The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Political reform and spiritual transformation

with 2 comments

This map, posted at My Clipmarks aroused considerable conversation, eventually taking a direction I hadn’t considered. Deep in the discussion, an excellent clipper named Righthand posted this comment:

There is also the personal level. You need to be a real generous Christian to want your fellow man to be your equal.*

Ding-ding! Thoughtful comment alert! Here’s the clip:

clipped from


Nationally, 12.4 percent of residents are considered to be in poverty. “In Poverty” means that a given person falls below the poverty threshold assigned by the U.S. Census Bureau. Please see our chart topic on Poverty for a discussion of poverty thresholds.

Examination of the map shows, however, that this 12.4 percent is a misleading representation of poverty status across the United States. Poverty is considerably more prevalent in the southern states. In a clear majority of counties in the South, the proportion of persons in poverty is higher than the national rate.

  blog it

And a response to the comment?

Alarmingly true. And the point of our faith would be “to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.” In response to a weasel’s question: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story – in which the only good guy is a despised, supposedly heretical foreigner who takes care of someone who’s a foreigner to him, asking nothing in return.

And is this not the real issue behind the endless debates on poverty, healthcare, immigration, and war? We don’t want to lose our stuff. We’re more concerned that the poor live like us than we are that they eat. We’re more concerned that the “right” people take care of the sick than we are that the sick are cared for. We want what our international neighbors have. We don’t want them to have what we have.

We don’t love them as we love ourselves. I wonder if that’s why ongoing spiritual transformation is so important—without love, political reform (of the left or the right) becomes merely self-serving. When our hearts are broken—for Darfur, for south L.A., for Mexicans in poverty—the endless philosophical evasions (And who is my neighbor? or, Shouldn’t private enterprise be the one who … ?) might be swept away by a torrent of more genuine passion for people.

Break my heart, O God.

Think so?

*His comment’s not intended to mean only Christians would want equality; he’s making the case that the run -of – the- mill Christian heart may not be big enough to do so.

Tags: , , , , , , Monte Asbury

Written by Monte

February 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Ahhhhhh, finally Monte! I finally posted about Japanese potties. Not that this has anything to do with your post, it doesn’t, but I told you I’d let you know when my potty manifesto was posted.

    Monte Says: Hilarious, loved it!

    DGs World By Big D

    February 11, 2008 at 7:14 pm

  2. Excellent post, Monte.

    I really think there’s a lot of truth to the idea that the upper echelons do everything they can to keep the poor stuck in poverty, with enabling programs & policies rather than ones that actually help people learn to take care of themselves. Just so that the poor can remain miserable and scare the heck out of the middle class. When we look at the super rich and envy their luxuries, rather than get angry & want them for ourselves, we turn our heads and see the super poor and think, well, at least I’m not like that. And we keep on going to work.

    But in fact there is enough for everyone. And I don’t really think here in America we’re going to be happy, any of us, until we learn to encourage and celebrate all our citizens’ success. There are passages in Buddhist sutra that remind us that even the rich are miserable, constantly worrying that what they have will be taken away. It’s ignorance that’s the source of all this suffering, in this case ignorance of the fact that we’re all one human family. Would you let your brother suffer, homeless and hungry in the street? Jesus clearly says not to. I hope conservative Christians will start remembering.

    On The Colbert Report the other night (one of my favorites) Stephen interviewed the author of a book called *Red Letter Christians.* It’s about a group of Christians who focus on the red words in the Bible, the words of Christ. It made my heart glad to see it.


    February 9, 2008 at 8:23 pm

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