“This is who we are: the richest country on earth, with more poverty than any other advanced democracy.”
~ Matthew Desmond
For most of us, poverty is abstract, only a hypothetical. The fact is that poverty doesn’t really intersect with most of our lives; consequently, we understand it only at the most superficial level.
In his book Poverty, By America, Matthew Desmond does a deep dive into the causes of financial inequality in the United States. He addresses the social, structural, and political forces that not only create, but serve to trap those who already struggle in deep poverty into a vicious cycle of poverty.
Even though from an economic perspective poverty has a dollars and cents definition, for Desmond poverty isn’t a point on an earnings chart. It is the physical, psychosocial and emotional effects of layers of problems caused by the inability to access reliable transportation, adequate healthcare, a good education, stable employment, and safe housing. For Desmond, poverty results not just in loss of material goods, but in diminished life and personhood.
His book is well researched, and he provides thorough bibliographical references for the numerous facts he cites. Desmond’s book isn’t just another sociological treatise on poverty. Matthew Desmond has walked-the-walk. He understands poverty both academically and through first-hand life experiences.
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, says that the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth; it’s justice. As Christians, we are taught to care for people who struggle in poverty. We most often do this through acts of charitable giving. Charity, however, is a short-term solution that doesn’t address the numerous underlying causes of poverty. Charity is an immediate response to human suffering, but it must be a complement to, not a substitute for, social and political change (justice) that addresses poverty’s causes and effects upon human beings.
Book Club Meeting
Join the IPC Social Justice Book Club for a discussion of the book, Poverty, By America written by Matthew Desmond. We will split the discussion in two, with one hosted at Thank You Books on Thursday, Jan. 18 from 5:30 - 7:30 pm and the other at IPC on Wednesday, January 24 at 11:30 am. Even if you can’t make both sessions, please feel free to join in the conversation. Thank you to Roger McCullough and Jean Shanks for helping to facilitate our book study.