"Ending Poverty": A Q&A with Third Day
Your Duluth concert was special, not only because it was a rare hometown show, but also because you dedicated it to ONE, which you've been involved with for many years. What's your relationship with the ONE campaign?
The ONE campaign is very important to me, personally. Years ago, even before the ONE campaign started, we were already involved in work with the poor with organizations like World Vision and Habitat for Humanity. Third Day's guitarist and I had been to a Jimmy Carter work project in South Africa and spent a week building homes over there. So we already had a heart for the poor and for Africa.
It's almost unfathomable now, but twelve to thirteen years ago there was this pandemic of AIDS in Africa, but nobody knew about it. The news wasn't talking about it. Our introduction to the ONE campaign was when Bono held an almost emergency meeting—there wasn't a campaign yet, there was just data. Bono came to Nashville and invited all of these Christian artists to come out and meet with him. And he shared with us, sunglasses off, as a man of faith, the importance of getting involved.
Bono is very good. When he presents an argument, it's hard to imagine there could even be an opposing view! He said, for him, this wasn't just a crossroads for the poor and their survival, it was a crossroads for the Church. If we ignored what was going on as people of faith, then we'd have no viability for the future.
So we were in from the beginning. And what we found once we started advocating it through the tools we had—Twitter, our website, interviews, and talking about it at shows—what we encountered was a lot of people willing to be involved in the cause, but demanding exclusivity. In the Christian world, some people were saying: "What do you mean we're not the only ones advocating for this cause?" In fact, we got a fair amount of criticism about our involvement because others who were getting involved weren't Christian, or were of a different faith or political persuasion.
And we just kept coming back to: this is an issue that supersedes all that. As Bono shared with us, this isn't a Republican or a Democratic issue, or a left or right issue ... this is a right or wrong issue.
Do you feel this is a particularly Christian issue?
It's a humanity issue. But it's also absolutely a Christian issue. I remember in the early stages of our involvement with ONE, the argument we got most often from other Christians was "Why are you advocating for the government to help the poor? This is the church's job." It's a great argument, but if you carry it out logically, the answer is, well ... because the church isn't doing its job.
In Third Day, we're immersed in the Evangelical world and a lot of the churches we go to, their building campaign is a lot heftier than their campaign to fight for the poor or social justice. I would love it if the church in the name of Jesus was absolutely able to solve these problems.
It's also a patriotic issue for me. Being a Christian doesn't mean I'm not also an American. And as an American, I have a voice in a democratic country about how my money is spent. Ultimately, if you want to understand someone's priorities, look at their checkbook for a month. There's what people talk about, and then there's what we actually are. Budgets are moral documents, and as people of faith, it's important to use our voice to make sure our priorities show up in how our government spends our money.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team after more than ten years managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of Christian Education and music/theatre programs for young people and has served as a music director for worship and special retreats.