Friday, April 21, 2006

The Politics of Bread

Tuesday morning was the 11th annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast at the Anatole. John Edwards spoke powerfully about the problem of poverty in our country, but the phrase that really grabbed my attention was spoken by Gerald Britt, Executive Director of Central Dallas Ministries, as he introduced Eddie Bernice Johnson. Here is an excerpt from his remarks...

And so, just as there is a politics of infrastructure, or public safety, or public education, there is a politics of bread.

The number of households which suffered from food insecurity increased by nearly one million from 2003-2004. Texas leads the nation in the percentage of households which experience food insecurity at 16%.

Any serious conversation in a city like Dallas about those among us, who daily face the issues of food insecurity and food inadequacy, dare not be confined to individual charity and institutional good will.

In a city like ours, people among us who go daily without healthy and nourishing food, because they don’t make enough money, or live in the wrong neighborhood, is a sad commentary on our collective priorities and ambitions.

While many of us seek to excuse ourselves from the conversation by pointing out the social pathologies of those whom we classify as “poor,” I would remind you that we are reminded daily of the pathologies of those who have sought safe haven in the suburbs. The purposelessness, self-destructiveness, the histories and habits of sin, the nihilism and materialism that characterize those of us who are middle class, leave us no room to point fingers.

The desperations of the poor and the prosperous, don’t teach us that any of us are better than one another, they teach us that we need one another.

The fact is, in a city like Dallas, there are far too many churches, far too many non-profits, far too many programs for anyone to go hungry because they don’t have access to healthy and nutritional food choices.

...But I will also make you another commitment. We will keep on working on the politics of bread.

It’s not enough to salve our corporate, theological, or electoral consciences by quoting Jesus, when He says, “The poor you will have with you always.”

We will continue to provide the pantry, AND train our neighbors for living wage jobs; we will feed the children AND work on fit and affordable housing; we will help those who are providing warm hot meals AND we will make health care accessible, AND we will work with every segment of and system in our society to bring people from dependency to the dignity of self-sufficiency, because it is what is right and just. And because that which is owed in justice, should never be given in charity.

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