Monthly Archives: March 2013

SORTING THROUGH HUNGER MYTHS by Christa Fisher, M.Div. Middler

This past summer, while hosting the ELCA World Hunger Table at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, I met many people who questioned our mission of eradicating hunger.  It wasn’t the extent of the hunger epidemic they doubted – more than 1 billion people  are food-insufficient – rather they were skeptical of our ability to achieve our mission.  The question I commonly confronted was “How can ELCA World Hunger successfully reduce hunger when the demand for food far outweighs the supply?” This question is based on two faulty suppositions about the causes of hunger – overpopulation and an inadequate food supply.

There are many widely believed myths about hunger, yet the reality is that hunger is caused by poverty.  People are food insufficient when they lack the resources necessary to purchase or grow food for themselves or their families. While overpopulation and climate change may exacerbate global hunger, they are not primary causes.  People with financial means have access to food, regardless of their family size or the severity of weather in their local community.  Reducing poverty is fundamental to the fight against hunger.  Therefore, ELCA World Hunger’s anti-poverty ministries, such as increased access to education, job training, and micro-loan programs, are core components of our anti-hunger initiatives.

Holly Poole-Kavana of the Institute for Food and Development Policy debunks the top three hunger myths, demonstrating poverty to be the predominate cause of the global hunger epidemic.

Myth1: Not Enough Food to Go Around

Reality: Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world’s food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,200 calories a day. That doesn’t even count many other commonly eaten foods – ­vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish.   The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food.  Even most “hungry countries” have enough food for all their people right now.  Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products.

Myth2: Nature is to Blame for Famine

Reality: While human-made forces are making people increasingly vulnerable to nature’s vagaries, food is always available for those who can afford it.  Starvation during hard times hits only the poorest. Natural events rarely explain deaths; they are simply the final push over the brink. Human institutions and policies determine who eats and who starves during hard times. Likewise, in America many homeless die from the cold every winter, yet ultimate responsibility doesn’t lie with the weather. The real culprits are an economy that fails to offer everyone opportunities, and a society that places economic efficiency over compassion.

Myth 3: Too Many People

Reality: Birth rates are falling rapidly worldwide as remaining regions of the Third World begin the demographic transition – ­when birth rates drop in response to an earlier decline in death rates. Although rapid population growth remains a serious concern in many countries, nowhere does population density explain hunger. For every Bangladesh, a densely populated and hungry country, we find a Nigeria, Brazil or Bolivia, where abundant food resources coexist with hunger. Or we find a country like the Netherlands, where very little land per person has not prevented it from eliminating hunger and becoming a net exporter of food. Rapid population growth is not the root cause of hunger. Like hunger itself, it results from underlying inequities that deprive people, especially poor women, of economic opportunity and security.  (www.foodfirst.org/node/1480; April 9, 2006)

Christa, besides being a student at Wartburg, is currently employed as the ELCA World Hunger Intern for the ELCA South Central Synod of Wisconsin and this article was written as part of her work for the synod.

To learn more about the myths and root causes of hunger checkout World Hunger: Twelve Myths, 2nd Edition by Francis Moore Lappe, Joseph Collins, and Peter Rosset (New York: Grove Press, 1998).

More information on ELCA World Hunger’s anti-poverty ministries can be found at http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Responding-to-the-World/ELCA-World-Hunger/Stories.aspx

BOOK REVIEW: ALL GODS LEAD TO ROME reviewed by Rev. Burton Everist, Dubuque, Iowa

This review is of the book: All Gods Lead to Rome, by Elizabeth A. LeeperPublished in 2012 by Black Rose Writing – http://www.blackrosewriting.com.  (345 pages)
When I read the Narnia Chronicles to my youngest son he did not want to hear the final book.  He did not want the story to end.  That’s what I felt about All Gods Lead to Rome.   Unfortunately this book had to come to an end.
    No cookie-cutter characters inhabit this chronicle of Christians and others in the hostile world of second century Rome.  Justin, a Christian philosopher, and Atlus, a Christian slave in the household of Claudius narrate the story.  Their relationships with each other and with others are complex and filled with both inner tensions and external threats that gripped me and compelled me to keep reading and reading and reading.
    Justin journeys to Rome to establish a Christian school of philosophy.  On the boat he meets and becomes friends with urbane Crispan who considers Christians abnormal and the God of the Jews impotent.  Throughout, the two engage in friendly disagreement.  Victor, a member of the Christian community advocates the views of Valentinus which appeals to Crispan, much to Justin’s display.
   Claudius, a conflicted Christian, hosts the community alongside his faithful wife, Vestia.  Within the household conflict abounds among the slaves and within the congregation vital struggles surface as the church seeks to find its way. 
   Readers will be surprised that the Christians, with some ambivalence, attend the games of the Ludi Romani, in honor of Jupiter.  Atlus takes us behind the scene and describes in some detail the inner workings of Nero’s Colloseum as well as the bloody spectacle of slaughter.  Later we are not spared the agony as Atlus and others watch the deaths of members of the congregation who had declared their faith publicly.
    Framing the story is dialog among the gods of Rome (and other foreign gods as well).
    All Gods Lead to Rome is too rich and complex to fairly describe in this short review.  You will have to read it for yourself.  I am waiting for Elizabeth Leeper’s next book!

BELONGING AND COMMUNITY by Tami Groth, 2nd Year M.A. Diaconal

This past November I had the opportunity to return to my home congregation and preach during the Sunday worship services. Unfortunately with my seminary schedule and family commitments I do not frequently have the opportunity to return home and spend time with my home congregation community. I have frequently thought about how I belong to that community even though I am now mostly absent from it while I am present in my seminary community here at Wartburg Theological Seminary. The gospel text for the day was John 18.33-37, ending with “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” brought me to that questioning place again as I pondered what it means to belong to the truth.

As I contemplated what word I was called to share that morning, the word “belonging” echoed through my mind. What does it mean to belong? Many of us know it when we experience belonging. The experience of belonging is felt in the depths of our being. There are moments when we know for certain “yes, I belong here.” There are also moments we know without doubt when another belongs. It seems more of a feeling than an objective description.

When I witness a strong sense of belonging in others I reflect on what communities I belong to. Who knows me and loves me anyway? What communities count me as their own? How do I contribute to the sense of belonging within those communities.

It is often during reunion moments that the sense of belonging to a community is strongest. When you return to a place and it feels like home, or if not home, then a comfort away from home. Those times hearts and eyes light up as individuals are reunited.

Or, we feel the pain of not belonging. The pain and longing of wanting to belong or possibly wondering if you belong to a group or a place — as humans, we know what that feels like in the very depths of our being.

As Christians we belong to Christ. And we are called to work within and belong to specific communities within the body of Christ.

Each community exists in the midst of constant transition. Some communities, such as a seminary community where students are being called and sent to new places each year, transition in predictable ways while other communities experience change in more unpredictable ways. Yet, through our shared relationships we belong to each other. Our stories are entwined.

We also are called to actively write some of the story of a community that belongs to Christ and to each other. In our relationships with each other we are invited to share in relationship with one another, we are also invited (dared?) to share in the truth as experienced in Jesus Christ.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice

Indeed we need to actively listen — to seek, to understand. To live our lives in community with one another, to belong to one another is a gift best actively received. Together we actively seek to understand as we belong to each other and not of this world. These shared communities are not limited by the observed boundaries of the world — All are welcome.

We look to our loving God to begin to understand this gift of belonging as part of reconciled relationships lived out in response to the new reality created in Christ as we are restored to right relationship with God and humanity. Faith gives us the vision for this new reality as we act differently. We listen. We seek to understand. We acknowledge and live out relationships with God and each other. We act differently because God’s love frees us and restores us to love in right relationship with God and others — to belong.