ministries of mercy

The church I attend is working through the book "Ministries of Mercy" by Tim Keller. The sub-title is "the call of the Jericho road," referring to the story of the Good Samaritan, so the book is about helping ones neighbour. I picked up a copy, so far I have read the first chapter, here are my initial thoughts.

Keller challenges popular ideas that the poor are lazy. So far so good. But then Keller uses flawed statistics. He is based in the USA, so using American data, Keller says the idea that most of the poor in the USA are Black is a myth, and to making this point he cites the US 2003 Census saying 25.3 million of the poor are White while only 10.1 million are Black.

Two problems. First the figures are wrong, in 2003 the US census showed 15.9 million of the US poor are White and 9.1 million were Black source. Second, while it is true that there are a higher numbers of Whites in poverty than Blacks, there are more White people in the USA than Black people, so to show what is really going on requires an analysis of poverty rates as a percentage of population. The poverty rate among Whites in the USA is 8.2% but among Blacks it is 24.3%. How could someone concerned about ones neighbour miss that!

The fact that poverty is not random and that structural inequalities in society, as well as prejudicial attitudes, and cultural biases, impact some groups more than others is crucial in any "ministry of mercy." So far Keller misses this, but maybe he will tune into it as the book goes along.

My impression so far, I don't think it bad book, it deals with issues churches need to be talking about, it might be a good starting place for any church willing to read it critically.

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