Making hungry people hungrier is unacceptable, Part 2: Showing my work

I recently shared this post that was originally published on Bread for the World‘s Bread Blog.

I would understand if you thought my conclusions in that post seemed a bit like a math student who simply writes down an answer. Even though the answer is correct, you’d still like to know how she got there. This post is me trying to show my work.

In the Wesleyan tradition we use four theological guidelines for understanding our faith and discipleship: scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. (Often referred to as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. But I’m bad at geometry, so I try to stick with calling them guidelines.)

When it comes to raising your voice with and for hungry and vulnerable people, it’s an uncontested slam dunk.

The biblical witness is clear: caring for the hungry and poor is God’s desire for us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. – Luke 10:27

For me, that really says it all. But that’s no where near all scripture says! There are at least 2000 verses in the Bible about caring for poor and hungry people. Psalm 72:12-14, Jeremiah 22:13-16, Micah 6:8, Mark 12:30, Luke 4:18, 1 John 4:19…just to name a few.

Our tradition is bold: Methodists advocate with and for people in need.

John Wesley was a forthright advocate on prison reform, human rights, abuse of spirituous liquors, labor justice, healthcare, slavery, the humane treatment of animals…The women’s rights movement, the labor reform movement, the temperance movement and the Civil Rights movement all saw leadership from a number of courageous and prophetic Methodist voices. Read more from the General Board of Church & Society.

But one need not be in the Wesleyan tradition to claim a bold heritage of advocacy. Read the first four chapters of Acts again. One of the first things the earliest Christians did in response to being filled with God’s Holy Spirit was to “sell their possessions and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45).

Our experience is encouraging: SNAP works! Letters from constituents are effective.

Since 2008 unemployment has increased dramatically, poverty has increased as well, but food insecurity has remained essentially  the same, largely due to domestic nutrition programs like SNAP. The very same program Congress is currently considering cutting by $36 billion this year and $133 billion over ten years.

Need a more personal touch? Meet Alli and André:

SNAP and WIC work. Letters and petitions to Congress work, too. Two years ago, I was privileged to be present at a meeting with Rep. Judy Biggert and her Chief of Staff. Three other Bread activists and I presented our case, asking Congresswoman Biggert to co-sponsor a bill that would create more and better poverty-focused developmental assistance. The Congresswoman let us have our say and accepted the stack of letters one of the others brought from their Offering of Letters.

The Chief of Staff said they’d received hundreds like them. Then Rep. Biggert declared she was meeting with us to announce that she had co-signed the bill!

Still, there are some reasonable questions about advocacy, such as: Why don’t churches just care for the poor? Why get the government involved at all?
Size and scope.
Private feeding through churches and charities covers just 6% of the nutrition needs for low-income and struggling families in the United States. National nutrition programs like SNAP & WIC provide the rest.

As I wrote previously, to make up the gap created by recently proposed cuts to SNAP – $36 billion this year, $133 billion over ten years – means churches and charities would need to do everything we’re currently doing to fight hunger…and come up with an additional $50,000 each year.

And if churches and charities needed to cover the entire costs, each church, synagogue, mosque, and charity would need to increase their efforts by at least $160,000 each year! That’s just to cover food, they’d also need to create the structures through which they would provide food ans aid.

Here’s another question I hear with some frequency: What about the separation of church and state?
Doesn’t apply. That separation means our government cannot privilege one religion over another. We cannot create an official religion of the state.
There are no restrictions on people speaking to their members of Congress just because they are motivated by their faith in Jesus.

Why write a letter asking our Senators to create a circle of protection around our vital domestic nutrition programs or sign a petition urging Congress not to decimate SNAP?
The biblical witness is clear: caring for the hungry and poor is God’s desire for us.
Our Methodist tradition is bold: we advocate with and for people in need.
Our experience is encouraging: letters make a difference.
The facts are in: domestic nutrition programs work.

We are called to protect hungry and vulnerable people. People like Alli & André need our voice. We are called to speak on their behalf.

Will Congress hear from you?

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