Faith and World Poverty

November 2, 2004

Spring 2003

Professor: Mary E. Hobgood
Office: 424 Smith Hall
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11-12 am and Tues. 2-3pm or by appointment

Course Description

This is a course about the Gospel, globalization and planetary survival. The unrestrained economic forces of globalization are threatening the lives of increasing numbers of people around the world, including many in the US. Of the world’s six billion people, 1.2 billion live on less than a US dollar per day. (U.N.’s 2001 World Development indicators). Three quarters of the world’s people live in the Two Thirds World (an economic as well as a geographic location). This overwhelming majority of humankind enjoys less than 20 percent of world income. Globalization has also meant that the richest 20 percent of the world’s population monopolize over 85 percent of world income. (UNDP 1997 1998). This growing inequality among God’s people is the central Christian ethical issue, given the Gospel’s mandate to “love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.”

Although some perceive these forces, often called “human made globalization”, as natural, economies are subject to rules which benefit some, harm others and put the ecosphere in crisis. This course investigates the central rules of the economic game, who benefits, who suffers and why this is so. Our analysis is rooted in the literature and analyses of the Two Thirds World, liberation readings of Scripture, the tradition of modern Catholic social teaching, and other work in Christian ethics.

We will explore possibilities for changing the rules not only to develop a more just and equitable society but to insure the survival of the planet itself. Only after we have analyzed the roots of globalization, in light of the experiential wisdom of those directly affected, can we begin to interpret poverty and increasing economic vulnerability and planetary destruction in….the light of faith so as to formulate strategies for change.

In addition, through community based learning projects, you will have opportunity to engage in some practical responses to poverty and to CONNECT COURSE CONCEPTS WITH SOCIAL ACTION.

Course Objectives

1. To expose students to the basic assumptions of Scripture, Catholic social teaching and other work in Christian ethics regarding poverty, affluence and the centrality of justice to the moral life.

2. To study the processes and structures of political economy that reproduce global poverty. These include the social structures of class, race and gender that have historically evolved through colonialism, neocolonialism and economic globalization. Through study of literary and analytical writings of indigenous peoples in conjunction with other Christian ethical analysis, we will examine the historical relationships between overconsumption and overdevelopment and ensuing affluence, poverty and ecological destruction.

3. To “let the people speak” by reading Two Thirds World writers who tell stories and do critical forms of analysis about their simultaneous incorporation into and marginalization from the political economy. Their struggle for liberation includes an alternative view of human beings and our capacities for changing our lives, our objective conditions, and the increasing ecological devastation of the planet.

4. To give students the opportunity of THINKING LIKE THOSE WITH WHOM YOU MIGHT DISAGREE. Such thinking is facilitated not only by reading, writing and speaking in class but by concrete projects in the community. HOW DO THE ISSUES ADDRESSED BY YOUR ORGANIZATION CONNECT TO COURSE THEORY? Community based learning will help you deepen understanding of course concepts as you interact with people and groups who come from a different social location than you do You may also experience community work differently with the analytic frameworks offered by the course than you would have otherwise. In this you will provide a service but also be serviced by the community.


1. Journal
The journal records the theses of your readings and your responses to the readings (first half of journal starting from front), in which you “talk back” to an author by expressing your agreements, disagreements, frustrations, hopes, and personal assumptions that are being challenged. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ACCURATELY SUMMARIZED THE AUTHOR’S ARGUMENT (THESIS) BEFORE YOU RESPOND TO IT. Demonstrate how your own thinking is developing and how the authors you are reading relate to your community experience.

The journal should also containing a log of your responses to your work in the field. Beginning from the back of the journal and working forward record your responses to your community experiences and connections you are making between readings and community work. (See the Guide to Community based learning for suggestions on responding to your experiences in the field. If you set up your log according to the Guide you will be in good position to write your final paper which is based on the Guide.)

I may ask to evaluate anyone’s journal at any time, or ask you to read from your journal during class at any time. But the purpose of the journal is for your own learning, to help you write your final paper and to help you prepare for the midterm exam. I will ask you to submit 5 10 xeroxed pages (a selection you make from your journal) that record the theses of the readings your responses to the readings and how you are connecting these to your community projects. You must submit these sections of your journal at the beginning of class on Thursday, Feb. 13 and Thursday, March 27. 1 will also peruse everyone’s journal during the midterm exam on March 13. If I am unable to decipher your journal quickly (during the exam period) you will not be able to get credit for it.

2. Midterm
The midterm exam on Thursday, March 13 will be an essay exam based on the authors/class discussions and your community experiences to date. (Authors include all handouts)

3. Long Paper
33% Longer paper due at BEGINNING of class on Thursday April 2 (based on the Guide for Community Based Learning) and FINAL EXAM. You must also include reports on two peace events you have attended and three college events you have attended with a reflection on their relevance to the course. Please hand these in when you hand in journals or midterm unless I specify otherwise.

Tentative Course Outline

Who is the typical human being? How has income inequality deepened in the US and abroad?
– Meet colleagues and work in small groups: Each group report on a section of income stats. Where has your (our) accumulated knowledge about poverty come from?
-Read syllabus and bring questions to next class.
– Journal write on “what constitutes my welfare system” and “how would my life change if this welfare system were taken away?” BE PREPARED TO READ FROM JOURNAL TO CLASS.

-Show Poverty Outlaw or Welfare Film
-Handouts (Edin article, Laura Walker article and Welfare material)
-Ann Withorn, “Why My Mother Slapped Me,” 13-16. Why does Withorn claim that hatred of welfare recipients is not about welfare?
– Journal write on: What myths did you believe about welfare? Why are families poor? Why does Withorn claim that hatred of welfare recipients is NOT about welfare itself? What is people’s hatred of poor people who get welfare really about? Do the national income stats we have reviewed support Withorn’s claim?

Journal write on the following readings and questions:
1) Subcommandante Marcos, Shadows of Tender, Ekry, pp. 32-41.
How does Marcos understand the causes of deep poverty for over half the Mexican people? (hard copies on reserve).
2) Robert M. Brown, Theology in a New KU pp. 11-27 and pp. 75-80.
Why is poverty our theological problem? An ideology is a worIdview which everyone has. Define ideology in the neutral sense. Give the characteristics of ideology as the dominant classes enforce it.
3) Read handouts from The Boston Globe: “Lessons from the Front” and “The Christmas Bombings.” Compare/contrast James Carroll’s ideology or worldview with that of a soldier who wrote a letter from the front. Do they hold any ideological assumptions in common? How do they differ in their ideological assumptions about the way the world works? Which world view do you most identify with? Why do you believe this is the case? (Where does your worldview come from?)

-Bring Brown, a Bible and your Journal to class.
-Brown, pp 81-100 – Reading the Bible through Two Thirds World Eyes. How does a Two Thirds world view of Scripture challenge a First World View? Did you learn anything really new about the Bible?
-Brown, pp. 27-35 and 50-74 – Roman Catholic Teaching on Economic Justice. (Students who have already taken a course with me should particularly focus on this one.) What do you thin1c are the most important teachings in this body of Catholic tradition? Why do you think this body of teaching has been called “the Catholic Church’s best kept secret?”

1) Eric Williams, Whole book; especially pp.1-35; Chapter 3, pp. 5-8, 10-13.
2) Joanna Kadi, Whole Book; especially, “Stupidity Deconstructed,” 39 57 and “Moving From Cultural Appropriation to Ethical Cultural Connections,”

Thursday, February 20 First xeroxed pages from journal due. Accepted only at the beginning of class

(“Death by International Finance”)
Grace Chang, Disposable Domestics. Whole book and especially pp. Foreword and Intro; 28 48; 55 62; 70 84; 122-184.


March 22: Please hand in second set of journal entries at the beginning of class only

1) Hayden, The Zapatista Reader (see also Outbreaks of Democracy in Utopias, pp. 145-160 and The Case of Chiapas, Global Realities, 275-288)
2) Daniel Maguire, Ethics for a Small Planet, pp. 1-10
3) Gottleib, Chapter 5, pp. 137-182 in A Spirituality of Resistance.

Thursday April 24: Final Paper due at the beginning of class only

School: College of the Holy Cross
Professor: Mary E. Hobgood
  • update-img-new

    Get updates on what's new in the Campus Compact Network