Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Bono’s sermon

Get Religion calls our attention to the remarks Bono made at the National Prayer Breakfast this past Thursday. While praising the U.S. and its churches for all they have done to address poverty and the AIDS crisis in Africa (which he described as a tsunami a month), he called upon the government to devote 1% of ita annual budget (amounting currently to $26 billion) to "the poorest people in the world."

Seems reasonable, no? A small price to pay, no? A drop in the bucket, no? He certainly meant it to be all these things--a tiny stretch for a nation that is already generous, a first step on the long road to dealing effectively with "the least of us" all over the world.

Of course, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Bono did speak of effective foreign assistance. I have it on pretty good authority that the money, by itself, very likely won’t make a difference. So long as African governments are mired in corruption, too much of the aid will be stolen or wasted.

I suspect that Bono knows this, which is why he used the word "effective." But he was in the business of bearing prophetic witness, not making a real policy recommendation. Real policy might require addressing Africa’s political problems before its health and economic problems can be effectively addressed. Some might say that political health flows from economic health, that the economic comes first. But if the politicians are kleptocrats, there can be no economic growth and prosperity without changes at the top.

And of course, when we’re talking about the AIDS crisis, Bono also knows that government money can’t necessarily be effectively spent, either by the government or by the various and sundry NGOs, as they’re currently configured. What to do?

Discussions - 4 Comments

Quick a witty and moving speech.
A question: Is the witty/compassionate/convicted Bono right about justice and equality? Do we Americans fail to acknowledge Africans’ equality with us Americans, if we don’t offer ... is "aid" the right word? - 1% of our national budget to them via our government? What do we, as American citizens, and our elected representatives, owe in justice to terribly suffering Africans? Another: What’s the relationship, if any, between Biblical injunctions concerning "the poor" and a government’s taxing and foreign aid policy?
These are honest questions on my part. It seems to me that Bono has a distinctive understanding of justice and equality, as well as how faith should inform public policy, that are worth analyzing. (I’ve sponsored missionaries to Kenya, working with AIDS victims and for girls’ education, the foregoing questions should not be taken to indicate a lack of "compassion" on my part.)

First sentence correction: "Quite a witty and moving speech." Which it was.

I think Bono represents the Democrats. Dr. Kippenberg comments represent the Republicans.

In a strange new way these debates are about National Defense.

I completely agree with Dr. Kippenberg about the importance of changes at the top. But the spirit of corruption, and Africa’s poverty comes from more than just purely "physical" tyrants. It is probably good that the animistic view of the world that is slowly dying in Africa is being replaced by Islam and Christianity. But while christianity and Islam are probably better for economic development, they spell trouble in other areas.

Africans will have to work themselves out of dependence on religion altogether before they ever flourish.

So while the Democrats complain that we don’t give enough money to "aid" the poor, and Republicans reply that they are spreading "democracy" by removing tyrants to open the way up for aid, I say that "democratic" institutions will not be a cure for anything so long as religious animosities/beliefs are strong sources of faction.

"Africans will have to work themselves out of dependence on religion altogether before they ever flourish."

It worked for the Soviets!

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