"Ending Poverty": A Q&A with Third Day

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.

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.

6/5/2014 4:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
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  • Deborah Arca
    About Deborah Arca
    Deborah Arca is the former Director of Content at Patheos. Prior to joining Patheos, Deborah managed the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, including the Program's renowned spiritual direction program and the nationally-renowned Lilly-funded Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music and theatre programs for children and teens, and a music minister. Deborah belongs to a progressive United Church of Christ church in Englewood, CO.
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