Blessed are the poor

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A Seminar by Dr. Fletcher Tink

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Blessed are the poor

  1. 1. Blessed are the PoorEngaging “the Poor” in Us and in Others A seminar by Fletcher Tink, Ph.D. 1
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  3. 3. IndexPoorly Defined The Word: Care-full and Cared For Definitions Cartoon: Prosperity Gospel Drop-outs Biblical References to the Poor Perspectives on Poverty Glossary from Bread for the World Poems from the Underside Excerpts from Theirs is the Kingdom Group Response #1The Poor—Always With Us? The Word: Waste and Want Quotations about Poverty Thinking Honestly about the Poor and Ourselves Hunger cartoon Misguided Motives Social Problems“Pooring” It On The Word: Rags and Ropes “Compassion and the Clothes Closet” Evil in Three Dimensions Cartoon: McDonalds False Loves Thinking Honestly About the Poor and Ourselves Shame vs. Guilt “Street People: a Case in Diseased Eyes” “Love in Three Ventricles” Thinking Honestly About the Poor and Ourselves Hymn: The Servant Song“Potpoori” The Word: Jams and Jars Excerpts from Theirs is the Kingdom Three Ways of Looking at People Hunger Next Door Cartoon: Elijah Group Response #2 3
  4. 4. Poor Praying The Word: Care-full and Cared for Prayers of the Poor My Prayer for the Poor “Ragman” Hymn: Let Your Heart Be BrokenAction The Word: Rights and Rules “From Census Taking to Name Affirming” “The Poor and the People Called Methodists” Nazarene Manual Statements on Compassionate Ministries “Why Servanthood is Bad” “Insights from Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty” Hymn: “Take My Life” Bibliography on the Poor 4
  5. 5. “Poorly Defined”:Who are the “Poor”-- Them or Us? 5
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  7. 7. The Word: Care-full and Cared For“’You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of youthere is more of God and his rule.“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Onlythen can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are---no more, noless. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everythingthat can’t be bought.“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’sfood and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’you find yourselves cared for.“You’re blessed when you get your inside world---your mind and heart---put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead ofcompete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and yourplace in God’s family.“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.“Not only that---count yourselves blessed every time people put you downor throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it meansis that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. Youcan be glad when this happens---give a cheer, even!---for though theydon’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are ingood company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into thiskind of trouble.” Matthew 5:3-12, from The Message.Discussion Questions 1. When and how have you been cared for in a time of personal crisis? 2. When you were going through a crisis, how did you respond? (stiff upper lip? Panic? Depression? Anger? Manipulation? Prayer? Calling on friends to help you?...) 7
  8. 8. 3. Have you ever found hope in the midst of crisis by focusing on serving others rather than on your own need? Was this good? Was this bad?4. Where have you found that in your caring you have found yourself cared for? 8
  9. 9. DEFINITIONSI. When You Think “Poor,” Which One of These Words Grabs You?Put the Top Five in rank Order, from First to FifthAbandonedBrokeConfusedCursedDeficientDeniedDepressedDeprivedDestituteDisfavoredDispossessedDyingHopelessHumbleImpoverishedIndigentNeedyPennilessPitiablePowerlessRundownSickUnderprivilegedUnlovedUnfortunateVictimsWeakOthers: _________________________________________________II. When You Think “Poverty,” Which One of These Words Grabs YouPut the Top Five in rank Order, from First to FifthAddictionAlonenessDearthDeficiencyDestitutionDisadvantageForgotten 9
  10. 10. InjusticeIsolatedNeedinessPaucityPrivationResourcelessScarcityShortageOthers: ____________________________________________________III. When the Bible thinks of the “Poor” and “Poverty,” the Hebrew and Greekwords use the following cognates:AfflictedBecome LowBeggarlyDispossessedHumbleImpoverishedLackingLeanNeedyOppressedTremblingWeakIV. Is there a different emphasis or orientation to our modern words for the“Poor”? If so, why? 10
  11. 11. In one presentation of this material, the following preferences were given in this rankorder:Section I: Underprivileged, Impoverished, Needy, Destitute, PowerlessSection II: Deficiency, Destitution, Neediness, Disadvantaged, ResourcelessSection III: (not available)How do your answers compare? 11
  12. 12. What does the cartoon say about the Gospel of Prosperity? 12
  13. 13. Biblical References to the “Poor” (Mentioned in the NIV, 178 times)Strategies to Aid the Poor 1. “but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.” (Ex. 23:11) 2. “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.” (Lev. 19:10) 3. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:22) 4. “If one your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” (Lev. 25:35)Treat the Poor Justly 1. “If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave.” (Lev. 25:39) 2. “If anyone making the vow is too poor to pay the specified amount, he is to present the person to the priest, who will set the value for him according to what the man making the vow can afford.” (Lev. 27:8) 3. “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he I a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.” (Deut. 24:14) 4. “Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.” (Deut. 24:15) 5. “So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.” (Job 5:16) 6. “who show no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?” (Job 34:19) 7. “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” (Ps 82:3) 8. “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 29:7) 9. “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31:20) 10. “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” (Zech. 7:10) 13 1
  14. 14. Treat the Poor Generously 1. “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.” (Deut 15:7) 2. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” (Prov. 19:17) 3. “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.” (Prov. 22:22) 4. “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter---when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Is. 58:7) 5. “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” (Luke 14:13)What are God’s Intentions for the Poor? 1. “However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.” (Deut. 15:4) 2. “I will bless her with adequate provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. (Ps 132:15) 3. “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” (Ps 140:12)The Realistic Perspective about the Poor? 1. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded towards your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (Deut 15:1) 2. “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.” (Prov. 13:23) 3. “The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.” (Prov. 14:20) 4. “Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man’s friend deserts him.” (Prov. 19:4) 5. “A poor man is shunned by all his relatives---how much more do his friends avoid him! Though he pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.” (Prov 19:17) 6. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matt. 26:11) 14 2
  15. 15. God Advocates for the Poor 1. “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” 2. “The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him---may your hearts live forever.” (Ps. 22:26) 3. “My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” (Ps. 35:10) 4. “Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor.” (Ps 68:10) 5. “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.” (Ps 113:7) 6. “The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety. But your root I will destroy by famine; it will slay your survivors.” (Is. 14:30) 7. “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.” 8. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” (Is. 61:1)Examples of Care for the Poor 1. “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:22) 2. “because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist.” (Job 29:12) 3. “Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?” (Job 30:25) 4. “If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary.” (Job 31:16) 5. “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Prov. 31:20) 6. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Matt. 11:5) 7. “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out 15 3
  16. 16. quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” (Luke 14:21) 8. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.” (Acts 9:36)Redistribution of Resources for the Poor 1. “His children must make amends to the poor; his own hands must give back his wealth.” (Job 20:10) 2. “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matt. 19:21) 3. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:23) 4. “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5)The Bad Treatment of the Poor 1. “You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.” (Ps 14:6) 2. “The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.” 3. “A poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly.” (Prov. 18:23) 4. “The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” (Ez. 22:29) 5. “For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” (Amos 5:12) 6. “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also come in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,” (James 2:2-3)Some Negatives Causes of Poverty 1. “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” 2. “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.” (Prov. 20:13) 16 4
  17. 17. 3. “He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich. (Prov. 21:17) 4. “for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Prov. 23:21)Judgment on Those that Exploit or are Insensitive to the Poor 1. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Prov 14:31) 2. “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.”(Prov 17:5) 3. “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” (Prov. 21:13) 4. “He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich---both come to poverty.” (Prob. 22:16) 5. “The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses.” (Is. 3:14) 6. “What do you mean by rushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor? Declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.” (Is. 3:15) 7. “to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” (Is 10:2) 8. “and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.” (Jer. 5:28) 9. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ez. 16:49) 10. “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (I Cor. 13:3) 11. “But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (James 2:6)Blessings on Those Who Care for the Poor 1. “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” (Prov. 22:9) 2. “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.” (Prov. 28:27) 3. “and said, Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts for the poor and to present offerings.” (Acts 10:31) 17 5
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  19. 19. Perspectives on PovertyPlease match the perspective with one of the following statements that, to you, soundsmost like the role played: 1. Cynic’s Perspective: 2. Desperate Man’s Perspective 3. Dr. Phineas F. Bresee’s Perspective 4. Denominational Perspective 5. Child’s Perspective 6. Administrator’s Perspective 7. Desperate Mother’s Perspective 8. Biblical Perspective 9. Government Perspective 10. Thankful Mother’s Perspective **************************************************** Fill in the blanks with the corresponding speaker from the list above.A. _____ “I was born there I was raised there I was loved there Then one day, I left there for elsewhere “I found purpose elsewhere I found meaning elsewhere I loved elsewhere Then one day, I left elsewhere for overthere “I showed compassion overthere I knew sorrow overthere I hated overthere The one day I left overthere for nowhereB. _____ “Because of the increased client load, it will be necessary for ourresource development team to submit additional grants and elicit corporate gifts in orderto service the mission of our organization.”C. _____ “My daddy doesn’t have a good job and so we don’t have enough moneyto buy school supplies and I get embarrassed in school ‘cause of it.D. _____ “There’s no way that the government can dole out enough money to feedall of the deadbeats that are out there. I work for a living and the government doesn’thave the right to take my money and hand it over to those who make lousy choices inlife.” 19
  20. 20. E. _____ “I just enrolled in a work-at-home program stuffing envelopes. It is sodepressing. . . We have less food [since welfare reform], though I look for bargains andsales and try to stretch my money. I end up yelling and fighting with the children, maybebecause they aren’t getting enough to eat. I don’t know. I borrow, but now I oweeveryone so I can’t borrow anymore.”F. _____ “For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the HolySpirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup---where doesthat get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-act is outrageous nonsense?G. _____ “The ‘Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ (TANF) program hashelped very much to alleviate the welfare dependence burden on our nation, as evidencedby the number of people on welfare before the reform of 1996, and the drastically loweramount after 1996. This steady decline shows that this program and the welfare reformacts of 1996 has served to greatly assist the needy in our nation, as well as relieve someof the economic and sociological obligation that the rest of the American society has hadfor the past few decades”H. _____ “We do not view compassionate acts as instruments for offeringsalvation. We endeavor to meet the needs of people simple because of the need. That’sthe Jesus way, and as Wesleyans, we believe we are called to live like Jesus among thepoor, disadvantaged, and suffering peoples around us.”I. _____ “The first miracle after the baptism of the Holy Ghost was wrought upon abeggar. It means that the first service of a Holy Ghost-baptized church is to the poor;that its ministry is to those who are lowest down; that its gifts are for those who needthem the most. As the Spirit was upon Jesus to preach the gospel to the poor, so HisSpirit is upon His servants for the same purpose.”J. _____ “Just when I thought that all was lost I heard about this place. I was hungry, tired and scared Until behind the counter I saw this smileing (sic) face. That one smile assured me that it was going to be OK And that I wasn’t alone For I wasn’t the only one that didn’t have a home Over the weeks of me walking through those big glass doors I know that I’ve found security, I need nothing more. Although there are hundreds of faces the staff see a day, When I approach the desk They call me by name and help me right away. No matter my problem big or small They seem to work through them all I thank the Lord for keeping me safe Thank all of you at the Horizon House place! 20
  21. 21. Answers:A. 2B. 6C. 5D. 1E. 7F. 8G. 9H. 4I. 3J. 10 21
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  29. 29. Poems from the Underside Battered Angel While sleeping one night, I had a dream. It left a tale to tell. I dreamed I saw an angel And he wasn’t looking well. His body was bruised and battered, Wings ripped and torn tired, . I saw that he could barely walk, So tired weary and worn. I walked over to him and said, “Angel, how can this be?” As he looked back at me and tried to smile, These words were said to me. . . “I’m your guardian angel, Quite a job as you can see. You’ve lived a very hard life. With that you must agree. You’ve broken laws and hearts. What you see, you’ve done to me. “These bruises are from shielding you. Each day I do my best still The drugs you’ve used so recklessly, I’ve often paid the bill. “My wings you see, are ripped and torn; A noble badge I bear. So many times they’ve shielded you, Though you were unaware. “Yes, every mark has its story Of pain and danger I’ve destroyed. You’ve made me wish more than once That I was unemployed. “If you would only embrace life, And choose to do good on your own. It would end the pain and suffering That goes with being your chaperone. “I will always be there to watch over you Until my strength finally fail. As for when that will be? All I can say is I’m getting old and frail.” When I awoke, I thought about my dream, How much he seemed to care. Then I looked around my prison cell And my heart sank in despair. As I sat there and wondered “Why should I even try?” The air rushed by from beating wings And I heard an angel cry! By Robert Mounts, 2005 29
  30. 30. The Onlys If only I had more time. If only I had more food. If only I had more money If only I had more room. If only I had more than one Oh, only I had more. If only it wasn’t my only one, I could give it that is sure. God had only One. But there He didn’t stop For the Love He had for us, “It’s my Only, wasn’t His thought. If in your hand You held just one little seed, Would you plant it So others you could feed? Only one is enough with God, With only One He did so much. Don’t be afraid to give your Only. With it, many He will touch. By Robert Mounts, 2005 Beyond Myself What have we missed As we walk head down? So focused on our problems Facing the day with a frown. What have we missed As we fail to look? And refusing to hear the cry Of those, the battle has overtook. What are my problems Compared to some? Had not I been full of gloom, I could shine like the sun. At a place in my life When I chanced to look up, It was easy to see beyond myself And be partaker of the Lord’s Cup. Truly, we need to understand That we are to be a Light, Always remembering each time we pray That it’s for the lost we do fight. Don’t misunderstand this poem, For problems will surely come; But learn to place them at the Master’s feetSo you can carry others to that same Throne. By Robert Mounts, 2005 30
  31. 31. Excerpts from Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America by Robert D. Lupton"The Truly Worthy Poor"People with a heart to serve others want to know that their gifts are invested wisely. ATleast I do. I don’t want my alms squandered by the irresponsible and the ungrateful. Andsince I’m often in a position to determine who will or will not receive assistance, I’veattempted to establish criteria to judge the worthiness of potential recipients. A truly worthy poor woman: Is a widow more than sixty-five years old livingalone in substandard housing; does not have a family or relatives to care for her. Has nosavings and cannot work; has an income inadequate for basic needs. Is a woman of prayerand faith, never asks anyone for anything but only accepts with gratitude what peoplebring her; is not cranky. A truly worthy poor young man: Is out of school, unemployed but not living offhis mother. Diligently applies for jobs every day; accepts gratefully any kind of work forany kind of pay. Does not smoke, drink, or use drugs; attends church regularly. Will notmanipulate for gain either for himself or his family; is dependable and morally pure.Does not act “cool” or “hip” like his peers on the street. Has pride in himself and isconfident; may sleep in alleys but is always clean and shaved. A truly worthy poor young woman: Lives in public housing (only temporarily).Has illegitimate children conceived prior to Christian conversion; is now celibate. Tithesher welfare check and food stamps; is a high school dropout but manages well withlimited resources. Places a high value on education and nutrition for her children. Walkseverywhere (grocery store, church, school, welfare office) with her children to save busfare and keeps her sparsely furnished home spotless. Occasionally runs out of food by theend of the month, but will not beg for “handouts.” Will not accept more than twenty-fivedollars per month in help from friends even if her children are hungry because thisviolates welfare rules. A truly worthy poor family: Is devout, close-knit. Has a responsible fatherworking long hours at minimum wage wherever he can find work. Has a mother whomakes the kids obey, washes clothes by hand, and will not buy any junk food. Lives inovercrowded housing; will not accept welfare or food stamps even when neither parentcan find work. Always pays the bills on time; has no automobile. Has kids that do notwhine or tell lies. I want to serve truly worthy poor people. The problem is they are hard to find.Someone on our staff thought he remembered seeing one back in ’76 but can’t rememberfor sure. Someone else reminded me that maybe to be truly poor means to be prideless,impatient, manipulative, desperate, grasping at every straw, and clutching the immediatewith little energy left for future plans. But truly worthy? Are any of us truly worthy? 31
  32. 32. Group Response #1Personal Testimonial of Kindness Extended to You in a Time of Personal Economic or Emotional Crisis 32
  33. 33. “The Poor...Always with Us?”:Causes and Consequences 33
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  35. 35. The Word: Waste and WantWhen Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, a woman cameup to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of veryexpensive perfume. When the disciples saw what was happening, theywere furious. “That’s criminal! This could have been sold for a lot andthe money handed out to the poor.”When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. “Why are yougiving this woman a hard time? She has just done somethingwonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you everyday for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured thisperfume on my body, what she really did was anoint me for burial. Youcan be sure that wherever in the whole world the message is preached,what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.”That is when one of the Twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went tothe cabal of high priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand himover to you?” They settled on thirty silver pieces. He began looking forjust the right moment to hand him over.” Matthew 26: 3-16, The MessageDiscussion Questions 1. When you see the poor, what personal feelings rise to the surface? Helplessness? Action? Avoidance? Anger? Frustration? Other? 2. Do you believe that Jesus’ answer was insensitive? Selfish? Matter- of-fact? Saying something important such as…? 3. Why do we have the poor always with us? 4. If the poor are always with us, is it right for the church to intentionally or inadvertently exclude the poor? 5. Why, in this story, is perfume more important than money? 35
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  37. 37. Quotations about PovertyRead through and evaluate quickly your reaction to these statements. Score each ofthese statements on the basis of 1-5, according to this scale: 1 Strongly agree 2 Agree somewhat 3 No reaction or I don’t understand the point 4 Disagree somewhat 5 Strongly disagree *********************************************************1. “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but byour institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin My evaluation: ____2. “We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone whoelects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does notjoin the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deemhim spiritless and lacking in ambition.” William James My evaluation: ____3. “You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.” P.J. O’Rourke My evaluation: ____4. “The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, aspoverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of prioritiesimposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modernpoor are not pitied . . . but written off as trash. The twentieth-centuryconsumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is areminder of nothing. John Berger. My evaluation: ____5. “Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.” EliKhamarov My evaluation: ____6. “The prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is theworst moral disease from which our civilization suffers.” William James My evaluation: ____ 37
  38. 38. 7. “It would be nice if the poor were to get even half of the money thatis spent in studying them.” Bill Vaughn My evaluation: ____8. “Love and business and family and religion and art and patriotism arenothing but shadows of words when a man’s starving.” O. Henry My evaluation: ____9. “A rich man in nothing but a poor man with money.” W.C. Fields My evaluation: ____10. “The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time.” Willemde Kooning My evaluation: ____11. “Hunger makes a thief of any man.” Pearl S. Buck My evaluation: ____12. “To a man with an empty stomach, food is God.” Gandhi My evaluation: ____13. “Poverty is no disgrace to a man, but it is confoundedly inconvenient.”Sydney Smith My evaluation: ____14. “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear tothem except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi My evaluation: ____15. “However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not sun it and call ithard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not troubleyourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do notchange, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.” Henry DavidThoreau My evaluation: ____16. “For every talent that poverty has stimulated, it had blighted ahundred.” John Gardner My evaluation: ____ 38
  39. 39. Thinking Honestly About the Poor and Ourselves ******************************************* Hopelessness in an Unequal Society “Both Maridel and Parker were overweight, to the point of being unhealthy.They decided it was the time to do something drastic. Responding to an adfor a Fat-Away program, they drove to a rural area in their state, wherethey were taken to separate areas of the woods. For six weeks, they wouldbe locked into these ‘compounds,’ as they were called. In each compound,according to the ad, were the perfect ingredients needed to lose weight.Their goal was to each lose forty pounds. What they did not know is thatthe less-than ethical Fat-Away organization was really a research laboratorystudying the effects of various diets, exercise programs and weight-lossexpectations on people’s weight change. Without a word to Maridel andParker, they placed Maridel in a compound designed to help her lose weight,but they placed Parker in a compound designed for Parker to gain weight.“In Maridel’s compound were running trails, a swimming pool, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, a basketball court, and a sauna. In her cabin weremagazines on proper nutrition, instructional videos on how to lose weight, anabundance of natural, healthy, low-far, low-calorie foods, and no sweets.Each day she was greeted early by fit and trim people who asked Maridel togo on a run with them, talked about how much they loved being thin, andencouraged her that she too can be thin---wonderful conditions for losingweight.“In Parker’s compound was only a tiny cabin. No exercise equipment wasavailable whatsoever, but there were plenty of videos and movies thatshowed high-calorie foods looking sumptuous, more high-calorie goodies thaneven a sumo wrestler could desire, and just a few fruits and vegetables. Theonly other people Parker saw were also obese, and though they talked aboutlosing weight, they seemed not to really care about their weight---not goodconditions for losing weight. 39
  40. 40. “The program called for each participant to weigh in at the start, and thenevery two weeks thereafter. At the end of two weeks, with neither awareof what was inside the other’s compound, Maridel and Parker were taken tothe weighing room. They each took their turn on the scale. Maridel steppedon the scale first. She had lost nineteen pounds! Parker’s turn produced farless excitement. He actually gained two pounds.“Maridel, who assumed that both she and Parker had the same type ofcompound, was irritated with Parker. ‘We paid good money to be here,Parker. How can you waste it? You have to exercise, you have to eat right!’Parker tried to make his case, but it only made Maridel more irritated.Maridel told Parker he needed to try harder. Parker, though he wasdepressed about his weight gain and the difficulty in exercising adequatelyand eating right, resolved to do so.“But try as he may, Parker kept eating too many bad foods. And heexercised very little. He became depressed, and his depression only madehim eat more and exercise less. After another two weeks, back he andMaridel went to the scales. Maridel, with wonderful weight-lossopportunities and taking full advantage of them, lost another fifteen pounds.Parker however actually gained more weight than he had the first two weeks.Maridel could not believe what Parker was doing to himself. ‘Don’t you knowwhy we are here? Parker, this place is designed for us to lose weight. Ifyou can’t do it here, where can you?’“’I don’t think this is all that great a place to lose weight,’ Parker sniped.‘The food here is fatty, and exercising is next to impossible.’ Maridel wastaken aback. Finally she replied, ‘It wouldn’t matter if that were true,Parker. When we get home, the food can be fatty and exercise difficult,but you must learn to eat and exercise right, regardless.’ Parker,increasingly frustrated by Maridel’s comments, retorted. ‘No way is it aseasy as you’re making it seem. I think that Fat-Away is treating me unfairly.I’m not even sure I want to lose weight.’“With that Maridel was dumbfounded. If Parker was not even going to try,if he was going to blame others, perhaps he deserved to be obese. But shealso thought that if only Parker could have a vision of what he could look like,he would take advantage of Fat-Away and lose weight. She encouraged 40
  41. 41. Parker to imagine being thin, toned, and healthy. ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful,Parker? If only you would try.’”Back they went for another two weeks. At the final weigh-in, with thepredictable result of Parker not having lose weight, Maridel simple resignedherself to the idea that Parker wanted to be overweight. Why Parker wouldwant this, she was not sure, but of one thing she was sure---until Parkerdecided he wanted to lose weight, he would not.”Taken from Divided by Faith, by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. pp. 110-112 41
  42. 42. 42This is a childs view of hunger.What does this cartoon mean to you?
  43. 43. Misguided Motives1. A “Romanticism” about the poor and their needs “It’s gonna be cool, helpin’ them out!”2. A “Messianic Complex”, to “save” the needy “Just wait till I fix the problem!”3. An “Exaggerated View” about the needy “They are so pitiful!”4. A “Poor Self-Esteem” Perspective that is enhanced by working with the poor “I feel so much more important around them!”5. A “Utilitarian” perspective, that uses the poor for personal advantage “It’ll look good on my resume6. A “Guilt” Complex about the needy “Man, I have so much that I’ve got to share!”7. A “Duty-bound” obligation to the needy “Guess I’ve got to do it. It’s the Christian thing!”8. The “Titillation” of excitement among the poor “Yeah! This is where the real action is.”9. A “Masochistic” attraction towards the poor “I like to hang around people hurting worse than me.”10. The “Attention-getting” device “Hey, everybody’s going to think I’m another Mother Teresa. . . Who knows maybe I’ll win a Nobel Prize some day! 43
  44. 44. 44
  45. 45. Chapter 7 Poverty Summary by Russ Long May 29, 2005 Key Concepts blaming the victim poverty culture of poverty poverty line feminization of poverty social classes income social stratification meritocracy underclass new poor wealth old poor wealthfare poor-poor (severely poor) welfare I. Poverty in the U.S. Basics of Social StratificationSocial StratificationStratification is the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups onthe basis of their control over basic resources (Kendall, 1998:24).Social ClassA class system is a system of social inequality based on the ownershipand control of resources and on the type of work people do. A primarycharacteristic of the class system is social mobility. In other words anindividual can move up, or down, the class structure (Kendall, 1998:24). 45
  46. 46. Presumably, social movement is based on merit. One, therefore, earns their position in society. Meritocracy Meritocracy is a system of social inequality in which social standing corresponds to personal ability or effort. Underclass The underclass refers to poor people who live in areas with high concentrations of poverty and few opportunities to improve their lives. Wealth Wealth is the value of all economic assets, including income, personal property, and income-producing property (Kendall, 1998:24). Income Income is the economic gain derived from wages, salaries, income transfers (governmental aid such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children), or ownership of property (Kendall, 1998:27). Assets Wolff (in Skolnick and Currie, 1997:99) describes assets as consisting of all forms of "financial wealth such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance savings, mutual fund shares and unincorporated business; consumer durables like cares and major appliances; and the value of pension rights." Wolff (1997:99) continues to say that from these sources, one should subtract liabilities such as "consumer debt, mortgage balances, and other outstanding debt." The upper classes control a much greater percentage of valuable assets than income. Robertson (1989:180) points out that in 1973 the bottom fifth of Americans controlled only 0.2% of all assets while the top fifth control 76% of all assets. Further, the assets controlled by the poor tend to depreciate (household items) over time while those of the rich tend to appreciate (real estate and stocks).A. What is Poverty and How Is It Measured?Eitzen (2000:178) describes poverty as a standard of living below the minimumneeded for the maintenance of an adequate diet. health, and shelter. 46
  47. 47. B. The Extent of Poverty1. The Poverty RateThe poverty rate is an absolute measure of poverty. It is the proportion of thepopulation whose income falls below the governments official poverty line. Poverty Rates, 2000 Corpus San Austin U.S. Texas Christi Antonio Metro Metro Metro Total 12.38 15.37 11.07 18.16 15.08 Population The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines metropolitan areas (MAs) according to published standards that are applied to Census Bureau data. The general concept of an MA is that of a core area containing a large population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core. See: http://www.census.gov/population/www/estimates/aboutmetro.html Tables compiled by Russ Long2. Determining the "Official" Poverty LineThe official poverty line is based on a minimum family market basket – a low-costfood budget that contains a minimum level of nutrition for a family – multiplied by3 to allow for nonfood costs (Eitzen, 2000:178).3. Problems With The Official Definition of PovertyThere are some serious problems with the "official poverty rate."a. Poverty is Unique depending on Social and PhysicalEnvironmentAny number of social and geographic factors are going to mean that poverty inone region is not the same as poverty in another region (rural vs. urban povertyfor example). 47
  48. 48. b. The Cost of Food DeclinedThe definition of official poverty may have made more sense in 1965 when it wascreated than it does in 2001. The cost of food, as a proportion of the familybudget, has declined.c. Fails to Keep Up with Inflationsee Eitzen (2003:181) Extreme Poverty The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is the poorest census tract in the United States with a poverty rate of 73% Source: Newsweek, July 19, 1999, p 34.4. Alternatives to the Official Poverty Ratea. Relative Measures (Fifty percent of the Median)Fifty percent of the median income is a relative measure of poverty. Kendall(1998:33) describes relative poverty as a condition that exists when people maybe able to afford basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter but cannotmaintain an average standard of living for members of their society or group.b. Subjective Measures (Ask the individual)C. Who are the Poor? (Race & Ethnicity, Gender, Class, Age) Poverty and Income Data Historic Poverty Trends in the U.S.: Poverty Rates & Poverty Population -- 1959 to 1999 Historic Poverty Trends in the U.S.: Race, Ethnicity, & Female Householder -- 1959 to 1999 Historic Poverty Trends in the U.S.: Age -- 1959 to 1999 48
  49. 49. Are the Rich Getting Richer? Percent Change in Household Income by Quintile: 1995 & 1996 Median Family Income by Race and Ethnicity: 1999 Per Capita Income by Race and Ethnicity: 19991. Feminization of PovertyFeminization of poverty refers to the trend whereby women are disproportionatelyrepresented among individuals living in poverty (Kendall, 1998:34-35). (also seeEitzen, 2000:181)2. The Old-Poor, The New Poor, and The Poor-Poor (SeverelyPoor)a. The Old PoorEitzen (2003:188) contends that the old poor (of previous generations) aredifferent than todays poor because the old poor had hopes of escaping poverty.Even if the old-poor did not escape poverty, they had hopes that their childrenwould escape poverty. There was work that the unskilled and uneducatedcould do to earning a living.b. The New PoorEitzen (2003:188) argues that the new-poor are much more trapped by povertythan the poor in previous generations. The is little need for hard physical labor.c. The Poor-Poor (The Severely Poor)Eitzen (2003:189) refers to people who have incomes below half the povertyline. Eitzen argues that 39% of the poor fall into this category. Child Poverty Eitzen (2003:184) notes that children living in poverty come from female- headed families, they are rural, and they are mostly white. Progress in Reducing Child Poverty 49
  50. 50. Eitzen (2000:183) points out that one in five children are poor in the United States. He further notes that child-poverty can be reduced because it has happened in other industrial countries. He shows that America’s wealthy children do better than wealthy kids in other countries but the kids of poor people in America have less to live on than kids in any other industrial country except for Ireland and Israel. Other countries reduce child poverty through government programs. The offer broader child tax credit than does the U.S. They have guaranteed child care, health care, and child support when fathers won’t pay. II. Myths About PovertyA. Refusal To Work(Eitzen, 2003:190)B. Welfare Dependency(Eitzen, 2003:190-191)1. WelfareWelfare is government monies or services provided to the poor.2. WealthfareWealthfare describes a situation in the U.S. where the greatest amount ofgovernment aid goes to the nonpoor (Eitzen, 2000:188-189).a. Funding for Social Service:Most government expenditures for human resource programs go to the nonpoor.This includes moneys spent on public education for children and Social Securityand Medicare for the elderly.There are two hidden welfare systems that benefit the wealthy as well.a. Tax Expenditures and Tax Loopholes:Many wealthy individuals and corporations often pay lower taxes or no taxes atall. For example, the government allows homeowners to deduct from their taxesestate taxes and interest on mortgages. The money saved via tax breaks is four 50
  51. 51. times larger than all funding for low income housing. Only about a quarter ofAmericans in the top income bracket receive these tax breaks (Eitzen,2000:188).b. Corporate Assistance:The second form of hidden welfare to the wealthy comes in the form of directsubsidies and credit assistance to corporations, banks, agribusiness, defense,etc.C. The Poor Get Special AdvantagesNo, the poor do not get special advantages. In fact, the poor pay more than thenonpoor for many services. Eitzen (2003:193) notes that the poor pay more forday to day products like milk. They also have a harder time getting insuranceand obtaining loans.1. High-cost CommoditiesThe inner-city poor have to pay more for food and commodities. The large "club-stores," which are often associated with discount shopping, are often located inthe suburbs. The poor must buy from stores located in their immediateneighborhood. This gives the neighborhood stores a near-monopoly advantage.2. Inflated Interest RatesThe poor are not generally offered the kinds of financial services which areprovided to people in the middle class. This includes bank loans. The financialservices which the poor have access to charge extremely high interest rates.These services include rent-to-own companies, loans from pawnbrokers, financecompany loans, and quick payday loans from check cashing services.3. Regressive TaxesWhen the poor pay taxes on items they purchase, they pay a much greateramount of their resources on those items than do the wealthy. Sales taxes are,therefore, regressive (Eitzen, 2000:190). III. Deficiency Theory #1: Innate Inferiority: Social Darwinism 51
  52. 52. Disclaimer I normally would not include a disclaimer in a sociological inquiry, but in this case one is in order. The reader should be fully aware that as I present the material on deficiency theories I do not subscribe to any of their tenets. It is my contention that poverty is an economic issue rooted in the structure of society. Solutions to poverty are political. Biology plays a very minor role in determining who is poor. I present material on deficiency theories, not because I think they are valid explanations of poverty, but rather as a forum from which to critique deficiency theories. Self-fulfilling Prophecy and I.Q. Henslin (481:1999) contends that a self-fulfilling prophecy refers to a false assumption of what is going on that happens to come true simply because it was predicted. Eitzen (2000:196) argues that IQ testing promotes a self-fulfilling prophecy. He contends that knowledge of IQ scores can determine how people respond to one-another. For example: A teacher learns that a pupil has a low IQ score. This knowledge prompts the teacher to assume the student is a slow learner and lowers his/her expectations of the student. The lowered expectations lead to less access to knowledge and ultimately to even lower IQ scores on future tests.A. The Role of BiologyBiology obviously plays a role in deciding who we are (see Charon, 1987:70-78).Biology is responsible for our helplessness at birth, its responsible for providingus with a brain that can accommodate complex conceptual tasks (e.g., languageand math). Biology is responsible for physical differences between men andwomen. Biological explanations, in part, account for men being physicallystronger than women and women living longer than men. Women are lesssusceptible to disease. Biology determines that women mature faster than men.B. The Rise of Sociobiology 52
  53. 53. Does biology influence the kind of social relationships that people have with oneanother? Many contend that it does. Edward Wilson has called for the"systematic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior in all kindsof organisms including man." Sociobiologists contend that biological approachesare valid attempts to explain human behavior because ultimately all social life istraceable to our biological heritage and not social interaction. Biology is,therefore, seen as the ultimate determinant of human behavior.C. Biological Models As Social Models: The Homeostatic ModelThe Homeostatic model is a sociological model whose origins are found inbiology. Remember that the use of biological models (or any other particularmodel for that matter) has significant influence on how we perceive socialrelationships. Note that within a biological system, dramatic change can causethe death of the organism. For Biology this is a literal description of a livingsystem. When biological models are applied to social systems, societies areseen as like a human organism. It is assumed that all parts of the systemfunction to support the greater organism. All parts are perceived as necessary --despite unequal arrangements. One tends to forget, however, that biologicaldescriptions of society are merely metaphors. Often they do not accuratelydescribe human systems. Further more, biological models assume that ifsomething exists, then it must contribute to the preservation of the larger system(i.e., it must be necessary). Biological models provide justification for the existingstatus quo (whatever the status quo may be).D. Social Darwinism of the 19th and Early 20th CenturyThe discoveries of Charles Darwin had a profound impact on other branches ofscientific inquiry. Charles Darwin, of course, is famous for his Theory ofEvolution. In the world of biology the species most fit survived while those less fiteventually became extinct. Many social scientists, most notably Herbert Spencer,attempted to apply the logic of Charles Darwin to the social world. The essenceof the social Darwinist perspective is that races or cultures, who occupied a"superior position" in the social world, deserved that position because they werethe most socially fit (Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:170). According to Spencer "thepoor are poor because they are unfit." Spencer argued that "poverty is naturesway of excreting ... unhealthy, imbecile, slow, vacillating, faithless members ofsociety in order to make room for the fit" (Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:170).E. A Modern Example of Social Darwinism: IQ TestsMurray and Herrnstein (1994) along with Arthur Jensen (1969, 1980) employSocial Darwinist type explanations in their interpretation of IQ scores. IQ scores,of course, are viewed as a measure of intelligence and it is assumed thatintellectual ability is inherited. Murray and Herrnstein imply that low IQ scoresassociated with people of color are the result of a deficient gene pool. 53
  54. 54. Intellectual ability, according to Murray and Herrnstein, is inherited. Since,according to sociobiologists, social position is based on merit, those who occupyhigh ranking positions in society are biologically "fit." On the other hand, thoseindividuals who occupy low ranking positions are least fit socially.Some portion of IQ is inherited. On the other hand, some intellectual ability isgained through social interaction (e.g., through parental interaction or the schoolsystem). To assume that IQ is all biological is simple wrong. Furthermore, theimpact such beliefs (i.e., that social position is based on genetics) can havecatastrophic effect on the self-concept of poor people who are alreadystigmatized by poverty.F. IQ and the EnvironmentIs IQ largely a function of biology? Does IQ measure intelligence? Much researchon IQ exists that documents that variations in IQ scores are due to geneticfactors less than half the time. The rest of the variation in intelligence is the resultof social context. The following five items are social factors that influence IQscores: 1. Prenatal Care: The impact of parental neglect in the development of the fetus is well documented. Parents who abuse substances while conceiving and carrying unborn children may produce offspring with lower IQs. Similarly poor diet and inadequate health care can lead to lower IQ. 2. Differences in Socialization: The type of interaction that children have with others can influence intellectual development. One might expect that parents who read to their children will produce children with higher IQ scores as compared to parents who do not read to their children. 3. Disadvantages Associated with Poverty: Poverty has negative impact on intellectual development on a variety of avenues. The poor in the United States have long been frustrated with "separate and unequal schools." Poor classroom conditions can negatively affect IQ scores. Poor nutrition and health can continue to have negative influence intellectual development. 4. Importance of IQ Scores to the Person Taking the Test: If passing a standardized test is unimportant, the individual probably will not put his or her full effort into performing satisfactorily on such a test. In fact, poor children might perform poorly on tests of all kinds out of fear of being ridiculed by his or her class mates if they perform well. 5. Cultural Bias of the IQ Test. IQ tests are typically written by middle-class people. They test knowledge of middle-class values. Many argue that performance on IQ tests measures, not innate intelligence and ability, but rather knowledge of middle-class conditions.G. The Hidden Agenda Behind the Bell Curve 54
  55. 55. From the time of Thomas Malthus there have been those opponents of socialwelfare who contend that welfare is simple a means of using the wealth of theadvantaged to perpetuate and increased the population of the disadvantaged.Social welfare is condemned because, it is argued, social welfare is the source ofpoverty rather than the solution. Many argue that assistance to the poorencourages a state of dependence. Social Darwinism advocates withholding aidfrom the poor. Social welfare programs would interfere with natures way ofgetting rid of the weak.Following through on this logic, in order to eliminate poverty, the poor have to beencouraged to rectify their own situation. Malthus argued that the poor shouldfeel "the great pain of poverty" before they would take steps to limit their birthrates. Murray and Herrnstein (1994) 200 years later use the same logic to lashout against social welfare spending. They argue that poverty, welfaredependency, illegitimacy, and crime are all correlated with low IQ and that thecorrelation is due to genetics.At the least one might argue that what is, in fact, occurring is an effort tosubstitute IQ scores for moral worth. IQ scores provide an easy explanation forcomplex social interactions that lead to poverty. Some even contend that IQscores are an ideological tool. IQ can help maintain the social position of peoplewho do well on IQ tests. It can foster a particular social view (a middle-classview) of what constitutes intelligence.H. A critique of Biological ModelsGranted, biology plays a large part in who we are, but no matter what thebiological differences may be, what becomes important is how we sociallyrespond to those differences. An over-reliance on biological explanations forsocial behavior may cause observers to overlook the importance of the socialdefinition superimposed on biologically determined characteristics.Of major importance here are the potentially catastrophic consequences that areliance on biology models might have on psychological issues such as self-esteem. Poor people are already stigmatized. An over-reliance on the biologicalmodel might drive many already disadvantaged into believing that attempting toachieve success is useless.Other material should be considered in the IQ debate. Note the "Flynn Effect"which was first noticed in 1930 that shows that all groups show a steady rise inIQ scores from 1930 regardless of social class or race. The Flynn Effectdemonstrates that IQ does improve -- even for the poor. Contrast this withWilliam Shockleys (1966) call for the sterilization of people with low IQs. 55
  56. 56. IV. Deficiency Theory #2 Cultural Inferiority: The Culture of PovertyOscar Lewis, author of La Vita (1965), coined the term "Culture of Poverty" (alsosee Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited, 1974). The essence ofCulture of Poverty theory holds that poor people share deviant culturalcharacteristics. The poor have lifestyles that differ from the rest of society andthat these characteristics perpetuate their life of poverty. According to the Cultureof Poverty thesis (in Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:173) "the poor are qualitativelydifferent in values and that these cultural differences explain continued poverty."Eitzen and Baca-Zinn (1994:173) maintain that there is a strong implicationembedded in the Culture of Poverty that defects in the lifestyle of the poor[cultural deprivation] perpetuate poverty. Such defects are passed from onegeneration to the next. Under these circumstances it is extremely difficult forpeople, once trapped by the Culture of Poverty, to escape poverty.Characteristics that typify the Culture of Poverty exist across a variety of racialand ethnic groups. While these characteristics (see below) are certainly presentin poverty populations, Culture of Poverty Theory leaves the impression that theytypify all poor people. THAT IS A FALLACY!The following characteristics typify the culture of poverty. Some may be accuratein some settings. Some may have had explanatory powers a few decades ago,but today are no longer accurate. Some are contradictory. They all tend topresent negative connotations. All are highly stereotypical. Characteristics of the Culture of Poverty 1. Parents are more permissive in raising their children. They are less verbal with their children. Family-heads display a strong disposition toward authoritarianism. 2. Children raised in poverty also have drastically different orientations in life when compared to middle-class children. There is an absence of childhood. Children experience an early initiation to sex. 3. Families often form based upon free unions or consensual marriage. This partially explains the trend toward female-headed homes. 4. The poor are more fatalistic. One might expect that a poor person would believe the following idea: "What will be will be and I cant change it." 5. The poor are less apt to defer gratification. Banfield argues that the essence of the poor subculture is its present-time orientation. 56
  57. 57. He asserts that the poor do not know how to defer gratification (see Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:173). 6. The poor are less interested in formal education. Source: Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994, and Farley, 1988The Culture of Poverty theory argues that the characteristics presented aboveenable the poor to adapt to poverty. For example, the lack of childhood happensbecause sometimes poor children have to begin working at an early age.Moreover, poor children have to "hustle" to survive. There is no time to be young.To act young is a sign of weakness. The absences of privacy and competition forlimited goods are self-explanatory characteristics of poverty. Perhaps the strongdisposition toward authoritarianism is necessary because of the hard choices thatpoverty provides.A. The Moynihan ReportThe Culture of Poverty is a functionalist approach to poverty. It assumes a "right"or "correct" culture and a deviant culture. The poor are poor and are likely toremain poor because their culture deviates from the norm. The Moynihan Report(1965) is an example of a study that (perhaps inadvertently) borrows aspects ofthe Culture of Poverty to explain African-American poverty. Its goal was toexplain continued poverty in the 1960s.The Moynihan Study accurately pointed out that much of the poverty associatedwith the Black community was due to a history of slavery and economicoppression (unemployment). It also called attention to the necessity of alteringones lifestyle as a means to cope with poverty. Moynihan, however, ultimatelycame to concentrate on the characteristics of the Black family that requiredchanging, rather than the system of oppression that needed changing.B. A Critique of the Moynihan Report and the Culture of Poverty1. It Blames the VictimThe most important criticism of the report is that it put the blame for poverty onthe victim. Blaming the victim places the burden of change on the victim andremoves it from society. From the Culture of Poverty perspective, poverty isviewed as the fault of the poor in that, their culture, not social injustice, causesand perpetuates poverty. The implied assumption is that until the poor changestheir "culture," no amount of government intervention will solve the problem ofpoverty.2. Negative Emphasis on Female-headed Families 57
  58. 58. Another objection to the Culture of Poverty thesis revolves around the negativeemphasis placed upon female-headed families. Female-headed families do notensure a life of poverty. Children of single-parent family perform well in school.They do not have greater problems with mental health. Poverty, of course,affects both. Poverty, not single-parenting, generates social problems likeilliteracy. Furthermore, single-parents are usually women and women areplaced in economically disadvantaged positions due to the structure of theeconomy that pays women only 68 percent the salary that it pays men. THIS ISNOT CULTURAL. Its SYSTEMIC.3. The Attack on DivorceThere appears, imbedded in culture of poverty theory, an attack on divorce.There is no evidence that divorce, itself, causes poverty. Sometimes divorce canlead to better social adjustment. Since 1957, as the number of divorces hasrisen, the percentage of people saying they are happy with their marriage hasalso risen from 67 percent to 80 percent (footnote missing!). People who focuson the problems associated with single-parent families also forget the positiveimpact of the extended family. The extended family supports single-parentfamilies by providing grandparents, aunts, and even friends.4. Most Black Families are Not PoorOther problems with the Moynihan Report pertain to the implied image that themajority of Black families are typically from broken homes. The poverty rate forBlacks is about 30 percent. That means that 70 percent of Black families areabove the poverty line. Furthermore, while focusing on the characteristics of theBlack family, the Moynihan Report does not attack aspects of the social structurethat put one group at a disadvantage when compared to another. With the Blackfamily, the disadvantage flows from historically based discrimination (whichincluded forced breakups of families while under slavery), high levels ofunemployment, and welfare laws that encourage one parent families.5. Poor People Do Not Have Radically Different LifestylesFinally, the culture of poverty contains the assumption that families living inpoverty have radically different outlooks than middle-class families. Elliot Liebowin Street Corner Man (as referenced in Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:173)suggests that most poor people, in fact, attempt to live by societys values. Theirstruggle is frustrated by externally imposed failures. Most people who are poorwould prefer to escape poverty via a good job. Good jobs that poor people areeligible for are rare. Liebow suggests that the characteristics associated with theculture of poverty are those that appear when individuals try to achieve goalsdefined by society, but who fail to achieve societys goals because society hasnot provided means to achieve those goals. These are the proverbial blockedopportunities. 58
  59. 59. 6. One-Way Adaptation?Culture of Poverty proponents argue that the poor adapt to a lifestyle whichallows them to deal with poverty. They tend to assume that one these lifestyleshave been adopted, they become institutionalized with poor culture making itvery difficult fort the poor to escape the culture of poverty. One might ask that if itis so easy to adopt to poverty lifestyles, that it might be just as easy to adopt to amiddle class lifestyle once that lifestyle is provided. V. Structural TheoriesA. Institutional DiscriminationEitzen (2000:200) contends that "the real explanation of why the poor are poor isthat they made the mistake of being born to the wrong parents, in the wrongsection of town, in the wrong industry, or in the wrong racial or ethnic group." Thepoor encounter structural conditions in society which, in part, are to blame forpoverty. They experience Institutional discrimination. Institutional discrimination isembedded in the customary ways of doing things, prevailing attitudes andexpectations, and accepted structural arrangements. Such arrangements work tothe disadvantage of the poor. Examples follow:1. EducationMost good jobs require a college education, but the poor cannot afford to sendtheir children to college. Scholarships are available, but only to the bestperforming students. Poor students tend to not score high on assessments testsbecause of, among other things, lower expectations of teachers andadministrators.2. Health CareThe poor get sick more and stay sick longer than people in the middle class. Thishappens, in part, because they cannot afford preventive medicine, they haveimproper diets, and they don’t get proper medical care when they get sick.B. The Political Economy of SocietyEitzen (2000:201) argues that a basic tenet of capitalism promotes poverty. Thatbasic tenet is that who gets what is determined by private profit rather thancollective need.1. Employers are constrained to pay their employees at little as possible inwages and benefits. 59
  60. 60. 2. By maintaining a surplus of labor, wages are depressed.3. Employers make investment decisions without regard for employees. VI. The Elimination of PovertyA. Assumption OnePoverty is a social problem and the source of other social problems, therefore, itmust be eliminated.See (Eitzen, 2003:205)B. Assumption TwoPoverty can be eliminated in the United States.See (Eitzen, 2003:205-206)C. Assumption ThreePoverty is caused by the lack of resources, not deviant value system.See (Eitzen, 2003:206)D. Assumption FourPoverty is not simply a matter of deficient income; it results from otherinequalities in society as well.See (Eitzen, 2003:206)E. Assumption FivePoverty cannot be eliminated by the efforts of the poor themselvesSee (Eitzen, 2003:207)F. Assumption SixPoverty cannot be eliminated by the private sector of the economy. 60
  61. 61. See (Eitzen, 2003:207)3G. Assumption SevenPoverty will not be eliminated by an expanding economy.See (Eitzen, 2003:207)H. Assumption EightPoverty will not be eliminated by volunteer help from well-meaning individuals,groups, and organizations.See (Eitzen, 2003:207-208)I. Assumption NinePoverty will not be eliminated by the efforts of state and local governments.See (Eitzen, 2003:208)J. Assumption TenPoverty is a national problem and must be attacked with massive nationwideprograms financed largely and organized by the federal government.See (Eitzen, 2003:209) BibliographyBanfield, Edward C.1974 The Unheavenly City Revisited. Boston, Little, BrownCharon, Joel1987 The Meaning of Sociology: A Reader. Englewood, CA: Prentice hall.Eitzen, D. Stanley and Maxine Baca-Zinn1994 Social Problems. (6th Ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 61
  62. 62. 2000 Social Problems. (8th Ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.2003 Social Problems. (9th Ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Farley, John E.1988 Majority - Minority Relations. (2nd Ed.) Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: PrenticeHall.2000 Majority - Minority Relations. (4th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: PrenticeHallJensen, Arthur R.1969 "How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?" HarvardEducational Review, 39 (Winter):1-123.1980 Bias in Mental Testing. New York: Free PressKendall, Diana1998 Social Problems in a Diverse Society. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Lewis, Oscar1965 La Vida. New York: Random House.Liebow, Elliott1967 Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Street Corner Men. Boston: Little Brown &Company.Malthus, Thomas1809 An essay on the principle of population, or, A view of its past and presenteffects on human happiness with an inquiry into our prospects respecting thefuture removal on mitigation of the evils which it occasions. Washington : RogerChew Weightman,Murray, Charles and Richard J. Herrnstein1994 The Bell Curve : Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. NewYork : Free Press,Shockley, William 62
  63. 63. 1966 Mechanics. Columbus, Ohio, C. E. Merrill BooksU.S. Bureau of the Census1990 US Census Look-up, 1990, http://venus.census.gov/cdrom/lookup/Wolff, Edward N.1997 "Top Heavy." in Crisis in American Institutions. (10th Ed.) by Jerome H.Skolnick and Elliott Currie. New York: Longman. 63
  64. 64. 64
  65. 65. “Pooring It On”:Treating People as We Would Want to be Treated 65
  66. 66. 66
  67. 67. The Word: Rags and RopesOne day , Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur heard me tell thepeople of Judah that the Lord had said, “If you stay here in Jerusalem,you will die in battle or from disease or hunger, and the Babylonian armywill capture the city anyway. But if you surrender to the Babylonians,they will let you live.”So the four of them went to the king and said, “You should put Jeremiahto death, because he is making the soldiers and everyone else lose hope.He isn’t trying to help our people; he’s trying to harm them.”Zedekiah replied, “Do what you want with him. I can’t stop you.”Then they took me back to the courtyard of the palace guards and let medown with ropes into the well that belonged to Malchiah, the king’s son.There was no water in the well, and I sank down in the mud.Ebedmelech from Ethiopia was an official at the palace, and he heardwhat they had done to me. So he went to speak with King Zedekiah, whowas holding court at Benjamin Gate. Ebedmelech said, “Your Majesty,Jeremiah is a prophet, and those men were wrong to throw him into awell. And when Jerusalem runs out of food, Jeremiah will starve todeath down there.”Zedekiah answered, “Take thirty of my soldiers and pull Jeremiah outbefore he dies.”Ebedmelech and the soldiers went to the palace and got some rags fromthe room under the treasury. He used ropes to lower them into the well.Then he said, “Put these rags under yours arms so the ropes won’thurt you.” After I did, the men pulled me out. And from then on, I waskept in the courtyard of the palace guards. Jeremiah 38:1-13, The Contemporary English VersionDiscussion Questions 1. Ebedmelech was of a minority race and an immigrant, serving in the palace. When have you been helped in a moment of crisis or desperation by someone regarded as lower status than yourself? 2. Like Ebedmelech, what risks have you personally taken to help someone in need? 3. Some people are the rags that offer comfort and protect one from bruising in the midst of rescue and change. Can you think of 67
  68. 68. anybody who has been a comfort “rag” to you in the midst of crisis?4. Some people are the ropes that yank people out of their situation. They create conditions for change. Can you think of somebody who jolted you into change that was necessary in your life?5. In your own ministry to those in need, which of the two—rags and ropes—do you intend to be? 68
  69. 69. Compassion and the Clothes Closet Taken from Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert LuptonWhile remodeling our church, I came across a yellowed sign taped to the wall of an oldstorage room. Before tearing it down, I gave it a casual glance: CLOTHES CLOSET.But then I realized it was more than just a sign. It was a history. The lined-out,crayoned-in revisions and explanations told a fascinating story of the evolution of aministry. Between the lines one could read of the classic struggle between Christians incharge and people in need. I gently peeled the document for the wall to preserve it forfurther study:The sign: THERE WILL BE A MINIMUM CHARGE OF 10 CENTS FOR EACHUSE OF THE CLOTHES CLOSETReading between the lines: A first attempt to control greed.The sign: Up to 5 articles for 10 cents; Up to 10 articles for 20 cents; Up to 15articles for 30 cents.Reading between the lines: The scratched out rules failed to limit grabbinessThe sign: NO CREDITReading between the lines: No money---no admission. Nice and clean. Testing credit-worthiness is too time-consuming, subjective, risky.The sign: No one can use the Clothes Closet without charge (unless they get a signednote for the pastors)Reading between the lines: Revision of the no credit policy. An “appeals” procedure forthose dissatisfied with stated rules. Legitimizes end-runs that are being made to thepastor.The sign: No one can take more than 5 articles without a signed note verifying yourneeds.Reading between the lines: Definition of credit revision. Unless the pastor spells it outin writing, the five-garment limit prevails. No second party verbal interpretations.The sign: The word “no one” shall be taken to mean either individuals or families.Reading between the lines: Further definition of credit revision. Another loopholeclosed. The pastor’s note could not be used as a free ticket by different members of thesame family.The sign: NO SMOKING!Can you envision the challenges, the rule tightening, the manipulative ploys andcountermoves that took place between good church folks and the people they were tryingto help? I smile when I remember how brow-furrowed we became about enforcing our 69
  70. 70. one-sided legislation. Like temple police, we guarded the resources of the kingdom as ifthey were our own. Somewhere in the process, the poor became our adversaries.Anyone who has been given the unfortunate task of dispensing free (or nearly free)commodities can tell similar stories. Something seems to go wrong when a person withvalued resources attempts to distribute them to others in need. The transactions, nomatter how compassionate, go sour in the gut of both giver and receiver. A subtle,unintentional message slips through: “You have nothing of worth that I desire in return.”The giver is protected by him or her one-up status. The recipient is exposed, vulnerable.It’s little wonder that negative attitudes surface. It becomes hard to be a cheerful giverand even harder to be a cheerful recipient.Ancient Hebrew wisdom describes four levels of charity. At the highest level, the giverprovides a job for a person in need without that person knowing who provided it. At thenext level, the giver provides work that the needy person knows the giver provided. Thethird level is an anonymous gift. At the lowest level of charity, which should be avoidedwhenever possible, the giver gives a gift to a poor person who has full knowledge of thedonor’s identity.The deepest poverty is to have nothing of value to offer. Charity that fosters suchpoverty must be challenged. We know that work produces dignity while welfare depletesself-esteem. We know that reciprocity builds mutual respect while one-way giving brewscontempt. Yet we continue to run clothes closets and free food pantries and give-awaybenevolence funds, and we wonder why the joy is missing.Perhaps it is our time and place in history to re-implement the wisdom of the ages, tofashion contemporary models of thoughtful compassion. Our donated clothes could startstores and job training. Our benevolence dollars could develop economies within theeconomy: daycare centers, janitorial help, fix-the-widow’s roof services, and other jobsthat employ the jobless in esteem-building work.“Your work is your calling,” declared the reformer, Martin Luther. Does not the role ofthe church in our day include the enabling of the poor to find their calling? 70
  71. 71. Evil in 3 dimensions Cosmological Evil— The “Devil” Systemic Evil—”The World” Personal Evil— ”The Flesh” • Personal evil—The “Flesh”: Gal. 5:17; 6:8; Rom. 7:19 A. Targeted by Evangelicals/Fundamentalism B. Through strategies of personal pietism/legalism and individualconversion/private discipline and relief services • Systemic evil—The World”: John 12:3; 1 Cor. 1:21; 6:2 A. Targeted by mainline denominations/liberation movements, etc. B. Through strategies of political activism/advocacy programs/contextualtheology/incarnational identification • Cosmological evil—The “Devil”: 1 John 3:8; Eph. 6:12 A. Targeted by Pentecostals/Charismatics B. Through strategies of intercessory prayer/fasting/exorcisms/Jericho marches,etc. 71
  72. 72. What does this cartoon mean to you? 72
  73. 73. False Loves Adapted from Em Griffin, The Christian Persuader From the Power Point Presentations: “Motivations to Love” and also “CM for Jordan” (session 1)Seven varieties of people “lovers” • Nonlovers • Flirts • Seducers • Rapists • Smother Lovers • Legalistic Lovers • True LoversNonlovers • These “Christians” do not engage others; they remain aloof. • Their attitude is: “I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine.” • “Let people suffer in their context. I should not interfere. It is their business to straighten out their own problems.” • The nonlover is, at best, calloused and uncaring. • The antidote to this is Romans 10:14, 15: “How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”Flirts • These “Christians” do not love the needy person; they are in love with themselves. • Their attitude is: “I will make as many conquests as I can and try to be as popular as I can through my services.” • Often times they try to run up the statistics of people they have benefited to show popularity or leverage further attention. They are not interested much in long- term relationships with the people they help. • The “flirt” is, at best, “immature.” • The antidote to this is the example of Paul who backed up his words with ongoing, loving, and nurturing correspondence.Seducers • These “Christians” respond to people for all the wrong reasons, such as power, success, money, popularity, influence. • Their attitude is: “I’ll exhibit my influence, example, intelligence, sophistication, “star appeal” that attracts and panders to the baser desires of the needy.” • It does not elevate and empower but rather manipulates for personal advantage. 73
  74. 74. • The “seducer” is, at best, “immoral.” • The antidote to this is found in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:2: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience in the sight of God.”Rapists • These “Christians” use acts of force to produce desired results while denying the needy free choice. The force used can be psychological as well as physical and often is built on excessive fear or guilt. • Their attitude is: “We’ll do whatever is necessary to produce desired results or outcomes. The end justifies the means.” • The “rapists” is, at best, “criminal.” • The antidote of this is found in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:2-4: “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”Smother Lovers • These “Christians” love their recipients to death. They genuinely care, but offer only a relationship built exclusively on one-way communication. • They fail to see or receive the “exchange of gifts.” The “smother lover” does not allow for mutual growth or critique, or even room to breathe on the part of the person who is the object of love. • Their attitude is: “I must meet every need to exhibit the love of God.” • The “smother lover” is, at best, “blinded” by their own projections of need. • The antidote of this is found in the passage given in James 3:1-2: “not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brother, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways.”Legalistic Lovers • These “Christians” go through the motions of love without any conviction or commitment. • They offer, in the words of 1 Corinthians 13:1, a gesture of love that is nothing more than “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” They are concerned about the duty of service and tend to focus on spiritual results but fail to look at the total needs of the individual—food, peace, dignity, or accomplishment. • Their attitude is: “I’ve discerned the problem and met the need. That should be sufficient!” • The “Legalistic lover” is, at best, duty bound, without the motivation of the spirit of Christ. • The antidote to this is found in James 2:15, 16: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go, I wish you well; 74
  75. 75. keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”True Lovers • These Christians care more about the welfare of the other persons than about their own ego needs. He or she respects the rights of the other person and gives people space and occasion to say, “no!” when it is offered. • He or she does not humiliate the person, nor resent him or her when he or she defers. • We are all called to be “True Lovers” of all people. 75
  76. 76. Thinking Honestly About the Poor and Ourselves Tilted Towards Failure“You’re in the seventh inning, and one team is up twenty to nothing. Then wefind out that the winning team has been cheating all along. And then theysay, “Okay, okay, okay, we’re sorry. Let’s go back out and finish the game.”Illustration from John PerkinsReferenced in Divided by Faith, by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. p. 127 ********************************************************** 76
  77. 77. Shame vs. Guilt By Fletcher L. TinkA problem in the Church: Shame versus Guilt.Definitions: • “Guilt” is my failure before God • “Shame” is what I feel as my failure before others • Unquestionably, the Church, through its message of salvation for all, is the greatest “guilt-erasing” institution on earth. • However, could it be that the Church, at the same time, may be the greatest“shame-inducing” institution?Culture of Poverty (COP) 1. Not equal to being poor 2. The poor have upward mobility 3. The poor have mainstream values 4. Those of the “Culture of Poverty” have different values 5. Those values are based on “survival” needs 6. Those in the COP realize that they cannot obtain success through normal means 7. Yet those in the COP have their own coherency of values 8. Indications of those in the COP: cash transactions transience high unemployment distrust of institutions lack of community involvement fractured families absence of childhood early initiation into sex non-legal marriages family abandonment female-centered families present-time oriented fatalistic sense of inferiority strong feelings of marginality helplessness dependence 9. By age 6 or 7, children are acculturated into COPSome Positives to the culture of poverty: 1. Develop capacity for spontaneity, adventure and sensitivity 2. Enjoy the reality of the moment 3. Suffer less from repression 4. Find multiple outlets for hostility 5. Less frustrated, because of lowered expectationsWhat to do with Shame: 1. Dont overwhelm with kindness: “smother-love” 2. Dont use kindness to manipulate 3. Dont set up unrealistic expectations 4. Find neutral space and free time to build relationships 77
  78. 78. 5. Remember your own past 6. Enhance the positives 7. Allow for exchange of “gifts” 8. Experience “suffering” together 9. Dont be a “servant”, be a “friend” John 15:13-15(John McKnight: “Why Servanthood is Bad!”)What was Jesus connection to the Culture of Poverty? • no steady job? • no regular housing? • no “family” commitments? • gave “no thought for the morrow”? 78

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