Poverty/Income Inequality

We Want Justice: Retributive, Distributive, and Restorative Justice

[1] I want to begin with a difficult and inexplicable truth: white racism is alive and well in the institutional and cultural life of the United States of America. Since the death of George Floyd, there have been multiple calls for racial reckoning in the United States and around the globe. [1] These calls reveal […]

Review: We Carry the Fire: Family and Citizenship as Spiritual Calling by Richard A. Hoehn 

[1] Richard Hoehn, in his book We Carry the Fire, is arguing for a transformative spirituality in which people are called to go beyond themselves – to carry the “breath of fire” – to be in solidarity with the poor (and the earth) in their struggle for freedom from unjust systems and structures. He is […]

Editor’s Introduction: Income Inequality Part II and Remembering Jim Echols

This June/July issue of the Journal ties up several threads. One of those is marked by the Resolution in loving memory of the Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols, who served for several years as JLE’s editor. As JLE’s “publisher” I claim a moment of privilege as part of that recognition to write a bit more than editors usually do in JLE. I also tie up a thread here as I finish my stint as guest editor. The traditional book review issue of August/September also will introduce our new editor.

An Economic Reading of Luther on the Eucharist, or How a Sacramental Economics Made Matter Matter in New Ways

“Our words and practices, including the ways we celebrate Eucharist and the public policies we support and advocate for, have consequences for our broader relationships with matter. If the finite bears the infinite (finitum capax infiniti), then attention to the finite cannot be fleeting or unjust: matter matters. To state my claim even more strongly: violence against the finite is to build the cross anew. Following Schweitzer, there may be tragic choices we must make where “life-willing-life” cannot simply be left to be. Nonviolence is norm but not absolute. But the violence of economic inequality of the scope evident in contemporary U.S. society is contrary to the spirit of the Eucharist. U.S. inequality does real harm to the real presence of Christ. Indeed, global economic inequality, paired with climate change denial, may–if the Earth’s climate changes as rapidly as some scientists now predict, lead to a world with no bread, no wine, no body, no blood.”

An Economy of Grace: Inequality and Lutheran Witness

“Douglas Hicks opens his masterful 2000 book Inequality & Christian Ethics by asking the seemingly simple question, “equality of what?” Inequality, he writes, is often reduced to discussions of economic inequality, which tend to miss the complexity of inequality, where income is tied to other distributional and consequential imbalances of resources, assets, access, and outcomes. This is an important consideration. Nevertheless, we must start somewhere, and income inequality provides an accessible launching point. Taking both Hicks’ concern and the reality of the US context seriously, though, means bearing in mind the layers of inequality and the connections between them.”

Response to “An Economy of Grace: From the Margins of the Margins”

“There is much to agree with in Dr. Cumming’s presentation. Among other things, his economy of grace rejects the notion that poverty is a sign of a character defect. His proposed economy rejects profiting at the expense of another and calls us not to be complacent in the face of inequality. He argues for a structural analysis of poverty, an acknowledgement that we live in a society of centers and margins, and that we consider the most vulnerable among us. I must admit, however, that with a focus on our most vulnerable neighbor, I kept waiting for a discussion of race to be raised, as people of color, especially women of color, and American Indians are the most economically vulnerable in the US, when it comes to income inequality.”

Review: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Penguin Random House, 2016)

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond || “Evicted has won multiple book awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Its author, sociologist Matthew Desmond, received his doctorate from UW Madison and currently teaches sociology at Princeton. The book centers around several characters and their search for safe, habitable housing, and a pair of landlords making a living by leasing units to low income renters in Milwaukee. Desmond grew up on the fringes of poverty, and when he was an adult his childhood home was repossessed by a bank. He and a friend helped his industrious and frugal parents move out, and it seems that this experience and the shame associated with it impelled his career choice.”

Review: Building the Good Life for All: Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities (WJK, 2017)

There is much to be commended in L. Shannon Jung’s new book, Building the Good Life for All: Transforming Income Inequality in Our Communities. As both a pastor and a scholar, Jung brings years of thinking about the church’s role in addressing poverty and inequality. His experience in parish ministry and with concrete service organizations makes the book practical and especially beneficial for congregational use. The book’s seven short chapters could be easily adapted to, for example, a Lenten book read or short book study.

Editor’s Introduction: Gentrification

Gentrification is a word that was relatively foreign to my vocabulary before moving to Chicago and beginning seminary. Growing up in small towns and suburbs the conversations surrounding housing issues, when they occur, are often “us and them” conversations. Or better yet, “here and there” conversations. It can be quite easy to live in a suburban development and never see or think about housing inequality. Upon beginning my studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) I was immersed into a zealous social justice oriented atmosphere. Housing inequality in the neighborhoods surrounding LSTC specifically and the city of Chicago in general is something that most people acknowledge, but see as too large or systemic to counteract. Still other issues, such as gentrification, are so nebulous that it seems easy to find but difficult to properly define. Gentrification is one small aspect of the housing equality and social responsibility discussions, and will be the focus of this month’s issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics. The topic of “Gentrification and Faith” is pursued this month because it seems to be a chimera; people are often quick to identify areas as gentrifying but when it comes to identifying related data, the numbers often either tell a different story, or describe a trend that has already taken place.​

Gentrification: Causes and Consequences

Holland explores the concept of gentrification from an academic standpoint. What is gentrification? How can we talk about something that resists being defined?​ Holland examines the factors of supply, demand, and policy that feed gentrification along with its effects on the people who leave, the people who live there, and the neighborhood itself.