Morning Prayer and The New York Times

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Summer morning routine: a cup of Awake tea, the Opinion page of The New York Times.

What am I looking for to get my day going? Information to spark the brain? A needle to inject righteous indignation into my sleepy heart?

The flag is coming down. You know which one. I read columnist Nicholas Kristof’s “Tearing Down the Confederate Flag Is Just a Start.”

“America’s greatest shame in 2015 is not a piece of cloth. It’s that a black boy has a life expectancy five years shorter than a white boy. It’s that the net worth of the average black household in 2011 was $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to census data. It’s that almost two-thirds of black children grow up in low-income families. It’s that more than one-third of inner-city black kids suffer lead poisoning (and thus often lifelong brain impairment), mostly from old lead paint in substandard housing. More consequential than that flag is…” [Read more...]

The Thing Itself: Art and Poverty, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

 

picasso1How should we treat the poor?

Among those who work on behalf of them, it has become a truism that our first obligation toward our less fortunate brothers and sisters is to first recognize and celebrate their humanity. What is less often recognized is the vital role that art can play in such a process. Roberta Ahmanson in the interview she gave recently for Image spoke about how she, as a patron of the arts, has worked to serve homeless families through a nonprofit called Village of Hope:

I think people might say that the Village of Hope doesn’t need stained-glass windows; they need food, job training, tutoring, beds for the babies. But Jim [the founder] intuitively understood that the places you bring people to speak to them about their own value. When you…put them in a box like a prison cell, you have just said, “We think you are a prisoner.” [Read more...]

The Thing Itself: Art and Poverty, Part 1

The following is adapted from a presentation given at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley in January 2015 during a convocation on the topic “Blessed Are You Poor: What Does It Mean to Be a Poor Church for the Poor?”

 

pop__frugal_mealI am profoundly grateful that the witness of Pope Francis has spurred so many of us to rethink our relationship to the poor and marginalized. There are a dozen directions to take this topic, depending on how we define poverty. We have spoken of it as an evil—a condition to be ameliorated whenever possible—and we have spoken of it as a virtue—a habit that embraces simplicity, freedom, and sacrifice.

It is, of course, both.

[Read more...]

Thinking About Poverty

homeless-man-sleeping-with-his-bible1What better time than Advent to ponder what poverty means? After all, Christ became poor for our sakes, emptying himself of his divinity as he emptied himself into our humanity.

So what does poverty mean? Here are some dictionary definitions:

Poverty (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary):

1a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions; b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property; 2: scarcity, dearth 3a: debility due to malnutrition; b: lack of fertility (of the soil).

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The Rich, the Poor, and Jesus

In November of 2013, Oxfam International released the results of a study that found an ever-growing concentration of the world’s wealth into the hands of a very few. The Irish Times quoted Oxfam chief executive Winnie Byanyima: “It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population—that’s three and a half billion people—own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers [eighty-five souls] could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

The concerns of Oxfam over the findings are political inasmuch as this kind of wealth concentration rigs government processes in favor of the rich, which makes the divide between the haves and the have-nots permanent. This effectively destroys the reality of equal opportunity. Their research shows that “opportunity hoarding” is as rife as the hoarding of goods and resources.

The troubling nature of these findings seemed self-evident to me when I shared the Irish Times article about this report on social media. The response I got is a bit of a surprise. It didn’t surprise me that some people objected immediately to the conclusions of Oxfam. What surprised me was the visceral anger and resentment—with a tinge of hurt feelings even—coming from people I know who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ. They reacted as if I’d lobbed a Molotov cocktail into their living rooms.

[Read more...]


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