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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Beyond Charity - A Critique of Sider's 'Just Generosity'", May 1, 2000
This review is from: Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Paperback)
At the end of the introduction to his new book "JustGenerosity", Sider sets forth the agenda of this book. He writes: "This book seeks to define the problem, sketch a biblical framework, outline a comprehensive holistic vision and then develop ...................." (p. 23) Accordingly, I will structure my critique and reflection of his book in reference to this phrase.
Definition of the Problem: Who the poor are is well described by Sider, including age groups, family-types, education-level of poor and the relation between poverty and race. He sketches well the major factors that cause poverty. I fully agree with him, that structural reasons, as well as behavioral ones, as well as sudden catastrophes all contribute to widespread poverty. Even though structural reasons play a major influence in facilitating wrong moral choices, the latter should yet be ascertained as a cause for poverty. All negation of this point of view tends to take away responsibility from poor people and thus disqualifies them as whole persons. I also appreciated Sider's good assessment that it is basically the wealthy who contribute to political campaigns, which as a result brings people into positions who represent the interests of those few wealthy, rather than the masses'.
Biblical Framework: I fully agree with Sider's analysis and presentation of the biblical material and believe it is compelling in its call to do justice. Love without justice is simply unbiblical, because the Bible is clear that those who follow God are called to live justly and love mercy.
Comprehensive holistic vision: Sider is consistent with the biblical material and with sociology when he brings the role of civic society into the discussion. It confirms the "biblical anthropology" that humans are not mere autonomous individuals, but are interrelated beings. In the same way it acknowledges a holistic view of people, who are neither solely directed by bureaucratic decisions, nor by individual moral choices. Hence, civic society plays a detrimental role in solving the pressing problems, because it is in civic society that people learn the values that make this very society function in a healthy way. Inner moral and spiritual renewal cannot be mandated but is nevertheless crucial if family renewal, for instance, is to come about. Sider displays a balanced view with regards to the role of government and civic institutions and their interaction as well as contribution to each other, which I deem to be the only way in which long-term solutions can be reached. However, Sider presents too few concrete examples of realistic ways, in which civic societies (like inner city churches) can be strengthened, who in turn would raise local leadership and thus strengthen the political power of the poor from within.
Social Analysis: His explanation for the low work-effort of poor people, for instance, as well as his interpretation of how the inability of low-skilled men to earn enough to support a family, feeds into the disintegration of the family as an institution, are convincing. Moreover, he makes clear how family unfriendly government policy (tax-exemptions, etc...) encourages single-parent families. Sider's analysis with respect to the educational system is also compelling. He argues that a good educational system is absolutely necessary in the fight against poverty. In fact, high school dropouts produce high costs in the long run, which, in any case are carried by the taxpayer. Additionally he builds a strong case for the necessity of healthy two-parent families. Most of his bias toward this form of family-life derives, as he says, from Judeo-Christian roots, as well as the statistics who demonstrate, that children from two-parent families are less likely to experience poverty.
Concrete Agenda: In most of the chapters 4-8 Sider develops quite concrete and seemingly good proposals, which could help alleviate poverty. Even though I won't go into details at this point, this is the bulk of the book that needs to be discussed in student circles, among policymakers, in civic societies etc... Yet, throughout Sider's social analysis and enlisting of concrete ideas for implementation, one great question remains: How can partnerships between governmental and faith based programs be established? How could more clergy-government coalitions come to life? How are inner city churches helped to seek the holistic wellbeing of their neighbors, if they themselves lack personnel resources and struggle hard to survive? Sider offers little concrete steps in this respect. He gives some examples, but these seem to be the exception.
Sider makes clear that the political as well as the theological climate has changed, which makes it more favorable for Christians today to getting involved to fighting poverty. And this they must, if they call themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Overall I believe the book has the potential to reach a great number of people, because it presents, deals well with and offers, to some degree at least, practicable solutions to a highly problematic theme of our time. Will it accomplish what Sider has in mind, namely reaching millions of Christians, who in response, will get practically involved in addressing the issues at hand? We hope. We pray.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and Balanced, June 22, 2007
The debate over how best to help the poor seems to be polarized around the logical conclusions of two seemingly opposed assumptions. The conservative assumption is that most people are poor because of the personal choices they make. The liberal assumption is that people are poor because of bad environments and injustice.

The conservative point of view leads to public policies that reward personal initiative while allowing families to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions as a means of discipline.

The liberal point of view initiates policies that redistribute the wealth through entitlements and public projects while attempting to change the environment through the force of law.

The weakness of the liberal position is that it tends to enable poverty rather than eradicate it. The weakness of the conservative position is that it tends to ignore injustices and do nothing to remove the very real barriers to the upward mobility of the poor.

Ronald Sider in his book Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America argues that these are not competing assumptions but complimentary ones. "I have lived and worshiped with he poor far too long to side either with the liberal who quickly dismisses the way personal choices contribute to poverty or with the conservative who ignores the way complicated structural barriers make it difficult for many hardworking people to escape poverty" (p. 35).

Sider's "Twelve Principles of a Just Society" is the foundation for his policy suggestions that make up over half of the book. While one may quibble with the details of the suggestions, on the whole they are a way out of the political rancor that characterizes the current debate.

I highly recommend this book to all. It educates. It makes reasonable suggestions to open the discussion on how best to address these problems. Most of all it is irenic and offered in the spirit of brotherly love as opposed to the power politics that have come to characterize our political discourse.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christians should read this, April 3, 2001
P. Fung (St. Louis, Missouri) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Paperback)
I agree with the review by Jean-Luc for the most part, but I also wanted to add a few of my own thoughts.
As Sider says early in the book, he's not a policy wonk, so that is his weakest point. Trust him on that one. As a more policy oriented person, I agree that some of those things would be great, if implemented, but that's the hard part of all policy - getting it passed and implemented. Some of his suggestions are not politically feasible (yet).
Some of his other policy ideas are, IMHO, just questionable. Not just politically difficult, but I'm not convinced that all the ideas are that great.
His Biblical framework is wonderful. I enjoyed reading his perspective on that, as he exegetes quite well. I also was biased to begin with, in that I had already done some thinking on my own about this issue, and was finding myself just saying "Wow, that's kinda what I was thinking."
yeah. so good book. read it. don't take the policy stuff to seriously. but take the Biblical stuff seriously. He does a good job there. and the principles of the more holistic view of things, too. Those are good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wealth of Ideas, April 15, 2007
Ronald J. Sider's, Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America, is a book about solutions. The solutions to overcoming poverty that Sider offers are both broad-ranging as well as full of depth. They are not band-aid solutions that only deal with surface-level symptoms. Instead, Sider targets understanding and overcoming the causes of poverty in America.

The breadth of his approach to overcoming poverty is seen in the number and variety of organizations he suggests mobilizing together for the sake of the poor. Sider envisions faith-based organizations doing all that they do best in the battle against poverty. Likewise, businesses will bring what they have to offer; the media will do its part; while the government (though not expected to carry the full weight of the problems or the solutions) will also be expected to work towards empowering the poor of the society. Together, these forces comprise a "holistic, comprehensive approach" (137) to overcoming poverty.

The depth of his approach can be seen in the various levels of positive-change that he suggests these organizations work together to offer. Sider enlists the creative energies and resources of these varied organizations for the purposes of not only removing barriers that keep members of society from making a reasonable living, but also for such purposes as "character formation, spiritual renewal, and caring communities" (185). It is at this point that I find Sider's work most compelling. He, in other words, cares equally about providing for the very real and pressing needs of individuals and communities (hunger, safe housing and streets, etc.) as well as longer-range needs (such as quality education for all: education that includes the character as well as the mind - that is, spiritual development as well as mental development) that, as they are met with equal excellence, will work steadily to eradicate poverty in the coming days and generations.

Sider's books are thorough. Just Generosity is no exception. At times, in fact, it is easy to get lost in the details. Yet the details concerning poverty are what many of us are lacking. We know there is a problem. We even recognize that the problem is multi-faceted. Yet without the aid of someone like Sider who brings together "sophisticated socioeconomic analysis with normative biblical principles of justice" (14), we are left with our limited awareness of the issues (mixed, possibly, with a measure of guilt and a heap of good intentions) that often lead to us do very little to actually work towards effecting solutions to the problem of poverty in our own neighborhoods - much less all over America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baby Steps, November 15, 2010
Ron Sider for years has been in tune with the outcries of the impoverished in the world. He has been using his gifts from God to write great books like these which brings to light the issues of poverty to believers and non believers. The idea of social justice is the dominant theme in this book, social justice being that every person is given the tools to succeed in our society.

Sider see's education as the biggest area to focus on when fixing the problems with social justice. He lays out the statistics that show impoverished students are more likely to drop out before graduating high school, the lack of general success in higher education and the effects of these depressing statistics. Lower education, maybe even more so today with the lack of unskilled jobs, is a life-sentence to a difficult life.

To go along with the challenge to improve our education system, Sider heralds the benefits of Inter-Faith agencies (non government agencies that receive support from the government). These groups enjoy the benefits of being run like small time companies with a defined goal, the people who are on the same page and a heart for the people they are serving. The government doesn't run nearly as smoothly. By using these agencies, Sider believes that the greatest good can be done to put a dent into the levels of impoverished in America.

Overall, this book is baby steps in the right direction to fixing poverty. It is such a big undertaking that it will not happen over night, but Sider really does a great job of putting us on the right path to tackle such a big problem. By reading this book you will be more in tune with your brothers and sisters in economic despair.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do we care?, April 15, 2007
In 1995 the poverty level for a family of four in the United States was $19,806. 37 million people in the US live at or below this level. Ron Sider correctly asserts that it is morally unacceptable for 37 million people to live in poverty in this country while the wealthiest people are gaining a larger percentage of all wealth. In Just Generosity, Sider presents his vision for overcoming poverty in America. And it is a compelling vision.

Sider's vision is distinctive because he acknowledges that poverty is caused by both systemic injustice in society's structures and by poor moral decisions by impoverished individuals. Both must be addressed in order to stop cycles of poverty.

Drawing upon biblical study, Sider presents the goal of an economy of justice: "Every person or family has access to productive resources (land, money, knowledge) so they have the opportunity to earn a generous sufficiency of material necessities and be dignified participating members of their community" (81). Sider deals with a vast array of programs and issues like welfare, minimum wage, tax credits, health care, and education reform, showing how each could be employed in ways that encourage work, empower the poor, and strengthen families.

Sider ends with this troubling question: Do enough Christians really care? This book should be required reading for any that do.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Covenant of Compassion, April 14, 2007
Just Generosity

Ron Sider

Ron Sider is a writer committed to several agendas. He is a strong advocate for the word of God, an unconditional submission to Jesus Christ, and a deep desire to see poverty in America eliminated. Sider begins chapter four with a question that seems to drive his passion for the subject this book addresses. "If a person works fulltime all year, can that person earn enough so that his or her family can escape poverty? For millions of Americans today, the answer is no."

The closing chapter offers the hope for America's poor. Sider says we can end the scandal. He offers what he call a Generous Christian Pledge. He proposes that all believers adhere to the pledge. He says, Generous Christians and other people of good will can transform our country. We can end the scandal of widespread poverty in the richest nation in history.
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Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America
Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America by Ronald J. Sider (Paperback - October 1, 1999)
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