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Lifting Up the Poor: A Dialogue on Religion, Poverty & Welfare Reform (The Pew Forum Dialogues on Religion and Public Life) [Paperback]

By Mary Jo Bane (Author) & Lawrence M. Mead (Author)
Our Price $ 17.97  
Item Number 139050  
Buy New $17.97

Item Specifications...

Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.85" Width: 6.27" Height: 0.49"
Weight:   0.63 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 10, 2003
Publisher   Brookings Institution Press
ISBN  0815707916  
EAN  9780815707912  

Availability  143 units.
Availability accurate as of May 23, 2017 01:07.
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Item Description...
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 nations 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 Banes Catholic sensibility informs the calls she makes. Drawing from various Christian traditions, Lawrence Meads 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 ofother 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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More About Mary Jo Bane & Lawrence M. Mead

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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.

Mary Jo Bane has an academic affiliation as follows - John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Mary Jo Bane has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Pew Forum Dialogues on Religion & Public Life

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An uneven but interesting dialog on faith and social justice  Jan 17, 2010
This is a book of essays on the intersection between religion and government policies to help the poor. It is written alternatively by two prominent social scientists: Mary Jo Bane and Lawrence M. Mead. Bane is a professor at Harvard, who worked for the Clinton Administration until she quit in protest over the passage of the 1996 welfare reforms. In this book, she takes the position of the political liberal and the religious Catholic. Mead is a professor at New York University, who played a prominent role in shaping Republican policies toward poverty. In this book, he takes the position of a Bible-believing Protestant, well versed in the social sciences who is generally on the GOP side of the argument.

The book is written in debate format. Bane and Mead each write an essay putting forward their basic positions, each responds and then responds again. The tone of the debate is civil and mutually respectful, which I am happy to see. The quality of the debate is highly uneven. I am myself a Catholic, but I found myself embarrassed by the low level of Bane's intellectual and theological sophistication. She basically just says that Christians ought to care about the poor, that Jesus was infinitely forgiving and that the government should hand out support for the poor, without asking for anything in return. She makes it clear that her sympathy is with liberation theology. Mead, in my opinion, just shredded Bane in argumentation. His view is that while, of course, Christians should care about he poor, such caring must be reciprocal. If we give to the poor, we must also ask the poor to be responsible. We must not enable their bad behavior. This approach is, of course, more merciful, because it seeks to empower the poor, rather than to support them in endless poverty.

I confess that I am impatient with the refusal of Bane, and those who think like her, to to concede how obviously correct Mead is. How do we help the poor, when we ignore their self-destructive behavior? How do we help them when we give them no guidance on how to live better? In what alternative universe did Jesus advocate simply giving to the poor, without ever asking them to conform themselves to morality? Among other issues, the Bane approach insures that helping the poor will be politically unpopular, because the American people reject that approach. The Mead approach, in addition to being morally and practically superior, is also much more popular. I tire of the elitist arrogance of people like Bane who so consistently reject the common sense and good morality of the American people.

Bane, however, does speak for the Catholic perspective, at least as expressed by our blockheaded bishops and their antiquated thinking on social policy. The bishops really do advocate just handing out bags of cash to the social welfare bureaucracies. Given the immense riches of the Catholic intellectual, philosophic and theological tradition, it is truly shameful that such one-dimensional and simplistic social thinking is pushed by our national religious leaders.

As always, however, we can find better guidance from our incomparable supreme leader, John Paul the Great. John Paul taught that it is always and everywhere wrong to treat other people as objects, to be manipulated. Instead, he taught, we must always respect others as individuals, in charge of their own lives. Bane, I submit, treats the poor like objects, like passive lumps, unable to act for themselves, who need to be rescued. Mead's approach treats them like people who, while they need help, can also be expected to help themselves. Mead's approach, while self-identified as Protestant, is much more in accord with John Paul's personalist theory of ethics.

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