Category Archives: social justice

Peter Greer of HOPE on “Broken Aid” & the Gospel

My friend Josh Good over at AEI’s fantastic Values & Capitalism project just sent around an interview with Peter Greer.  According to Values & Cap, Peter is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global non-profit organization focused on alleviating both physical and spiritual poverty through Christ-centered microfinance in some of the most challenging places around the world, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.

If you like thinking about responsible, church-friendly, gospel-driven social justice work that is friendly to entrepreneurship and aware of the power of the market to affect health for individuals, this will be like catnip to you.  I found Greer’s answers manifestly biblical and helpful.  Here’s a snatch from the broader interview (and see these helpful thoughts on the D’Souza scandal):

What are the economic realities that shape the way that HOPE International conducts its work across the globe?

Aid is broken. Economist Bill Easterly writes that despite a massive increase in aid to Africa over the last 40 years—$568 billion—most African countries are not better off. In fact, many growth rates have plummeted.

We have sufficient data to know that the only way for an economy to grow is through the private sector.

The Brookings Institution reports that since 2005, 70 million people each year are escaping poverty. According to the 58: campaign, between 1981 and 2005, extreme global poverty was cut in half, from 52 to 26 percent. This progress is largely the result of investments and job creation.

Consider China. Thirty years ago, China had more people, percentagewise, living in poverty than every country except four. Today—through economic growth—poverty has been reduced from 84 to 16 percent, according to the World Bank.

Today even Africa is poised for change. Private investments have generated more than 1.7 million jobs (from 2003 to 2010)—bypassing the effect of aid, according to the 2011 report published by Business Action for Africa and Ernst & Young

Job creation and investments, not aid, is what will cause Africa to experience growth, development and a much brighter future.

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Mohler v. Wallis October 2011: Is Social Justice the Church’s Mission?

I don’t know if you’ve seen word of this, but this debate, sponsored by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, looks great.  It’s between Al Mohler and Jim Wallis and will cover the role of social justice in the mission of the church.  The debate will be held on October 27, 2011 at TEDS.

Here’s the description of an event that will surely attract a good deal of attention, and should.

North American Evangelicals, long focused on sharing the gospel as the essential mission of the church, have recently become very interested in issues of social justice. A growing sentiment among some today is that Jesus, when he lived on Earth, was indeed among the poor and marginalized, and this fact has, or at least should have, implications for the church’s self-understanding and mission.

Rightly or wrongly, this interest in social justice is being transformed into a blueprint for a new vision of ecclesial ministry. For those holding this position, social justice is not only a burning concern as we seek to embody a pure and faultless religion, but also an essential part of the mission of the church. For others, this new blueprint conjures up concerns about liberal Christianity and a watering down of the gospel, not unlike what took place in Europe in the 20th century. The defining mission of the church, for them, continues to be the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ to all nations, generations, and social classes. The issue of social justice, though important, is not to be considered as an essential part of the mission of the church. A basic question at the heart of the debate is this: Is social justice an essential part of the mission of the church?

The Henry Center for Theological Understanding, in its Trinity Debates forum, is pleased to provide a public venue for addressing this question by hosting two prominent voices from competing perspectives. Jim Wallis will answer “Yes” and R. Albert Mohler will answer “No.”

I look forward to watching this debate, which most likely will be webcasted.  The Henry Center continues to produce events that are of great importance to the faith and practice of the evangelical church, and is definitely a center worth following (on Twitter, for example).

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The Strange and Consuming Spectacle That Is "Extreme Home Makeover" and "Oprah’s Big Give"

I confess that until recently I had not watched a minute of the ABC show “Extreme Home Makeover.” Then, randomly, I watched a few moments several weeks ago, my snobbery at mainstream American entertainment (temporarily) overcome. I came away touched by the show’s heart, even as I found aspects of it quite interesting.

There’s another show remarkably similar to this one, called “Oprah’s Big Give” or something like that. The thing I find most interesting, and potentially troubling, about both of these shows is that they marry “consumerism and altruism”, as a recent New Yorker piece by Nancy Franklin put it. Both shows involve lots of money and product being spent and given to help people. Now, let me say that I am not certainly not against money and materials being given to people. However, we should note that this is perhaps a uniquely modern way of philanthropy. Forget the monks of centuries past who would renounce all in order to live with and serve the poor. Now, we enlist corporate America, build the needy a McMansion, and adjust the television cameras to just the right angle to get that killer close-up. Does all this negate the positive effects of the so-called “consumerist charity” entertainment fare mentioned above? I’m not sure that it does. But then again, I’m not really sure what exactly to think of this brand of entertainment. It is quite clearly a mix of positive and concerning traits.

With my concerns quickly registered, I will say that I think that Christians should watch at least one episode of “Extreme Home Makeover”. The show’s host, Ty Pennington, seems to have a heart for people. He’s a little wired and a little youngish for me, but he does seem to care for the needy, and he has, in his own way, helped many. Of course, his deeds don’t seem to be done out of a redeemed heart (though I don’t know what he claims religiously), and thus they aren’t ultimately worthy, but in an earthly sense, it is convicting and encouraging to see a person working for the betterment of other people. All of the above qualification applies, but at the end of the day, I watch the show, and I think to myself, wow, this guy is doing stuff. What am I doing? How much do I do to advance the gospel and heal the broken everywhere around me? Do I even think of such people and such needs? Or do I think far, far more about me and my interests and my concerns and my own little atomized life?

For just a little while, this show makes me want to live for others, makes me want to reorganize my priorities so that my life is one long stream of blessing pouring into the lives of others. I can make a biblical and theological case for relaxation and enjoying God’s good gifts and the importance of free time, as many can, but at the end of the day, I have to ask myself, where does the balance lie? It’s easy to cast aside shows like “Extreme Home Makeover”, to sniff at them, to deride them as thoughtless, silly, done out of wrong motives, culturally lowbrow, and so on. Some of those critiques would be true. But none of this does anything to change the fact that this show actually does reflect, however imperfectly, one of the fundamental tenets of biblical Christianity, namely, that we should live for others and not for ourselves. We who are redeemed are called to share and live out the gospel in our world, and this means sharing the faith verbally and then putting it into practice in tangible ways to heal, mend, and bless.

“Extreme Home Makeover” is not perfect. But perhaps it is a little gift of God in the form of a prodding–if overcaffeinated–reminder to we who are redeemed that our faith should not be passive but active. If the lost around us outdo us in caring for others, what does this say of our faith? More to the point, what does it say of our hearts? One wonders what Ty Pennington and his crew are like when the cameras are off. But for us, there is no need to wonder. Most of us do not have and will never have cameras on us. What people see is what we are. What do they see? Is our faith alive? Is it working? Or is it self-consumed, self-serving, or more scarily, dead?

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Filed under extreme home makeover, new yorker, oprah, oprah's big give, social justice, ty pennington

The Strange and Consuming Spectacle That Is "Extreme Home Makeover" and "Oprah’s Big Give"

I confess that until recently I had not watched a minute of the ABC show “Extreme Home Makeover.” Then, randomly, I watched a few moments several weeks ago, my snobbery at mainstream American entertainment (temporarily) overcome. I came away touched by the show’s heart, even as I found aspects of it quite interesting.

There’s another show remarkably similar to this one, called “Oprah’s Big Give” or something like that. The thing I find most interesting, and potentially troubling, about both of these shows is that they marry “consumerism and altruism”, as a recent New Yorker piece by Nancy Franklin put it. Both shows involve lots of money and product being spent and given to help people. Now, let me say that I am not certainly not against money and materials being given to people. However, we should note that this is perhaps a uniquely modern way of philanthropy. Forget the monks of centuries past who would renounce all in order to live with and serve the poor. Now, we enlist corporate America, build the needy a McMansion, and adjust the television cameras to just the right angle to get that killer close-up. Does all this negate the positive effects of the so-called “consumerist charity” entertainment fare mentioned above? I’m not sure that it does. But then again, I’m not really sure what exactly to think of this brand of entertainment. It is quite clearly a mix of positive and concerning traits.

With my concerns quickly registered, I will say that I think that Christians should watch at least one episode of “Extreme Home Makeover”. The show’s host, Ty Pennington, seems to have a heart for people. He’s a little wired and a little youngish for me, but he does seem to care for the needy, and he has, in his own way, helped many. Of course, his deeds don’t seem to be done out of a redeemed heart (though I don’t know what he claims religiously), and thus they aren’t ultimately worthy, but in an earthly sense, it is convicting and encouraging to see a person working for the betterment of other people. All of the above qualification applies, but at the end of the day, I watch the show, and I think to myself, wow, this guy is doing stuff. What am I doing? How much do I do to advance the gospel and heal the broken everywhere around me? Do I even think of such people and such needs? Or do I think far, far more about me and my interests and my concerns and my own little atomized life?

For just a little while, this show makes me want to live for others, makes me want to reorganize my priorities so that my life is one long stream of blessing pouring into the lives of others. I can make a biblical and theological case for relaxation and enjoying God’s good gifts and the importance of free time, as many can, but at the end of the day, I have to ask myself, where does the balance lie? It’s easy to cast aside shows like “Extreme Home Makeover”, to sniff at them, to deride them as thoughtless, silly, done out of wrong motives, culturally lowbrow, and so on. Some of those critiques would be true. But none of this does anything to change the fact that this show actually does reflect, however imperfectly, one of the fundamental tenets of biblical Christianity, namely, that we should live for others and not for ourselves. We who are redeemed are called to share and live out the gospel in our world, and this means sharing the faith verbally and then putting it into practice in tangible ways to heal, mend, and bless.

“Extreme Home Makeover” is not perfect. But perhaps it is a little gift of God in the form of a prodding–if overcaffeinated–reminder to we who are redeemed that our faith should not be passive but active. If the lost around us outdo us in caring for others, what does this say of our faith? More to the point, what does it say of our hearts? One wonders what Ty Pennington and his crew are like when the cameras are off. But for us, there is no need to wonder. Most of us do not have and will never have cameras on us. What people see is what we are. What do they see? Is our faith alive? Is it working? Or is it self-consumed, self-serving, or more scarily, dead?

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Filed under extreme home makeover, new yorker, oprah, oprah's big give, social justice, ty pennington