war on poverty

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty that was initiated as a response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent. My guess is that 50 years later most would agree that this is a war we have not won. For some reason the poor in many communities seem to be almost invisible, which may be worse than being unemployed or emotionally unstable.

The message of both conservatives and liberals focuses so much on percentages that they lose sight of real numbers, and real people.

A number of the poor in our communities are educated, certified, and gifted. They do not sleep on heating vents and stand on street corners with tin cups. They attend church, charity events, and while they do not look like citizens of third world countries, they do live below the poverty line.

This frustrated and disillusioned group defies the old stereotypes as the new faces of poverty have begun to emerge. The loss of dignity and the onslaught of depression impact families for generations, and decimate the communities many of us minister in. To add insult to injury, often they are blamed for their nightmare that was once the American dream and their present condition.

After dividing the categories up into one and two person households and thresholds that differ by age or race above 65 and below, maybe we should resist the temptation to define and simply listen, love, and work to restore them to wholeness. When Jesus tells the disciples “the poor you shall have with you always,” [Matt.26:11] He did not mean that they were irrelevant, but that our recognition of them and relational commitment to them would be on going. And that at least for followers of him, impoverished people would not be reduced to a race, class, or statistic.

In my neighborhood growing up, fighting was a way of life. You didn’t have to win every fight, but you could gain respect if you were “willing” to fight, even though you might lose. Winning the war on poverty may not be part of the foreseeable future, but for the people of God I think it’s a good fight, and we should always be in it.

About the Author:

Dan Williams

Dan Williams

Dan Williams is currently the Director of Urban Programs and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Biblical Seminary. Prior to becoming the Director of Urban Programs, Dan served on the Board of Trustees at Biblical. Rev. Williams has served as senior pastor of New Life in Christ Fellowship Church in Coatesville, PA since 1990. Dr. Williams was born and raised in West Philadelphia, and resides today in Parkesburg, PA with his wife, Baleria; they have three adult children. Click here to view his faculty bio.

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