Sometimes we are asked, “Why should Christians engage in advocacy?” The starting point for advocacy is faith. Our faith teaches us that God cares about the world and wants all people to share in the abundant resources of creation. When so many of the world’s people are not able to partake of that abundance, we need to take action and make a change.
Scripture Calls Us to Speak Up
In Scripture, God calls us to open our hearts and hands to people in need. We are required to give generously because the way we treat vulnerable people is ultimately the way we treat God. “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.” (Proverbs 14:31) However, God’s call to care for those who are poor is not limited to individuals. God demands justice from those in power. Through the prophet Isaiah, God issues a warning to “those who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right.” (Isaiah 10:1-2) Likewise, God calls on each of us to speak up for those who are hungry and oppressed, just as Moses spoke to the powers of his day. Jesus and his disciples, too, challenged both religious and political authorities to do the right thing.
Advocacy is Good Stewardship
Churches do much to take care of hungry people. Individuals and congregations contribute food and funds from their own resources to alleviate the symptoms of hunger. This kind of help is good and necessary. But many times, the problems are massive and the causes are structural. Governments play a huge role in both the problem and solution. To help hungry people, therefore, we need to address both the immediate needs and the larger picture. In this country, we also have the gift of citizenship and the responsibility to use the power of our citizenship to promote public justice and address the root causes of hunger.
Faith and Power
Since our faith calls us to seek justice, we take our concerns to those who have the power to implement justice on a large scale. Some people may worry that this process blurs the distinction between church and state. In fact, when Christians organize to advocate for hungry people, we draw a clear distinction between the two. Individuals in the church raise their voices to tell government leaders, “We are concerned about the things that matter to God, and we will hold you accountable for those things.” Government is not the only mechanism to deal with hunger. But it is an institution that has a significant role to play in providing for the welfare of the people.