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Living Our Story - the President, the Prime Minister and the Pop Star
Irish pop singer Bob Geldof is bluntly honest. This week he spoke to the Guardian:
"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy."….
The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the weirdest politicians on your side."…
Geldof…lauded the US and Britain for supplying the bulk of the 1.15m tonnes of food aid that has been pledged to Ethiopia to plug a food shortage that threatens 15 million people….
[He] was adamant that the EU was the greater villain for delivering just a small fraction of Ethiopia's staple needs and refusing, unlike the US and Britain, to supply any supplementary foods, such as oil, which give a balanced diet. "The EU have been pathetic and appalling.”
It’s sad, of course, when people in the secular world find it “unexpected” that Christian politicians should be receptive to appeals for help for starving people.
It’s also sad that the EU has been “pathetic and appalling” in helping the Ethiopians. But perhaps that’s less unexpected.
For we live in a world that is changing fast.
For 2,000 years or so, we in the West have lived in a culture formed by the stories of the Bible. Perhaps the greatest of these has been the tale of the Good Samaritan.
Now I do not think that we could over-emphasise the influence that this simple and moving story has had on our culture. But the problem is, the story has become so well-known to us that we somehow think it expresses some kind of universal truth.
Yet there are plenty of countries where you don’t help a stranger in trouble. Living for 17 years in Asia I saw that most people felt a strong obligation to help anyone in trouble from their own family, or from their own group - such as the company they worked for - but it was an alien notion to help outsiders. Sometimes those in trouble were said to be fated to suffer.
We in the West are still caring. I’m sure the EU will be generous when conditions in Ethiopia worsen. Plenty of non-Christian nations and individuals will also give.
Yet the trend in the West is to start accusing those in trouble. We say that they didn’t work hard enough or that they should have saved more money or they should have stayed on at school, or something. We are starting to blame the suffering for their misfortunes.
As we abandon our religion – apparently an accelerating trend in much of the EU - we also lose the stories that sustain our culture. With no shared heritage, the end result can only be domination by the strongest.
So praise God for two Christian leaders – George Bush and Tony Blair – who continue to live our story. And praise God too for that melancholy, profane, secular saint Bob Geldof, who spoke the truth.
May 30th, 2003