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Hunger strike aims at congressional cuts
March 28th, 2011
01:47 PM ET

Hunger strike aims at congressional cuts

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Amid a delicate dance to cut the budget in Congress, agitated religious leaders in Washington said Monday that the cuts being proposed are too deep.

Food aid for people at home and abroad, mosquito nets, and Head Start preschool programs are all on the chopping block. That, many religious leaders say, has crossed a moral line. In response, they have begun a fast - a hunger strike.

"We've talked and talked and talked. And we've lobbied and we've reasoned and we've sent letters and we've admonished. That's why we're having the fast. It's time to call in God. It's time to unleash God," Tony Hall said.

A former U.S. ambassador to the World Food Programme and a former U.S. congressmen, Hall has gone on a hunger strike before. He fasted for 22 days as a congressman in 1993 to protest what he said was the lack of conscience in Congress toward hungry people.

"Today things are nearly worse," he said. "We do need to cut the deficit and get our fiscal house in order, but not on the backs of the poor and hungry. They didn't get us into this current mess and hurting them is not the way out of it."

Hall and a host of religious leaders announced that their fast started immediately.

Joining him at the announcement of the fast at the National Press Club in Washington was Jim Wallis of Sojourners; the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; and Ritu Sharma, co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide. They said 38 organizations and 4,000 more individuals had signed on, too.

You couldn’t hear their stomachs rumbling yet, but their voices shook with anger.

"What our Congress is doing is hurting poor people who have no voice to stand in front of you at the National Press Club and say, 'Don't do this. Don't hurt us or our children,'" Sharma said.

"I'm praying that our nation's leaders can indeed reach a compromise, and bipartisan agreement that we won't hurt hungry and poor people," Beckmann said.

He argued Congress should look at closing tax loopholes, cutting military spending, and working to bring back the economy.

"The first bill Congress passed this year, HR-1, is really rough on hungry and poor people," he said. "It would throw 200,000 children off Head Start. This doesn't make any sense for us in the long haul, to deprive low-income kids the chance to go to preschool. This is not the way to reduce our deficit."

The current proposals, he added, "would cut food aid in half this year. ... A sudden cut in food aid that would throw 18 million of the hungriest people in the world off a stream of food on which they rely."

The groups said the cuts in the House of Representative would represent a 2.6% reduction in overall spending but hit overseas poverty aid hard by reducing it 26%. Also of great concern to the religious leaders is a potential reduction in the Women, Infants and Children program of $7.6 billion.

"There are cuts that kill and cuts that don't," Sharma said. "Children are depending on malaria bed nets," she said referring to the mosquito netting the US government provides to some developing countries to help stave off malaria.

The group includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim aid groups, as well as clergy. They hope people will join in with prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Wallis, Beckmann, and Sharma urged people to call and write their representatives, urging them not to cut funding for the poor and hungry.

"This fast is what I call a spiritual escalation, a spiritual escalation to bring these critical moral choices to the attention of the nation," Wallis said.

This week will be water only for many of those fasting, but Wallis said they may start adding in some juices next week.

"How long?" Wallis asked. "I don't know. We're looking for something to happen."

He added, "We're doing this for breakthroughs. We're praying and fasting, hoping for some breakthroughs"

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Charity • Christianity • DC • Judaism • Muslim • United States

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. fineart

    Millions of Americans have absolutely no where else to turn. Many are sitting and waiting to have their homes taken from them. There are also millions of the former working class now living in shelters and getting food stamps. Who are helping the homeless veterans? Think about it! We are in dyer straits in this country.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  2. Frederica

    Christian leaders are the ones who really know what is the most important to mankind. Everyone should listen to them.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  3. Voiceinthewind

    They are absolutly right the poor and the helpless are not the one who got America into this mess The Shrub and his buddies and the Jews on Wall Street got us into it while they have made billions and billions let them pay to get us out. To attack the poor and the helpless who can't defend themselves is unconishable. Let the thieves and thier allies the Politicians get us out with thier tax beaks for the rich. I hope they don't stop thier hunger strike. This country needs a good March on Washington until these self serving politicians get out of thier ivory towers and join the rest of society which is why they were elected in the first place. Fire them all and find some honest down to earth real people not these self seving hypocrits who are taking America to the cleaners.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  4. w.c.m.

    Yes, we should definitely cut funds for children and the poor while we preserve tax breaks and loopholes for the very wealthy. (Sarcasm intended)

    March 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  5. rob

    To Al who said:

    "Republican are against the middleclass, the poor, the aging, the veterans, and now the children of America"

    You left out some groups...tune into MSNBC to hear the entire list of people Republicans are "Against" This is exactly what I was talking about...you are who the Democrats want as voters. Al, I don't care who takes the action to reduce our long term debt and out of controll Govt spending. If its moderate Dems then I'll support them too. It has to happen.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • dka

      the 1st line of your coment is avey ggood outlook of our future if there is one–there is a slow genicide of these people with out a single shot being fired--if you are in this group it dosen`t matter what party or race you are going to be a victum also -congress a year or so ago had no trouble finding money io give theirselves a $ 20,000 a year cost of living raise of which no other person except ceo`s of big bus..... got---when all us lower class peopie are homeless and hungery?????

      March 28, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • colbey

      dka – references please?

      a year ago, congress (federal) voted to NOT give themselves the pay raise that is set to happen automatically each year. they also did that (voted AGAINST the pay raise) in 2009. it should be coming up for a vote again very soon. what will the new congress do?

      however, you are correct in your basic assertion. congress had no trouble finding the billions needed to give the ultra-wealthy an additional tax break in december. (by additional, it means this - EVERYONE god a tax break up to a certain amount, around $150,000 per year. once you made more than that, regular [pre-bush] tax rates applied to the additional income. but the bush tax breaks gave those who had income above $150,000 (example) additional tax breaks on that extra income.)

      March 29, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • colbey

      *got
      sorry about that. ironic typo in the religious articles.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  6. suadi newt hallmarkcards

    wow..newt unravels the evil plan.. Like newt in afghanistan. An intellectual giant with al sharpton speaking for cheny hallmark cards of kansas athiest central. Yes.. Nothing escapes all the internet christian file sharing newts. Godspeed.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  7. Elfpower

    Contrast this to the Republicans who had an internet prayer service on the night before the vote on Health Care Reform so that we could keep people from having medical services.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Mario

      Beware of those always promising utopia (democrats), there's no such thing.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  8. Al

    Republican are against the middleclass, the poor, the aging, the veterans, and now the children of America. How and why did we allow this to happen? People of America, please remember this and vote Democrat in the next election. If not, we will all be bowing to the Republicans just like the people of Rome did! Beware!

    March 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Mario

      I am a Rebuplican. You have been brainwashed to believe that only the government can solve these problems. I understand your dilema. Let me explain. If the tax payers keep more of thier money, we can do more good with it than the government. I enjoy giving to charity. Look up many republicans you probably hate and you will find they give plenty to charity to help those in need. Why in your mind, only by letting the government take our money and doing what they see fit, do you believe is the right thing? Please wake up, then wake up the rest of the liberals.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Mario, you cannot expect religious organizations to do anything intelligently. And your "trickle-down" theory hasn't worked the last twenty times you Repulicans shoved that sort of thing through.
      We've been waiting since the 1980s for wealth to trickle-down, and all we've seen is a trickle.

      Now, with even more reason to not believe you, you want us to fall for that lie again. Why? You having a hard time admitting you were wrong in the first place? Yup.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  9. Gee

    I have absolutely no problem with cutting foreign aid....in my opinion, that should fall to charity groups that volunteer their time and money to those causes, not use federal tax money to try and buy friends...

    March 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Mario

      Right On!

      March 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  10. rob

    Every group or person who receives assistance from the federal Govt will have many reasons that their programs should not be cut. There are thousands of reasons not to cut any programs. Advocacy groups and Democrats in particular will trot out "Victims" of budget cuts they will call "Draconian", "Mean Spirited", "Harmfull", "Dangerous", and of course "RADICAL". This is the plan for the left to regain power in 2012 but if they are succesful and we don't get controll of spending there won't be any money for anything accept debt repayment within 20 years.

    Nov. 2012 will be the most important election in our lifetimes. It will either mark our spiraling downward as a world and economic power or a rebirth of Americas promise and hope for the worlds future. I believe the American people will be smart enough to reject the Democrats tired playbook of class warfare and demonizing their opponents and choose candidates who will face our real crisis with real plans to fix this before its too late.

    March 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Al

      who is that? Not the tea party or republicans!

      March 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Herbert Hoover made the biggest mistakes about the economy – you can't cut back too fast or the economy goes into a death spiral.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Limerall

      Republicans are crap. They have rejected every single small business bill to support economic recovery. They purposely cranked up the debt during the Reagan years. Republicans use religion as an excuse to push anti-abortion measures but ignore it when taking care of the poor. The middle class make this economy and its being shifted towards lower class. Just wait until the economy takes another turn for the worse and our currency becomes garbage. I'd like to see what crazy "Blame it on everyone else" theory they come up with next. Our Military is our #1 issue, not a single mother trying to put food on a table.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  11. kylefromohio

    Yeah; Where is O'Steen; and Dollar and Copeland, and Joyce Myers and Charles Stanley and the TNT network on the saving people and prosperity the power of Love over Evil; When Satan is winning in the World etc......

    March 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  12. GozieBoy

    Oh, what a joyous day. Now if we could get as many of the wacked out loony libs as possible to join this hunger strike!!!

    March 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  13. geecee827

    What I find particularly disturbing about all these right wing religious conservatives in Congress is that they claim to be Christians, when they know darn well Jesus Christ was a Socialist if ever there was one!! Yet they rant and rave about helping their fellow man in this Country but prefer to let big business keep all their profits, not pay taxes and claim it creates jobs!! Come on, now. Who is going to be stupid enough to believe that?? Oh, I know, the crazy, right-wing religious fundamentalist conservatives, that's who!!

    March 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Yup...anti-tax, anti-social program, anti-gov't regulation. They support the wealthy getting tax breaks and loopholes with fewer checks and balances, lining their coffers instead of creating new jobs. Think the less fortunate are responcible for their predicament so why should we bail them out, mentality. The exact same have your cake and eat it too mentality that the previous Republican administration used to create the whole mess in the first place. But voters have short memories and now it comes back to bite them in the butt.

      March 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Cullen

      No, Christ was a not a socialist...unlike Marxists who believe the state should pick who gets what, Christ simply wanted us to help those who needed help.

      You know, if I had more of my money to keep, imagine what I could do with it? I could spend more at a hardware store or a grocery store to ensure the people in those supply chains have a job. I could give more to charities, such as Saint Jude's or my local church.
      Instead I have the government saying it needs my money for more bloated government programs which have never produced any meaningful results.

      Teach a man to fish...

      March 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Cullen – You are commanded to sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Insane of course, but that's your Bible not mine.
      By the way, that happens to be socialist. The New Testament, I mean.
      And if your government says "give me that money", and you are commanded to obey your earthly authorities, then you'd better pay your taxes at the very least and quit complaining. Jesus would take everything you've got and give it to the poor.

      March 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Well Read

      Christ was no socialist. He told his followers to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, render unto God what is God's." He also challenges his followers to give to the poor, to help the sick, the orphans, the widdows. Paul reinforces that Christ's followers should do that. With Christ, it is about obedience. If you follow Christ, you should choose to give to the church, to the poor, etc. Christ never states that it is the job of the government.

      Also, the only person he tells to give all of their posessions away is the rich young man, because of that particular person's issues surrounding his wealth.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Mario

      Jesus Christ was not a socialist. He did not steal money or food from thise who had and give it to those who did not have. He encouraged GIVING. I agree with giving. Not a government that takes my hard earned money and does whatever it wants with it.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Jeanine

      If you want freedom of religion you'd better cough up that money. That money is for Americans, and if you are able to count using more than your fingers and toes, you'd see that all that money that goes to help Americans makes our economy stronger and puts money in the pockets of every American business.
      But you religious people are so narrow-minded and blind to everything that it's a miracle if you remember to vote.
      The government has a duty to help ALL Americans, not just the ones you feel like helping when you feel like it.
      And there is nothing in the Constltution that says government must rely upon religious organizations for ANYTHING.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  14. Reality

    Hmmm, one wonders if the following con artists will be giving up anything?:

    Take home pay:

    Glen Beck, $32 million in 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/08/glenn-beck-earned-32-mill_n_529903.html

    and from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.
    Rev. Billy Graham, $400,000/yr
    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield $331,708/yr
    Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, $200,000/yr
    Erica Brown $134,221/yr
    Eboo Patel $120,000/yr.(and his "non-profit's" $2 million tax-free investment portfolio).
    Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy, $400,000/yr/ea estimated

    March 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Right on Brother...funny how far removed from actual hardship these pillars of faith are.

      March 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • GozieBoy

      And what did Soros make last year from manipulating the currency markets? Bubba? AlGore? The list is long...

      March 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Cullen

      Glenn Beck actually gives a lot to charity. How come your Huffington Post source didn't include the likes of Michael Moore, Al Gore, George Soros, etc?

      Jim Wallis is a socialist who is trying to hijack religion to get "social justice."

      March 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  15. TexasHorseLady

    You know, I can remember, back in the day, being raised as a preacher's kid, when the religious leaders and the churches were the ones who were providing all of those services to the less fortunate. They didn't expect the government to do their job, the one they were admonished by their own God to take personal responsibility for, for them.

    How about, instead of a hunger strike, going back to that? I think that would be MUCH more effective.

    March 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Yeah and back in the day there never were any homeless, poor or hungry and as such no government programs needed to be created to fill the gaps.......oh wait.

      March 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  16. Hank

    Marx and Engles were right about capitalism? Could be ...

    March 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  17. AtheistSteve

    Yeah well where were these people when the conservative right stonewalled the Obama administration from letting the tax breaks to the very wealthy expire. Thats why these programs are now being targeted.

    March 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Doug

      You speak the truth Steve!!!!

      March 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Mario

      Why can't you understand that "letting tax breaks expire" is a play with words? Stop. Take a look at tax brackets and look into what is a "tax break" for the rich. You will learn that the rich already pay much, much more in percentage than the middle class, and that the "tax break" only lessens that by a small fraction. How can it make any sense for someone to make 3 million dollars and have to pay 1 million in taxes? That means for a third of the year they were working for free, 4 months of endentured servitude to the government. Please wake up. Then, wake up the rest of the liberals!!!

      March 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  18. Sum Dude

    If they want a "breakthrough" they should think about understanding how things work inside the Beltway....!

    March 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Phil Mup

    They are making the wrong people go without food.
    They should toss everyone in Congress into a dungeon and make them live on bread and water until they get the idea.
    Starving yourself only damages you if you don't take the right nutritional supplements.

    When will people understand that it's all about money and not who is dumb enough to go on a hunger strike?
    All they need are wealthy people willing to bribe our legislators. That's what the evil ones have on their side.
    Guess who is winning? Not the poor.

    March 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Beverly Tatum

      Where are the demands that ALL Americans pay their fair share in taxes? Why are the wealthy and corporations paying NOTHING in taxes and Republicans raising taxes on middle class people, working class people, and the poor???

      How ammoral and characterless can Republicans be? No food for poor children but giving all a state's education funding to corporations. Killing nearly a million jobs but not cutting a dime from the bloated Pentagon budget, not stopping billions in subsidies to oil companies (their Koch brother buddies), and NO taxes for corporations who pay NONE. Corporations like GE and Bank of America will pay $0 in taxes for 2010. How wrong and unfair is that to the PEOPLE?

      Republicans are not leaders – they are just corporate lackies who do whatever the corporations want. They are turning us into the "Corporate States of America" while destroying the PEOPLE.

      March 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  20. Peace2All

    From the article:

    "We've talked and talked and talked. And we've lobbied and we've reasoned and we've sent letters and we've admonished. That's why we're having the fast. It's time to call in God. It's time to unleash God," Tony Hall said.

    I'm curious... How is a hunger strike = to "unleashing God"...?

    Peace...

    March 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Peace my brother! Long time no see!

      I, too, am wondering how they can unleash their god when they can't get him to do anything else at all.
      Does he only work for hunger pangs?

      How have you been? I've been traveling some. Found some cool rocks.
      This is looking like a busy morning for me, though.
      I hate Mondays. 😦

      March 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Next they will be unleashing the kraken.

      March 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude

      Where the hell have you been, my good friend...? 🙂

      It's great to hear from you ! Well, I guess I can't say too much as I have been very busy myself with work and such, which has curtailed my 'blogging.'

      Anyway, -Sum Dude... Always a pleasure to hear from you !

      Peace...

      March 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Tim

      Much like Native Americans belief that peyote or other psycotropic herbs etc. brought the Great Spirit closer,Christians are taught that prayer and fasting brings God closer and and magnifies his ability to work through his people.Personally I am very glad to see Christians finally responding to this radical agenda that has started steamrolling across our middle and lower class people.Christains and the middle class have been suckered into this approach and it has turned on them.Christains helped to vote these people in based on two major issues(abortion and gay rights) or moral issues without looking closely at the morals of the ones they voted in(seperation of Church and State has a very valid purpose).What good is saving a child from abortion only to starve them after birth.Lots more I could say but this is a good start.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • XWngLady

      I gather that you're asking because you really don't know and not that you're being sarcastic. But biblically, when persons in the Bible came up against insurmountable odds or were faced with certain doom, they appealed to God by denying themselves food and spending more time in prayer. Food, s-e_x, entertainment, people, etc. are all things that, while good, can and do distract us from relating more to God. Fasting/abstaining "opens/de-clutters the channels" of communication with God so that one can hear him more clearly and so he can prepare you, either for the work/miracle that He is going to do on your behalf, or to strengthen you for the battle or difficulty that lies ahead if things don't change. Either way, it makes one stronger AND it may be that God turns the situation around on one's behalf, just because you asked Him and made the effort.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.