nearly impossible to talk about it – too tiring to discuss, too complicated,
too overwhelming, too abstract, too-close-to-the-bone, too time-consuming, too guilt
inducing, too embarrassing.
it’s nearly impossible to talk about poverty.
20,000 children around the world die every day from preventable disease. One in
seven Americans now lives in poverty. And now fiscal debates are aiming to
eliminate government programs that help vulnerable people here and abroad.
is hard to talk about poverty, but it's also impossible to be silent. Poverty
needs to be acknowledged, protested, confronted, subdued.
talked about it. We know what he said, for instance, in Matthew 25:
“For I was hungry and you gave me
food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and
you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took
care of me. I was in prison and you visited me. … Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
the U.S., we don’t grapple with poverty very well. It has no place in the
American dream. There’s a temptation to blame the poor for their troubles.
There’s a great fear of becoming poor ourselves. There’s a prickly resistance
to any humanitarian appeal to the emotions with dire images of starving
people are starting to talk. They are talking about steps to take to eradicate
the ordeal of poverty – during this season of Lent and beyond – and they are making it easier for the
rest of us to join in. The world’s insufferable conditions today – the
dangerous inequalities between rich and poor, the world’s 2 billion people who
live on less than $2 a day – are stirring action.
instance, Imagine No Malaria,
The United Methodist Church's campaign to end deaths and suffering from malaria
in Africa by 2015, and the Society of St.
Andrew, a food rescue and distribution ministry, are using the
six-week-period of Lent to focus on specific effects of poverty and ways to
Methodists' annual One Great Hour of
Sharing offering on the fourth Sunday of Lent draws attention to the
continuing efforts of the United Methodist
Committee on Relief, the denomination's humanitarian agency, to combat
poverty in 81 countries.
Church World Service is promoting
a “Making Poverty History” campaign, which embraces the Millennium Development
Goals’ aim to eliminate extreme poverty by 2015. Bread
for the World will soon host a national “Gathering 2011: Changing the
Politics of Hunger” in Washington, D.C., in June. A Yale Divinity School
campaign, called “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty,” is using Lent to invite all people of good will to keep issues of poverty before them.
Lent is a decisive time to confront the world of
poverty, and to vanquish another version of it, the spiritual poverty that
averts the eyes and turns away. May the spirit move from
silence to conversation to conversion, hope and action.
Ray Waddle is a columnist, author, and the editor of Reflections magazine, published by Yale Divinity School.