Subtitle: Change the Systems!
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Strength to Love
The natural first response to people going hungry is to offer them food. However, as we noted yesterday, hunger is a massive issue. We also need to keep in mind the bigger picture – changing the systems is also needed.
If you had a payday lender nearby gouging very poor people with 200% interest rates, you might angrily picket the store to try to get them to close or change their practices, but there’s probably ten more such stores nearby. Or you could work to change the systems by getting a law passed that caps interests rates for all such outfits.
Bread for the World works to change the systems, to change Federal government policy to make the system more just for hungry and poor people, at home and abroad. Everyone has a part to play, and hunger cannot be ended without our government playing its part.
How does Bread for the World do this work? We can capture it in 5 ‘P’s.
Prayer. Bread organizes a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to help end hunger and poverty. We need God in this work. We bring together Christians from all traditions, as well as many others, to speak up for the hungry. We see God in each of our elected officials of both parties, and treat them with respect. We have no ‘red meat’ partisan issues; we do not work with or for parties and politics.
Policy. Bread’s staff are widely respected on Capitol Hill for their knowledge and ability. The staff provide advocates like me in all 50 states with timely information we need to make an impact. Bread’s role is so vital and done so well that it was recognized with the World Food Prize in 2010, the only time the award has gone to an advocacy organization. We are bipartisan in our policy approaches, staff and board.
Persuasion. Our advocates know the issues and engage their friends and churches. This increases their impact. As their voices are joined with those of activists across the country, change can happen.
Persistence. Systems change is not easy, and it can take a long time. When it comes, though, it can be deep, wide, just and sustainable. The Founding Fathers framed our democracy for compromise — this takes time, so we persist.
Power. From the first four ‘P’s’ comes our fifth ‘P’ — power. With leadership from Bread, the Global Food Security Act was passed in 2016 with both Senators Coats and Donnelly as co-sponsors, as were six of the nine Hoosier Representatives in the House. Eight of the nine Representatives voted in favor of it. The prior year we saw major victories with tax credits for the working poor, poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid reform, and Africa trade policy.
It’s a story for another blog post, but a couple years ago I wrote an email to my Senator’s staffer, and the upshot was $35 million for African farmers. You can’t get that impact with a bake sale.
Contact your legislative representative today. Together we can move mountains.