His powerful, analytical book, Hunger for Justice: the politics of food and faith (Orbis Books, 1980), first rocked and then began shaping my thinking about faith's practical application to the pain and injustice of real life. I'm not sure I've read a book that's had more long-term impact on me and what I do than this one volume.
Not long ago, I picked up the book and thumbed through my markings. The spine is broken, the pages are falling out.
Here's just one insight he offers about poverty and the spiritual quality of nations, in this case the nation of Israel in biblical times:
"According to the biblical writers, the suffering of the poor reveals the religious and social fabric of nations. . . .
"The suffering of the poor is an indication that there is something deeply wrong in the religious and social fabric of the nation. Just as a red light flashes when a car is running without enough oil, the suffering of the poor flashes a warning that our political, economic, and religious systems are functioning without justice. When the poor were being trampled, the prophets conveyed the judgment of God: there is no knowledge of God in the land (Jer.9:6); the poor are being exploited in the marketplace and dispossessed of their land (Amos 8:4-7); and the religious and political authorities are co-conspirators against God and the poor (Micah 3:9-11; Isa. 3:14-15)."