Tuesday 14 November 2006

Poverty close up

U2's visit to Australia is but one of the cultural events throwing a spotlight on world-wide poverty. This Thursday in Melbourne a Make Poverty History forum will discuss ways of influencing the G20 agenda in favour of poverty alleviation.
For Christians, poverty is a complex issue. The Bible is neither pro-poverty, nor against it. It doesn't see poverty as a barrier to faith, nor as a spiritual good to be sought. The Bible is, however, against selfishness, love of money, and ignoring your neighbour in need. It is also pro- healing, sharing, loving and sacrificing your own comforts for others. Christians have to approach poverty through all of these spiritual guidelines.

But extreme poverty—stupid poverty, as Bono and Geldof call it—is such an affront to human existence that it can't be ignored, especially if we have the means to eradicate it.

A friend in politics, in his HSC economics textbook, quotes the humanist philosopher Thomas Pogge:

"How can severe poverty of half of humankind continue despite enormous economic and technological progress and despite the enlightened moral norms and values of our heavily dominant Western civilization? ... Our world is arranged to keep us far away from massive and severe poverty and surrounds us with affluent, civilised people for whom the poor abroad are a remote good cause alongside the spotted owl... Extensive, severe poverty can continue, because we do not find its eradication morally compelling."

But, thanks to technology, the moral distance between the well-off and the impoverished has been closing. It has become more compelling. TV, the internet and global events like Live Aid have turned Africans into neighbours, harder to ignore, easier to help. And there are more groups trying to help than ever before. Lobbying governments and large corporations to make a difference is becoming an artform.

For Christians who want to love their neighbours, it's just a matter of choosing a way to do it from the many great options available. There are no sure-fire ultimate solutions to extreme poverty outside the New Jerusalem, but there are plenty of working solutions and they are just a click away.

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1 comment:

psychodougie said...

great way to show we're different, isn't it.
especially when i think about that bloke in fahrenheit 911 who explained his wealth was expressedly due to those in africa suffering in their poverty.
that's the price he was willing to pay.

it's stuck with me a long time, and is a clear example of where we can show we are of the world, but not in it.
(of course, this is not to say there aren't non-Christians who are likewise caring and ethical and active, rather that it is inconsistent with a Christian moral code to do nothing when aware of the plight of the poverty stricken)

don't you hate it when your p.c. correction is longer than your post!