Sunday, February 22, 2009

Arlington VA church youth put on "World Vision 30 Hour Famine" worship program


Today the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA ran a worship service run by “The Kids”. The youth had just completed a “30 Hour Famine” to demonstrate personal sacrifice for world hunger. The service started with an eight-minute short film “World Vision 30 Hour Famine” (link here).

I’ve wondered why a fast is really necessary. If you do well enough in life (even given the current economy) you should be able to be generous without “sacrifices” like this. Yet, we see this thing done all the time. Catholics used to give up meat on Fridays. People are asked to give up one latte a day for charity. And so on.

There is an issue of “karma” to be sure. Students are not on their own yet, negotiating their worlds with money. Their currency is their academic and social reputations (which they have to be careful about, especially today, and especially online). We used to hear Rick Warren say, “It isn’t about you.” I suppose a sacrifice exercise makes a point about duty, about being a member of a community.

The students gave various testimonials, and one young woman talked about seeing Belize from the viewpoint of personal comfort. A Washington-Lee High School senior gave an interesting sermonette on "Perfection." The Scripture was Matthew 25:31-40 (feeding the hungry, ironically following the "Parable of the Talents"), and Luke 10:25-37 (inheriting the Kingdom). The "Rich Young Ruler" story could have been chosen, I think. The notion of "personal responsibility" is in New Testament thinking not as individualized as it often is in secular commercial society (particularly with today's debates about "moral hazard" and bailouts).

World hunger has many causes, not the least of which is political failure in many developing countries. Darfur is just one example. Neoconservatives constantly point out that bringing democracy will raise food supplies and counter disease, including HIV and malaria. The program gave alarming statistics, however, saying that in the developing world 1 in 12 children die of malnutrition by the age of 5. There was an implied interest stated in "other people's children."

Climate change will also affect food production, bringing drought in temperate areas and raising sea levels. But there could be an offset increase in food production in more polar latitudes, where climate change effects are the greatest.

Does a personal 30-hour fast make that much difference (as opposed to campaigns to raise money or change public policy)? Maybe it makes more difference to the fasters.

I recall that the Lama Foundation in New Mexico used to offer “Purification Through Fasting” weekends back in the 1980s. I did attend other events there in 1980 (the international feast and writers’ camp) and 1984 (the Spring Work Camp) but not a fast.

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