|Are these children poor?|
“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”It's interesting to think through the idea that poverty is a result of broken relationships - with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.
Dr. Fikkert made the interesting suggestion that Republicans tend to view poverty in terms of individual brokenness ("that person is just lazy" or "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps"); Democrats tend to define poverty in terms of broken systems (economic, political, social environmental). While I'm sure that these are generalizations that have many exceptions, there is a ring of truth to it, and BOTH individuals and systems need to be addressed.
|Is this a poor church?|
Dr. Fikkert then challenged us by saying that until we view ourselves as poor (because we are involved in broken relationships), we will only hurt ourselves and others if we try to address poverty from any other mindset. In his mind the formula for harm towards the materially poor AND non-poor is this:
Material definition of poverty + god-complex of the non-poor + inferiority complex of the materially poor = Harm to materially poor and non-poor.
|Is this business owner poor?|
What is the point of all this for me and my work? The first step toward poverty alleviation, according to Dr. Fikkert, is repentance. This is an unusual statement - we don't tend to start there in terms of addressing poverty. If poverty is primarily about broken relationships, then poverty alleviation needs to focus on the reconciliation of those relationships. The first step in reconciliation is the need for repentance of the sin of superiority by the materially non-poor as well as repentance of the disproportionate emphasis on the material understanding of the world.
Much of my work involves addressing the materially poor. And much of my work is often hand in hand with those who are the materially non-poor in doing this work. The tension of how to address poverty is one that is near and dear to my heart. I have definitely developed some opinions about what works and doesn't. As I work on my MBA in Sustainable Development, I am looking closely at economic matters as it relates to poverty alleviation and the role of aid to Africa over the years. This week I will be writing a paper on whether or not the idea of "Africa Rising" and becoming an economic power in twenty years is a legitimate claim.
This concept matters. It matters a lot. We must think this through, process it, and not rush into help without considering whether we will be hurting instead of helping. And we must remember that it is not only the poor who may be hurt in the attempt to help, but the non-poor as well. It does not mean that we freeze and give up. No. We are called upon to strive to find workable solutions that reflect the reconciling heart of Christ.