by Geoff Ashmun
At McCormick Days 2010, Bread for the World President David Beckmann kept insisting that in spite of overwhelming statistics on domestic and worldwide hunger and poverty, there is both reason for hope in the battle to end hunger and for communities of faith a significant role to play in it.
In his late October addresses to McCormick alumni/ae, students and faculty and members of Chicago faith communities, Beckmann noted that the last few decades have seen hundreds of millions of people escape from extreme poverty.
“I think if you believe in the God of the Bible, these changes suggest a loving God moving through our history and answering the prayers of moms and dads, whose children are now able to go to school, when 15-20 years ago they probably would have died,” Beckmann said. “This is the great Exodus of our time – and as people of faith, God is calling us to get with the program.”
Not only a 20-year advocate in the areas of poverty and hunger but also an ordained Lutheran minister and economist, Beckmann believes seriously addressing poverty in the United States and the world necessarily requires a push toward changing U.S. politics on hunger.
“As important as assistance programs continue to be in this country and around the world, we cannot Food Bank our way to the end of hunger,” he said. “It simply is not enough.”
Beckmann was quick to point out that those most responsible for improving the lives of poor and hungry people have been poor and hungry people themselves. Seventeen countries in Africa, for instance, have increased their per capita income by 50 percent and reduced poverty collectively by one-third and it is because, Beckmann said, “Poor people get that they can change their lives. They get that they can organize themselves in such a way that it becomes possible for millions of people to go to school or get healthcare.”
But politics around these issues is critical today, as it was when Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope John Paul II joined forces in the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, which dealt with the crippling debt of poor countries in such a way that it paved the way for a degree of progress that would not have been possible.
According to Beckmann, after three decades of sustained, gradual progress in the plight of poor and hungry people, the last three years of global economic crisis have plummeted nearly 200 million more people into poverty and hunger.
In the United States, Beckmann reminded attendees, a very critical moment for poor and hungry people comes in December, when Congress decides whether to extend the earned tax income credit, the child tax credit, and other provisions for the working poor that were part of the economic stimulus package.
“Both Democrats and Republicans have been debating what to do about taxes for the top 2 percent, but no one was is talking about the working poor. The irony is that as invested as churches are in helping poor people, many probably don’t even know about this one decision in Congress that is equivalent to more than twice what all churches and food banks in this country can do in a year. It’s a very big deal and it’s important that everyone here talk to their Congressional representatives about doing the right thing for poor and hungry people this December.”
McCormick Days 2011: A Sneak Preview
The staff and faculty at McCormick have already begun planning for McCormick Days 2011, scheduled for October 24-25. The educational program will focus on The Common English Bible, a translation of the Bible designed to maximize accessibility to ancient scriptural texts and enhance church worship and personal study for a broad spectrum of contemporary Christians.
Nearly a dozen McCormick faculty, alumni/ae and students brought their skills to bear on the project in the areas of editorial oversight, translation, and readability assessment. The full translation is due in the fall of 2011, while the New Testament is already available in print and PDF format. Visit www.commonenglishbible.com  to learn more.