Lifting up the Poor: A Dialogue on Religion, Poverty, and Welfare Reform / Edition 1

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Overview

People who participate in debates about the causes and cures of poverty often speak from religious conviction. But those convictions are rarely made explicit or debated on their own terms. Rarely is the influence of personal religious commitment on policy decisions examined.

Two of the nation's foremost scholars and policy advocates break the mold in this lively volume, the first to be published in the new Pew Forum Dialogues on Religion and Public Life. The authors bring their faith traditions, policy experience, academic expertise, and political commitments together in this moving, pointed, and informed discussion of poverty, one of our most vexing public issues.

Mary Jo Bane writes of her experiences running social service agencies, work that has been informed by "Catholic social teaching, and a Catholic sensibility that is shaped every day by prayer and worship." Policy analysis, she writes, is often "indeterminate" and "inconclusive." It requires grappling with "competing values that must be balanced." It demands judgment calls, and Bane's Catholic sensibility informs the calls she makes.

Drawing from various Christian traditions, Lawrence Mead's essay discusses the role of nurturing Christian virtues and personal responsibility as a means of transforming a "defeatist culture" and combating poverty. Quoting Shelley, Mead describes theologians as the "unacknowledged legislators of mankind" and argues that even nonbelievers can look to the Christian tradition as "the crucible that formed the moral values of modern politics."

Bane emphasizes the social justice claims of her tradition, and Mead challenges the view of many who see economic poverty as a biblical priority that deserves "preference ahead of other social concerns." But both assert that an engagement with religious traditions is indispensable to an honest and searching debate about poverty, policy choices, and the public purposes of religion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"LIFTING UP THE POOR captures an articulate and earnest discussion on poverty, welfare reform, and the contributions of religion in the formation of public policy between two leading social scientists." —Matthew Schobert, Family Ministry

"The value of the book lies within its ability to show how religious principles have a strong impact upon policy today." —Audrey Hoffer, Street Sense, 3/1/2004

"The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the editors of dialogues on religion and public life, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Kayla Drogosz, are to be congratulated for bringing out this book." —William A. Galston, University of Maryland, Commonweal, 2/27/2004

"A great book" —Kevin Little, United Church, Toronto Star, 6/3/2006

"While it is impossible to come up with a definitive final answer on the issue of welfare reform, Bane and Mead make an honest and satisfactory attempt to bring new issues to the discussion...Overall, LIFTING UP THE POOR would make an excellent choice for anyone interested in helping the downtrodden, and would be a useful text in social work and political science classes." —Nathan R Lynn, Journal of Church and State

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Mary Jo Bane is professor of public policy and management at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She served as cochair of President Clinton's Working Group on Welfare Reform and assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services. Lawrence M. Mead is a professor of politics at New York University and was a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute. He was deputy director of research, Republican National Committee; policy scientist, the Urban Institute; and policy analyst, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
A Catholic Policy Analyst Looks at Poverty 12
A Biblical Response to Poverty 53
A Reply to Mead 107
A Reply to Bane 120
Personal Responsibility Means Social Responsibility 140
Guarantee Work Rather Than Aid 153
Contributors 173
Index 175
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