Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reading the news with Isaiah

"Is this not the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard...

...if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light arise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
~Isaiah 58:6-8, 10

Here is a favorite Biblical theme of my generation: the burden of God that structural injustice be done away with, and personal compassion for the poor and oppressed take its place. When followers of God play a part in making these things happen, we are effective in providing glimpses of the happily-ever-after. As Americans, we are blessed with a political structure concerned with the rights of each person and so are not always exposed directly to structural injustice. We have much freedom to exercise personal compassion in a capitalist system. And believers in Christ have responded and are responding to poverty and oppression in ways that reflect the love and concern of a compassionate God. Among the untouchable castes in India, in the dark world of sex trafficing in the U.S. and abroad, and in the midst of the AIDS crisis that grips whole regions of the world.
An issue that has gotten big press in the past year has been the world food crisis, as people in places like Haiti and Ethiopia have become unable to get basic food staples due to rising food prices worldwide combined with regional crop failures or political turmoil. The oil and food prices that caused Americans the inconveniences of having to take shorter vacations, eat out less, and maybe buy fewer ipods caused men to go down to one meal a day and women and children to even less in many parts of the world. Direct giving to one of the dozens of Christian organizations working on these problems should be an automatic response for believers blessed with affluence. Even if it seems that there's nothing to spare in our own tightened budgets, we could do something as simple as eating rice for a week (like many of our brothers and sisters do on a regular basis) and appropriating the rest of our normally budgeted grocery money to help churches in underdeveloped countries feed their poor.
But what about structures and policies that exacerbate the problem? In an election year, how do we look for policies that help the global poor? There is a strong consensus among international agencies that agricultural subsidies in the Western world hurt farmers and consumers in developing countries. The most prominent example of this recently has been ethanol subsidies. Because the U.S. chose to subsidize corn crops for ethanol, grain prices became linked with fuel prices, and as fuel prices went up, so did food prices. For the sake of U.S. energy independence and dubious claims of environmental benefit, we enacted policies that hurt the poor.
As President Bush pushed for increased levels of food aid in response to the crisis, another little problem arises: U.S. laws require that any food aid sent overseas be U.S.-grown crops. This means the food-aid dollars don't go nearly as far because of transportation costs. Bush asked for a portion of the food aid to be in cash, but congress did not approve this.
Add this to the agricultural subsidies that the U.S. and Western European nations have been giving for years that raise food prices andmake it harder for farmers in developing countries to export cash crops to the Western world, and we have something that requires a thoughtful response on our part. Has our nationalism gotten in the way of our concern for the poor? Are we sacrificing the emaciated bodies of starving children on the altar of fuel independence and "stopping climate change"? Are we tilting the economic playing field in favor of American farmers at the cost of pricing the worldwide poor out of the market for the necessities of daily life? I hesitate to recommend specific policies beause politics and economics are so complicated and interrelated, but this is one that seems pretty clear. Humans, created in God's image, are a higher concern than national security (if you're a political conservative) or the potentialities of global climate change (if you're a political liberal). Nationalistic economic selfishness must give way to structures that do not make life more difficult for the poor. Where do your candidates stand on subsidies?

5 comments:

faithbornfromdoubt said...

all of a sudden I'm developing a better opinion of Bush... don't do that to me Nate... all I have in common with liberals is my dislike of him... its all I have .....

Seriously though, thanks for the reminder.

belvinboys said...

Have you considered that maybe the nations that are having trouble are having it for a reason? We can give all we can, as individuals, and as a nation, but if the receiving nation is corrupt, the help is limited.

There are other more important issues in this election.

A recent Barna Group study says that Christians who are in their 20's and 30's are more likely to vote for him.

Why? They say they believe he will do a better job restoring America's reputation, better handle on the economy and they agree with him on the war in Iraq.

May I make a personal appeal to you from a biblical and spiritual perspective?

If you are in your 20's and even 30's, you are in the process or setting your life's priorities--personally, professionally and spiritually.

David Barton, America's foremost Christian historian, has written an article titled, "Election 2008: Keeping First things First." It is posted on this website. It is not political, it is spiritual.

He reminds us that Proverbs teaches that, "Righteousness exalts a nation," so it would follow that advancing the issues that advance national righteousness must be a primary concern for biblical Christians.

This election must have a "national" (others) emphasis, not just a personal one.

If you believe the Bible, and I know you do, these things matter.

Barton shows how God gave a comprehensive system of 613 laws delivered through Moses, that were important to Him. God has also prioritized his issues.

The four highest ranking, non-negotiable issues are, 1. Judicial Appointments; 2. Abortion and Inalienable Rights; 3. Homosexuality and the Moral Law; 4. Public Religious Acknowledgements.

There are many other issues that God considers important such as personal wealth, a national economy, the environment, etc. However, the four most important issues are foundational to personal success and national success. Because America was built with this priority in mind, it is the most prosperous nation in human history.

Here's how it works:

Jesus taught, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it's own things." (v.34).

He is not teaching that we should abandon responsibility, rather understand that there is a process. Do not be overcome with fear. Keep your priorities straight.

Obama fails on every one of God's four priorities, if you look at it from a biblical point of view.

The economic crises has been used to drive fear among Americans and is being used as a political tool to convince people that if we make a radial change things will get better.

Certainly we need capable leadership. No question. But no one has the answers.

Jesus teaches that if we put first things first, these other things will follow.

Whatever McCain is or is not, I can assure you I know personally that he will appoint Justices who will honor the Constitution and the laws that have made our country great. He will stand against abortion. He believes life begins at conception. He believes in the sanctity of biblical marriage. One man, one woman. He believes in freedom to publicly express our religious beliefs. I know this because he has personally told me he believes these things and will stand for them as President.

"Let not your heart be troubled."

If you are considering a vote for Obama, or not voting as a protest because you supported someone else, I strongly urge you to reconsider. Much hangs in the balance.

There is a chilling statement in the Old Testament directed at God's people. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children," Hosea 4:6.

Let's get this right. Seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness and the economy, the culture, and the future will be added to you and will be blessed.

_________________
Gary Randall
President
Faith & Freedom

unendingmercies said...

Brother,
I appreciate the reminders. I am glad that some in this day are genuinely concerned for the impoverished and oppressed. The major prophets address this injustice a lot, don't they?
Did I tell you that Heather has been researching the sex trafficking atrocities in southeast Asia? She was heartbroken and angry by what she read...

faithbornfromdoubt said...

belvinboys/Gary,

As a 24 year old Christian who voted for McCain, reads his Bible, and thinks critically about these things, let me give you some advice about trying to persuade people like me to vote for your guy.
1) Don't cut and paste some reply!
2) Interact with what someone says instead of just ignoring everything he said to get to your main points.
3) Don't rape the Bible by taking it out of context over and over.

Thanks
Matt R

theone withabeard said...

Dear belvinboys:
If you google "ethanol subsidies," the only topic I explicitly talked about policy on,you will see a number of results for John McCain opposing ethanol subsidies...I'm not sure why I'm accused of being an Obama supporter.
I know David Barton wants us to be a Christian nation. I've read history about what "Christian" nations have done in history, (the inquisition, the crusades, the wars between protestants and catholics) and I'd rather not be part of one. I long to see a vibrant church in North America that is a blessing to the church in the rest of the world. That is the point of my post.