Today at noon Christian leaders of faith-based non-profits are holding a press conference call to discuss how the budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration last week is a major shift in prioritizing domestic poverty that can really help level the playing field. The faith-based groups on the call serve millions in low-income and poor communities around the nation and are facing a massive spike in demand for services at a time of shortfall in revenue and charitable giving.
Speakers include Noel Castellanos, CEO of Christian Community Development Association; Candy Hill, Senior Vice President of Social Policy and Government Affairs, Catholic Charities USA; Mary Nelson, founder of Bethel New Life, an urban ministry that serves as a model for national programs that promote the social, economic, and spiritual welfare; and Sojourners’ Jim Wallis.
Budgets are moral documents that reflect our values and priorities as a nation. These leaders will call upon Congress to make sure this one preserves funding that prioritizes the poor. The current economic recession threatens to push 9 million more Americans into poverty while funding continues to decrease for faith-based non-profits serving these communities, so the moment is especially critical.
After attending a marathon screening of the Best Picture nominees Saturday and staying up late last night to watch the awards, I was looking for an excuse to post about the Oscars today. I’ll start just by directing attention at Vineet Chander’s reflection on Slumdog Millionaire over at Progressive Revival. (Note: I am making a conscious effort to not refer to it as “Slumdog.”)
But to get mired in the “is-it-or-isn’t-it pro-India” debate misses the forest for the trees, and robs the film of its subtle but powerful spiritual message. At its heart, “Slumdog” owns the paradox and discovers meaning in the contradictions. At its core, it is the story of miracles hidden in those contradictionsÂ¸ of choosing to see a divine author’s hand behind the writing on the wall. It is God – or, according to “Slumdog”, *destiny* – in the details.
How does Jamal Malik know all the answers? They’ve been there all his life, waiting for him to notice. And that is the beauty of “Slumdog Millionaire.” It calls us to embrace hope in the face of the hopeless, to recognize purpose in the seemingly senseless. “For one who sees Me in everything and everything in Me,” Lord Krishna says in the sacred Bhagavad Gita, “I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” Oscar wins or not, that is worth celebrating.
Before you bolt out to pick up a bouquet before Saturday night, have a look at what your purchase might be be supporting. Workers in the cut flower industry often face brutal working conditions, as the video (h/t Change.org) below describes.
As the Senate gets set to vote on economic recovery legislation, religious organizations are gearing up to support it. In what’s hopefully the first of many articles, JTA’s Eric Fingerhut reports that Jewish leaders are reaching out to both houses of Congress:
Among those pushing hard for passage of the bill are officials at the United Jewish Communities, an arm of the North American network of local Jewish charitable federations, and the Jewish Council for Public affairs, an umbrella organization bringing together national organizations, the synagogue movements and more than 100 local Jewish communities.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is also pressing for the package, while the National Council of Jewish Women is backing a number of provisions in the bill.
The organizations are writing letters to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and urging members to contact their members of Congress. The UJC will bring 60 of its lay leaders here Wednesday, the day a vote is expected on the bill in the Senate, to lobby for its passage. The UJC delegation also will visit the House of Representatives to encourage support for the final version of the measure that comes out of conference committee.
I know plenty more faith groups are mobilizing too. Will be on the lookout for stories about their efforts and relay as I find them.
Lately I’ve heard clergy, community organizers and religious lobbying groups from Colorado to Columbus to Capitol Hill discuss the need to ensure that economic recovery programs and funding actually reach the people who need them most. It’s easy to assume that legislation expressly meant to alleviate economic insecurity and poverty would address the needs of the most vulnerable, but such an assumption would be naive, so it’s encouraging to hear of the focus on securing concrete relief for people in dire straits.
Today’s edition of America Magazine lays out a detailed description of some of the specific needs economic recovery legislation has to address. Their prescriptions for a few…
With the steep rise in unemployment and food prices, participation in the food stamp program is nearing record highs. Between August 2007 and August 2008, caseloads nationwide increased by almost three million persons. But a month’s worth of stamps typically covers only thee weeks of the average family’s food bill. Consequently, as another component of the recovery package, anti-hunger advocates rightly urge Congress to boost the current food stamp benefits both to make stamps last through the month and to stimulate the economy. Every additional dollar in food stamps results in $1.73 in increased economic activity.
precisely at a time when help is most needed because of the escalating rate of unemployment, homeless prevention programs in some areas are being cut back because of state and local budget shortfalls. Congress should take steps to assist states facing this dilemma to withstand the economic pressures that push more people toward homelessness. In practical terms, housing advocates urge that recovery funds provide new non-renewable housing vouchers that would enable 200,000 families to have access to adequate housing through 2010. Along with vouchers, Congress should also provide an additional $1.5 to $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s emergency shelter grant program, to prevent an additional several hundred thousand families from becoming homeless.
Fewer than 40 percent of unemployed workers currently receive unemployment benefits. This is partly because many states follow policies unchanged for decades. As a result, numerous low-wage and part-time workers are ineligible for unemployment benefits when they are laid off. A federally funded increase in benefits, as well as an extension beyond the usual 26 weeks, would help ease the fallout from job losses.