Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Reaction Essay on our duty to help others.

This is an example of a student reaction essay.

An interesting question was purposed in the packet of questions we were given in class to me. This question was what obligations does society have towards the poverty stricken?

During class we had an interesting discussion about this question and it stuck with me for most of the following week. It is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many different opinions, and ways to go about it. I believe that people are definitely morally obligated to provide for the less fortunate. Sadly in America and countries all over the world that is often not the case. Too many people go hungry at night or worry about how they are going to pay for the pricy bills they receive.
I have always believed that one truly does not understand another person’s situation until they have, as it is said, walked a mile in their shoes. By this I mean, unless a person has gone through the situation like losing a job and not being able to pay a bill or becoming disabled in one way or another and not being able to work again. In these situations or any other unpleasant situation it is necessary to lend a helping hand.
In the economy today, if people were not given a helping hand, they would be out on the streets or worse. No help would also cause isolation because there would be no concern about others’ well-being.

As I have grown up and created my own values and beliefs the most important to me is to lend a helping hand to others. This value is how I chose to go in the direction of Social Work. The social workers choose to make a career out of helping others and giving support to those who need it. I understand that in some cases it is hard to give help to people, and that there are some who abuse the help, but no one who needs help should be penalized for what a few people have done. Everyone should be given a chance to have a happy life, and if that means that someone helped them get that life, then that is perfectly fine.

I am a Christian, and my faith is a major force behind my belief to be a helping person. In the Bible it even talks about our duty to help others, for example in the parable of a Certain Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 12: 16-21). God sent His only son to die on the cross for the sins of the world. That is one of the ultimate sacrifices in my eyes, and if God can do that, then people should owe it to each other to try to help each other. That is, Jesus and His sacrifice should be a motivational example to all of us. We as people must remember that we need to treat others they way we would like to be treated.

Reaction essay on religion and social work.

This is a reaction a student wrote about religion and social work.  I thought it a good example of what Christian students might write when they consider social work's religious roots and the tensions between secular and religious approaches to helping others. 
Social work has been rooted in religion since the very beginning. Specifically I am focusing on Christianity. However, other religions also address social welfare. Within the Old Testament, one finds a variety of practices and commandments to care for the poor; the textbook pointed out the practices such as hospitality, gleaning, education of orphans, and visiting the ill (Popple, 2011). Throughout the scriptures, one can find that God is forming His people to live as a countercultural example to the dominant society. The distinguished Old Testament exegete and renowned biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann eloquently addresses this in his book, The Prophetic Imagination. Brueggemann describes the reign of King Solomon in three elements of the dominant culture. The three elements were affluence, oppressive social policy, and static religion (Brueggemann, 2001). The Mosaic laws were countercultural to these elements because they were laws of equality, politics of justice, and the religion of God’s freedom (Brueggemann, 2001). There is not enough time to go into depth on each of those, but ultimately the point is that the way of life for the Israelites was not merely to do these ‘charitable acts’ because it was just the right thing to do, but rather it was to establish God’s kingdom. This pattern of living countercultural continues throughout scripture within the New and Old Testament, and always contains the purpose of establishing the Kingdom of God, and that comes through the commandments to love and serve people(Surprised by Hope by New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright discusses this quite well). 
As I was reading the chapter on religion and social work I felt there was a pattern in regards to the motivation of the church helping people, which I think correlated to the different movements of thought in society. As society became more secularized, social welfare programs began to detach themselves from the church. As the text book was explaining the secularization of society, it mentioned that in the early years of social work the charity organization societies believed that poverty was a result of, “… a lack of abstinence, diligence, and thrift among the poor- all moral failings” (Popple, 2011). The text book goes on to explain that because of the churches attributing poverty to moral failings, social work became more secularized because it became known that these were not the causes of poverty (Popple, 2011). 
Unfortunately, during this time, I believe that the church had misguided theological thought. Predominantly, I believe the misguided thought was that the point of Christianity was to get to heaven. Although I do believe heaven has a role, I do not believe it is the entire point/purpose of Christianity but rather the point is to build up the kingdom of God now, and to be a foreshadowing of what the new creation will look like. This all being said, I do believe that the church should be involved in social welfare because God has called us to be a people who serve and love the poor. As a Christian who is a social worker, at times it can feel like Christianity and Social Work are clashing because there seems to be a constant tension between the secularization of social work and its religious roots. However, I find reconciliation in the fact that I am called to love and accept people. Therefore, whether I am having to present the option of abortion or work with someone who is homosexual, I do not feel that I need to directly have to state my beliefs or force them on anyone (I would not want someone to do that to me, so why would I do that to someone else). Rather, if I can treat every client in a loving and accepting manner, then at least for the time I am with them, I have allowed them to experience the love of God. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Reaction to Mark Rank and poverty

Here is a student reaction essay about an article about the research of Mark Rank.

In the first few weeks of class, we have talked a great deal about the issue of poverty. We have discussed how many people in America are currently living in poverty, how poverty is affecting people worldwide, and what our personal views on this situation are. One of the articles provided for reading on this topic comes from the Washington University in St. Louis magazine. The article discusses research on poverty conducted by Mark Rank, who is a professor of Social Work at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
In the beginning of the article, Ranks poses a challenge to readers. He asks everyone to close their eyes for a moment and to imagine what “poor” people look like. He then asks what images came to mind; was in an image of a woman with several children counting food stamps in the grocery store line? A person of color who lacks the desire to work hard in order to get out of poverty? One of the main goals of Rank’s research is to debunk common misconceptions about people living in poverty. For example, many believe that people who are living on welfare have a lot of children. Rank’s research disproves this. His research found that the birthrates of women who are living in poverty are slightly less than the overall rate. Another myth on poverty Rank’s research disproved is the myth that most welfare recipients are inner-city African Americans. According to his studies, two-thirds of people who receive welfare are white. More whites receive welfare than blacks overall. His research also tells us that welfare is not commonly passed on from generation to generation. Rank found that only 1 out of 4 welfare recipients had parents who also received welfare benefits.
I found this article very fascinating. I think Rank’s research provides a great deal of information with statistical evidence to disprove common misconceptions about poverty. It is very important that people are properly informed about what is actually going on, not just being constantly bombarded with false information.  I think people who are not living in poverty are afraid to hear that all of the typical myths about poverty and people who receive welfare benefits, because the myths give them a feeling of comfort because the myths tell them that people living in poverty are different than them. They either “brought it upon themselves” or grew up in a family that lived in poverty and they are continuing the cycle. If they are “different” from people living in poverty, then they think they could never end up in that situation. I also really like how Rank points out that many people think of people living in poverty as being “over there”, far away from where they are. I agree with Rank’s reason for why some people in middle and upper class think this way. It’s because they feel less guilty and don’t feel like they have any obligation to help them. Overall, this article was very informative and I think even though it is not very long, I think people can get a lot out of it.