Monday, July 9, 2007

Dobson and Focus on the Family on hunger and poverty

I am just doing a search for what Dobson and his FoF might have said regarding hunger and poverty. These are family concerns, right? I'll just do bullet point observations here:
  • FoF website has a section on "Social Issues." This includes: Abstinence; Bioethics/Sanctity of Life; Education; Gambling; Law and the Courts; Marriage and Family; Pornography; Sexual Identity/Gender; Worldview and Culture. Why no separate topic on Poverty? Isn't this a tremendously important social issue for families?

  • I searched through "Dr. Dobson's Study: A collection of Dr. Dobson's monthly newsletters, other articles, book excerpts, biographical information and more." I checked for references to either "poverty" or "hunger" and came up with 7 total occurrences of the words used as real conditions (as opposed to "spiritual poverty" or "soul hunger"). Four references to poverty focus on the relationship between gambling and poverty (here and here; see also here). One refers to strong marriages as a means of reducing poverty. One compares those who spoke out against slavery to those speaking out against abortion. One states that poverty will be one result of the social chaos resulting from the disintegration of the family.

  • Found a 2001 article entitled "Pray for the Children." The description line: "Thousands of children around the world suffer from abuse, abandonment and hunger. The least we can do is pray for them." The article centers primarily on pray as "a starting point." I applaud the strong statement: "As Christians, we cannot ignore suffering." Amen. The article also emphasizes the need to be informed about hungry people and to try to "feel" their pain in creative ways. Why not point to the next steps? It is awesome to have churches and families pray together. But how about writing letters to congresspersons? Serving in local food ministries? Donating financially to effective antihunger/antipoverty groups? Also, I think it is important to recognize what role we might play in the food distribution of the world, particularly those in North America who could be called "rich Christians in an age of hunger." One more thing we can do is to try to live more simply.

  • In an article on "Why Marriage Matters," the author briefly speaks of its affects on poverty. It's main stance: "Historically, poverty has been a result of unemployment and low wages. Today, it is primarily a result of family structure." The article quotes the Progressive Policy Institute as saying (in a 1990 publication): "It is no exaggeration to say that a stable, two-parent family is an American child’s best protection against poverty." The article cites a former Clinton advisor as explaining "that avoiding family poverty requires three things: 1) finish high-school, 2) marry before having children and 3) marry after the age of 20." Amen. A strong family is obviously an important asset to financial stability. But it's a two way street: financial instability drastically affects the health of a marriage and family (and another FoF document makes this point here: "The strongest factors contributing to marital failure are young age at marriage, poverty, remarriage and low education . . . the well-established higher divorce rate in Southern Bible Belt states is due primarily to increased rates of poverty and of marriage at younger ages, rather than to the rate of religious participation in this part of the country."). Oftentimes, without sufficient financial support, educational opportunities in urban environments do not help young urban citizens to get out of the cycle of poverty. There seems to be an entrenched urban culture that desperately needs holistic attention. We need to focus on both strong families and structural change.

  • Also, in response to the statement that a higher divorce rate in the Bible Belt is a result of increased rates of poverty, I think that well-establishes poverty as a threat to marriage. I would suggest that poverty is a much bigger threat to the institution of marriage than is same-sex marriage (I mention this since FoF emphasizes same-sex marriage as a threat to heterosexual marriage, devoting a large portion of its website to the issue).

  • In the Colorado Statement on Biblical Sexual Morality, you can find a singular mention of poverty in the last paragraph. This is actually quite profound and a great challenge to conservative Christians everywhere. I'd like to cite the final paragraph in total here (emphasis mine):
"Christians must grieve with and help those who suffer hard-ship caused by sexual immorality, even when it is caused by their own acts of sin (Rom. 12:15; Luke 19:10). But we must give aid in ways that do not deny moral responsibility for sexual behavior (John 8:11). Thus we affirm that God calls Christians to love all who suffer social isolation, poverty, illness, or the burdens of unplanned pregnancy and single parenting, whether or not it was caused by their own sexual sin. We believe Christ set an example of loving ministry to those who suffer from the results of their own acts of sin. We reject the idea that our obligation to alleviate human suffering is valid only if such help is 'deserved.'"

Okay, that's all for now. Perhaps more observations later.

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