Another Way to Love
Tim Costello and Rod Rule (eds), Acorn Press
Another Way to Love looks at methods for helping poor communities other than the traditional method of sending donations for food and shelter.
The writers do not dismiss this form of help but explore more lasting forms: social reform and political engagement.
This type of campaign is similar to the story about the man who stopped rescuing people who were drowning and went to find and stop the person who was pushing them in. It involves finding the causes of suffering and addressing them; recognising that people remain poor not because of a lack of resources but because the people in powerful positions are not allowing them any control of their own lives and future.
This type of advocacy involves campaigns such as Make Poverty History, the Jubilee 2000 Campaign and the Micah Challenge.
Two of the present and (inappropriate) methods of tackling poverty and suffering mentioned in the book are: deferring to a country’s ruling powers instead of advocating for the people in need; and donating little or no money to causes where the people in need could be seen to be at fault and therefore undeserving of our help.
Think of the movie My Fair Lady, where Eliza’s father proudly announces that he is one of the “undeserving poor”, up against middle-class morality. It is funny in the film; less funny in real life if your need is seen as less deserving because it is your fault or some official’s fault.
On the matter of the “undeserving poor”, National Director for World Vision Australia, the Rev. Tim Costello writes: “Where blame can be laid at the feet of corrupt government or economic mismanagement, for example, there is the perception that those suffering in these circumstances are less deserving — or less in need — of our help.
“So, while the number of deaths every month from HIV and AIDS is the equivalent of a global tsunami, its association with human immorality and culpability results in muted humanitarian response.”
National Director for World Vision for India, Dr Jayakumar Christian, believes that the causes of poverty are flawed relationships.
He says, “Poverty is about the oppressive relationships between the poor and the non-poor — how the poor and the social systems relate and how the poor relate to civil society and the government. Within the context of these flawed relationships, power is abused. This abuse of power is then expressed in low income, lack of food security, lack of nutrition and all those usual ways we measure poverty.”
Dr Christian says this can be tackled by looking for opportunities to link powerless communities with people with good intentions and good hearts who have an influence in the local area and then working closely with them.
International education and persuasion are seen as vital roles in counteracting poverty. My favourite section in Another Way to Love isan analysis of modern case studies in social reform: Make Poverty History’s and Jubilee 2000’scampaigns to persuade rich counties to cancel the debts of poor countries; Micah Challenge’s urging of decision makers to keep their promise to achieve the Millennium
Development Goals to halve global poverty by 2015; the importance of addressing climate change, which includes an excellent explanation of the difference between climate and weather, and the Fair Trade and Don’t Trade Lives programs — vital reading before you indulge in either coffee or chocolate again.
For the apologists of social reform, the second section of Another Way to Love is called the Framework and includes essays on A Theological Approach to Social Reform, Advocacy and Engagement, The Old Testament and Christian Social Engagement, Good News to the Poor and Christianity and Social Reform.’
Another Way to Love is an interesting and inspiring book. The essays are well written and the theory well explained.