Thursday, May 25, 2006

What It Would Take to Feed the World's Hungry

That's according to James T. Morris, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, writing in today's Washington Post.

Of course, I'm a Christian and I believe that it's important for individuals to give to the relief of others in response to the grace and blessings we receive through Jesus Christ. So, I urge people to make donations to organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief, the two preeminent private relief groups in the world.

But one question it seems to me that US citizens ought to ask, quite apart from issues of faith or altruism is this: Is it in the long-term foreign and security interests of the United States for our federal budget to include more money for world hunger relief? Certainly, other governments should belly up to the bar.

And it would hardly break the budget--which, as a Republican myself, I think is scandalously overbloated with pork right now: Our government spends less than 1% of the total budget on foreign aid. But every penny effectively spent in that way contributes to the United States' well-being. The Marshall Plan helped secure a safe, secure, and prosperous Europe which has become a strong American partner, in spite of occasional disagreements, and a vibrant market for US goods and services.

As always, I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me worth thinking about.

4 comments:

Pastor_Jeff said...

Mark,

I believe very strongly as a Christian that it's our duty to help those less fortunate. The problem is that there is only so much money can do.

Why are there so many people trapped in grinding poverty, facing malnutrition and starvation? I don't think it's mainly western selfishness, but local selfishness -- corruption, greed, and war. Local governments steal relief food and money (Somali warlords, or Oil for Food in Iraq). They count on American generosity to feed the poor whose poverty is often the direct result of their own ungodly "leadership." They then use the own poor as politcal pawns, or let them die.

And at times, I wonder if our generosity is counter-productive in the long term. Do local governments learn they don't have to care for their citizens because the US can always be shamed into doing their work for them? Are we the enablers for other states' dysfunction?

While there is always more we can be doing, there are root problems that can't be solved simply by being more generous. It will take much more than food to feed the world's hungry: peace, education, political stability, and economic revitalization. We can address those problems, but that's a much longer term project than sending food aid.

I'm not arguing for an end to food aid; but I'm concerned it won't do any long-term good without other changes. Otherwise, we'll be having this same discussion over and over again.

Mark Daniels said...

"While there is always more we can be doing, there are root problems that can't be solved simply by being more generous. It will take much more than food to feed the world's hungry: peace, education, political stability, and economic revitalization. We can address those problems, but that's a much longer term project than sending food aid."

Jeff:
That is an outstanding point. Any government (or private) aid program must include carrots and sticks and education.

Mark

Mark Daniels said...

Above all, I would add, the world needs a spiritual awakening--a coming to faith in Christ. Changed lives will result in changed policies.

Mark

Pastor_Jeff said...

Mark,

On Palm Sunday, I preached (in part) on Jesus' weeping over Jerusalem: "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace... How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not."

These haunting words move me profoundly. God longs for us to know peace -- rest, wholeness, blessing, fullness -- but we will not come to Him. So we go our own way and suffer in our selves, our famlilies, communities, and nations.

Why do we experience anxiety, rage, despair, regret? Why is there warfare, violence, starvation? Because we will not listen, we will not obey, we will not submit.

The only thing God is holding out is His hands, like a mother longing to draw her children to herself. But we stubbornly go our own way and bring disaster on ourselves and our world.

Natural disasters like Katrina pale in comparison to man-made ones. How many died as a direct result of the storm, and how many suffered and died from man-made causes? How many still die from preventable disease today? The 20th century was the bloodiest and most violent in history. Whose fault is that?


Have you ever read Neil Plantinga's Not The Way It's Supposed To Be? It's really an excellent study in sin and its consequences. It is painfully beautiful, and evokes a longing for God's shalom.