Sunday, August 21, 2011

Faith Based Advocacy

I have the privilege of sitting on my church's Stewardship Committee. Our mission is to help deepen people's understanding of stewardship and lead them towards growth in faith and life through stewardship activities. Each month we have a different stewardship theme that we focus on. This month the theme was Faith Based Advocacy. Here is an article I wrote for the Church Newsletter that I thought I would share.

Advocacy is the act of speaking on the behalf of or in support of another person, place, or thing. Perhaps some of our earliest experiences in life with this concept might have been standing up to a bully and advocating on behalf of another child who was being picked on at school. Whether we directly faced the opponent, or ran to tell an adult, we were suddenly aware of three things: (1) This was a situation of injustice, (2) we did not like to see the other person suffer, and (3) the situation could only persist if we allowed it to. While the child targeted by the bullying may have felt too scared to do anything about it, we suddenly learned that we had this powerful thing called a voice where we could stand up on the other’s behalf and relieve their suffering.

In the adult world, we think most commonly of advocacy in terms of public policy. From a Stewardship framework, we ask the question, ‘How can Government best utilize our civic time, talents, and treasures to serve God’s purposes?’ In Dr. Karen Bloomquist’s series on “Faith Based Advocacy” which took place at Faith over the last several weeks, we talked a lot about how to advocate for public policy which brings relief to those who are the most vulnerable in society. This can include not only the poor and the marginalized, but also Creation itself. The vulnerable segments of our society, in their daily efforts to survive, may not have the autonomy or the resources to rise up out of their own cycles of poverty, abuse, or exploitation. It requires the strong voices of many, and particularly those of Christians, to bring these issues before our public policy leaders and seek a more fair, equitable and responsible distribution of our civic resources to protect those who are most vulnerable. This is our mandate as Christians, for Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).

As Christians, we strive for public policy that is not dictated by partisanship but rooted in faith. In these efforts, the Social Policy Statement adopted by the ELCA in 1999, called “Sufficient, Sustainable, Livelihood for All,” can be our guide ( For All indicates the scope of God’s concern, which is all inclusive and includes the poor and vulnerable. There are no prequalification requirements to be a child of God. We are all loved unconditionally. Livelihood designates the means by which our life is sustained. Whether it is through paid jobs, self employment, business ownership, accumulated wealth, family support, or government assistance, livelihood is that which gives us access to what is needed to thrive. Sufficiency implies adequate access to resources that enable people to meet their basic needs including nutrition, clothing, housing, healthcare, personal development, and participation in the community with dignity. The key word is adequate and causes us to ask serious questions about our tendencies as individuals and as a society to over consume. And Sustainability is the capacity of natural and social systems to survive together over the long term. While the first three issues deal with people, sustainability reminds us that what is good for humanity always must be tempered with, informed by, and held in tension with what is good for Creation.

“Sufficient, Sustainable, Livelihood for All,” is a Christian faith based economic ethic that can guide us in the difficult decisions we face as individuals, churches, and civic communities about how to manage our time, talents, and treasures. It can lead us toward a vision and embodiment of what government was meant to be -- an economic agency where individuals make sacrifices to support the common good, rather than a mechanism for protecting and promoting individual interest groups. Moreover, “Sufficient, Sustainable, Livelihood for All,” is a statement of faith. It reminds us in times of uncertainty that God does provide for us and Creation does bear all of the things that are needed to meet our basic human needs if only we are to live sustainably and for the good of all. When Christians come together to advocate for the vulnerable, public policy can be one way in which God’s will for the good of all Creation is carried out.

To read more of the ELCA's Social Statement on "Sufficient, Sustainable, Livelihood for All," visit the ELCA website at: (

Also, consider reading and signing this ecumenical statement to appeal to our national leaders in the face of budget challenges not to cut those programs which are basic to the survival of the poor and vulnerable in our society:

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