Tag Archives: poverty

40 Days of Moral Action launches a multi-year movement

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival begins a Season of Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action to launch a multi-year movement to address the intersecting issues of systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy/militarism, ecological devastation, and the distorted moral narrative. Here’s a graphic that provides an overview. Links follow.

PoorPeople'sCampaign

Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Kairos: The Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
Repairers of the Breach
Poor People’s Campaign Facebook Page
New York State Poor People’s Campaign

 

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In This Place

This is the manuscript I took into the pulpit at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church today. The preached sermon varied from the manuscript in some instances as the preaching event took place.

People often ask if I miss serving as a pastor in a congregation. I reply that I miss the community, the shared life. But I feel called to my work at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. I make mistakes; challenges and frustrations arise, but I believe I am where God has called me.

And then come those Sundays when I have the privilege to take part in the sacrament of baptism. And in the joy and wonder of the moment, I feel a tug to parish ministry.

Because I knew I would have that privilege this morning, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about children. Of course along with the filled expectation of the sacrament, this week has also brought tragedy and sorrow and hope.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Israeli children who listen for sirens and take refugee in bomb shelters.
Palestinian children killed upon a beach, under the crushing weight of collapsed homes, on the streets of Gaza.
Israeli and Palestinian children bound together in the violent spiral, not of their making, of occupation and resistance.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Nigerian girls abducted from schools and homes, wrenched from their families, held by a rebel group.
Children of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains who huddle in caves as bombs dropped by the government rain around them.
South Sudanese children whose stomachs knot from hunger and malnutrition that threaten their lives.
Syrian children caught in a chaotic cross fire.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children forced to carry guns larger than they are tall in combat.
Children who breathe air-filled with dust and sometimes toxic gases in mines for gold.
Children used, violated, and exploited.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children fleeing rape and gang recruitment and violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and parts of Guatemala who make their way to the United States to be placed in detention centers where they may experience cramped cells without enough food, beds, toilets or showers.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children who lost a parent when a plane went down over the eastern Ukraine.
Children with AIDS or whose parents have AIDS whose lives will be affected by the loss of the researchers and scientists on that plane.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children in our country whose lives are constricted and diminished by racism.
Children bullied because of their sexual orientation.
Children who know violence in their homes, their schools, and their communities.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

New babies, long-awaited, welcomed, cherished.
Children who receive encouragement, affection, support, and nurture.
Children who enjoy life, bring delight to friends, and share love with family members.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have wept.
Sweet tears of joy and grace.
Hot, bitter tears of grief and pain and anger.
Purging, cleansing tears that have renewed my commitment.

And I have prayed.
For the circumstances that wound children.
For the children. By name when possible.

Prayer opens me to God.

Prayer also opens me to the children and circumstances for which I pray. It binds me to the children be they in Damascus or Detroit. It calls me to commit to act on behalf of the children for whom I pray.

Prayer makes and nurtures the relationships, key to pursuing justice. And prayer for justice and wholeness in one setting draws me out of myself to experience anew the connections between all forms of injustice. It reminds me of the interdependence of people and life. It transforms me as it leads me to pray—and then act—more broadly than I would have otherwise done.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have advocated with government officials and others who are in positions to act to reshape realities for children.
And I have made contributions to groups caring for children in the United States and abroad.
And I have invited and challenged my family and friends to learn and pray and act.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have come to this place, this sanctuary, this congregation.

I come to stand in community. For community is essential to confront the realities of the world. Only together can we stand against the forces that violate children; alone we cannot stand.

I come to sing songs, break bread, share the cup.

I come to celebrate with a family as they present their children for baptism. Affirming their faith in Jesus Christ in a world broken, fearful, and frightening. Proclaiming hope. Sharing love.

I come to remember the grace of God in Jesus Christ. In ways that may surprise us, frighten us, awe us, God is at work. Here. Now. In this community.

When I experience the presence of God, I join Jacob in his affirmation of wonder and faith: “Surely God is in this place — and I did not know it!”

And knowing that God is in this place, reminds me, fills me with hope that God in Jesus Christ is in all places. Even in places where heartache and horror seem strong; even in places where violations occur; even in places where people and relationships are most badly broken and fear and wrong seems strongest, God is at work.

In this place, I am reminded that God is at work in all places. And that sustains and challenges me to look for how God is at work and, as the Holy Spirit gives me grace, to join in that work.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Faith in God in Christ have put them there.

And in this place, God invites us all to join in caring for the children. The children of this congregation. The children of this community. All the children, all God’s children of the world. May we hear and respond.

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SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: a friend reflects

snap_logoAmong my friends who participated in the PC(USA) SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge, Rebecca Barnes wrote some compelling reflections. Here are a few quotes to encourage you to read and ponder her material:

Reflections preparing for the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge next week

Another worry comes to me: What if I want to offer to take food to someone sick or grieving that week? And it hits me: it is a privilege to have food to be generous with. To tell church to keep me on the list of people to call, that is a privilege. I have enough money and resources to be a helper (even as I have been one of the helped). What would it feel like if I could only ever assume the role of “the helped?” Ouch.

First day of the Food Stamp Challenge

7) I have a church that is open, that I’ve been embraced in all my life, and frequently has hot coffee, after church meals, and Sunday School snacks for kids, no questions asked… Not sure what we would do without a community (other than be hungrier, and lonelier.)

Is Your Hunger Satiated?

What could create not only compassion and empathy, but justice, for those living in poverty? What would really change those with power to change this system? Would personal experience, would stories from others, would public policy advocacy, would civil disobedience? What would it take for our nation to be outraged—and to refuse to let it happen—when Congress cuts $40 billion from SNAP benefits? When will we make sure that our insatiable hunger for justice is only satisfied with: justice for all?

Serving up Privilege

1)   The Food Stamp Challenge isn’t a game. It’s not winnable. It shouldn’t be used, by those of us with full cupboards and freezers and the possibility to go “back to normal” tomorrow, to congratulate ourselves even if we can possibly eek through the week. Being on a SNAP benefit food budget is challenging, absolutely. But the goal is not to see if I can get enough to eat this week. The Challenge is actually to advocate for the benefits available to people in our nation. The Challenge is to transform my own heart and mind enough and hope that I can then use my own power and privilege and experience to change myself. To re-invigorate my advocacy. And maybe, somehow, affect the systems of economic injustice because I will keep trying with my words, my vote, and my privilege, to get the message across: there is something really wrong with the income disparity, wage inequality, lack of access to food, and massive economic injustice in our nation and it must change.

The Advent of Hunger?

May the God we prepare to welcome on Christmas morning, a God who was born poor, be a God who convicts us of the need to act and advocate and subvert systems that prevent people from experiencing God’s love lived out in human form. May God guide us as we seek to strengthen local food economies, to create resilient communities, to empower those in need, and to demand justice in our food policies.

Food Stamps and the Environment? Note: Rebecca is the Associate for Environmental Ministries at the PC(USA)

The thing is, a ruined earth is both an “equal opportunity” destroyer for humanity and it strikes the poor, hungry, and marginalized most heavily. Think of any natural or environmental disaster.

Thanks Rebecca for your words and your witness!

See you along the Trail.

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SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: an other view

snap_logoI believe that part of the point of the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge is to challenge our thinking and to start conversations. This happened to me as I participated in the challenge during the week of November 17. I talked to a number of people about the challenge, the SNAP program, and working to end poverty. I had Twitter exchanges including one with Meagan Dosher Hansen who reminded me of the importance of access to fresh and local food and an exchange with Leanne Masters who raised the obvious and important question of “Why aren’t the lived experiences of others enough to foster conversation?” I continue to ponder that question. I also read a number of blogs and some articles. These included material from people who participated in the challenge and people who did not; people who supported participating in the challenge and people who did not.

Sharon Astyk wrote a post that stays with me as well: Why I Won’t Do the Food Stamp Challenge. The experience of two of her former foster sons who lived on food stamps for their family’s primary source of income informs her writing. She observes:

I know for a fact that the reality of living on food stamps is rather different than making a week or a month long shift.

She notes the compound challenges that people who depend on food stamps face: such as the stamps not lasting until the end of the month and the deficit that creates as the next month begins and what food stamps do not purchase and what one has to do to obtain some of those items: “tampons, soap, shoes, toilet paper, cleaning fluid, roach killer, school supplies”.

She also highlights the privileges, advantages, and resources that those who choose to take the challenge have. I had all these and more:

  • A kitchen
  • Spices and seasonings to make food palatable (although some who take the challenge do so without using what is on hand, the reality is that we have many things on hand already)
  • A bathroom full of supplies
  • Ways to cover other expenses and emergencies
  • A very different starting point – as Ms. Astyk points I, I did not start with “a week or two of hunger, depression and misery behind [me] in which there was not food”
  • Access to free coffee at work and in meetings
  • Friends who had the resources to buy me snacks or drinks (I did decline all but one cup of coffee at a cold football game but my reality is that I have friends who can easily help me without stretching their resources and I have the means to attend a football game)

Ms Astyk rightly identifies other limits of the challenge:

Doing the food stamp diet for a week or a month won’t give you a sense of how depressing, humiliating, exhausting and frustrating it is to be poor in our society.  It won’t let you experience the ways poor diet and the grinding suffering of poverty degrade your health and your energy to keep going.    It won’t give you a sense of what it is like to live on food stamps month after month, what it is like to be ashamed of yourself and your inability to give your children and family what they need.  It won’t let you experience what it is like to feel that you can never catch up, so what’s the point of even trying?

She concludes:

Not everyone who receives food stamps starts as far back as my kids do – but the truth is for the one in four children in America who depends on food stamps for their family’s basic food security, the conversations we are having about cutting the food stamp budget, about the farm bill and about poverty don’t even begin to cover critical ground.

Doing the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge opened me to voices and questions and conversations in new ways. I am grateful for that. But I recognize that there are many voices I need to hear, the questions still remain, and the conversations I had only opened the topics of providing food security and ending poverty. I will have to go deeper. We all will have to go deeper. May we do so. May I do so.

See you along the Trail.

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SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge Day 2

snap_logoFive emerging random observations that need further reflection after two days:

1. I have had a number of conversation online and in person about the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge. I think that is part of the point. A big part of the point. Friends and colleagues have affirmed the challenge and raised serious questions about the challenge. We also talk about hunger and poverty and what we can do to end them. We need to have those conversations more deliberately and to act on the ideas we have.

2. My colleague J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Washington Office notes that:

We engage the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge as Presbyterians to claim the biblical truth that God has given us enough. Our waste and greed is the source of scarcity for many in our nation and world.

I agree with that. But I also know that I need to do a better job – when I cut my waste and my usage – of directing those resources to help others and challenge the existing system. I have work to do.

3. Over these first two days, I have found it easier to avoid overeating by focusing on the amount I have to spend and the reality of my brothers and sisters who face even greater challenges daily than I do when I focus on the number of calories I am eating. Not sure what that means but I do need to ponder how it might into future actions and self-care.

4. I sent emails to my Representative and Senators today telling them that I am on the challenge and asking what they are doing and what more they plan to do to end poverty and hunger. However they respond, I plan to ask further questions.

5. Three ideas are emerging about follow up actions. One is to decrease my use of meat and eat lighter for the sake of the planet and to share the enough that God has given. I ordered a vegetarian cookbook a few moments ago. A second is to identify an amount to spend each week and stick to that amount. The third is to become more creative in my food purchase – to use farmers’ markets and locally grown foods. Given where I am starting on that one, it won’t be hard to make progress.

What do you think? Whether you are on the challenge or not, what do you think?

See you along the Trail.

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SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge: the menu

snap_logoThat’s right. The menu. One menu for the seven days.

Two major factors contribute to this. First, I am not terribly creative in the kitchen. Second, it made shopping easier.

That said, here is the menu:

Breakfast

  • One egg
  • Three slices of turkey bacon
  • An English muffin (for 6 days – a decision lies ahead on Saturday)

Lunch

  • Two peanut butter sandwiches

Dinner

  • About three ounces of ground turkey (one 20 ounce package divided into seven servings)
  • 1/2 cup of black beans
  • One slice of American cheese
  • 2/3 of a cup of low sodium spicy V-8

That will leave me five eggs and 9 slices of cheese to add over the week.

Water will be the beverage – beyond the V-8

This is not a balanced diet. I know that. I recognize many of the issues with it.

The amount of money to spend imposes limits, but I could also consider nutritional factors more carefully. That I do not have to do so for a week is yet another privilege.

See you along the Trail.

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SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge day 1: privilege

snap_logoI recognize that the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge is an exercise. In no way does it truly mirror the experience of my sisters and brothers for whom poverty is a daily reality.

Hopefully it may make me a little more aware of that reality. It may lead to conversations about why people are poor. It may result in reflections on the folly of cutting SNAP benefits, further shredding the safety net. It may encourage advocacy to address the cuts.

But I have privileges that most people who use food stamps regularly do not have. I mentioned several of them in my first post on the Challenge. Even as I wrote those words, I knew that I would encounter other privileges during the course of this week.

I had not expected to do so by 9:10 AM on the Challenge’s first day.

I was scheduled to preach at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone. This involved taking the 1 Train to Penn Station and then taking the Long Island Railroad to the Murray Hill Station.  Not everyone could afford to do that, I realized before the day began. That was not the privilege that surprised me.

I played around on the computer (which not everyone has) for too long and found myself running late. I quickly chose to take a cab.  I could do that because I have the financial resources to do so – resources that others do not have.

That’s not really I learning. I knew that people with limited incomes face challenges that I do not. It’s a reminder of something I already know. And it’s

There will be more.

See you along the Trail.

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