By David Beckmann and Arthur Simon
Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, New Jersey, 07430. 1999. Paperback. 219 pp. ISBN: 0-8091-3866-2.
Reviewed by Berard L. Marthaler
This work belongs to the genre of literature classified on the Internet under the heading FAQ– Frequently Asked Questions. It may be that the questions in Grace at the Table about “ending hunger in God’s world,” are not frequently asked, but the authors think they should be. Arthur Simon and David Beckmann, respectively the founding president and the current president of Bread for the World, have compiled a catechism that describes the extent of world hunger, identifies the causes, and proposes strategies for dealing with it.
The catechism image comes to mind both because of the book’s Q and A approach and because its message is expressed in religious and moral terms. The authors declare, for example, that hunger “is a scandal not only in the sense of moral outrage, but also because it causes despair and alienates people from God.” The second chapter weaves together a number of biblical references, and asks the question, “Is there a Christian political agenda on hunger?,” and ends with the assertion, “Helping hungry people is to Christian faith as breathing out is to breathing in.”
Although regular readers of WHES’ Hunger Notes will not find much in these pages that they do not already know, they cannot help but recognize Grace at the Table as a valuable resource that organizes a broad range of information, including facts and figures in a readable format. Twenty-nine chapters subdivided into eight sections, it covers such topics as “Too Many People?,” “Creating Good Jobs,” “Women Bear The Brunt,” “The Economics of Hunger,” and “Charity Is Not Enough.” It is an engaging book that deserves wide circulation among the general public (that is, people like me who are not regular readers of Hunger Notes !). Informed leaders in the drive to overcome global hunger will also find it useful because the list of “Resources for Anti-hunger Work” at the back of the book, as well as endnotes at the end of each chapter, make it a handy reference tool.
Berard L. Marthaler is a faculty member at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.