7 December 2013
Louisville International Airport
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Public Witness invites us to write to our Members of Congress now and tell them that you support a comprehensive, fair, faithful Farm Bill.
As the year draws to a close, Congress has many must-pass items left on its plate. Perhaps most pressing are the budget and the Farm Bill. The House is scheduled to adjourn for the year next Friday, Dec. 13, but the Senate did not even return from Thanksgiving recess until next Monday, Dec. 6. This leaves one week for them to wrap up the first session of the 113th Congress.
Of course, that it not to say that conversations are not ongoing. Indeed, bicameral conference committees on both issues are in the midst of delicate and intense negotiations. Leaving aside the question of the budget for now, for after all, Congress does have a few weeks into the New Year to come to agreement before the next manufactured fiscal crisis, the focus of the faith community has been on the Farm Bill.
Our nation’s food and farm policies, as embodied in the Farm Bill, impact people and communities from rural America to big cities to developing countries. In the Farm bill are provisions that authorize SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps), international food aid, conservation programs, initiatives that support new and minority farmers and ranchers, rural development programs, sustainable energy research, farm subsidies, crop insurance, just to name the most famous. In all, the Farm Bill is a mixed bag of policies, some of which promote a more just food system and some that trap us in a vicious cycle of subsidized commodities and under-nutrition. Nevertheless, the Farm Bill is must-pass, if for no other reason than that it authorizes SNAP and promotes environmentally sustainable practices on working farmlands.
In the current budget climate, which incorrectly functions from an assumption of scarcity, the Farm Bill’s limited resources must be effectively targeted where need is greatest. And people are hungry –- the U.S. and around the world. Programs and policies that curb hunger and malnutrition, support vibrant agricultural economies in rural communities, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources must be prioritized. At the same time, we should be shifting away from investment in programs that subsidize factory farms and promote major commodities as the most viable crops for food and fuel.
Earlier in the year, serious threats were made to the funding of SNAP and on Nov. 1st , SNAP benefits were cut as a 2009 funding increase ran out. Far from there being room to cut SNAP, most SNAP beneficiaries find that their benefits run out by the third or fourth week of the month and turn to private charity to fill gap. If anything, we need to invest more in Food Stamp benefits. SNAP is designed as a counter-cyclical program that expands to meet needs when the economy is bad and people lose income and become eligible. When the jobs outlook and economy improve, it contracts as participants cycle off the program.
So, Congress must reauthorize the SNAP program without the proposed cuts. There is simply no way to achieve significant cuts without affecting benefits and nutrition education programs. Write today to your members of Congress.
To read more about the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness’ advocacy around the Farm Bill and SNAP, visit their blog.
See you along the Trail.
Farewell, Mr. Mandela,
We never met. I never laid eyes on you in person.
But I saw and heard you on television. I read words about you. And I read your words.
steadfast pursuit of justice
enduring commitment to the people – all the people – of South Africa
understanding of the possibilities opened by forgiveness
willingness to look beyond what is to what could be
touched and awed and inspired me
and countless others.
I give thanks for you,
for your life, and
for your work.
I give thanks that,
though half a world lay between us
we shared life on this
little brown, green, blue rock.
I pray for your family
for you friends and colleagues
for the people of South Africa
for weavers of dreams
and workers for justice
who grieve at your death.
May we know comfort as we mourn.
May we have strength to join you in the struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity for all God’s children.
May we experience your presence accompanying us in that struggle.
Farewell, Mr. Mandela, farewell.
Worship at a recent staff retreat included the poem “More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Trees Are the Words of the Lord” by Mary Oliver. This poem appears in her book Thirst.
It explores themes of worship and nature and church and creation. Filled with rich, surprising images, the words and structure give much to ponder.
Instead I went back to the woods where not a single tree turned its face away.
And I wonder. When have I turned my face away? Who are the people, my brothers and sisters, from whom I have turned my face away? Why have I turned my face away? What does it say about me that I turn my face away? How can I learn to be like a tree and not turn my face away?
And I wonder. When has the church turned its face away? When have members of a congregation, some, a few, many, all, turned their faces away? Who are the people, God’s beloved children, from whom the church and congregations turn away? What does it say about the church, about a congregation, that faces turn away? How can the church learn to be like a tree? How can a congregation learn to be like the woods?
I know, to my sorrow and shame, I know some of the times I have turned my face away. I know some of the people from whom I have turned away. I understand in some situations; in others it is not so clear why I turned away. I know some of the times that the church, and members of a congregation, have turned away.
But I don’t know all the times.
So I pray that I may be aware of my face and never turn my face away from my sisters and brothers; that I may have the grace to know when I turn my face away, because I will; that when I turn my face away, I may have the courage to repent and turn my face back to my brothers and sisters.
So I pray that I may be aware of when the church turns its face away; that I may be aware of when a congregation turns its face away; that I may have the grace and courage to work with the church and with congregations to repent and turn ts face back to my brothers and sisters.
So I pray let us be the woods let me be a tree. Amen.
See you along the Trail.