"Ending Poverty": A Q&A with Third Day
Ultimately, we love that this discussion brings so many people to the table—so many good-hearted people, people of different persuasions who are passionate about it, and we feel it's really important that people of faith remain a part of the conversation.
I think Christians really blew it twenty years ago with their response (or lack of) to the HIV/AIDS crisis. They really missed the mark of what God's heart would be. Now, that wasn't my battle; I was in elementary school when that was happening. But, when I was in my mid-twenties, and Bono comes and asks us to care, we dig deep and feel that we really do. And we've stayed committed to it. It's important Christians stay involved with this. And we can be a good bridge to the faith community.
How has the faith community—and specifically Christians—responded to the ONE campaign over the past ten years?
I think the church has responded beautifully. Bono did such a great job of reaching out to key faith leaders, just as he did with political leaders. He didn't frame it as "conservative" or "liberal"; he framed it as a moral issue. Bono's approach was never condescending or finger pointing. He presented it as a challenge to bring out the best in us, to be our best. He reminded us of how people of faith have led the charge, whether it was abolition or women's suffrage, or civil rights. It was such a positive thing, it was a pleasure to be a part of it.
The whole culture among evangelicals really shifted because of that. It's so different now from twenty to thirty years ago, when there was almost this attitude of, well poor people just need to work harder. Now there's a genuine compassion, where people really take to heart, "Whatever we do for the least of these, we do it unto the Lord."
I wrote a piece for the ONE campaign a couple weeks ago for their anniversary about this. There used to be this "either/or" approach: either you cared about social justice or you cared about worshipping God. They were two different things. Now, I feel like it's a "both/and." I think a lot of people are now realizing that living out the mission Jesus lived out in his ministry is very much an act of worship and in line with the correct faith perspective.
Are you hopeful that there is an end to global poverty in our lifetime?
I definitely am. If you had asked me that ten years ago, I would have laughed. I remember thinking about the scripture: "The poor you'll always have among you..." That story has been used to say "you'll always have the poor among you, so why bother?" I've found where that existed in my own heart. But what I've learned is, yes, you're always going to have poverty. For one, the word "poverty" is relative ... we have poor people here in this country. But when you have an empirical definition of extreme poverty, and that's less than $2 day, and no access to food, water, shelter, education, and health care ... this is possible to eradicate. And that's what the ONE campaign is now saying: extreme poverty can be eliminated by 2030 if we act.
So, yes, there will always be poor people, but this is a world where it's possible for everyone who is born to have health care, education, water, food, and shelter. And I think that is possible in our lifetime. I think we do have the resources. I think we've only scratched the surface of what we can do with technology—every other day, there's a new Kickstarter video of someone who's applying technology in some ridiculous way—and it almost exponentially helps the poor. I was watching a video about converting the roads to solar panels the other day! There are so many ways that almost seem like science fiction now.
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.