Friday, June 01, 2007

Food Stamp Challenge

When I was doing Young Life we would sometimes take off a week or two during the winter and go and work at Wilderness Ranch. We did the dishes for a hundred or so ski trip campers in exchange for a place to shack and a couple of lift tickets.

Hovering over the kitchen was the ultimate of dares called the Pit Challenge. Only the most courageous or stupid would even consider taking up the Pit Challenge. For those bold enough to accept the dare required one to scrape into a single glass all of the food (and God knows what else) from the bottom of the Hobart, add water and then chug.

The reward, we were told, was immortality.

Well, we young evangelicals have grown since then and now some of us are taking on more meaningful challenges. One of Bread for the World's regional organizers and her husband have accepted The Food Stamp Challenge.

Elise and Mark are limiting themselves to $3 a day in food expenditures - the average amount of assistance Food Stamps recipients actually receive. They have some great stories recorded on the BreadBlog.

I suppose the point of the Food Stamp Challenge is two-fold. First it is raising awareness about how little assistance Food Stamps recipients are actually receiving. (Here in VT the per meal amount is about 87 cents.) But more than that, The Food Stamp Challenge also shows us how much the rest of us actually overconsume.

I never felt bad about not taking the Pit Challenge. Other peoples' wet seconds was never my idea of a good time.

But it is only with a severe sense of discomfort that I look at what Mark and Elise are doing and say not for me. I have read the words of the prophet Ezekiel too many times for it to be any other way:

"And this was the sins of your sisters Sodom and her daughters: They had pride and excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and hungry."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Remembering the Anonymous

I came up to the church for a little while on Memorial Day and saw dozens of people coming to pay respects to their dead in the cemetary out back of the church. Quietly they would step out of the car as a family and carry a half dozen petunias past the gate into the church yard. Younger children would trail behind with a small American flag in their hands. I watched them from the window in my study as they would bend down on all fours and dig small holes and plant the flowers and then groom the earth. As I watched them I hoped that whoever it was that they were coming to see knows that they were dearly loved and deeply missed.

In response to that Memorial Day ritual, I thought that I might do a little remembering of my own. Pictured above is the tombstone for the Rev. Ansel Nash, the first pastor of our church, and his wife. "His wife". Now that I think says a lot about the tough job pastor's wives have had over these past several centuries. In life they are subject to a lot of gossip and carping and seldom if ever get recognized for the importance they played in keeping their husbands sane. Then, in death, they are served with the sentence of total anonymity.

"There were five thousand men fed that day, not counting women and children."

Well today women and children do count. So thank you Mrs. Nash. And thank you Irie. And thank you Gabrielle Zipporah. God will not forget the sacrifices that you have made for this Gospel.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New Baptist Covenant

I must have been no more than five or six. Mom was driving the Buick. We called it the Blue Bomb. I can tell you exactly where we were too. We were driving through Tech Terrace, right by Tom Sawyer's house. Somewhere out from the backseat came my question.

"If it were old timey days, would we have been on the Confederate side or the Union side?"

Mom's answer was the one I was hoping for and knew I would get. "I guess we would be on the Confederate's side," she said with some uncertainty in her voice.

A rush of warmth came over me. "Ahh, blessed assurance."

Twenty-five years later I know that my mom was right. Unless we had been bold abolitionists we would have been on the Confederate side. Even if we did not own slaves (two-thirds of whites did not) we would have agreed that the Southern way of life was being threatened. And as Baptists in 1845 we would most certainly have been in favor of withdrawing our covenant with northern baptists and taking part in the establishment of the new covenant between southern baptists which came to be known as the Southern Baptist Convention.
It is no longer blessed assurance that rushes over me when I think of what side of history we as a family might have been on in the years leading up to the Civil War. It is instead, pure, unalloyed holy terror.

President Jimmy Carter is putting together a new initiative to bring a wide body of Baptists - black and white, southern and northern, conservative and liberal - together. The initiative is aptly called the New Baptist Covenant. It is President Carter's hope, and the hope of many others, that this new covenant of Baptists will witness to the Christ who cares deeply about issues of race and poverty and the systems of economic injustice which continue to keep masses of people in de facto slavery even today.

As a boy raised in a Southern Baptist household I have to look honestly at my own history and admit that it was my forebears who broke the first Baptist covenant. And being even more candid and personal I have to admit that if I had been there I would have done the same. Now we have been given an opportunity to renew the covenant - to pick up the pieces of our earthen vessel and put them back togehter again. This New Baptist Covenant is a chance for southern Baptist boys like me to grow up and become more than southern Baptist men. It is a chance for us to grow up and become Christians.