Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Cycle of Poverty

This came to me today from Inward/Outward email, a project of The Church of the Saviour.

The different aspects of poverty form together into a cycle of destruction and dependence that winds itself down upon and around a person. That's the cycle of poverty.... Not enough food when young so that he can't think straight. No hope of education or personal development or family so she gets pregnant before she's fifteen. No education, poor jobs. Poor jobs, poor pay. Poor pay, bad housing and food. Bad housing and food, poor health. Poor health, poor performance on the job, less pay. A cycle, but at its center a captive, a mind so busy responding to the day-to-day needs that it has no time to think about the future or about those spiritual realities which give meaning to life.

Source: A Quiet Revolution, John Perkins

That feels discourging and hopeless. Does one just give into the cyle? How does one get out of the cycle? Is it government's responsibility to break the cycle? Is it the church's? Is it ours?

We have been forever at trying different means to break the cycle and seem to be able to do it for some people and not for others. Do we too give up? And do we just instead turn a blind eye or do we just do handouts?

For a long time those Christians who worked at doing something about it were mocked for just practicing a "Social Gospel". And so it appeared that there was a turn away from practicing social justice and to more of getting everybody "Saved". Now there seems to be a turn back the other way, but trying to hold both in the balance. Can we hold both in the balance and break the cycle of poverty? What do the scriptures tell us? What does the Holy Spirit tell us? What does God tell us?


bthomas said...

No man or woman is only a victim of their circumstances. There are far to many folks who have made significant progress in life without having had the good fortune of being born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth, or perhaps a nice heritage scholarship to the ivy league insider circle. This author has apparently never had any experience with living in poverty, deciding to seek a better life and then doing something about it. Those who have had to face such challenges early in life often are the most determined to make progress rather than continue in a cycle of dispair. The Israel that left the furnace of Egypt wandered. But the generation of the wilderness made a decision to quit wandering around in circles and move on with their lives. You may not get to choose the family or circumstances in which one is born. But you get to choose how you will live.

The Gospel is personal. The Gospel is social. Absent either one has a "gospel," but it scarcely measures up to Christ. To abandon evangelism is to abandon N.T. faith in Christ. To avoid practical social engagement is no better. Either alone is justly to be criticized for its failure. Those who laud the Gospel as social need to as enthusiastically seek to win lost men and women to Christ as they would have evangelical believers address legitimate social concerns.

MPorter said...

Thanks for posting this Abi. Although I agree that we have a choice in how we respond to our circumstances, we aren't always made to believe there is a choice or even an opportunity. And yes, so many can be helped with a hand up, while so many just expect a hand out. I think we just have to keep encouraging those who want to improve and give them the tools to do so and try and educate those that feel lost and forgotten and hope and pray that they to, come around. You know this is my passion, my soap box and so many people just assume that everyone can dig their way out of their circustances. The quote about the trying to live day to day clouding your ability to think of the future is so so true. If you cannot provide a roof or a meal from day to day, figuring out how to better yourself isn't in your daily thoughts.

revabi said...

bthomas, here is some info on John Perkins. Honestly I did not know about him either until now. John M. Perkins is an American civil rights activist. He is founder and president of the John M. Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi. Born June 16, 1930, he grew up on a plantation as a sharecropper in the 1940s.[1] In 1947 he moved from Mississippi on the urging of his family, who worried that he might be in danger following the deadly shooting of his brother, Clyde, by a police officer.[1] He settled in southern California where he became acquainted with the gospel, after his son, Spencer, convinced him to attend a local church.In 1960 he moved with his wife (Vera Mae Perkins) and children from California to Mendenhall, Mississippi, which neighbors his childhood hometown of New Hebron.[2] There he began a Christian community development ministry in the rural Mississippi community.[1] In 1982, the Perkinses left Voice of Calvary Ministries to return to California, where they founded Harambee Christian Family Center in Northwest Pasadena. [2]

After the death of his son in 1998, Perkins returned to Mississippi, and bought the property once owned by Spencer and his Antioch Community and established the Spencer Perkins Center, the youth arm of the John M. Perkins Foundation.[3] It has developed youth programs such as After School Tutorial, Summer Arts Camp, Junior and College Internship Program, Good News Bible Club, Young Life and Jubilee Youth Garden. The foundation also has a housing arm, Zechariah 8, providing affordable housing for low-to moderate-income families with a focus on single mothers.

He wrote A Quiet Revolution: The Christian response to human need, a strategy for today. Word Books, 1976 along with several others.

His website is under the name of the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and change.