This week, I participated in a Food and Faith panel at Wake Forest University as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The goal of the panel was to examine the role that faith-based groups could and should play in combatting the problems our nation faces with hunger and homelessness. This is an especially relevant topic of discussion at Wake Forest, considering the fact that Winston-Salem is one of the worst urban areas in the nation in terms of child hunger. Two questions which arose over the course of the panel discussion stuck with me the next day:
Do you feel any draw towards issues of hunger as a person of faith?
What are some benefits of working towards solutions to hunger from a faith perspective?
The more I meditate on this, the more I see an inherent connection between these two questions. Personally, I do feel a draw towards issues of hunger as a Christian. I see a theme throughout the Bible of justice for the oppressed and downtrodden. From the command in Deuteronomy to leave the second harvest behind for those less fortunate than yourself (Deut 24.19) to the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, reminding us that we should feed those who are hungry because “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt 25.40), there is an emphasis in the Bible on providing for those who are less fortunate.
Jesus was a member of an oppressed minority and sought out a way to ease their suffering. He saw those who were hungry and thirsty and homeless and persecuted and wanted to help. We should have that same drive for justice. Many Christians do. Many Christians want to serve, but it takes a community working together to be able to reach such a goal. How can we create a culture in which more churches become united in fighting this problem? What are the benefits of approaching this problem from a faith perspective? What benefits can the church provide?
The greatest benefit is that the Christian community has this central message of service to those in need. Churches have the opportunity to come together around this message and create relationships and networks for the purpose of working to end hunger, whether through creation of a community garden plot or a food pantry. A congregational setting also offers the opportunity to provide education and awareness. Often, the members of a given community may be unaware of the hunger surrounding them. They are unaware that there is a genuine need right in their own backyard. There is a need for the church to become involved in order to educate congregations and remind us all that there is more to the Gospel than individual salvation. There is more to the life of a disciple of Christ. There is more to mission work than traveling to faraway lands. That work is important, but there is a mission to be accomplished here at home as well. This not a call to forsake one mission for another, but rather a reminder that all of this is important.
This time of year, we need to be especially conscious of the fact that, while many of us are jumping ahead to Christmas and planning for Black Friday sales, there are those among us who don’t know where their next meal will come from, much less their Thanksgiving Dinner. We must be thankful for what we have, but we must also be aware of the work that must be done. We must recognize the need for the church to become involved, to inject itself into the community to work alongside those in need. We must recognize the breadth and the beauty of the Gospel, while also rising to the challenges it places on our lives and on the life of the church.
Adam McDuffie is a senior at Wake Forest University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Religion with a concentration in Religion and Public Engagement. After graduation, Adam plans to attend seminary and pursue a career as a hospital chaplain. Originally from Brevard, NC, Adam has spent most of his life in TN, and currently resides in the thriving town of Atoka. Born in the aftermath of the SBC/CBF schism and the son of a Baptist minister, Adam is passionate about all things related to Baptist life and history. When not having his heart broken by the Demon Deacons, Adam finds time to be an avid Atlanta Braves fan and an even more avid fisherman.