Faith as a Catalyst for Social Change

 In PERSPECTIVES

Scripture makes it clear what is at the center of God’s heart:

Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:3-5)

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror. (Psalm 10:17-18)

God loves children. God loves those at the margins. God wants all people to know this love and access lives full of purpose, hope and a redemptive future. And God makes it clear that he wants all of us to play a role in helping make sure this happens.

In the United States, almost 15 million children — one in five — live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level ($22,350 a year for a family of four). Research shows that on average, families need an income twice that level to cover basic expenses. Given these realities, God’s call for us to love all his children is as urgent as ever.

One way to express God’s love is through advocating for a high quality education for all God’s children. Our nation’s public education system is simply not creating a level playing field. In many cases it actively perpetuates injustice by keeping some children – mostly those from disenfranchised populations – in cycles of poverty and oppression.

Children of color and those from low-income families are much more likely to live in neighborhoods with low-performing public schools. Attending these schools makes it much more likely that these students will end up being behind grade level, dropping out of high school, and living in poverty – continuing the vicious cycle they were born into.

Consider the following statistics:

• Nearly 23% of all young black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution in America.

• Male dropouts of all races were 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers of a similar age who had graduated from a four-year college or university.

• Nearly 37 of every 100 dropouts live in poor or near-poor families.

Advocating for education equality is a clear way that people of faith can help fight against these trends. We need high-performing schools, high-standards, quality teachers, and more after-school programs and parental support to help prevent poverty, joblessness, homelessness, mass incarceration, and much more.

People of faith can be a major catalyst to mobilize and lead this kind of change, but only when we take action rooted in the truth of our convictions. God is making all things new, and God’s people are called to be a part of this. We need to bring this hope and vision to the public education reform movement, unifying and mobilizing people around this crucial issue that has the power to prevent so many other injustices.

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