Communication has taken a hit over the past hundred years. We have gone from lengthy conversations and letter writing to text messages and status updates. Our ‘discussions’ around deep and complicated issues are thirty-second soundbites from the talking heads on our preferred news channel or in a series of exchanges on Facebook.

Political correctness has rendered us practically mute, even when we are with close friends. The fear of offending is so great that we limit our conversation to the few people that we know feel similarly. This is a monumental tragedy and has negatively impacted our collective society in insidious and long reaching ways.

The ability to have a constructive dialogue of differing opinions is what makes a society strong. It is how we move forward. Problem solving is dependent upon a people who are willing and able to work toward a common goal. That goal must be established through forthright and honest discussion.

My intent over these next few weeks is to go deep into this topic of “the poor” — to think about things from a new perspective and to gain insight and opinions from a diverse group of people.

I am blessed with Democrat friends and Republican friends. I have friends who do not claim a party affiliation. I have friends who are Christ followers and those who are atheists or agnostic. Together, if we take this journey with respect for those differences, we may be able to see more clearly.

Before we get started I want to do a little blog housekeeping:

First, I do not know the answers to the questions we will look at. I have passionate opinions, but I would not be surprised to change some of them through this process of investigation and discovery. So, I reserve the right to contradict what I write day one by the time I get to day twenty.

Second, I love each of you, if not from personal relationships, then as fellow human beings trying to figure life out. People, as a matter of fact, are my favorite thing. So as long as you can be grouped under a title of “people” you are invited along!

Third, I know that we are going to disagree, and that is 100% okay with me. I love you because of our differences, not in spite of them. I am comfortable enough to tell you what I think and hear rebuttals. All I ask is that you do so in a way that encourages an ongoing dialogue – not in a way that shuts dialogue down. No name calling. You can THINK I’m an idiot, but please don’t CALL me an idiot. And please be gentle with other readers – to join the conversation is brave and should be honored.

Fourth, and finally, I am a Christian, so I am approaching this topic from a Christian perspective. I believe that God has directed us to care for the poor, and I believe strongly that we are falling very short on that directive. I also believe in evil and that there is an active and functioning evil in this world. You don’t have to believe what I believe to join this discussion (you just have to follow point #3).

Here is the outline of our next few weeks:

In the first week (or two) we will talk about these questions:

Who exactly are we talking about when we talk about the poor? Is poor based on financial, spiritual, physical, mental, or some combination of these and other elements?

Can someone not have enough money, but not be poor? Or: Can someone have plenty of money, and still be considered poor?

What does the Bible say about the poor? We will look at some specific verses (feel free to send me your favorite verses on this topic between now and next week).

How does personal responsibility come into play — both the responsibility of the poor and the not poor. How does the execution of personal responsibility change the definition of poor, or does it?

Next we will dive into the government by asking these questions:

What exactly is welfare – the history, the effectiveness, the problems?

What does the Bible say about governmental responsibility and personal responsibility regarding caring for the poor,and have we confused the two or ceded too much responsibility to the government?

How does the American dream and culture impact our approach to the poor?

From there we will start trying to peel back our biases and beliefs:

Does society and opportunity really work the way we think they do for everyone?

We’ll start acknowledging the complexity of the situation, and talk about free will versus cultural infrastructure and bias.

How do we find a balance between acknowledging the challenges and maintaining personal responsibility?

Talk about the difference between knowing a problem exists and working to change it.

And we will wrap up with a call to action – how can we each start working toward fixing the problem?

What can we, as individuals, really do to impact the problem?

We can do this. We can, at a bare minimum, have this conversation. We can think deeply and talk together. We can listen to people who see differently from us. Let’s drop the idea of political correctness and pick up the idea of mutual respect. Censor ugliness, but don’t censor ideas. Any opinion can be voiced with respect. It takes more time and more thought, but it is totally possible.

My prayer, as we walk through this topic, is to completely remove the veil that covers our understanding, layer by confounding layer, until we see as God sees.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The Second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40

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