Keller on the Systemic Nature of Poverty

All conservatives should chew on this Tim Keller quotation from the latest issue of Themelios:

“Inner-city children, through no fault of their own, may grow up with vastly inferior schooling and with an overall environment extremely detrimental to learning. Conservatives may argue that this is the parents’ fault or the “culture’s” fault while liberals see it as a failure of government and/or the fruit of systemic racism. But no one argues that it is the children’s fault! Of course, it is possible for youth born into poverty to break out of it, but it takes many times more fortitude, independence, creativity, and courage simply to go to college and get a job than it does for any child born into a middle-class world. In short, some children grow up with about a two-hundred-times better opportunity for academic and economic success than others do. (You can’t ask an illiterate eight-year-old–soon to be an illiterate seventeen-year-old–to “pull himself up by his bootstraps”!) Why does this situation exist? It is part of the deep injustice of our world. The problem is simply an unjust distribution of opportunity and resources.”

This kicked me in the stomach when I first read it.  It’s easy for conservatives to avoid looking closely into urban poverty and generally systemic cycles of inequality and pain.  We need to do so, however.  These are great words from Keller.

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2 responses to “Keller on the Systemic Nature of Poverty

  1. The solidarity of children with their parents is a subject well worth considering. Difficult as it is to consider.

    I am reminded of an insightful quote by C.H. Dodd, theological differences notwithstanding.

    “The isolation of the individual is an abstraction. None of us stands alone. What we are and what we do is largely affected by the forces of heredity and environment, i.e. by the place we occupy in the structure of society as a historical place.”
    ~C.H. Dodd

  2. Ryan Hill

    That’s a great quote.

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