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  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Tomorrow, Sunday, August 30th, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Biden-Harris campaign will launch Believers for Biden, its program of outreach to faith voters Click here for the invitation from Josh Dickson, the campaign’s faith engagement director. The campaign is actively seeking the support of faith voters, and Believers for Biden is one good way for people of faith to connect to the campaign.

According to an Associated Press story, Joe Biden’s team is rolling out an array of new religious outreach efforts targeting a diverse set of communities. The campaign is holding a trio of virtual events in the swing state of Florida this weekend. They are focusing on Christian, Jewish, and Muslim voters.

Josh Dickson told the AP reporter, “We think that many people of faith are not single-issue voters as much as Republicans paint them to be, and we believe our campaign is deeply aligned with the core values that are most important to people of faith.” He added that systematic racism is a pivotal issue for many devout voters in this election.

On Sunday evening, we will hear from Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, pastor of New Hope Church in Decatur, Georgia; QuanTez Pressley, pastor of Third Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan; and other pastors who are active and important in the campaign. I’m guessing that we may also hear from a political leader who is close to Vice President Biden. We will pray together, and Josh will suggest ways each of us can help determine the outcome of this extraordinarily consequential election.

If you sign up for a Believers for Biden event, you will subsequently be kept abreast of election news, invited to other events, and asked to help in specific ways as the campaign unfolds. You may be asked, for example, to make calls to friends and other people in key states.

I find that the campaign’s frequent messages help me remain aware that we have only a few days (now 65 days) to make an impact on an election that will shape the future of our nation and world.

In addition to contributing volunteer work, I have also made a financial gift (the maximum allowed) to Biden’s general-election campaign, and I signed up to ask friends to consider gifts. Funding is important to the success of a campaign, and the Trump campaign has already raised $1.2 billion.

Donald Trump is a profoundly self-centered person, and this character flaw has led to harsh policies toward vulnerable people, blatant corruption, and a constant stream of lies. He is anti poor people, anti democracy, and anti most of the things that Jesus embodied and taught. He has managed to reshape the Republican Party in his image (at least for now), and I am appalled by his influence on the thinking of many Christians.

On the other hand, I’ve watched Joe Biden for many years and trust him. I’m impressed by his plans to address our health and economic crises, by his embrace of the possibility this moment has given us to address long-standing racial injustices, and by his commitment to opportunity for all people.

Please visit the invitation website and sign up for the Believers for Biden event tomorrow afternoon.

  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

For the last 30 years, I have worked with administrations, members of Congress, and citizens in both parties to secure help and opportunity for people struggling with hunger. Bread for the World’s bipartisan approach has proved effective in winning change, and it will continue to be important in our divided country. But I am no longer the spokesperson for Bread for the World, and nothing is more important to renewed progress against hunger and poverty than a victory for Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in November. President Trump is the most dangerous president in U.S. history, while I trust Biden and find his strategy to Build Back Better compelling,

Biden’s top priority as president would be leadership of a nationwide strategy to moderate the spread of COVID-19. Our country has done worse than most other countries in managing the virus, because Trump has downplayed the risk, shifted responsibility to 50 governors, and given them and the nation bad advice about how to respond. All of us have suffered losses, millions of people have been driven into hunger, and 160,000 people have died (disproportionately, people of color and low-income white people).

In recent weeks, Biden has outlined other elements of his Build Back Better plan: investment in U.S. manufacturing and innovation, job-promoting investment in infrastructure and green growth, investment in child care and care for elderly people, and advancing racial equity by empowering small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged communities. Biden also plans to expand the Affordable Care Act so that everybody in America gets the medical care they need.

Vice President Biden also supports strengthening the national nutrition programs to address hunger directly, increasing the minimum wage, and expanding tax credits for low-income workers. These three actions, in the context of the Build Back Better program, could take us from today’s very high rate hunger to virtually no hunger within eight years.

Biden would also be effective in rebuilding America’s global leadership, including support for prosperity and poverty reduction worldwide.

I first met Vice President Biden in 2003. He was then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I went with two Bread for the World members from Delaware to ask him to help establish the Millennium Challenge Account, which President George W. Bush (who had been skeptical of all foreign aid) had proposed. He agreed, and the two parties worked together - with strong support from Bread for the World - to establish this new and effective approach to foreign aid.

This photo comes from a Bread for the World and Alliance to End Hunger event in December 2018. Biden spoke at length without notes - knowledgeably and passionately - about the policies that would allow us to end hunger in our country and around the world. He came at the invitation of Terry Meehan, and the photo includes Terry and his son Luke.

I agree with Kamala Harris that we now have “a president who cares more about himself than about the people who elected him, a president who is making every challenge we face more difficult.” Trump has certainly done harm to many people struggling with hunger - relentlessly pushing to cut programs that help them, promoting racism, and treating immigrants and refugees harshly. World hunger has been increasing in recent years, mainly because of conflict, climate change, and the slump in international trade -- all problems that Trump has made worse.

I have connected to the Biden campaign through its Believers for Biden program. The campaign’s strong faith outreach staff offers informative Zoom calls featuring people whose faith undergirds their support for Biden’s candidacy. They suggest specific ways that individuals can help get the Biden-Harris ticket elected. They also offer sub-groups for people from different faith traditions.

There are only 88 days left before November 3. We need to achieve a clear and decisive win to discredit the legal and illegal efforts Trump will almost certainly make to reverse the outcome of an electoral defeat. A sweeping defeat may also lead to the rise of a reformed Republican Party.

It’s not enough for us to complain to like-minded people about how bad things are. We need to request vote-by-mail ballots now and vote as soon as possible, so that the postal service and local election officials will have ample time to deliver and count our ballots.

We need to give money to the Biden campaign and good candidates for other offices. People who generously support church and charity often fail to support electoral candidates. But the results of this election will have more effect on poor and vulnerable people than all of our charitable giving for years to come. Since white Christians have been among Trump’s core supporters, the integrity and gospel witness of Christianity in this country are also at stake.

We should encourage like-minded neighbors, friends, and relatives to join us in practical actions to help win this election. And we should also reach out to neighbors, friends, and relatives who may not agree with us to listen carefully and share our point of view. We may influence a vote, and, in any case, we won’t fully succeed in Building Back Better unless we can over time also moderate the sharp divides in our society.

  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

“You cannot give up, and you cannot give in.” So said Congressman John Lewis, whose lifetime of prayerful struggle for racial equality we celebrate. In that spirit, I’m writing一not for the first time一to urge ongoing advocacy with our members of Congress to increase nutrition assistance and international aid in the COVID legislation they are negotiating now.

© UNICEF /Al-Adimi

The White House and Senate Republicans have delayed negotiations and are now divided among themselves about how to proceed. But President Trump and Senator McConnell both see that failure to respond to America’s deepening crisis will further depress Republican electoral prospects. A deal is also in the interests of the Democratic Party - and certainly in the interests of the American people.

The many church bodies and networks that are part of the Circle of Protection are focusing especially on increasing nutrition assistance and international aid as part of the deal. Nutrition assistance and international aid would target the needs of very poor people, and maybe for that reason they are not prominent in the talking points of either party. Yet some members of Congress from both parties want to expand nutrition assistance and international aid, and we can as constituents make these issues a somewhat higher priority for our own members of Congress.

The Census Bureau has been doing weekly surveys of U.S. households during the pandemic. Each week, about one in three households with children reports that they haven’t been able to afford enough food for their families. This is much worse than before the pandemic.

My wife Janet is part of a team making calls to Spanish-speaking families in our community (Alexandria, Virginia) who need food and rental assistance. We hear the pain in their voices, the same pain that all the families across the country who are reporting hunger in their households must feel.

This video footage and commentary from David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program, gives us vivid images of acute hunger in some of the most desperate places in the world - Yemen, for example. I’ve pinned a beautiful photo of a seven-year-old Yemeni girl at the top of this blog post.

Surprisingly, the House Democrats put zero international funding in the proposal they are bringing to the negotiation table now. That was a mistake. But 14 Republican senators joined 18 Democratic senators in urging the inclusion of international aid in the final bill. Senator McConnell’s bill thus includes some international aid, although much less than the $12 billion that Bread for the World judges to be the minimum of what it needed.

House Democrats are pushing for an increase in SNAP food assistance benefits and an extension of “Pandemic EBT” - which will provide extra food assistance to families with children when schools are closed. Four Republican senators (Grassley, Gardner, Boozman, and Fischer) have also come out in support of increasing SNAP benefits. Senator McConnell’s bill includes no nutrition assistance, but ironically provides a 100% tax deduction for business lunches.

The increase in SNAP benefits that Bread for the World is campaigning for would cost about $26 billion. That will provide groceries for many families in need over a number of years. But it’s only on the order of 2% of the funding that Congress and the President are likely to approve in this final COVID relief bill before the elections. More than any of the other provisions that are under negotiation, nutrition assistance and international aid would address severe hardship.

Go to the websites of your two senators (find yours here). Nearly all congressional websites invite you to leave a written message. That’s an easy way to let your members of Congress know that you want them to push for two provisions that are important to hungry people in the COVID response bill that is under negotiation – increased nutrition assistance for families in this country and increased international aid for low-income countries. If you left this message a couple weeks ago, another message now will probably double your impact. If your senator is one of those who signed the letter about funding for international aid or is one of the four Republicans who has come out in support of increased SNAP benefits, be sure to say thank you.

If you are willing to go the extra mile, call the office and ask for the names and email addresses of the staff members who work on these issues. Personal emails to those two staffers are likely to have more impact than a written message to the member of Congress. Save those names and emails for future use. The best advocates develop relationships in the offices of their members of Congress.

The dramatic progress that our country and the world have made against hunger and poverty in recent decades is strong evidence that continued progress is possible, and this is certainly something that our loving God wants. If we know anything about God, we know that God wants all children to receive the food they need.

John Lewis’ definition of faith applies to our ongoing work to end hunger: “Faith is being so sure of what the spirit has whispered in your heart that your belief in its eventuality is unshakable.”

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