Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both focused on the middle class, but Christianity demands a preferential option for the poor. Christians of the Left and the Right should be able to find common ground on policies to help the poor. Here are five policies that could serve as the basis for such a common ground.
In the first presidential debate of 2012, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tried to outdo one another in currying favor with the middle class. Yet Catholic social teaching proposes a preferential option for the poor. Catholics are called to promote the common good of all by putting the poor front and center.
The number of people in the U.S. living below the poverty line in 2011 was 46.2 million, the highest in the more than 50 years that records have been kept.[i] (1961 is a few years before Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and about seven years before the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” that would take Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis.) Why then is so little attention being paid to poverty and poverty-related issues in the current presidential campaign?…
We don’t expect our politicians to say much about the poor, but what about the church? When was the last time you preached or heard a sermon on the poor? Not poverty, but the poor, and not as an illustration, but as a focal point. (We might ask the same thing about a college or seminary class that purports to be about the cultivation of wisdom or faith.) The readings from Proverbs and James (see below) refer to the poor directly. Both passages are striking because they go further than a soft paternalism that might urge us to care for the poor. James and Proverbs offer not an appeal to our altruism, the work of charity, or a political agenda or campaign. They are not looking for votes or a clear conscience. They see the poor as part of the community and concern for the poor as an integral part of the life of faith and wisdom….
What might happen if we read the Gospels afresh not from the perspective of distant struggles for justice or objectified notions of ‘the poor’ (as if ‘they’ were no more than a category) but from the perspective of those in our cities and towns who are considered ‘worthless’, part of an ‘underclass’, ‘surplus labor’…..?