Social Ethics

Was the War on Poverty Too Ambitious?

Can the War on Poverty be won in America? That depends on how you define what victory looks like. If you are the eternal optimist who presumes that somehow our government, or the free-market, or church and private organizations will eliminate poverty during our lifetime and one day relegate it to a history museum, then you may be sorely disappointed. That does not mean that we should wave the white flag and surrender the fight against poverty. Nevertheless, we need to step back and gain a wide-angle view of the interwoven web of multiple moral, social, and economic issues that perpetuate poverty.

Poverty is a much more complex enemy than “pundits” compel us to believe. It is much more than “a lack of money, period” as left-wing social commentators Cornel West and Tavis Smily have passionately declared in their poverty manifesto. And it is so much more than a series of bad choices and habits by the poor, as Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey recently insinuated in his article, “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day.” Such sweeping generalizations and simplistic solutions do not paint a realistic portrait of 21st century poverty in America, but rather reinforce the tired old stereotypes within political debates between the left and right that dominate traditional and social media.

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Morality and the Military

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2013.

Every Christian should give thoughtful consideration to the tragedy of war and to what it means for individuals and a nation to go to war. In a widely-reported story in August 2012, ten Nobel Peace Laureates, including Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wrote and signed a letter to NBC protesting a new reality television program, “Stars Earn Stripes.” The reality program, hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, paired minor celebrities with former U.S. military personnel and put the teams through various training and simulated military exercises including live fire experiences. The Nobel Laureates protested the program, which was widely advertised during the 2012 London Olympics, arguing in part:

Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome, if ever.

Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.1

The letter drew quite a bit of attention across the political and religious spectrums. Some saw it as an indictment of the U.S. military while others saw it as an indictment of the entertainment industry or contemporary U.S culture and society as a whole. Unfortunately, most Americans and television viewers probably did not think anything about it at all.

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