Error message

Notice: Undefined index: und in BeanBagLatestMedia->view() (line 172 of /home/relmag/public_html/sites/default/modules/bean_bag/plugins/bean/

Notice: Undefined variable: summary in BeanBagLatestMedia->view() (line 176 of /home/relmag/public_html/sites/default/modules/bean_bag/plugins/bean/

Starving for Justice

In early December 2009, activist Brandt Russo announced he would not eat a single thing until he had raised $15,500 for starving children around the world. About a week later, thanks to word-of-mouth on Twitter, he exceeded his goal. Yet despite the success of his mission, Russo had doubts. “About fifteen hours after such accomplishments,” he wrote on his blog, “I always wonder if the truth of the matter stuck, or folks kind of just move on.”

In today’s world of here-today-gone-tomorrow fads, worthy causes can be quickly forgotten. A few years ago it seemed like the entire world stood united to call on the end of the genocide in Darfur. Last summer people turned their Twitter avatars green to support the Iranian protesters. Neither one gets mentioned in the news anymore. Even interest in the current relief effort in Haiti is slowly diminishing. “Day after day passed [in Haiti],” Russo observes, “and the problem remained just as critical, but we slowly began to lose interest. Not that we aren’t still heartbroken, but I think its has a lot to say about humanity and the fact that if we aren’t continually reminding ourselves that there are more pains than our own, we will never see them; and if we do, they will only affect us until we are distracted with our own problems.”

Russo knew he could no longer be distracted after hearing stories from his friend Ryan Alexander of the nonprofit group Not Fashionable. Russo explains: “He takes trips to Africa to provide the children with parasite de-worming medication and to teach them sustainable farming techniques, etc. He was telling me about they things they do, but the fact that they can’t get decent funding, trips were put on hold.” One day while Russo was thinking about Not Fashionable’s dilemma, a thought occurred to him: he could starve for the children.

“Gandhi said that there is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed,” Russo says. “There are major problems in the world, and it’s time we start collectively knocking them out one by one. We can’t continue to sit around knowing that these diseases are, for the most part, preventable. We are all very capable to make a change. For the price of a Starbucks latte, you could de-worm an entire school. I just figured extreme times called for extreme measures.”

And so, on Dec. 3, 2009, Operation Starvation began. And thanks to social media, it quickly got attention. “As soon as I started tweeting about it,” Russo says, “people came out of the woodworks. Some of my better-known friends decided to start tweeting about it and urged their Twitter followers to do the same.” Some of those friends included Disney Channel star Demi Lovato, Lauren Barlow of The Barlow Girls, Tyler James Williams from the show Everybody Hates Chris, Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline, and The Flobots.

Some of Operation Starvation’s biggest supporters were young people. On his blog, Russo shares an email he received about a 13-year-old girl living in poverty who felt compelled to raise money. “Jesus said it best,” Russo reflects, “you can’t enter the kingdom of Heaven unless you’re like a little child. They are so pure at heart. They realized that children, much like them, die every day and that’s not OK.” Unfortunately, not everyone was so supportive. On day two, Russo received a picture of a cheeseburger from some one calling Operation Starvation a “‘poser fast.” Russo explains it’s just a part of the so-called “Christian Worldview” many adults have adopted. “[It’s an] airplane theology that tells us to put on our own air masks before we assist anyone else,” he says. “Our wisdom has become one of our greatest enemies when it comes to the simple truths of the Gospel.”

After nine days with no food—by day six, Russo wrote that he was so hungry he could “eat dirt”—Operation Starvation raised more than $15,500. While grateful for the success, he couldn’t help but be bothered by one thing: out of all the people he talked to, only 330 people made a donation. Most of the Christians he spoke to just said they would ‘pray about it.’ “I think that’s the problem with the Christian culture these days,” Russo says. “We seem to do one of three things. We either see the problem as too big and decide nothing we give will be enough and just walk away. We decide to over-spiritualize a situation in a way that ‘washes your hands’ of the situation, or we give what we can and pray that God multiplies it.”

So now the question is, what’s next? Will the truth of the matter stick, or will folks move on?

“It seems like every decade or so,” Russo says, “we are faced with new social atrocities that tear apart Gods plan of equality, and the war for justice wages on. It’s our job to not only make conscious decisions that are lasting, but also raise up the coming generations in ways that will generate lasting change.”

The Bible says faith without deeds is dead. In times of darkness, the world looks to us, as ambassadors of Christ, to be the proverbial light of the world. “We may not end world hunger,” Russo says, “or find the prescription to end the wars of this world, but we can do what we can. The first hunger strike may be over, and for some part forgotten about, but the change that is taking place in our heads and hearts has only begun. Now it's up to you.”

Top Comments


brandtrusso commented…

I know this is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, but its time for me to get honest. Ever since I was 11, a pornography addiction has developed in my life. FOURTEEN YEARS, I have held this burden. I can remember back to the days when we had dial up and I would have to find pictures that would surpass the 'guardian angel filters' my parents had on my computer. I dont think people understand the brokenness that people who are addicted to pornography feel. The loneliness. The problem is that no one wants to admit it. I dont find many people who are very excited about showcasing their sins, and being put on display so that healing can take place, but its time for me to become one of those people.

For some time now, this problem has existed, and it elevated to webcam chatting. To make a long story short, I have used many girls in my past. Gotten them to do things, and participate with me. I have a great heart, I know I do, but I turn into another person when those elements are added. I thought I could seek healing by going out with nothing. I didnt think I would have to tell anyone; that if I spent enough time away from the problem, praying and fasting, that I could get rid of it without having to look like a hypocrite.

I was wrong.

If pictures leak, its just what it looks like. A kid with a heart for God 'looking down from the rooftop watching a woman bathe'. The difference is that im not willing to kill to cover up my screw ups. I am a HUGE screw up, and I would dare to say that some of the most amazing people in our eyes are as well. I need to get this out to shame me. I need to get this out so that I can finally heal. Its a cancer and a poison. Im taking a break from about everything for a while so that I can find God in a real way in the midst of COMMUNITY. That was what was missing. I couldnt find people I could trust not to tear me down more, so I kept my mouth shut. Who are we as a church if we cant confess our sins as a part of healing, and remember that we are all in need of Gods grace and His strength is still YET being made perfect in us.

I apologize to everyone who I have offended. I apologize to everyone who I have used and objectified. Im seeking healing and forgiveness.

This was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The best thing that ever happened to Saul was getting blinded and knocked off his high horse. I needed this pain. This humiliation. WE ARE ALL SINNERS AND HAVE FALLEN SHORT OF HIS GLORY. Im sorry I have shamed Jesus with this disgusting addiction.

Please pray for me, and know my heart is yet the same. Please help me through this, and put your stones away. Its so easy to condemn until its us being condemned. I still seek and love Jesus with ALL my heart and pray the kingdom to this world, but it has to start with me. With THIS heart. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me and not dismiss me and 'my ministry' because of this'. I love you all and thank you for your understanding.

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to dothis I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to Godthrough Jesus Christ our Lord! " - Romans 7:15-25



Travis Mamone commented…

I know, what a concept!


Dianna commented…

I remember worrying a bit when Brandt announced that he was doing this, but within 24 hours, and talking with numerous friends who are close to him (and talking to him), he'd managed to change my mind. I think it scares a lot of [American] Christians when someone takes the time to step out for their faith, to do something so completely radical that it challenges what we're used to seeing. We're used to going to church on Sunday, putting our 10% in the offering plate, hearing a nice little sermon telling us how to be better Christians, how to pray and read the Bible better - all the while ignoring the homeless person waiting on the steps of the church. We're Gnostics in materialist clothing, and it breaks my heart.

Kudos, Travis, on a good article! And kudos, Brandt, on challenging my worldview over and over.


Robert commented…

modern day gandhi? I can dig it



general commented…

See what else Brandt has been up to recently:



general commented…

Whoops, bad link - here's the fixed one:

Please log in or register to comment

Log In