

If you can't find it, let me know and I will be happy to send you a copy!


IBreakCellPhones said...

I don't think anybody's a communist for asking why some people don't have food.

I think they're a communist when they would use government force to enforce the idea that all property is held in common and so someone who has property should be forced to give it up so that those without property can have some.

Changing the system so that everyone can achieve is OK. Setting the system up to punish achievement by force of law is not. God gave human governments limited jurisdiction after the flood. Consistently, governments want to usurp God's role.

Charles said...


When you say "so those without property can have some," the example that comes to my mind is people who work hard to provide for their families losing money so that shiftless types can continue their idle lives. What if the only resources being taken are well above comfortable-living resources (say, income above $10 million, just to go to an extreme), and the only things being provided are survival resources (food, shelter, medicine)? I'm not saying that's how the system works, just trying to understand how far this statement goes.


Anonymous said...


By that definition, wasn't Christ was a communist?

Your argument assumes that wealth is the result of hard work, and that poverty is the result of laziness/choice. That is simply not the case on either side. The hardest working people I know are poor, and come from generational poverty. On the other side, the laziest people I know were born into wealth. They make your argument, but their wealth and privilege is really just a matter of birthright.

Frankly, the main reason that communism fails is not because people do not work - it is because the greed of the people at the top creates a system in which the poor are not allowed to rise, and wealth is not redistributed effectively.

IBreakCellPhones said...


It doesn't matter what resources are taken. If I can take the cream, I can take the milk. I would rather live under a government that took neither.


The early church outlined in Acts 2 and 3 was a communistic society. However, nobody was forced to join, and nobody was prevented from leaving.

You are right in that the problem with communist governments is that human nature gets in the way. It gets in the way with any sort of government. We do the best we can in this world, but we do not have the right to force people to do what we wish. God has that right, but He doesn't exercise it. He has limited himself to persuasion.

Jeremy Gregg said...

IBCP, I don't think Larry's arguing for a communist state. However, your second comment sounds like you would prefer anarchy . . . rule by market forces, without government intervention.

To continue your metaphor: in this system, those with cows (i.e. the rich) would get to keep both the cream and the milk, while the poor would have neither.

I do not think that is the America that our forefathers envisioned. I also do not believe that it is the Kingdom of God that Christ said was alive among us, if we choose it.

On that note, I think that you and all of the blogs readers would be very interested in Dr. Jim Walton's most recent blog:

It's a very challenging piece on the contradictions inherent in such arguments when made from a Christian perspective.