First, four quotes.
“We’ve got rising food prices here in the United States. My top priority is making sure that people are able to get enough to eat.” Senator Obama [Meet The Press, 5/4/08]
When he was a child, Barack Obama’s mother briefly received food stamps to put food on the table when she needed help. As a result, Barack Obama understands firsthand that federal nutrition and food assistance programs play a key role in minimizing the ill-effects of poverty and improving the diets of low-income working families, especially children. Barack Obama will strengthen and expand nutrition assistance programs and commit to ending childhood hunger by 2015.
Expand to Meet Military Needs on the Ground: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers and the Marines by 27,000 troops. Increasing our end strength will help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease the strain on military families.
Preserve Global Reach in the Air: We must preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces. We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, to essential systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft, which provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power.
Maintain Power Projection at Sea: We must recapitalize our naval forces, replacing aging ships and modernizing existing platforms, while adapting them to the 21st century. Obama and Biden will add to the Maritime Pre-Positioning Force Squadrons to support operations ashore and invest in smaller, more capable ships, providing the agility to operate close to shore and the reach to rapidly deploy Marines to global crises.
…Reducing our troop presence in Iraq will apply real pressure on the Iraqi government to make necessary political accommodations, while enabling us to address other challenges, like Afghanistan.
From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “A Time to Break the Silence” speech:
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
Senator Obama has become the first candidate for president in a good long while to roll out anything remotely approaching an anti-hunger agenda. It is a vague, short document compared to his war issues document, but it is something.
This is, in many ways, leverage against the wasting of money on the implements of murder. Maybe not the strongest leverage in the U.S. political environment, but leverage nonetheless. An excellent article (hat tip Inhabitatio Dei) I read recently quotes Yoder (rapidly becoming one of my favorite Christian writers):
If the ruler claims to be my benefactor, and he always does, then that claim provides me as his subject with the language I can use to call him to be more humane in his ways of governing me and my neighbors. The language of his moral claim is not the language of my discipleship, nor the standards of his decency usually to be indentified with those of my servanthood. Yet I am quite free to use his language to reach him.32
Simply put, the man said “My top priority is making sure that people are able to get enough to eat,” on national television. Those of us who believe Christ meant what he said, both about violence and justice for the poor, now have a promise we can attempt to make him live up to if, as polls seem to indicate will likely be the case, he becomes president. We can measure every plus-up and cut to the federal budget by these words and make sure our loved ones know our assessment of how well this rhetoric matches reality. We can, simply put, hold him accountable for prioritizing hunger abatement.
The dangers, of course, are numerous, but two overshadow them all: the war in Iraq, which he will be pushed, hard, to end “responsibly”, which in my view is code for “as slowly as humanly possible”; the war in Afghanistan, which he will be pushed, hard, to escalate; and the economic/credit meltdowns, the bailout for which will equal at least our annual defense budget. Just as Dr. King saw during the Vietnam War, the Pentagon and other money-sinks have a peculiar way of dismantling funding streams that don’t lead to violence, and we must be constantly vigilant and vocal when it comes to attacks on the anti-hunger agenda in the name of multifarious crises. Yes, times are tough, and they will get tougher — all the more need for an anti-hunger agenda, and all the more need to slash defense spending.
(By the way, the above-referenced article does a good job of articulating exactly where I stand with politics and faith. Take a read; it’s worth it.)
Obama’s anti-hunger agenda is a tenuous ray of light. Hold him accountable, and help fight the forces that will want to snuff it out.
But, more than that, it will be important to not only call our society to feed its hungry, but to embody the kingdom by feeding the hungry ourselves as Christians. We cannot wait for any administration to take care of our brothers and sisters for us.
If your local congregation lacks a good hunger ministry, you might consider linking up with Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest) or any of the anti-hunger/poverty organizations listed on their website.
Following Christ means much more than calling for rulers to be more compassionate and just; it means in part that we must embody those qualities now, both to demonstrate to the world that another world is possible and to begin the hard task of building it now, with God’s help.