The Line -- Poverty in America
Too many Americans live at or below the poverty line. We claim to live in the richest nation in the world, and the riches that mark America are great, and yet poverty continues to persist in our midst. It affects people living in cities, in rural areas, and even in the suburbs. Yes, there is poverty in Troy, MI, one of the most affluent cities in Michigan. No, it's not as visible as in Detroit, but it's there, largely out of sight.
Jesus is quoted as saying that the poor will always be with you. And that maybe true, but we shouldn't take that truism as license to ignore realities. People are poor for many reasons. It can be related to lack of education or bad decisions, but often people fall into poverty for reasons beyond their control. Factories close, schools are improperly funded, jobs leave, storms hit, the rain ceases to fall, or a medical crisis drains the funds. Many of the poor work multiple jobs to put food on the table and pay rent. No one wants to live below that line. No one really wants to be dependent on the government or any other entity. We all want to live above the line, but it's important to remember that even when that line is crossed, it's not necessarily a move into prosperity or even into the shrinking middle class. It's just that life is sustainable, but often precarious.
So, what do we do? How do we respond? Jesus said that we will be judged on the basis of how we treat the "least of these" (Matt. 25). What does that require of us?
As a way of reflecting on this question Sojourners together with a number of partners has produced a film called The Line.
The Line documents the stories of people across the country living at or below the poverty line. They have goals. They have children. They work hard. They are people like you and me.From Chicago's suburbs and west side to the Gulf Coast to North Carolina, millions of Americans are struggling every day to make it above The Line.
In the Chicago suburbs, a single dad was laid off from his bank and is now a regular at the local food pantry, trying to make it by with three kids.
On the Gulf Coast, a fisherman struggles post-BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina because environmental crises mean the loss of his livelihood.
In North Carolina, we see that hard work and determination don't always mean success.
What does this mean for the future of our country? How do real-life stories change the narrative about poverty?
Central Woodward Christian Church, the congregation I serve as pastor, will be one of the sites showing this film next Tuesday evening. We're starting at 7:30 PM. We'll watch the film together and then share in discussion. If you live near Troy, then join us. If not, check and see where the film is being shown. The October 2nd date is important because it falls the night before the first Presidential debate. Both candidates will need to respond to questions about poverty. Neither candidate has given sufficient attention to this question. Perhaps its because the poor don't vote in as large of numbers as the others, but their cries are being heard by God -- and thus the political powers might want to pay attention.
I invite you to watch the trailer, and then consider your response: