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  • Jack H. Bender

Poverty: Beyond Partisanship

Late last year, I attended a panel discussion at Holland’s Warehouse 6 billed as “Faith and Politics: Beyond Partisanship.” The panel consisted of Bryan Berghoef, Kristen Kobes Du Mez and Brian McLaren. Bryan is a pastor, author and pub theologian running for the District 2 U.S. House of Representative seat. Kobes Du Mez is a professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin College. McLaren is author, speaker, activist and public theologian and identified as an important figure in the emerging church movement by Phyllis Tickle.

I attended this event because poverty is caused by unjust politics and people of faith can use their concern for the common good to influence politics.

Here are a few of the comments made by members of the panel:

Our electorate is polarized, and we are concentrating on difference instead of the common ground that we share.

We seem to have been taught that to be a faithful Christian, we must be against something. Our faith is one of protest, yet the form and substance of our protests are often incompatible with the Gospel.

Climate change could unite us. It is an existential threat and a gargantuan problem to attack. We all have a need for clean water, air and healthy food.

There is a massive transfer of wealth from average citizens to a very few. Twenty-six people have the same wealth has half the world’s population. The deprivation that many experience is a result of a few people taking advantage of the system. Evil wins if good people remain uninformed and do nothing.

Nationalism helped certain Evangelicals come from the margins and into the center. The feeling of embattlement leads to a feeling of being empowered and the radical behaviors become a threat to democracy.

If we think that we are heading toward the apocalypse, realize that the word apocalypse has many meanings, one of which is “unveiling.”

Our collective task is to win people back to democracy and away from strong leader feudalism.

It’s tough to break down partisanship with just two parties. Polarization comes from having only two choices from which to pick.

The hot topics of abortion and immigration are only the tip of the iceberg. The subjects are complicated, multi-layered and may even be symptoms of something deeper such as racism or misogyny. Huge amounts of money are raised by the political parties over these issues and they both benefit from NOT addressing these problems.

Jesus talks more about treating others with love and compassion here, now, than concern over what happens after death. If we are true followers, we will care about others now.

We’ve made our wealth from extraction. We’ve extracted from the planet at unsustainable levels. We’ve extracted labor from millions well below the value of their labor. We will be forced into being smarter, more collaborative and just in order to survive.

The rich keep the “old economy” going. This must change.

Government can help all people move toward health and prosperity, but the electorate must hold their representatives accountable for the common good.

Is the American Dream dead? That remains to be seen. Right now, there are opposing forces that lead us to wonder if widespread prosperity is possible.

Change is really difficult, but you and I have the power to create change and make a better world. Find common ground with others and begin there.


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