Category Archives: Books

regaining our courage

The Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar’s funeral is tomorrow, but his legacy will live on. Here is a short quote taken from his book, MIDDLE CHURCH. His passion to engage people of faith resonates in every sentence.

Never since Jesus walked the earth have Christians been as powerful and comfortable as they are today. That may be the problem. Gene Winkler, a United Methodist minister in Chicago, now retired, identified the heart of the matter in a sermon a few years ago:”Christians today are not persecuted; we are ignored. We are not ridiculed; we are faced with indifference. We don’t lose our jobs or our heads because of our faith; we lose our courage to talk about our faith.” It’s time faithful Americans to regain that courage. Not simply to talk about our faith, but to vote it; not just to go to the church or to the synagogue or mosque but to reach into our communities. For all of us, opportunities for making a difference abound.

I share Bob’s passion. Making a real difference in our world is not difficult. Working together, we can end hunger in our lifetime. We can truly change the world. As Bob wrote: “It’s time for faithful Americans to regain our courage.” I know Bob would agree; the future of the world depends on it.

“well done, thy good and faithful servant”

I just received an email notifying me of the funeral of the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar. Bob was seventy, and lived a life of service. His life and ministry touched thousands. He will be missed.

I first met Bob when he was serving as the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches when he invited me to be on his advisory council. Before serving at the National Council of Churches he had been a congressman, before that a United Methodist pastor. When he died he was serving as the leader of Common Cause.

Knowing Bob was both a privilege and an honor. His faithfulness to the gospel and his fearlessness in speaking the truth to those in power was an inspiration.

After leaving his position as head of the National Council of Churches, Bob wrote The Middle Church, a book that he hoped would “awaken the conscience of the average, ordinary, common folks within the United States to do above-average, extraordinary, and uncommon things to ensure the future for our fragile planet.”  He wanted his book to restore the passion for recovering America’s moral values.

That was Bob. He was a leader. He was as tireless as he was passionate in engaging others in doing the right thing for the right reason. I specifically remember that leadership when we were together as part of a humanitarian delegation to Iraq shortly before the Second Gulf War. His leadership during that trip was a powerful demonstration of of Christian faithfulness in action.

Bob will be mourned and missed by all those his life touched and all those his faithfulness impacted. I am one of those. Rest in peace, my friend.

 

 

getting the record straight

Let’s get the record straight: God don’t make no junk.

According to the account of creation in Genesis, God created the world perfectly. We read in Genesis 1:31 that, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

God don’t make no junk. That means that there is no reason for even one child to suffer from hunger in a world perfectly created. That is the world in which we live.

Do not think, even for a nano-second, that 25,000 die every day from hunger and hunger-related causes because there is not enough food for everyone.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s get the record straight. There are plenty of resources.

Here is the truth. These are the facts taken directly from Wold Hunger: Twelve Myths, by Frances Moore Lappé. I quote:

The world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being on the planet with thirty-five hundred calories a day. That’s enough to make most people fat! And this estimate does not even count many other commonly eaten foods–vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. In fact, if all foods are considered together, enough is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. That includes two and a half pounds of grain, beans, and nuts; about a pound of fruits and vegetables; and nearly a pound of meat, milk, and eggs.

No child dies from hunger because there is not enough food. God created the world perfectly.

There’s more than enough food for our entire human family. We just need to share. God don’t create no junk.

 

back on the mountain

Like Edward Abbey wrote in his introduction to THE JOURNEY HOME, “I am not a naturalist. I never was and never will be a naturalist.” But, Like Abbey I am a deep and passionate lover of nature. My most intense joy is being immersed in nature in any of its myriad of guises.

Right now I am again soaking up the solitude and splendor that is my small slice of Snake Mountain. PreSpring is here. The snow is gone. And if the bright sunshine hasn’t actually knocked the chill from the air, it has revealed that it won’t be long before those loveliest shades of green will be covering the mountain from the ridges down to the creek.

I have been waiting to get up here since before the new year kicked off. Actually, I’ve been here several times, but never for more than a couple or three days. And I will admit it…I’m greedy when it comes to Snake Mountain. Two or three days is just not enough time to  soak up the beauty of this place.

Even though it probably doesn’t sound like it, I am here working. My next book, STOP HUNGER NOW: Ending Hunger in Our Lifetime is due out in early December. That’s a short timeline. But, that doesn’t keep me from soaking up the richness and beauty which surrounds me as I write.

I’ve been able to get over a thousand words into the machine this morning, so now it’s time for a little reward. My walking stick is by the door so for me it mean’s it’s time to grab the camera and head down toward the creek. Besides, I need the exercise to stay sharp.

the stuggle to fill empty pews

GETTING OFF OUR BUTS: Making Mission Happen is scheduled to be published the first week of July. It begins with a look at our understanding of miracles, and the alarming lack of them in today’s churches. Here is a brief snippet.

There are many who believe the church is no longer relevant for today’s society. Theologians, biblical scholars and church leaders bemoan the fact that the world at large doesn’t seem interested in what the church has to offer. One campaign after another is introduced to fill nearly empty sanctuaries and help dwindling congregations grow.

None of them appear to have offered a lasting solution. Why?  Again, the answer is disturbingly simple.

None of the ubiquitous church growth campaigns really work because none of them truly focus on the real problem. Today’s church has yet to adequately demonstrate to the world that we have anything worth their attention.

 The church needs to understand that the world is not obligated to pay attention to us. It is just that simple. Thinking we have what the world needs and demonstrating it are two completely different things.

If the world can see nothing in the church that cannot be explained in terms of management, program and organization, how is that any different than what takes place outside the church every single day?

 For most people church still implies God. And for most of the world God still means miracle. A church without miracles is no different than any other small business, corporation or well-meaning civic club. The world knows what to expect from them. Yet, the world doesn’t know what to expect from the church.

 Once the church merits the world listening to us we will get the audience we crave and deserve. Until that time comes, however, the struggle to fill empty pews will continue unabated.

small decsions can change the world

Working together we can end hunger in our lifetime. Even as I write it, I realize I have repeated that simple phrase thousands of times. I repeat it because I recognize the power there is in all of us working together. It is truly power beyond our imagination.

But, “working together we can end hunger in our lifetime” is more than just a catchy tag line or an oft repeated mantra. It is a crucial strategy in the fight against the unspeakable horror of global hunger.

What none of us could hope to accomplish working alone is completely achievable when we all work together.Every single one of us can play a critical role in ending the obscenity of hunger. And all of us working together can make an impact large enough to change the world forever. This is the vision of Stop Hunger Now.

Making a life-saving diffference is simple. We just have to care enough to take action. We don’t have to make superhuman efforts or travel to far-flung lands. We just need to be aware that our daily decisions impact the lives of those in chronic hunger and poverty.

Let me give you an example taken from Peter Singer’s book, THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE. In the preface, Dr. Singer writes that something as seemingly inconsequential as the water we choose to drink could help save a life. And he is right.

Most of us have perfectly safe tap water readily available 24 hours a day (an unimaginable luxury for most of our human family). Yet, how many of us make the conscious decision to buy bottled water costing over a dollar a bottle?

That small decision means we spend more on one unnecessary bottle of water than billions of people have to live on for an entire day. Their children die from lack of basic health care they cannot afford, and they are constantly stalked by hunger.

Just by making the simple (I would suggest “no brainer”) decision to drink free water, each of us could free up money that would save countless lives. Simple, isn’t it?

Working together we can end hunger in our lifetime. It’s all about the decisions we make. It’s all about caring.

THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE

THE NEW YORKER has named Peter Singer one of the “100 most “influencial people in the world.” That is no small praise. He has also been called the world’s greatest living philosopher. A leading ethicist, he has authored over 20 books.

From my perspective, as limited as it admittedly is, Peter Singer is a voice of reason with a message that needs a far wider audience. Using rational argument and the power of pure ethics, Singer shows us how our response to world poverty and hunger is not only completely insufficient, but morally indefensible.

Singer knows that compassion is not enough to end the ravages of poverty. I am currently reading THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE. In it Singer uses ethical arguments, case studies, and examples to demonstrate how each of us could help change the world forever.

The LIFE YOU CAN SAVE has been described by THE NEW YORK TIMES as “part rational argument, part stinging manifesto, part handbook.” I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I think THE TIMES has nailed it.

This is a “must read book” for all of us who are serious about our relationship with the least of these among us. It is one of those inspiring reads which will challenge how you think about what you give and do to help the poor. “Powerful and clarifying…Singer sets up a demanding ethical compass for human behavior.” states the SUNDAY STAR LEDGER

 

THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE: How to DO Your Part to End World Poverty 
by Peter Singer

Random House Trade Paperback. 2010
ISBN 978–0–8129–8156–8
$15.00

 

the radical disparity is growing

In Agenda For A Biblical People, an early book by Jim Wallace, the founder of the Sojourners Community, Wallace writes that:

The divisions in the world today are less along the lines of ideology than they are along the lines of the powerful and powerless, rich and poor, strong and weak, those who benefit and those who are victimized. The scenario of our times is a growing conflict generated by the radical disparity between the rich and poor of the world.

Even though that book was first published in 1976, the words of Wallace hold true today. His prophetic stance points out some central concerns around the need for a fundamental redistribution of wealth. We will never have justice on a global scale until we address the growing divide between the obscenely rich and the abysmally poor.

People of faith need to realize that these are spiritual issues. Faithfulness in a world consumed by a thrist for wealth and power must address the need for lifestyles that reflect true community and just standards of living for all.