In the tradition of the church, the season of Lent was observed through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These 40 days were a period when one's life was more deeply centered in God, when one's desires were restrained, and when one's compassion for the poor was deepened. Reviving those ancient practices within today's context makes spiritual and practical sense.
The present budget debate -- whether the government shuts down or not -- has very real potential to produce cuts which will sharply deepen hunger and poverty for millions without having any meaningful effect on the deficit. In all my time, first as a staff member for a senator in the 1970s, and then following public policy regarding hunger and poverty as a concerned Christian, I've never seen anything as drastic, damaging, and unjustified as the proposed cuts in these areas.
I celebrate the way many congregations, including those in the Reformed Church in America, are deeply engaged in meeting the needs of the hungry in their communities. But let's remember this fact, shared by David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World: Of all the food provided to meet the nutritional needs of those threatened with hunger, 94 percent comes from the government, and 6 percent from private charity. Even modest reductions in government programs will quickly overshadow all the good done by church and private groups.
So I'm joining the hunger fast for a moral budget. I'll pray in focused ways and forgo a meal each day. That's very modest. But at least I'll be reminded daily of those whose hunger will become more severe through no fault or choice of their own, but by the decisions of those holding public office. And, I will pray for them as well.
Wes Granberg-Michaelson is General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America.