The piece below was written by Mo Leverett, a man of Christ who has been working in urban ministry for the past two decades. He used to be executive director of Desire Street Ministries and now he heads a new urban ministry in New Orleans – Rebirth International. I enjoyed his thoughts on the issue of poverty in our nation and the relationship it has with politics and our duty as Christians.
The Incarnation of the Caring Class – A New Social Revolution
Few know that you’ll often find me, during my down time, watching or
listening to political coverage. You might call me a shade-tree
political analyst. News shows get intensely interesting for me when
events become focused on an upcoming political presidential election.
Perhaps many would assume that I’m a liberal – in that I’ve spent most
of my life around the poor who generally vote Democratic. I’m a social
troubadour, singer-song writer and folk artist. I’m one of the later
baby-boomers and early gen X’rs, born in the 60′s and idolize Bob
Dylan. I admire Dr. Martin Luther King. I see myself as partly
contributing to his legacy and in part an extension of his vision. For
many, that is enough to make me a liberal.
However, it might surprise you to know that places of poverty are
mostly responsible for peeking my interest in supply-side economics
and social conservatism. Many would assume that as a southerner,
evangelical and Calvinist that I am hopelessly conservative. But while
I’m conservative, I’m not your dyed in the wool Republican. I’m
something quite different and more radical than that. Nevertheless,
I’m convinced that government policy toward the poor has proven itself
at best ineffective and at worst dangerously counterproductive and
“So you are a moderate then…?”, one might suspect. Let me say, of any
option in the array of choices, I am moderate – least of all. As I see
it, the gravest sin on the left is careless social engineering,
compassion from a distance and with other people’s money. The
insidious sin on the right is that mostly they could care less. Some
have said that the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting
poorer. This is true. The rich tend to get richer because they
continue to do the things that made them rich. The poor tend to remain
poor because they continue to do the things that make them poor.
However, through the intervention of the caring class, this does not
have to remain this way. There is a way for those who are poor to
become rich through moral transformation, through industry and
financial literacy. I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes.
You might say that I’m a conservative who gives a damn (please pardon
my French). But I passionately believe that what is most needed in
pockets of poverty is an infusion of good conservative family values,
the Judeo-Christian work ethic and empowerment through education. More
importantly I believe that the intervention of the word and work of
the gospel and of the church is God’s prescription for what ails
American pockets of poverty.
So who should be president?
If we become what God has designed us to be as the church, an
institution that is truly salt and light, pouring ourselves out in
radically transforming ways, it matters little who is governing. The
church frankly has depended too heavily on government either to
legislate our moral framework (conservatives) or to commission our
enterprise of compassion (liberals). The government’s internalization
of our values and social vision are more the outgrowth of our
effective evangelistic strategies and our incarnational community
However, after 18 1/2 years of front-line urban ministry, I see the
multi-generational impact of the war on poverty and its resulting
degradation of culture, family and individual dignity – in the very
place where those components are the most necessary for overcoming the
challenges of poverty. And so I will be voting conservative. But I
will also be applying and leveraging our rich theological and
educational heritage among the poor to such an extent that through our
common sacrifice we will see the poor become rich – in every way. I
hope you will join me in this.
I love his statement in the next to last paragraph.
It reminds me of one my favorite Mike Huckabee quotes,
“I’m often asked why taxes are so high and government is so big. It’s because the faith we have in local churches has become so small. If we’d been doing what we should have — giving a dime from every dollar to help the widows, the orphans and the poor — we now wouldn’t be giving nearly 50 cents of every dollar to a government that’s doing … what we should have been doing all along.”
As the Body of Christ we need to realize that governments may be helpful in solving problems, but that the ultimate solutions will come through the Church and lives that have been transformed by Jesus.