Yesterday I published the link to an article exposing hunger in Brooklyn, NY (Jesus in Brooklyn). According to the study, 17% of children in Brooklyn are “food insecure.” But, get this. According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, it would take 176 million meals to make families in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties food secure (Silent Epidemic).
Which means that, as Jesus makes his way to Good Friday, he is visiting families in Santa Clara and San Mateo. Perhaps he is telling them, as the Apostle Paul told Christians in Corinth, to
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are (1 Co 1.26-28).
And perhaps some of those reading this blog are among these chosen ones through whom God is bringing the powerful, wise, and noble-born to nothing. But, let us say that you, like me, are a good Episcopalian. What is God saying to us?
Episcopalians are the second wealthiest religious group in the United States, behind Jews, and the second wealthiest Christian denomination, behind Unitarians. Twelve per cent of us are millionaires: that’s twelve out of every one hundred. (The numbers for Baptists and Catholics are 2% and 4%.) Which means that, if they so chose, Episcopalians on their own could solve the problem of hunger in the United States.
So I have a strange feeling that what Jesus might be saying to us — to me — is something like “‘truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:45-46).
It is estimated that it would cost $30B annually to solve world hunger (Borgen Project). (Just as a point of comparison the US defense budget in 2012 was almost twenty-five times that, $737B.) The average annual income of the world’s 2 billion Christians is roughly $10,000. (The median income is $1,225, which means that Christianity’s 1%, many of them Episcopalians, skew the average not a little.) Let us say that each Christian household contributed $15.00 anually to a common fund to rid the world of hunger. Or, even better, let us say that all Episcopalians contributed $15,000 annually, on average. (We could ask the 12 % of us who are millionaires to contribute a bit more.)
Economists will tell you that feeding families for free — essentially guaranteeing a nutritious diet to all human beings — would upset global markets and bring on the very food shortages that aid to hungry families was seeking to eliminate. However good Jesus was, they tell us, he was not a very good economist. Better to let markets determine prices; and better to let hunger drive markets.
So, what if we were to pay for the food at market prices?
The reason we have not solved world hunger — much less hunger in San Mateo or Santa Clara counties — is not because it would undermine world food markets. It would not. The reason we have not solved world hunger is because we have chosen not to. While Jesus is spending his Lenten Season with these families, we are rushing on ahead to Jerusalem to get the “best seats” to catch the “big show.”
But did it ever occur to us that these families are the big show, that it is here with them that God is being revealed?