Politicis

A Mandate for Action

The price of everything has gone up, from fertilizer to gasoline. People in India and China are demanding a better kind of food, including meat, which means that it takes more grain to feed the populations in those countries. The crop yield is down in Africa. There are droughts going on, especially in Australia. On top of that is the cost of energy and the cost of ethanol. It’s all come together, in a very dangerous way, and as a result we’ve got a major problem here. Wheat is at a 28-year high. Rice used to be $300 a metric ton, but lately it’s well over $1,000.

I’ve traveled to places around the world, and I’ve seen people rioting and starving. At a time when we need more aid, Congress is cutting back, including funds for the McGovern-Dole program [the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program was reduced from $840 million to $84 million in the 2008 Farm Bill]. The McGovern-Dole program in the short term is very important because that is emergency food aid. It goes to a lot of school feeding programs. That needs to be resurrected, but we also need to do a much better job of getting that food out to some of these nations that are facing riots.

Addressing the crisis gets back to political and spiritual will. World leaders from the United Nations, along with our own president, Prime Minister [Gordon] Brown from England, and some others, will have to get together in a pledging conference, and get serious about what’s going on. They can’t just talk about cutting in half the number of hungry people by the year 2015, because we’re going to miss that. We’re not even coming close. We need to address the issue now—not in 2015, but right now. As they said under President Roosevelt, people don’t eat in the “long run,” they eat now.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2008
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Ron Sider's The Scandal of Evangelical Politics

Tragically, Christian political activity today is a disaster. Christ­ians embrace contradictory positions on almost every political issue. When they join the political fray, they often succumb to dishonesty and corruption. Even when they endorse good goals, they too often promote their political agenda in foolish ways that frighten non-Christians, thus making it more difficult or nearly impossible to achieve important political goals.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that many Christians, especially evangelical Christians, have not thought carefully about how to do politics in a wise, biblically grounded way.

[This] contrasts sharply with what other Christian traditions, especially Catholics, have done. Roman Catholics benefit from over a century of papal encyclicals that have carefully developed and articulated a Catholic ap­proach to public life. Main­line Protes­tants—both through church declarations and the work of brilliant individuals like Rein­hold Nie­buhr—have also de­veloped a substantial collection of careful thought on politics. The evangelical community has simply failed to develop anything comparable.

It is through politics that country after country has come to enjoy democracy. It is through politics that nation after nation has stopped jailing and killing “heretics”—thousands of my ancestors in the 16th century were burned at the stake or drowned in the rivers by fellow Protestants who disagreed with our belief that the church should be separate from the state. It took centuries, but eventually more and more politicians in more and more countries decided that religious freedom for everyone is a necessary mark of a just political order. It is through politics that we develop laws that either restrict or permit abortion, allow or forbid “gay marriage,” protect or destroy the environment. Politics is simply too important to ignore.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2008
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