Part III – Central Themes for an Evangelical Framework
Chapter 11 – Caring for the Vulnerable.
By Clive Calver, president of World Relief; Galen Carey, director of Advocacy and Policy for World Relief.
While the Bible doesn’t explicitly use the word "vulnerable," it is a concept that is present throughout scripture. To be vulnerable is to without protection from emotional and physical harm. While we are all vulnerable to one degree or another some groups of people are more vulnerable than others. The authors list eleven groups of people that are often at risk.
- The Poor
- The Sick
- Persons with disabilities
- The Persecuted
- The Addicted
Christians and the Vulnerable
The authors give a brief recounting of evangelical social action up until the middle of the Twentieth Century when evangelicals began to retreat from social action in response to what they saw as the ill effects of the "social gospel."
What Does it Mean to Care for the Vulnerable?
Calver and Carey suggest that carrying for the vulnerable means meeting immediate needs by offering relief from threatening circumstances. But it also write that it extends much beyond this. True caring is about the transformation of people’s lives and transforming social structures so that people are less threatened.
Shalom: A Guiding Vision
Calver and Carey offer shalom as the guiding vision for what God has in mind for humanity. They note that shalom is translated in a variety of ways in the NIV Bible: peace, all right, safe, safely, prosperity, success, good health, treaty friendship, peace and prosperity. They write, “In a society characterized by shalom, people may be vulnerable, but they will have access to the protective resources of the community.” (235) From here they explore the role of three core social institutions in reducing vulnerability and increasing shalom.
What is the Role of the Church?
- Evangelism and discipleship
- Prophetic voice
What is the Role of Christian Families and Individuals?
What is the Role of Government?
- Risk management
- Social Safety Net
Common Pitfalls Encountered in Caring for the Vulnerable
- Paternalism – Care givers can become overly prescriptive and rob the vulnerable of opportunities to take care of themselves.
- Entitlement Mentality – Recipients of care come to view aid as a right and fail to learn how to take initiative.
- Fraud – Bureaucracies tend to develop that can deny aid to the truly needy while benefiting others who simply know how to work the system.
- Futility – The magnitude of the problems can lead to immobilization and cynicism on the part of care givers.
- Displaced initiative – Care can train some people to suppress their own initiative and just wait to be rescued.
Areas of Consensus
The authors believe there is broad consensus among evangelicals on the following:
- Responsibility – Christians are personally and collectively responsible for the vulnerable. Voluntary contributions, advocacy and appropriate government-sponsored initiatives are appropriate.
- Dignity – All people are created in God’s image and should be treated as such.
- Sustainability – Business can’t solve everything but “Where possible, sustainable, market-based solutions to poverty and vulnerability are preferable to those solutions that require continual subsidies, whether private or public.” (241)
- Faith-based initiatives – A level playing field for partnership between faith-based services and government.
Calver and Carey recommend four policy proposals to drive the evangelical agenda as it relates to vulnerability.
- Establish as a national goal the elimination of absolute poverty in the U.S.A. (241)
- Extend the same rights and protections to vulnerable immigrants and refugees as citizens.
- Integrate vulnerable individuals as fully as possible into the economic and cultural life of the community.
- Support the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the goal of achieving a 50 percent reduction in world poverty by 2015.
All in all, I thought they gave a pretty good summary. As with many of the essays, this really needed to be a book.