OUR OPINION: Revisit the strong spirit of generosity, justice

“Above the noise of selfish strife that characterizes so much of our culture, help us to experience your presence and faithfulness, and not only to hear but also to respond to your call to truth and justice on behalf of those exploited by the greed and self-absorption of others.

“In a political and cultural climate rampant with signs, both subtle and blatant, of racism, sexism, and ageism and of the great divide between the vastly rich and the vastly poor, help us to be mindful that we do not necessarily know ourselves well enough to assume that we are immune to the evils of prejudice and bigotry. Remind us, dear God, that we are saved by your grace and not by our presumed perfection, for we are not always delivered from evil, despite our prayer that we will be.”

Excerpt from a 2008 pastoral prayer of John Boyle (Deceased)

Pastoral Staff, Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago 1976-2013

A week ago today more than 664,000 Mississippians had less money to spend on food every month because they are dependent on a federal program called SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – that was cut 5 percent in every state because Congress could not or would not agree on a level to sustain the payments at the previous level.

The total number of people affected in Mississippi is 22 percent of the population.

It includes 307,000 children who are dependent on somebody besides themselves for every bite they get.

It includes 119,000 elderly, sick people.

The average amount of monthly assistance is $275; the total varies depending on the size of the household.

The cut amounts to $70 million, most of which would have been spent in Mississippi grocery stores and recirculated in our state’s economy.

John Boyle, whose prayer is quoted, ran a large community-based social service agency for his congregation in Chicago. It seeks out people in need, just as do many programs, food banks, clinics and clothes closets run by churches in Mississippi. That’s all good.

The private sector, however, has not been able to meet the needs of the marginalized in this country for decades, and government has played a key role in a bipartisan spirit.

That spirit is broken. It is time, as Boyle prayed, for us to revisit “truth and justice on behalf of those exploited by the greed and self-absorption of others.”