Monday, July 04, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Fertilizer

Quiz: If I want a healthier and greener lawn, I can pray for a greener lawn, or I can pray for a greener lawn and apply fertilizer and water to my lawn, or I can just apply fertilizer and water to my lawn. Two of my possible solutions work every time. Which of my solutions is not guaranteed to work?

I hate to disappoint any of the believers out there, but the prayer only solution is the worst of the three solutions and probably won’t even work at all. The reason prayer alone won’t make my grass greener is because God has already provided a solution for the problem of brown lawns in the summer. God's solution is fertilizer and water. Fertilizer and water don’t solve very many problems, but both water and fertilizer are perfect for brown lawns.

Likewise, someone who has been diagnosed with cancer can sit at home and pray for healing or they can get their butt down to the clinic and start chemotherapy. Due to the nature of chemotherapy, I would recommend both prayer and medicine, but I wouldn’t expect the healing of cancer without modern medical methods.

We have no way of knowing how many of our problems or how many of our blessings are because of God’s active will or because of his passive will. I suspect God allows some things to happen and he causes other things to happen. However, from our human perspective, almost all of our problems and all of our blessings come from God through other humans to us.

Africa and Africans need our prayers, but they also need the right human solution. I wouldn’t be as passionate about opposing the ONE Campaign if the proponents were just a bunch of clueless secularists. The reason I am so troubled by the ONE Campaign is the number of Christians and Christian leaders who are advocating a solution that will not work. I can claim with confidence that the forced redistribution of personal resources will not work just like it never has worked because it is against human nature and the laws of God. I can also claim with confidence that there is a human solution that will work because it has always worked and it is consistent with the laws of God.

Just as God has already provided a human solution to the problem of brown lawns, HE has also provided a human solution to the problem of extreme poverty. Fertilizer is not the solution to the problems in Africa. Private property rights, obedience to the laws of God, and voluntary charity, are the human solutions to all of the problems in Africa. The ONE Campaign solution of using the force of law to take from some and give to others really is a bunch of fertilizer.


Derek Simmons said...

Thanks again for another trenchant observation in your deserving series on ONE upsmanship. I liked it so much I took the liberty of pasting it in at the new blog of Steve Camp--with attribution of course.
Steve Camp has also opined on the folly of fixing Africa the ONE way now making news.
His blog is CAMPONTHIS at

Your Brother in Christ,
Derek Simmons

Lawrence Gage said...


Good observations. I don't know if you've seen Taki's observations ("Audit Africa") on the African situation and how foreign aid actually makes their situation WORSE, but I strongly suspect you'd like them.

Unfortunately, they aren't available online so you'll have to check out a print copy of The American Conservative, July 18 issue. The article is inside the back cover, i.e., p. 35.

I think the basic problem is a misunderstanding of wealth. People think that money and material things are the only forms of wealth. They forget that invisible things, such as the ability to make money and obey laws (intellectual and moral goods), are actually more fundamental forms of wealth. So we're actually IMPOVERISHING Africans by giving them only material wealth without the moral and intellectual formation to use it well.


David M. Smith said...

Hi MJ,

I wrote a post back in early June named Reasonable People where I said I was certain someone would be hurt by the ONE Solution without knowing for sure if anyone would be helped.

Even without reading the article you suggested, I do believe foreign aid hurts the people it is intended to help just like welfare hurts the people it is intended to help.

I sometimes have to remind myself to not help my daughters every time they ask for help because I know the most loving long term solution is to let them struggle to get what they want. I want to help them if they really need me to help, but I have to insist they do their chores without my help because their own self reliance will get them much further than daddy reliance.

Jennifer said...

David - I just got done telling my husband how thrilled I am to see Christian leaders involved with the One campaign. I'm not saying the One campaign has all the answers (I know it doesn't), but I am glad to see Christians at least putting forth an effort to get involved in the physical atrocities of poverty and hunger in our world. Too many prefer to keep their heads in the sand and just say "let's pray about". Many more prefer to think the millions who are suffering and dying are doing so because they have sinned. (Not that I know anyone like that.)

David M. Smith said...

Hi Jennifer,

I’ve spent so much time writing about how immoral and wrong-headed the ONE Campaign solution is that I haven’t said much about how important I think the cause is. I guess I assumed the importance of the cause could go without saying.

So here goes: Ending poverty, corruption, crime, disease, and starvation in Africa is the most important cause of our lifetime. It is not acceptable to continue what we have been doing for the last 30 years and expect any different results. The ONE Campaign is more of the same. The ONE Campaign solution has caused many of the problems in Africa while doing absolutely nothing to resolve the problems in Africa. Africa does not need more of our tax money except maybe what would be necessary to lock up a few of the corrupt leaders. African’s need a plot of land with a title and permanent ownership and a few goats, not billions in Aid and dept relief.

The Christian leaders who advocate the ONE Campaign solution will have to face our maker some day and explain why they considered their own feelings more important than the results of what they advocated. While I support the cause, I am ashamed of the Christians who have been part of the ONE Campaign.

Heads in the sand is not the solution, but at least heads in the sand will not make matters worse.