By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian
U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson can passionately argue for importing prescription drugs from Canada or seek aid for programs that offer hunger relief at home and abroad, but she's not quite comfortable talking about politics in church.
Yet that didn't stop her from speaking to Rhema Word Breakthrough Ministries on Sunday. Emerson addressed a crowd of about 70 people at the predominantly black congregation.
She talked about how her faith motivates her to act in her job and provides the focus on issues in her 28-county district.
Emerson spoke about how the Sermon on the Mount reminds her and her colleagues to remember the hungry and those who suffer.
"When my colleagues and I gather for prayer, we are leaving our politics and party at the door," she said. "We look to God for strength and guidance and direction. It's our responsibility to take up issues like hunger and health care and the economy.
"There's no reason for a person in the U.S. to go to sleep hungry. There's no reason to lack food or adequate health care," she said. "Because God has given us much, he expects much from us."
As citizens of a democracy and as Christians, everyone shares the responsibility of caring for the hungry and those who suffer, Emerson said.
She spoke about how important it is for Congress to address the needs of all people and seek solutions for their problems, whether it means providing better access to health care or making sure prescription drugs aren't too costly for the elderly, or making sure that parents have adequate transportation for their children to attend Head Start programs.
Emerson answered questions from church members. She was asked why Congress continues to fund a war in Iraq when there seem to be other problems here, like hunger.
"We've spent almost $200 billion in Iraq and it's a difficult number to justify when there are people here who are food insecure," she said. But hunger was a problem then too.
Deborah McBride, a Democratic candidate for county office and a member of Rhema Word, asked Emerson about her voting record, particularly on black issues.
"I want to cast my vote where it does the most good," McBride said, in asking Emerson about her stance on NAACP issues. McBride cited a voting scorecard from the NAACP that gave Emerson a score of 23 out of 100 for supporting black issues.
Emerson said she works to be fair in Congress. She's not just voting on Republican issues, but striving to help her district. She said she's open to hearing from people when there is a concern, and has yet to get a visit from an NAACP representative to address the organization's concerns.
Dr. A.G. Green, pastor, said he's been trying to expose his congregation to the candidates during this election season so that they can make informed decisions at the polls.
"When you go to vote you shouldn't just be guessing. You should know who you are voting for and what that person stands for," he said. "I don't want an atheist representing me. I want somebody who loves God and believes in God to represent me."
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