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The Unemployment Trap

  • November 29, -0001
Unemployment in America currently stands at around 10%. But that's only part of the picture. If we add to that number all those who have simply given up seeking employment, or who are employed in jobs well beneath their qualifications and past experience, the number rises to closer to 20%. Break that down by certain age groups and other classifications, and the numbers creep even higher. Unemployment has settled like a bad chest cold on the nation, and there doesn't seem to be any immediate relief in sight.

Indeed, efforts to ameliorate the situation can also contribute to making it worse. By extending unemployment benefits now to 99 weeks, the federal government may actually be encouraging unemployment and discouraging local businesses from hiring people whom they do not view as needing jobs, at least, not right away. Funding those continued unemployment benefits by made-up money - what Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning protested against for three days - adds to the problem by increasing the national debt and debasing the money available to create new jobs.

By trying to help the unemployed we may actually be exacerbating the problem. What's to be done? Who's the real culprit here? Which way lies a remedy?

Well, let's start where we live. If Christians were more concerned for the plight of the poor in their communities, more faithful in giving to the work of the Lord, and more concerned about praying for and seeking the peace of God for their communities, would the local base of resources - for aiding the poor and helping them to prepare for new jobs - be more abundant? The witness of some churches, like inner-city Baltimore's New Song Fellowship is definitely yes. Under Pastor Thurman Williams this small congregation - 100 or so people - has developed such a burden for its neighbors that it has given itself tirelessly to discovering and initiating efforts to renew the Sandtown community. They've built a middle school for neighborhood kids. They provide job counseling, training, and transportation. The church sponsors a free medical clinic for the community and maintains a building-supply center, which has helped them to rebuild over 100 homes in the community.

So also with the People's Church on Chestnut Ridge in Philippi, West Virginia. Ruston and Donna Seamon have devoted nearly thirty years of ministry to poor people through pastoral care, youth work, tutoring students, rebuilding and repairing homes, and - just begun - bringing cheap electricity into the hollows of this Appalachian community.

What if all the churches in America had a similar burden for their neighbors? Would we begin to see not only the problem of unemployment, but a lot of other problems begin to subside? I think it is highly likely. Both New Song Fellowship and the People's Church are staunchly Biblical, evangelistic, and committed to the task of making disciples. But they understand their mission as one of reconciling all of life in their communities back to God, and doing whatever it takes, enlisting any who will join them, and creating the institutions and projects necessary to love their neighbors as themselves and honor God with their hearts, minds, and strength.

Visionary pastors
lead visionary churches in visionary solutions to implacable problems. Government cannot solve the problem of unemployment. But where local churches will engage their communities in constructive, sacrificial ways, unemployment and many other social and cultural problems can find new life in Jesus Christ.

T. M. Moore

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