Sunday, February 03, 2008

Moved by Statistics and Personal Accounts

Daniel J. Lehmann, editor of The Lutheran magazine, leads his editorial in the current (January 2008) issue:

Words pack a punch

Emotion, action just two responses

If you read no other line in this issue of The Lutheran, make it the following: Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes—one child every five seconds.

Reviewing the draft of this month's cover story ('There really is hope') in the dark, cold, early evening hours of December, my eyes watered. That staggering number stopped me. Because I had just completed the main piece a few minutes earlier, I knew that leaders in this field contend hunger can be eradicated. Yet it is not.

Hopefully others will be moved by the statistics and personal accounts in the package of articles on hunger. And act.

That's what a magazine such as The Lutheran is supposed to do: tell stories about our church that inform, challenge, lift up, edify and occasionally cause a stir.
I was first moved by such stories when I was 15 and a layman of our congregation gave a Temple Talk on the just established World Hunger Appeal of the Lutheran Church in America. Ever since the Hunger Appeal has been a regular part of my offering and, since 1974, Lutherans have been assisting the hungry abroad and at home with direct relief and teaching them to help themselves.

Yes, there are times when the stories speak too much of "advocacy" (or political lobbying, which has been part of the Appeal's efforts from the beginning), but there are few better ways to alleviate hunger, both immediate needs and over the long term. We have not eliminated hunger; that was a naïve hope 34 years ago that forgot the effects of human sinfulness. But Lutherans have made a difference, a big one.

But Mr. Lehmann's editorial arrived in my mailbox in a particular context -- conversations on ALPB Forum Online (here and here) and on the "Whither ELCA" group on LutherLink about the March for Life and the story of the ELCA Board of Pensions Medical plan's coverage of all abortions, no questions asked, for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The issue within the ELCA was turned into, "Should an ELCA Social Statement (namely, the one on Abortion) help determine church policy and practice. Alas, the answer to that has, thus far, been an emphatic no. At least when it comes to abortion and our medical plan.

Given that context, I did a little figuring. And in the United States of America (the land of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), one child is aborted about every 25 seconds. Worldwide it is 126,000 every day, or about 87 every minute.

Every minute, 11 children die of hunger, and the ELCA (quite rightly) goes to considerable effort to prevent as many of those as we can. As for the 87 who, in that same minute, are prevented from being born, we are not only silent, we are complicit.

"Hopefully others will be move by the statistics and personal accounts... And act."

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