All week long I have been trying to write my reflections on hunger, and unlike many articles I write, this time I have been having an extremely difficult time. Usually writing about hunger is easy. I have a lot of personal knowledge of hunger due to the medical condition of my youth. So I always feel a need to help since most hunger is as easy to cure as getting nutritious food to where it needs to be.
Though in our country, where there is seemingly so much, Hunger is not a priority even though globally, it is one of the largest killers of children worldwide. In fact, according to Bread for the World, one child dies every 5 SECONDS due to hunger, not to mention the learning and physical disabilities that result from chronic malnutrition. This fact is often lost, since hunger is rarely part of the national discourse. Many years ago, to heighten the visibility, churches banded together do the CROP walk, a sign of solidarity with people who have to walk long distances for basic needs.
So on Sunday we gathered at the City Hall to have our walk to raise awareness for hunger. As I participated in the walk, we talked and strolled and had a pretty good time. There were even delicious homemade cookies halfway through, but I wonder the impact. Across the entire Bay Area, from Napa to San Jose, every region held their CROP walk though if it hit the news, it was buried. Then again, we often do not recognize hunger as a real need.
Instead, we focus on things like the terrorist bombing in Boston. While, yes, this is an important story, and something we need to be aware of, we often forget that acts of terrorism every year globally claim few lives and when compared to those who die of hunger-related deaths are not statistically quantifiable. Though it makes for good news and ratings, however, some sociologists and historians are beginning to publish studies and research arguing that the overabundance of attention we give to acts of terrorism breads more terrorism.
I could not help but be struck by how this suspect looked; it was as if he could have been one of my friends when I was 19. I can say without any hesitation that his actions were pure evil (and, by the way, would be seen that way too within the teachings of Islam), but is he? I began to wonder, since he is a child of God, how could he do this and why?
Though I was troubled that before finding out the whole story, we already are calling for the death penalty (something, by the way, for a religiously motivated person is a welcome gift, think Jonestown, Waco, Suicide bombers). Before seeking understanding we jump to judgment. Moreover, the time and money that will ultimately be spent on this whole thing are really going to be amazing. In the end, what difference is it going to make, other than to possibly make us “feel more secure.” But if we look into the statistics, that is not a realistic result.
Way before any act like the bombing starts we can see a pattern of rejection, judgment, bullying, etc. as part of the suspects' lives. Being friends with many minority groups, particularly Muslims and African Americans, the persecution they face (while some try to laugh it off) can be quite intense, especially since they have to justify themselves constantly because of harassment of various types. I find this most difficult when I hear many “Christian” politicians talk and wonder to myself where is the connection to the love and Justice that Jesus Christ has taught.
Unfortunately, from the moment that Christianity was coopted to become a Militaristic movement (The Battle of Milvian Bridge), we have used strength to concur and force the results we want. Historically, this is problematic because we know that when you have power and are not wise, those without power will resort to “terrorist” means because they feel there is no other choice. This was true even in Christ’s time, though the tools of terrorism were not as deadly! One of the things that we see in the political message of Christ is his call for Justice and love as opposed to judgment and law, creating a peaceful approach to Christian social order.
This is where hunger and terrorism meet, both problems are things that we can stop if we really want to by acting justly and lovingly. On of my favorite verses for the whole of the Bible is “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” just think, how our priorities would be different if everyone followed this principle.
So when I think of hunger, even stopping terrorism, I realize that while I can never control or directly change others, I can spread and teach a message of grace and love. And even if my actions cannot or are not seen by others all the time, I can hope and pray that my impact will help others, and together we can really change the whole world and feed Christ’s sheep in all the ways in which they need to be fed.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen