Watch “The Line” and #TalkPoverty

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, tonight you can watch the world premiere of (what promises to be) a terrific, important and compelling movie: The Line.  I threw in that parenthetical qualifier because, of course, I haven’t actually seen the film. Hence the “world premiere” part. 🙂

But I absolutely expect The Line to be compelling. While we USAmericans almost always talk about poverty by way of statistics*, it is stories that move us. Stories, especially (though not always) well-told ones, grab us. Stories shake us up. Stories move us. Sometimes stories even change us. And that is why I have such high expectations of The Line – it tells stories.

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. []

Once again, here’s the trailer:

In just a few hours, at 7:00pm CDT, you can watch the world premiere of the film at it’s site. Click over. Watch the film. Stay there for a panel discussion following the movie.

Then, if you want to be really, extra, super cool…come back here and tell me what you thought of the film by leaving a comment!

But most importantly, let’s stop demonizing poor and hungry people. Instead, let’s make reducing poverty and caring for poor and hungry people a focus of our national politics and, if applicable, of our faith.

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”

*Unless of course we want to disparage poor and hungry people. Then we almost always use an anecdote about this one person in this one place who really totally abused the system. So obviously no body anywhere should ever be helped at all.

Toeing “The Line”

I’ve written rather extensively about my involvement with and support for Bread for the World. I’ve been less vocal about my involvement with and support for Sojourners. But both organizations help me reflect upon a Christian commitment to social justice. Both organizations help me act on that commitment.

So you can imagine my interest when I discovered that both Bread and Sojo were involved in a new project together! Bonus: there are really two projects.

Now, I don’t know what was up with the “Middle Class First” signs at the DNC (though I suspect it was an appeal for people to think “we’re just folks.” Or more specifically, “we’re just folks like you!”)

But what I heard almost none of was what each party is doing and will do to fight poverty, to protect programs like SNAP, WIC, earned income tax credits. Which are all programs that literally get people from being hungry and lift people out of poverty. Isn’t that something both Republicans and Democrats say they want? To lift people out of poverty? Then we need a President willing to join the circle of protection around those programs.

From Bread: “We believe that this presidential campaign should include a clear focus on what each candidate proposes to do to provide help and opportunity for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.” Bread & Sojo asked, and President Obama and Governor Romney offered these responses:

But it seems to me, both responses more or less just parrot their already-determined platforms. Though I do appreciate the President grounding his response in his faith. How about really dealing with actual poverty? That’s the second awesome project: The Line.

A movie of stories. Real stories. Here’s the trailer. Woodridge UMC plans to screen the whole film in October. I hope you will join us.

Why Bread?

My wife, Joann, and I are proud members of Bread for the World.

Why? Because, for example: “Is not this the fast that I choose? To loose the bonds of injustice…to break every yoke? …It is not to share your bread with the hungry?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

The biblical call for justice compels us to raise our voice on behalf of poor and hungry people here in the U.S. and around the globe. What good does that do? In the words of Bread’s President, Rev. David Beckmann:

In November, Congress approved the fiscal year 2012 agriculture budget, which provided funds for international food aid. And just last weekend, Congress approved the rest of fiscal year 2012 funding, which will help save lives:

  • No drastic cuts were made to funding for poverty-focused development assistance. Funding for FY12 will be $21.3 billion, compared to $21.4 billion in 2011.
  • No drastic cuts were made to international food aid. Food aid cuts proposed earlier in the year would have thrown 14 million of the world’s most desperate people off food aid rations.
  • No drastic cuts were made to WIC. The proposed WIC cut would have deprived 300,000 children and mothers of nutrition assistance this year.

These victories are a testament to the impact Bread members had in calling for a circle of protection around poverty-focused development assistance.

We’re Bread members because Bread is doing all it can to bring God’s dream for a world without hunger and poverty to life.

Are you a Bread member? If not, what are you doing to fight hunger and poverty?

Making sense of this debt ceiling agreement?

I’ve been trying to follow this whole debt ceiling deal as much as possible. I’ve tweeted (and RT’d) about it quite a bit. So, is it a good deal? Should I feel pleased about it?

I have no idea. I’m no economist and the reports are conflicting to say the least.

President Obama offers this take spin on today’s debt ceiling agreement:

Now, I’m a big fan of President Obama. I supported his presidential campaign financially and with my time (and of course with my vote). I want to believe him. I want to support him. He says these are the key facts about what the agreement does:

  • Removes economic uncertainty surrounding the debt limit at a critical time and prevents either party from using a failure to meet our obligations for political gain.
  • Makes a significant down payment to reduce the deficit—finding savings in defense and domestic spending while protecting critical investments in education and job creation.
  • Creates a bipartisan commission to find a balanced approach to continue this progress on deficit reduction.
  • Establishes an incentive for both sides to compromise on historic deficit reduction while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and programs that help low-income families.
  • Follows through on President Obama’s commitment to shared sacrifice by making sure that the middle class, seniors, and those who are most vulnerable do not shoulder the burden of reducing the deficit. As the process moves forward, the President will continue to insist that the wealthiest Americans share the burden.

Well, those sound like good things to me. “Protecting programs that help low-income families” is exactly what I (and many many others) have been advocating for!

But then I get an email from the National Women’s Law Center decrying the deal, saying:

  • The deal would cut discretionary programs by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, and more than half from non-defense discretionary programs: Programs such as Head Start, K-12 education, Title X family planning, job training, domestic violence prevention, meals-on-wheels and other services for vulnerable people will be cut by hundreds of billions of dollars. All this, without touching a penny of the tax breaks enjoyed by millionaires and corporations.
  • A new congressional committee: In addition to the nearly $1 trillion in cuts to defense and non-defense programs over the next ten years, the deal would create a new congressional committee to propose an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by this November. That committee will have the authority to consider cuts to all spending programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Food Stamps, and revenue increases to help reduce the deficit. House Speaker John Boehner has already said that he will not appoint anyone to the committee who will agree to any tax increases.

The Washington Post seems to back the Law Center:

Like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, other entitlement programs – such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Child Care and Development Block Grant program (CCDBG mandatory funding), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – are not subject to the initial $1 trillion in cuts, which apply only to discretionary programs. These low-income safety net programs, and the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, would also be protected from automatic cuts. However, any of these could be targeted for cuts by the super-committee.

[READ MORE]

Back on the other hand, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities declares, “Speaker of the House John Boehner erroneously claims that the legislation implementing the new debt limit agreement does not allow the joint congressional committee it establishes to propose revenue increases to help reduce deficits.” (Via my friend, Robin Stephenson)

So, again, how should a progressive, politically active, justice advocate like me react to this deal? Pretty lukewarm. (Or like we used to say in college, hancold. Get it? That’s funny, right?) It was vital to “Raise the debt ceiling! Raise the debt ceiling!” but how we got it raised…? Ugh. Puts in jeopardy too many programs people in need rely on.

My ad in Politico

Ok, so this isn’t exactly my ad in Politico…but I am one of the 4000+ pastors who signed on to this:

Sojouners writes more about this on their God’s Politics blog today. They also list the ad signers by state.

Sojo invited me to write “2-3 sentences” about my support for this movement which they will distribute to local media. I admit I hope I will get contacted about this. I find this very important, a time and place we who follow God in the Way of Jesus must raise our voice on behalf of people who, largely, are voiceless in this federal budget process. Here’s what I wrote:

As a parent, I know how important it is to be able to feed our two children. As an American, I want all people to be able to feed themselves and their children. As a Christian, I am called to help make that hope a reality. So I stand with those resisting budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.

I join Sojo, Bread for the World and many others from across the denominational spectrum (and the non-denominational one) forming a Circle of Protection with and around the poor.

How will you add your voice?