Give thanks by fighting hunger

November 24, 2008, 11:07 am | Posted by

Just days before most of us sit down to eye-popping amounts of turkey, stuffing and pie, we read that nearly 1 in 8 Americans “struggled to feed themselves adequately last year.”

When I read stats like that, I’m reminded of words from Martin Luther King Jr.:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Many people of faith will be feeding the hungry this week at soup kitchens and shelters all over the country; this is absolutely necessary and I’m proud of the way my home church stepped out this year. This is, to use King’s analogy, playing the good Samaritan on life’s roadside.

This Thanksgiving, let’s also consider how “the whole Jericho road” of hunger can be transformed. Perhaps the way we can best show our gratitude for the things we’ve received is to fight for programs and policies that will not leave the hungry “constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey.” With a new Congress and President about to step into office, this is the time for a new politics of hunger, and people of faith can encourage that change.

add a comment »

A Common Good Bailout?

November 21, 2008, 8:30 am | Posted by

Talk continues to swirl around how the government will divide the $700 billion in bailout money. Everyone seems to want their piece of pie; after all, $700 billion is a pretty big pie.

FPL board member Susan Thistlethwaite rightly points out that any attempt to assist the Big 3 automakers has to have the working class in mind to be the right approach, and that there’s no easy answer.

Considering the complexity of the probelm, she poses a question rather than an answer: “Instead, can we find a “common good” approach that can balance the well-being of the country with the well-being of the workers and even the customers of the auto industry?”

As she lays out ways to do this, Sue puts the American worker (especially the American autoworker) front and center:

It costs a lot less than $25 billion to protect the workers’ benefits. In a “common good” bailout, the government should guarantee workers’ pensions and health care. It is certainly immoral for people to have paid into pensions for many years and then lose their retirement security. Similarly, health care is often one of the first casualties when industries engage in cost-cutting.

These are crazy times and perhaps the idea of a common good bailout is just crazy enough to work. For everybody.

add a comment »

For what would Jesus fast?

October 29, 2008, 5:51 pm | Posted by

Come Saturday, will you be enjoying leftover Halloween candy?

Some religious Americans won’t. They’ll be engaged in fasting, the ancient spiritual exercise of fasting which allows us to “enter into deeper relationship with God, [be] changed by that relationship, and then [be] sent out into the world.”

Jesus said in the Gospel that “Man does not live on bread alone” but rather by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It can help Christians to focus and enter more deeply into prayer.

So it seems that, especially in these days leading up to a landmark election, Christians of all stripes agree that we cannot live on bread alone. But, the devil’s in the details, as they say. What words are “coming from the mouth of God”? How do we know? And how do we respond?

Some Christians will think the words from the mouth of God are about human despair, suffering, and hunger. These Christians fast to discern ways to respond to the global food crisis. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), my denomination, encourages its members to join in 40 hour fasts for the first weekend of each month. These fasts are meant to help Presbyterians pray for guidance on how to respond in love to suffering and hunger around the world.

This weekend, Presbyterians will focus on Haiti, a poverty-stricken nation that has been called the “World Hunger Poster Child.” Malnutrition is the leading cause of death for children in Haiti. Desperate Haitians spend precious pennies on “mud cakes”–made from dirt–just to subsist.

By fasting, Christians in America (the wealthiest country in the Western Hemisphere) express solidarity with those in Haiti (the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) and look for the ways God is calling them to serve those in needs.

Some Christians this weekend will be fasting for another reason. “The Call California” –a “corporate prayer and fast” will be held in a stadium in San Diego, but not to find ways to help those suffering from malnutrition and disease. Rather, this fast is about California’s Proposition 8–a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. The event is subtitled “A Battle to Save Marriage.” The organizers believe that “our nation is in desperate need of the mercy of God and a great Spiritual Awakening” and that traditional marriage must be saved.

Watch the video:

Which would you fast for? Children eating mudcakes or marriage in California?

add a comment »

The Economic Crisis in a Nutshell

October 24, 2008, 10:43 am | Posted by

Michael Sean Winters sums up the moral significance of the economic crisis as well as anyone:

…The conventional wisdom is not exactly accurate…The economy did not displace moral issues: The economy is a moral issue. Providing for one’s family is a moral obligation, one that is suddenly uncertain. Buying a house and making the mortgage payments is a moral accomplishment, requiring discipline and delayed gratification. Faulty economic theories were part of the reason for the credit crunch, but greed has played its part. The anger felt on Main Street is not mere anti-elitism: The barons of high finance treated people’s hard-earned life savings as mere fodder for risk-taking. An economy that had been characterized by an idolatrous worship of the laws of the market suddenly sees the need for social solidarity in the form of government bailouts.

The economic crisis, in short, is more than an economic crisis. It is a cultural crisis, even a spiritual crisis…(emphasis added)

If this crisis reminds us to invest greater moral energy into our economy and community, if it causes bankers and bus drivers alike to ask the age-old question “Who is my neighbor?,” maybe all the pain, terrible and tragic as it’s been, won’t be in vain.

add a comment »

“It’s a moral meltdown, too”

October 7, 2008, 4:07 pm | Posted by

The Center For American Progress did a roundup of faith leaders’ statements, blog posts and actions in response to the economic crisis:

The meltdown of global financial markets is more than an economic crisis. It is also a moral crisis that exposes the fatal flaws of unfettered capitalism and rebukes the worship of free-market forces whose excesses are having brutal consequences for everyday Americans.

As politicians and economists offer proposals for what should be done, religious leaders and communities are speaking out as well. They are criticizing the immoral culture of greed and lack of regulation that led to this crisis. They are providing assistance for those in need. And they are offering a prophetic voice for economic justice and the common good, as evidenced by the sampling of responses that follow.


add a comment »