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Conversation Call with Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann was guest on a Conversation Call with John McKnight and Peter Block July 15, 2014. Peter provide words

Urban Elites

We want to find a better way to think about poverty and the poor. We declared war on poverty sixty years ago and lost the war. The intent here is to shift our thinking about income inequality. It is more than a question of income level; we view the poor with some contempt. As if it is on them. Is there some way of  thinking that can welcome the poor in from exile? Treat them as neighbors, as citizens instead of labeled people. We begin with a discussion of urban elites.


 The Prophetic Voice

Transformation always begins as an act of imagination. Imagining a future distinct from what always seems like the inevitability of the present. In the sacred texts, this was the function of the prophets.



A modern prophetic voice comes from people focusing on the Common Good. Increasingly there are people and websites about reclaiming the Commons from a long term effort at privatization. Privatization began with enclosure in Great Britain in the seventeenth century when the common land was fenced in from the citizens and used to raise sheep. The present widespread belief that government, education and health care is best in the hands of the private sector is enclosure’s modern version.

What is particularly relevant to this conversation is that most of the Common’s conversation is about the environment; the land, the air, the water but not about restoring the rightful place in community of people living in poverty.


Compassionate Elite

There is a point where the prophetic imagination, like a call for the commons, or the restoration of the neighborhood joins with people who have the power to make this happen.



There is an important distinction between servicing the poor and shifting the system so that poverty loses its foothold. This is the tension between compassion for the poor and working towards a shift in the consumer system that depends on low cost labor, minimum wage and a universal belief that whatever I have is not enough.