reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bono on Christianity and poverty...

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
This week, I've really enjoyed sorting out a new elective study module for Relay workers about Christians and Society - specifically Christians and poverty. I have loved re-reading this book
which might actually be my favourite Christian book ever, and reading this one for the first time. Lots of interesting and very moving stuff in there.

Today, after much hassling from my brother and lovely John who goes to my church I watched this (this is part 2 of 7 parts). Bill Hybels interviewing Bono about the world's poor and the church.

It was very very interesting.

Things I liked (apologies to Cara - there's that phrase again)
"Celebrity up-ends God's view of things - why is a film star more important than a nurse?" But even better "It is currency to spend, and I want to spend it on this campaign."

"Who is your neighbour?" This, it seems to me (as in me, Maurice, not me, Bono) is the key question. Jesus really actually does command me to love my neighbour. And then tells the story of the Good Samaritan to draw those boundaries very widely. Even more widely today when people's faces are beamed into my home to show me their suffering - doesn't that make them my neighbours? Anyway, loved Bono's straighforward love theology.

"Stop asking God to bless what you are doing, find out what he is doing - that's already blessed". Yes - a trusim, axiomatic, some might say, but nevertheless true and a useful principle for life.

"The peace that passes understanding inside is good, that does NOT mean peace with the world." Amen. I am not at peace with the world. Or at least, I shouldn't be.

Ok, I have something else to say though - there was one major thing I didn't like. Before that - context. I come into contact with a lot of people who are convinced of a theology that basically says evangelism is so much more important than helping the poor that it basically eclipses it. I want to convince these people that generosity to those under the sun is part of applying the doctrine of creation, AND is a model of God's grace in the Gospel, AND is a direct command for us to follow.

So here's my gripe, and I'm afraid it's going to annoy some of you. Why do calls to help the poor have to be surrounded with sloppy theology and poor exegesis? All it does is convince the people you are trying to win over that what you are saying has nothing to do with them! That is not helpful! Misquoting Matthew 25, taking Isaiah 58 as if it is written to us today, not a Jewish nation in history, making snide comments about the church, as if as a Christian you are permitted to sit in judgement on the church is not helping make the point. Nor does it help if you make "ending poverty" equal "what God is doing", or confuse us about what actually "brings the Kingdom" or make it sound like we have a binary choice between "grace" and "atonement". It makes the people who most need to be convinced, think that social action really is connected intrinsically to liberal theology!

Maybe I just sound like a grumpy old man. But honestly, I actually liked Bono much more than I thought I would. In this I am, mostly, on his side, although I think there is great danger in the church aligning itself with popular figures, and, perhaps, playing down the unpopular aspects of what we believe. Nevertheless, I believe that he and Hybels are doing a good and right thing here by calling the church to act. Sadly, I think what they do is make it seem like you have a choice between evangelical theology and social involvement. And that, my friends, is the last thing we need.


Blogger peterdray said...

Amen. God's heart for the poor pulses through Scripture. And yet every talk I have heard in churches I have attended about this ends up being more of a guilt trip or polemic against evangelism. Not only wrong but actually quite weird when you stop and think about it.

3:19 AM  
Blogger Ben Stevenson said...

I think Good News to the Poor is a really good book. I haven't read Good News About Injustice.
Have you come across Neither Poverty Nor Riches. I thought that was another good book.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous christy said...

I saw the bono interview at a houseparty last autumn and your thoughts were similar to mine. I enjoy bono and it is refreshing to see a believer in the media being public and practical about their faith. But i also think he slags off the church cynically instead of seeing it just as much a command to be a part of the body of christ and to serve and challenge them and be teachable as it is to save the world's poor.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Sean Clokey said...

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11:38 AM  
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