Over the past several years, we have used our social media tools to point attention to the One Campaign. Even if you don't feel led to participate in a particular campaign. They provide great resources and information about issues that are affecting the poor around the world. Inevitably, such posts draw huge criticism, some healthy dialogue, and some flared tempers. I often want to respond to the threads on Facebook, but want to speak as myself not on behalf of the entire band. Also, part of being in a band is acceptance that you can’t critique the critic. I know that expressing these views might cost us fans. But, if the bass player's opinion on these issues causes you to no longer like our music or hear the message of our music, I’d question if you had really every listened to our music to begin with.
The criticism tends to express itself in the following ways: “Why are getting into politics? You’ve lost me as a fan.” “It’s not the government’s job to help the poor, it’s the church’s.” “We have our own problems here in America. We shouldn’t be trying to help anybody else.” “The One Campaign is a multinational socialist organization that supports one world religion. How you can you support that?"
I’ll attempt to answer some of the critique, and hopefully give you a better picture of my perspective.
“Why are you getting into politics?" Firstly, I’m just as turned off as anyone when I hear a musician/actor advocating for something for which they don’t really understand. It feels like a betrayal of trust. However, I’ve taken the time to explore these issues, and explore poverty first hand. I’ve taken four trips to Africa and a recent trip to Haiti. So, I feel qualified to at least have an opinion. I don’t see my band, Third Day, as getting into politics. I don't see these issues as partisan issues. We dipped our toes in the water when we played at the Republican National Convention in 2004. We were excited for the chance to take our music and message to a national audience. But, didn’t really weigh through the implied endorsement. We got some harsh criticism, and I listened. I’ve purposed since then that our message is bigger than politics, and we need to be careful not to let it get used as a quasi endorsement for any partisan purposes. (Did we cross the line for allowing TLC to use our song as the theme song for Sarah Palin’s Alaska? That’s another discussion. ) I do, however, believe that our American fans should be good citizens who exercise their role in power in a representative democracy. In other words, just because you and I are people of faith, we do not abdicate our voice to speak to power, or the responsibility for the choices our government makes.
The pastor of my church was doing a series on finances this last year and made a pretty bold statement. He said that the family budget is a moral document. As Christians, we are to exercise good stewardship over the resources to which God entrusts us. How we spend our money is a direct representation of what we really value. Is my entertainment budget greater than my giving? Am I tithing faithfully? Am I treating money as if it belongs to God and he allows me to keep 90%, or do I treat it like it’s mine and if God’s lucky, I’ll give him 10%, after taxes of course! These are healthy questions to ask ourselves. In the same way, how our government spends OUR money is a reflection of our values. If we don’t like the priorities our spending represents, we should speak up and let our representatives know, which I have done numerous times. It only takes about 3 minutes.
Right now, our government is waking up to a harsh reality that our national debt and yearly deficits could really catch up to us, and is looking for ways to cut. BRAVO! I just contend that breaking our commitments to the world’s poor is not the way to do it. It won’t help us reach our goals, but it will cost thousands of lives and hamper the path of progress we’ve seen over the last ten years. The poor are targeted because they are easy targets and don’t require any perceived sacrifices. Over the last several years, The U.S. Has made increasing commitments to fight poverty and disease around the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. These programs have been working! Aids rates are dropping, malaria is being eradicated, more kids are going to school, and Africa is beginning to participate more and more in the world economy, which will translates to a very healthy return on our financial investment; jobs, cell phones, internet, computers, cars. You get the idea. People in poverty don’t participate in the world’s economy. When they’re helped out of poverty by gaining access to basic necessities such as food, water, and education, they become fellow citizens, producers, and consumers.
Of course, now is the time for belt tightening of our federal budget, and the first thing to get cut is “foreign aid.” I just asked my wife, “What percentage of our federal budget do you think the U.S. Spends on fighting poverty, aids, and other diseases?” Her reply: “I don’t know. 10%?” That’s what I used to think too. In reality, our government spends less than 1% of federal budget on fighting poverty around the world. I content that it is money well spent. As Christians, shouldn’t we want the way our government spends our money to reflect our values? It does whether we want it to or not.
“It’s not the government’s job to help the poor. It’s the Church’s.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, and it also comes as a terrible indictment to the Christian church. If we were doing our job as people of faith, there would be little need for our government to have to do anything. I agree. But, we’re not doing our job. Don’t get me wrong, organizations like World Vision are on the front lines of fighting poverty, and are doing so in Jesus’ name. But, how many of our churches even take one sermon a year to focus on these issues? Again, just as my pastor challenged me about my family budget being a moral document, I would challenge American Evangelical churches the same way. What’s bigger, our building funds or our mission’s budget? Are we serving people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs? (It doesn’t have to be either/or.) Also, like it or not, America is perceived as a “Christian” nation. That, again, is a whole other discussion. There is the little problem of democracy. We are the government. It is our money. We have a voice in how it is spent.
“We have are own problems here in America. We shouldn’t be helping other people.” I hear this argument a lot. I get it. One of our fans responded beautifully to this critique when she simply said, “Well, maybe when God looks at the world, He doesn’t see political borders, but just His children.” I do find that most people that say, “America shouldn’t help foreigners,” have never experienced the stupid, extreme poverty of the third world. Experiencing poverty is heartbreaking, but it also a blessing. You gain a new appreciation for our own prosperity. When you’re around the poor, you begin to see just how good we really have it here in the states. Once again, I don’t see this as an either/or issue. We don’t have to choose. We can help both, and we have the resources to do it. It’s just a question of priority.
I’m surprised when I hear Christians make this argument. In the bible, Jesus tells the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” Basically, a man is mugged on the side of the road. Religious people ignored him and refused to help. A despised foreigner, the Samaritan, gave him help and took him to an innkeeper for extended care asking the innkeeper to send him the bill. Jesus ended the story by asking who was a loving neighbor to the beaten man? The Samaritan. “Go and do the same.” (paraphrased from Luke 10) As Christians, shouldn’t we be “going and doing the same.” In this connected world, who is our neighbor? Is it only across the street? I generally find that people who are helping other people, whether their neighbors across the street, or strangers across the planet, have little criticism for others that are also trying to make a difference. Most of the criticism comes from people who do nothing themselves to help anybody.
“The one campaign is a multi-national, socialist organization that advocates one world government and one religion. How can you support that?” These statements are hard to answer because they’re so off base. However, I would simply offer that the One Campaign is just people. It’s a lobbying organization. Organizations are just people working together. Governments are just people working or not working together. Are all of the people who participate in the One campaign Christians? No. But, I think it’s important that our voice be a part of this chorus. The One Campaign is not a religious organization and is not supporting any one religion over another, but it does appeal to all religion’s own values to care for the poor. Just because the Muslim and the Jew is also called to care for the poor, we are not abdicated of our responsibility to do the same.
Christians, don’t give your money to the ONE CAMPAIGN! They never asked for it anyway.
The One Campaign simply wants you to stand with your neighbors to ask our leaders to spend our money in ways that reflects our values. I’m not asking our government to even spend more at this time. We’re asking them to keep the promises we’ve made to the poor around the world. To let our “yes be yes.” It’s good public relations for America, costs lest than fighting the terror that only grows in environments of poverty, and is a small reflection of what should be our Christian values.