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Friday, April 17, 2015

Maybe Neither Side Cares Enough About Poverty

In an article in Christian Today, a UK journal, Mark Woods asks the readership who cares more about poverty in England (click here). The two choices were the Left and the Right. Complicating the issue was the feasibility of caring for the poor. That both the Left and the Right also wanted to eliminate the deficit in order to prevent the government from running out of money during hard times.

After glossing over the stereotypes for both groups, Woods gives a brief description of the basic approach taken to poverty by both groups. According to those on the Right, taking care of those in need is primarily the responsibility of those who are closest to them such as families and communities. The Left believes that it is the state that should be providing more care. He notes that the problem with the Right's approach is that some people will not get needed help because of the personal judgment of those in charge of giving help. And Woods identifies the problem with the Left's approach is that perhaps too many undeserving recipients are receiving help because of the government's system.

Now the rest of the article deals with the details between how the Conservatives and Liberals plan to both care for the poor while trying to be fiscally responsible. And in all of this there exists some questions not being asked. The first question is, is Britain's current economic system at least partially to blame for the number of those who are poor? If so, then the next question would concern what changes should be made to that system.

To determine which groups of people should receive what funding becomes a debate about how much we should rob Peter to pay Paul. In the end, some people will be shortchanged in terms of getting the help they need. And while the funds are being divvied, the economic system that could be causing a great deal of poverty problem could continue to increase the number who need for assistance. An ever growing battle then results with "tough decisions" to be made regarding who continues to get how much from welfare and who doesn't.

In the meantime, what goes without scrutiny is the economic system and that brings up another question. That question is, do those from both the Left and the Right care more about maintaining the status quo than they do about poverty?

Questioning the economic system because of the number of people who lived in poverty was done by Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech against the Vietnam War (click here). King identified two ways by which we can help the poor.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

What King's challenge here concerns what we are willing to do to help those in need. That unless we are willing to consider changing the current economic system, all of this talk about who cares for the poor more is empty. Because unless we are willing to change the current economic system, we are insisting that we are too attached to the status quo to do what is necessary to best alleviate poverty. This applies both to the "Left" and the "Right."

King's challenge remains for us today. His challenge strikes at the heart of the matter. And lest those who are willing to change the current economic system feel superior to those who would rather fight than switch, we should remember that all of us make compromises that prevent us from loving our neighbor as we should. We either do this on an individual basis or in the groups or systems we support. The point being that we need to work together as equals to solve our problems.




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