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October, 2006

Spirit of the Revolution: Hunger and eating


Editor's note: Brother Loring is a Partner at the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia This article is adapted from the September issue of Hospitality, a publication of the Open Door.

A demonstration against homelessness in Atlanta.
A demonstration against homelessness in Atlanta.

This may sound astounding to many of you, but I was 37 years old before I noticed eating is a class issue. I already knew everyone gets hungry. Oh, I had done my time as a seminary professor and a Presbyterian committee member on the Hunger Task Force to understand and fight hunger. I had written my letters to Congress asking for bread for the world.

But it was not until I sat at the table with hungry, smelly, angry, quiet people that I realized eating is a class issue. Those with money eat; those with no money don't eat. At least life in a consumer capitalistic society is simple. No need for task forces and study groups here.

Eating food in the United States of America is a matter of money, not faith. Though some weasels twist faith to justify poverty, and though some swine pervert the gospel to justify wealth, eating is a class issue. Everyone gets hungry 3 to 5 times a day. Who eats?

When I learned that eating is a class issue while hunger is a biological issue, I faced hard consequences. One of the denominational leaders of the Presbyterian Hunger Program left the church where I was pastor. The root cause of hunger and poverty could not be wealth, he said. Liberalism would be out the door. Charity would need to be replaced by the work for justice. If the cause of hunger is class (people without enough money) and wealth (people with more money than they need), none of the approaches to "root cause" problems that liberals and good people (United Way, Food Banks, Soup Kitchens, etc.) employ will end hunger in the land of obesity.

For all hungry children and grownups in America to eat when they are hungry, we will have to redistribute our wealth. Dr King's revolution of values will have to be institutionalized in the American consumer capitalist system.

These truths, that eating is a class issue and that the root cause of poverty is wealth, were taught to me by the hungry themselves, by the cry of the poor. This revelation from Jesus through the suffering of the poor brought me to a new faith and politics.

The lies of the Reagan Revolution -- that poverty is a choice or consequence of moral defect -- are now resident in the Democratic Party. The Atlanta City Council works under the presiding blind eyes of Lisa Borders, who follows the orders of Mayor Shirley Franklin as she offers laws and executive orders not to feed the hungry and not to help the needy, in an effort to force the poor from our sight while accruing wealth as starving children die on our streets.

Enestae Kessee, Jr. starved to death in downtown Atlanta when he was 25 days old. What has been done? Anti-almsgiving laws have been passed by our city too busy to hear the cry of the hungry. Rich Christians, in an age of hunger and wealth, hawk Jesus in ritual, retirement benefits and vacation homes, and blame the hungry for their hunger. Oh, my.

We believe in Jesus, the Human One. We follow the radical visions of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his revolution of values, Clarence Jordan and his Koinonia of life and money, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his Theology of the Cross and Life Together.

We must fight like hell to tear this filthy, rotten system to pieces. Let us redistribute land, houses, work and wealth and build a new society in the shell of the old.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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