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Christmas and an End to Poverty?

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday was the Feast of St. John the Apostle. One of the twelve Apostles and one of the four Evangelists (Gospel Writers). In our readings for yesterday’s feast, we heard from his 1st letter and his encounter with Jesus, the invisible Word of God made visible. It brings to mind the emphasis on the spiritual meaning of Christmas.

I am visiting my mother and as I drive around my hometown I see almost a dozen pay-day loan places. That is almost 1/1000 people. This is a sure sign of practical poverty. My mother heard a radio ad promoting a $100 loan at only $0.99 per day. If you took a year to pay off that loan, you’d pay $361.35 to have a $100 today. That is 361.5%! This is NO help to poverty.

How can we help the poor? In this brief note, I don’t want to talk about direct assistance. I want to talk about larger issues. Strategy as opposed to tactics, if you get my drift?

Many people focus on economic systems, tax philosophies, and more. These are good discussions to be had but they are incomplete. Whatever efforts are made in those areas they will be doomed to fail- even decades later. Instead, two things must change if we are to have a real effect on poverty. A conversion of culture and a conversion of souls.


Conversion of culture would effect our view of happiness. I imagine that many pay-day or title loan customers are those who “can’t make ends meet.” What are those ends? It is easy to envision such individuals and households enslaving themselves to such loans for the sake of material possessions beyond what is needed to live. Our culture places happiness in the achieving o

Conversion of culture also includes making time for the best of things. Pursuing the qualities of life that are freeing, the spiritual goods: freedom, love, wisdom, justice, courage, and more. Our cultural focus and obsession on the material blinds us to the pursuit of these greater goods. Unless we equip individuals to be the master of possessions and not mastered by them, we will never end poverty. Being mastered by possessions is called materialism. Much more should be said on this.

Conversion of souls is also necessary for an end to poverty. Most of the exterior solutions: economics, tax policies, and more are superficial changes. Man’s heart has always been the seat of his decisions. You might systemize charity but men will always find loopholes if they have not become charitable. Is our culture aimed at creating people with the habit of charity? Generosity?


Conversion of souls also entails how we look at others. Materialism in our culture today leads us to look at an individual solely as a source of material gain or a drain on material supplies. This is an inhuman and inhumane vision. This leads to business owners fearing to share profit margins with employees. This same materialism simultaneously leads to employees begrudging their employers and viewing them has a hindrance or oppressor, rather than a compatriot.

Much more should be said on these points but we do need to refocus our discussion on poverty away from material sources and towards the spiritual/immaterial causes of enduring poverty.


  1. South Dakota is particularly awful with the payday loan laws. It’s like usury central.

    Comment by Archer_of_the_Forest — December 28, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

  2. It’s the same laws that were cultivated to bring in Wells Fargo, Citibank and other credit card companies.

    Comment by Fr. Andrew — December 28, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

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