The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘hunger

“I am the vine:” bearing fruit in a brutal world

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Urban poverty is common in developing countrie...
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Tomorrow’s gospel reading is from Jesus’ “I am the vine, you are the branches” lesson.  It’s a beauty, about which we evangelicals can easily be moved to misty-eyed marveling.

But read along as Lawrence Moore begins his analysis at Disclosing New Worlds:

Vines, branches, fruit and pruning – and “abiding”.  This is one of those “purple passages” from John’s gospel that most of us know well.  It’s a time to expound parables of grafting, pruning, getting rid of excess foliage so the grapes are plentiful and fat, about feasting and celebration … and stuff about “abiding” that hovers constantly on the edge of twee and a bit precious.

Any tendency towards twee and precious should cause us to pause.  This world is a brutal, death-dealing place.  Most inhabitants of this planet live below the breadline.  The scale of global poverty is staggering; the magnitude of starvation is terrifyingly obscene.

What makes the statistics significant is not simply the scale.  The scale is tragic.  Yet if it was inevitable and unpreventable, that is all we could call it.  It is the fact that it is preventable that is significant.  The world has never been globally richer, nor has it ever produced more food.

Global poverty is not an accident but a deliberate human creation.  It is deliberate, not in the sense that we set out to cause starvation, but in that we build a global economy that gives those of us in the west a particular standard of living so that two thirds of the planet necessarily live in abject poverty.

Some tools utilized for pruning.

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And “we” – the people with the power and decision-making ability – reckon that is an acceptable cost.  That is what makes the global statistics so obscene.

We in the West hold most of the world’s power.  We in the West hold most of the world’s money.  We could end starvation in a year.  We choose to try to get more power and money instead.

We’re busy fussing over government power or gay marriage or how we’d rather give through our churches.  And year after year, people die in droves.  Who is responsible for this holocaust?

If I were God, I’m afraid I’d begin pruning.  Maybe some other “branch,” if entrusted with the world’s riches and power, would get serious about bearing fruit.

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Wising-up about pirates: Why force will fail

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The world cheered last week when US Navy sharpshooters felled three Somalian pirates in an instant, liberating the captain of the Maersk Alabama.  Millions celebrated Capt. Phillips’ freedom.

Wonderful as it is that Phillips is free, the overall situation has been made worse.  At the price of millions of American dollars, three young Somalians are dead and one American captain free.  Other Somalians have vowed revenge, promising that future hijackings (which had been mostly bloodless) will quickly become more violent.

TV plots preach that the right folks with the right firepower actually do solve problems.  It almost never happens in real life.  Violence douses a momentary flare-up and pours gasoline on the conflict that caused it.  Off the coast of Somalia?  One captain rescued; ten thousand potential pirates enraged.

The answer surely lies in asking the right question:  Why are those young men pirates? Indeed, why are bands of young men sources of violence all around the world?  Patt Cottingham writes a thought-provoking summary:

clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

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For any one with eyes wide open there is a root pattern going on here globally. Young males who have been brought up in an atmosphere of failed states, violence, a feeling of powerlessness, no hope for the future, and who have no anticipation about living very long, become fearless […]

Look around and you see them off the coast of Somalia, in Hamas, in Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, in Palestine, Afghanistan, Africa, Pakistan, India, in Mexican drug cartels, in gangs on the streets of LA, and in jails across the United States. […]
[Y]ou will hear phrases like just blow them up, obliterate them, wipe them out, kill them all, and other declarations of force and bravado. This knee jerk reaction is a global failure that leaves the question still unanswered as to what can be done to change this […]
Isn’t it far wiser to begin to set a course to address the root causes of this? […]
Goodbye to military force as the answer to snuff out young male insurgents.
Hello to the will to get to the root causes of young male insurgents.
Goodbye to the thinking that rogue terror gangs don’t affect us […]
Goodbye to seeing young men with guns and no value for life as worthless.
Hello to seeing young men with guns and no value for life worth our redemption […]

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Not much glam, not many thrills, not many political points scored by addressing the real stuff. But if we spent a tenth as much time and effort on avoiding problems as we do shooting our way out of them, we’d get a lot more bang for the buck.

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Brazilian City Eliminates Hunger

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For only 2% of its budget!
clipped from www.treehugger.com

Belo Horizonte People's Restaurant Photo
Restaurant Popular (People’s Restaurant) by Bruno Spada/MDS
Back in 1993, the newly elected city government of Belo Horizonte, Brazil declared that food was a right of citizenship. At that time, the city of 2.5 million had 275,000 people living in absolute poverty, and close to 20 percent of its children were going hungry. Since the declaration the city has all but wiped out hunger and only spends 2% of the city budget to do so.

Article continues: Brazilian City Makes Food A Basic Right And Ends Hunger
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My friend Lexica over at Clipmarks took up this discussion with someone who wrote in about food banks. A quote from the food banks commenter is first (emphases are mine): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Poverty impairs brain function like a stroke

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I wonder how many potential Einsteins—or Beethovens or Marie Curies or Mother Teresas or Mohandas Ghandis or Martin Luther Kings—struggle for survival, unable to follow the yearning of their hearts.  I wonder how many millions of good, productive, loving people—people who would bless their world—are locked into spending all their strength battling desperate personal conditions.

Are we not all poorer when one of us is poor? Is there anything that would improve us all as much as dragging poverty to its knees?

clipped from www.usatoday.com

Life Expectancy at birth (years) {{col-begin}}...
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A new study finds that certain brain functions of some low-income 9- and 10-year-olds pale in comparison with those of wealthy children and that the difference is almost equivalent to the damage from a stroke.

“It is a similar pattern to what’s seen in patients with strokes that have led to lesions in their prefrontal cortex,” which controls higher-order thinking and problem solving, says lead researcher Mark Kishiyama, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley. “It suggests that in these kids, prefrontal function is reduced or disrupted in some way.”

Research has shown that the neural systems of poor children develop differently from those of middle-class children, affecting language development and “executive function,” or the ability to plan, remember details and pay attention in school.
“It’s really important for neuroscientists to start to think about the effect[…] of people’s socioeconomic status […] on their brain function […]
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Young heroes of peace in Israel – in prison

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They’re called Shministim – Israeli teenagers who refuse conscription into the Israeli army because of its apartheid treatment of innocent Palestinians.  Listen to their voices in this quiet and moving two-minute video:

I have signed the letter they mention; I invite you to, as well, by going to Tell Israel – Free the Shministim!

Let’s change the world.


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Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »

“Papa, I’m hungry”

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How US policy intensifies Haitian starvation

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.” –

Thirty years ago, Haiti was an agricultural nation. It imported “almost no rice” and was an exporter of sugar. Today, almost all of Haiti’s rice is shipped in. So when imported rice prices soar—as they have recently—the poorest Haitians have little to eat. What happened? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

April 25, 2008 at 4:22 pm