Interfaith Health Program, I was able to contact Justo González himself. In fact, I decided to phone him, and had a delightful conversation.
The title of his article is "Of Fishes and Wishes," and it opens provocatively:
Teaching how to fish: a false truism Probably no dictum about hunger and development is quoted more often than “Give a person a fish and feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and feed them for a lifetime.”He goes on to point out that the problem usually isn't whether people know how to fish, it is whether they have the equipment and access to the water, whether the water is polluted and who's doing the polluting, and so on. The whole article is here (page one) and here (page two, graphic form, reminding me of my first desktop-publishing efforts). It's here in text form.
Yet these words, quoted so often to show our enlightenment, are wrong! They are not wrong because they are untrue, but because they are not the whole truth. They oversimplify the causes of hunger and, therefore, make it more difficult to tackle those causes. We have quoted these words for 30 years, and rather than show how enlightened we are, they show how little we have sharpened our analysis.
Now here is the part of Justo González's article that I was remembering in connection with the call to organize the church around a constant Lamb's war (so we're not always caught short and late when the bullets start flying):
We must learn how to trust the church — unfortunately, this is the weakest link in the chain. By this I mean the church universal that hungers with the dispossessed in Ethiopia and with the uprooted in El Salvador. What was happening in the Philippines was known and decried for over two decades by Christian leaders all over the world. Yet most church people did not come to believe it until they saw it in the network news. By then, thousands of Filipinos had died as a result of our disbelief! If we are to combat the causes of hunger in Mozambique, in Korea and in Chile, we have to begin by listening to our brothers and sisters in those countries who know what hunger is all about.What would it take for us to "learn how to trust the church"? Here are a few thoughts just to get the discussion going:
- Stop letting the "evangelical" and "liberal" labels get in the way. They are often useful, but not for building trust.
- Recognize that different obstacles exist in different places; for some of us, the corruption of power is a huge barrier to trust; for others, corruption and confusion arise from individualism and affluence. To risk a generalization, we find more of the former in Africa, for example, and more of the latter in North America. And BOTH factors make communication BETWEEN the USA and Africa very problematic.
- Differences in age, sex, language, rural vs urban experience, economic security or distress, etc., all play roles in building or blocking trust, roles that we can face openly because they're not issues of blame or shame.
- Encourage our bridge-builders.
- Ask each other more about our experiences with the Bible, with prayer, with miracles; trade less in gossip, reputations, doctrinal hairsplitting, and one-upping each other.
- Learn to fight fair; learn to debate important issues with humor and affection as well as passion.
Credit where it might be due dept.: Julius E. Coles writes in the Washington Post that "A generation from now, when historians analyze the turning point in Africa's development, they may have to credit George W. Bush with playing a surprisingly important role in the continent's economic progress."