Acton Institute Powerblog

The Free and Easy Charity of the ‘One Campaign’

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The One Campaign, an advocacy group formed by international relief agencies that is promoting greater U.S. spending on foreign aid, has drawn support from prominent evangelical Christians and a pack of celebrities including U2’s Bono. But Anthony Bradley observes that the campaign, with its focus on greater governmental action rather than personal sacrifice, “promotes a depersonalized and sterile form of help characteristic of the secular appeal to radical individualism.”

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Jonathan Spalink


  • Jay Van Groningen

    I appreciate the call to Individual and Congregational charity. I needed call!

    Is it possible that via governmental participation we can multiply or leverage grace and behavior befitting such a rich country?

    Maybe the ONE campaign ccould encourage government stimulation of giving by matching individual’s gifts to the charities of their choice serving in these places! Maybe stimulating citizens to do good in places of pain and poverty could produce a behavioral change and an increase in giving?

  • Virgil Homan

    The real crux of the matter should be whether or not the poor are paid to work.

  • Robert von Oeyen

    We all should live more sacrificially, give more charitably etc. Of course! But the basic flaw in ACTON INSTITUTE ideology is thedenial that Governments are liable to God Almighty in re justice. Charity is over and above that. Biblical Justice calls forthe use of all peaceable means to move toward equity (not necessarily achieve it, but head that way) including (given our system of gov’t) ‘taxing’ "the rich" to help "the poor" etc! — anathema as it is to Acton ideology, I know….. It is governments and nations that are held accountable in the Bible, for justice. Jesus’s call for charity to go the EXTRA mile come on top of that!!!!! If we cannot apply the demands of the Bible (e.g. Isaiah Ch. 1) for justice to ourselves in terms of taxing ourselves (we are a democracy) 1%% toward this end we will surely die as a nation for our sin… And the false prophets who say otherwise will have that blood on their hands…. Think about this, pray about it, and come to repentance about it. The Bible from cover to cover requires a concern for equity from governments!!!!! It also requires of inidividuals a concern not only for justice but that sacrificial living and extra mile charity of which Jeus taught so specifically….. Both. Thank you.

  • R. Balmes

    The issue that is discussed here is the balance between : collective or individual actions.
    Being franco-american I would like to point out that it is mainly a ‘cultural’ issue which has nothing to do with moral or christian social doctrine.
    One can easily draw arguments for both sides from the Bible.
    My take is that both collective actions (like government debt write-off) and individual actions are needed. Why opposing them, I don’t see that opposition in the Bible myself ?

  • Martin Wondergem

    I agree wholeheartedly with the ironies pointed out in the spending habits of both celebrities and those that follow them, but I think we need to be careful as Christians not to squash the charitable ideas that come from outside the church. After all, God dispenses His grace in a variety of ways using a variety of imperfect people, far be it for us to put Him in a box.

    While I certainly agree that the Church has responsibilities both congregationally and individually to fight poverty, the genious of the ONE campaign is how it calls both the churched and the **unchurched** to Christian charity.

    Let’s make sure to give credit where credit is due.

  • roberto

    I agree with the author 100%%. I don’t think it will matter on judgement day that the US government gave additional money to foreign aid programs. This is fake, painless charity.

    Never the less, President Bush should call their bluff. He should pledge $25 billion to "eliminating world poverty" but take that money from other federal programs. To make all the liberals happy, he can take a few billion from defense but there should also be money taken from National Parks spending, Medicare, farm aid, etc.

    My guess is the liberals behind The One Campaign will start screaming "Yeah, we want to give money to the poor but we don’t want to actually feel any discomfort ourselves". Then you’ll see the true motivation behind their efforts, using the power of the government to take from the rich and give to the poor for the common good. That is not Christianity as I know it but rather socialism.

  • SMGerrit

    I really wonder about this whole idea of pushing for increased government funding of charity. What is the track record? Oil for food worked great didn’t it? Once set up, these kind of programs are impossible to control and become the golden goose for corrupt operators.
    I think it can be argured that welfare programs in the US, did as much, or more, damage than good to the recipients over the long term. It seems to me that the only thing that has changed in the last 30 years as far as the need for charity to the impoverished places of the world, is that they need even more charity. Has anything worked anywhere? Or have they gotten even worse in the last 10 years? Maybe it is time to try a different approach.

    The One Campaign seems like more of the same ol same ol, just bigger than ever. If successful at draining lots more money from US taxpayers, I predict the one thing the ONE Campaign will definitly accomplish is corruption and waste
    beyond our imagination today.

  • Kevin

    This is wonderfully written and built on a right conception of the God-ordained and divinely revealed purpose of civil government. For evangelical Christians to lament the rise of socialism in America and at the same time support the One Campaign is the height of irony. Christians would be better served to support their missionaries and churches in Africa than lining the pockets of despots.

  • Josh Penman

    One of the biggest struggles today in development assistance in America is lack of awareness and lack of participation. The ONE campaign addresses both these issues with a good advertising and branding strategy, and is putting development assistance on the map where it wasn’t before. Signing up with the ONE campaign is a gateway to further involvement in fighting extreme poverty and AIDS. I think one percent is an acceptable percentage for an entity such as a government or a corporation to earmark for development assistance, and I think the amount of private and religious giving can blow this away!
    I believe the ONE campaign is a great first step that can be shared universally by Christians and non-Christians alike and provide common ground for diverse people. I believe that by discounting the ONE campaign, you are removing the foremost awareness program in the United States, and depriving us of an opportunity to mainstream development assistance in America.
    The ONE campaign is ONLY the first step; they’ve tried to make it a baby step, and it works in the hope that you will take more steps. If the ONE campaign can do to American awareness of poverty what the Invisible Children campaign has done for American awareness of child soldiers, we will have impacted the world in a meaningful way.

  • The problem with the One Campaign is that it’s a great advertising and branding strategy in support of policy that has demonstrably failed over the last, oh, 40 years or so. Government to Government aid programs have channeled billions of dollars into poverty stricken areas for many years, with little to show for the effort. Why should I believe Bono when he says that if governments gave [i]just a little bit[/i] more, [i]THAT[/i] would guarantee success?

    It’s too bad that the One Campaign didn’t choose to focus on unleashing the private and religious giving, instead of focusing everyone’s attention on the same old approach that hasn’t worked in the past, and won’t work in the future.