If Poverty Really Matters…

by Greg Paul

Greg Paul is the founder and Executive Director of Sanctuary Ministries in Toronto, Ontario and is also pastor of the Sanctuary community. Sanctuary makes a priority of welcoming and caring for some of the most hurting and excluded people in Toronto.

If the fact that 3 million Canadians currently live in poverty really matters, why is the media more concerned about the number of questions Steven Harper is willing to answer each day?

If the way we care for the most vulnerable among us is the measure of a society, a government, a church – why are we so much more fascinated by the antics of Charlie Sheen, the essential irrelevance of most electioneering, or finishing a one hour weekly service on time?

If Jesus’ mission is my mission – to announce good news to the poor – why am I so inclined to cast my vote for the candidate who promises to make life easiest for me and my family? If, at election time, poverty really ought to matter, why is it rarely mentioned after the first few days of any given campaign?

Our politicians, our media, and our church services reflect what actually concerns us. The image isn’t very flattering, nor is it true to our calling as followers of Jesus.

Media coverage of the current election campaign reveals, as usual, that journalists and candidates don’t believe that justice for people who are poor and excluded is really a priority for Canadians. We need to show our political candidates that it is, in fact, a top-of-mind issue, if we want them to address our concerns in this area.

If you think that reduction of poverty, and care of our most vulnerable citizens, ought to be a very high priority for our government, there’s a simple way to deliver this message.

  • Find your local MP at this link
  • Send a short email, like the one below, to your MP. (Later, if you can, do the same for the rest of your local candidates.) I did that , got an almost immediate response from my MP’s assistant, and a couple of hours later, a phone call from the MP herself:

Dear [Candidate/MP’s name]:  I am wondering what you personally and the [Conservative/Liberal/NDP/Green/Bloc] party corporately intend to do about rising rates of poverty in Canada, should you be able to form a government. It saddens and frustrates me that this central issue gets such short shrift in every federal and provincial election campaign.

Looking forward to your response

Greg Paul

  • Send similar emails to journalists, editors and electronic media outlets asking them to press candidates about their plans for poverty reduction.
  • On election day, cast your vote for the party and/or local candidate whose plan to foster social and economic justice is most credible to you.

Our political and media representatives are us – but only if we tell them what matters to us! Once they begin to realize that what motivates our attention and our vote is attention to justice, their focus will change.

Does this seem unlikely to you? Then consider this: 15 years ago, the word ‘justice’ wasn’t even part of the evangelical Christian lexicon. Today, biblical justice is a substantive and growing part of the evangelical ethos. In large part, that shift (within a part of the church that is tremendously resistant to change) has occurred because young Christians have made it clear that if justice isn’t key to the church or seminary focus, they’re not interested. In short, the care of younger disciples of Jesus for people who are poor or excluded has required their ‘leaders’ and ‘teachers’ to change the agenda.

Friends, let’s live – and vote – what we say we believe.

Greg Paul

One Response to “If Poverty Really Matters…”

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