The War That Cannot Be Won? Poverty: What The Bible Says -- By: Twyla K. Hernandez

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 10:2 (Fall 2013)
Article: The War That Cannot Be Won? Poverty: What The Bible Says
Author: Twyla K. Hernandez

The War That Cannot Be Won?
Poverty: What The Bible Says

Twyla K. Hernandez

Twyla Hernandez is Assistant Professor of Christian Missions at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky.


I have seen poverty. I have seen it in the small towns of Bolivia, in the slums of Ghana, and in the children’s faces of Cuba. I have seen pastors in other countries who do not have enough food to feed their families and have no money to pay the bus fare to send their children to school. I have seen poverty in the face of the woman washing her clothes with a bottle of dirty water on a street corner in Buenos Aires.

But, I have also seen poverty in the United States. With all of our resources, it seems unlikely that the citizens of our country would lack any basic need. But it happens. It happens in the large cities, and it happens in the small towns. It happens in Appalachia, and it happens in New York City.

On January 8, 1964, President Johnson famously declared a “War on Poverty.” He stated, “Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”1

Johnson said that the war on poverty’s “chief weapons” would be “better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities.” It was an underfunded war that was quickly overtaken by a more pressing war in Vietnam. But in the years following Johnson’s declaration, several government programs were begun to help the poor, such as Medicaid, the Job Corps, and Head Start. These programs now seem to be part of the framework of our country.

Because of the fiftieth anniversary of the declared war on poverty, many political pundits today are writing about what is going on in our country as it relates to the poor and how things have (or have not) changed since 1964. There was less poverty after the programs of Johnson’s war were put into place. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post writes, “In 1964, the poverty rate was 19

percent. Ten years later, it was 11.2 percent.”2 The programs worked. Today, however, it seems the opposite is true. In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau found that 46.5 million Americans lived at or below the poverty line.3 This figure is equivalent to 15% of the population.

We seem to be going backw...

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