You Are Called to Be a Faithful Advocate
By Eric Mitchell
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So also faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
During these hard financial times we witness more clearly how the policies of our elected officials directly affect the poor. In the United States, the number of people at risk of hunger increased by approximately 13 million during the recent recession. Federal programs have provided a vital lifeline to families in need.
Yet sometimes people of faith have trouble seeing the value in directly engaging our leaders about government policies. Often we hear comments about how politicians only listen to big donors or to well-heeled lobbyists pushing policies for special interests. Where do we fit into the process?
Of course, people of faith look for ways to help those who are less fortunate. We use our time, talent, and money to protect vulnerable people, whether through working with international organizations or local rescue missions. We believe in our moral obligation to give with an open hand and heart, regardless of political ideology or background.
We give not only because our faith instructs us to, but because we see the enormous burden that those in poverty have to carry. Many of us have never had to feed our families on only $4 per day. Nor have we experienced the pain of watching a child die for want of proper nutrition. But millions of people face those realities, and we know that it is a heavy load.
Despite partisan rhetoric, most of our elected officials do sincerely want to help those who cannot help themselves. But as they address our nation’s financial solvency, some are willing to cut the safety net that has kept many people out of poverty in this country and has saved millions of lives across the globe.
At this moment, the stakes are too high for people of faith to be apathetic. Extreme cuts to foreign aid could result in millions of people losing access to vital food assistance. Potential cuts to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) could result in reduced benefits for as many as 3 million people, with over a quarter million children losing free school meals.
As Christians, we are called to be faithful advocates. A faithful advocate is different than a Washington insider. A faithful advocate is more than just a lobbyist. A faithful advocate speaks for those without a voice. A faithful advocate is a moral compass for elected officials.
We must all heed the call, by writing letters, by making phone calls, and by inspiring our churches — reminding our elected officials that they have a responsibility to care for the needs of the poor. We do this not as Republicans or Democrats, but as faithful advocates who believe that God judges a nation by how it treats the "least of these."