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April 27, 2007


Your comments about charity vs. justice remind me a bit of conversion: "praying the prayer" vs. living a changed life. There's a notch on someone's belt for the "conversion" prayer, but that doesn't mean it will stick and make a truly changed life. It sounds like the same thing here with charity and justice.

It sounds as though people like Muhammad Yunus with his creation of the Grameen Bank and micro-lending are actually making the kind of difference that Christians (or anyone concerned with social justice!) should be making in world poverty.

Very well put. My problem with the show was that it was so hollow, like you stated, they seemed to be patting each other on the back for recognizing that proverty and disease exist. Everyone involved seemed to be more interested in pointing out what great humanitarians the other star was. It's easy to be a humanitarian and give away $100,000 when you are a multi-millionaire and your accountant tells you that you need more tax deductions. It's harder to be a humanitarian that goes and sleeps and eats with the poor and the sick that they are visiting. A one hour drive by in a Range Rover and a stay at the local International Hilton does not make someone a true humanitarian.

Very thoughtful Tim. It's difficult to criticize without coming off arrogant and self righteous. I think you nailed the issue... especially in our culture of celebrity charity. Justice can not be the focal point of this "kind" of charity because it moves beyond the consumer based "me" mentality of our society. Justice points to a Just God and we can't allow that on FOX. Makes me miss sitting in class with you...

Thanks for your thoughts Tim. I totally agree. I think the hardest part for me to watch was Carrie Underwood singing "I'll Stand by You" when you know she was there for a couple hours and won't be standing next to any of those people for longer than that. Shows and celebrities that make these pitches always seem hollow and fruitless (is that a word?...the opposite of fruitful, if I may use a biblical analogy) to me since Christ (along with Christ's message) is missing from the picture. The whole show just made me so sad...both for the people in poverty, struggling through disease or disaster, and for the people in wealth, longing to find fulfillment through something other than the grace, peace, and justice of Jesus Christ. I just can't wait for heaven! Come, Lord Jesus.

And it's true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality.
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die.

You are both right and wrong in your assessment if that makes any sense. Yes, to those of us who are already awake and aware and have a strong sense of social resposibility this does seem cheesy and tacky and falls far short of the mark we would set, but what we have to remember is that the frame of reference for the great majority of the AI audience is more than likely poles apart from ours. This unfortunately is exactly the kind of thing that is necessary to get the attention of those who are not socially conscious. You will notice that Bono only appeared talking to the kids about ONE and I'm sure they got the whole speil it's just that they didn't show most of it. He didn't participate in the whole telethon aspect of it. Also, keep in mind that once their attention is grabbed at least some of these people check out ONE and the other organizations linked. 70,000 new ONE members pretty much overnight is nothing to sneeze at and the awareness generated is more valuable than the one time donations. Several of the organizations reported great response to their web sites and someone mentioned that the one that does the mosquito nets has a counter for how many nets are sold and it was jumping up by the thousands. We should be careful in criticizing these types of efforts because we can come off as pompous and appear to be cutting off our nose to spite our face. I was very disappointed in the amount of criticism that Product (RED) was getting from people because they just couldn't seem to get that they obviously were not (RED)'s target audience. Bono often talks about the fact that to the people who are benefitting from the aid coming in it doesn't matter whether the giver's intentions are honorable or not. I think it is better to praise Idol for the effort and then make suggestions for better ways to engage the issues in the future than to criticize because that criticism may turn them off. Engage them through their self interest then lead them into true generosity. That is Bono's strategy. No matter how cheesy this whole thing was there is no way that Bono would pass up an opportunity to reach the millions of people that watch this show.

Dana, I agree ONE hundred percent. This is tricky territory. As cheesy as AI may be, anyone who is involved with the ONE Campaign and has the opportunity to reach millions of people, I think has the responsibility to do so. And that is just what Bono did. He's a smart man and all he wants is to reach as many people as possible. Look at the demographics of AI as well. This young generation will one day soon be running our country and voting in our policy makers. Wouldn't it seem wise to take an opportunity, if one is presented, to educate them about something as powerful as ONE? I would, however, liked to have seen more time on AI spent on the issue of justice. I recognize charity is an immediate need. People are dying today. Money is necessary today. But equal time should have been given to ONE, which as we all know, is the permanent solution to such needless extreme poverty.

Well, at least the ONE campaign link is on the main AI page and all the other organization links are on another page. So that does give ONE a bit more emphasis I think. I think it would have been too much if they had tried to get into the whole justice angle on the show. I think getting peoples attention is about as much as you can ask for from this kind of show. And that little two or 3 minute clip of Bono probably stuck with people more than the info on the other organizations just because it was Bono. Also they did show the ONE commercial a couple of times throughout the show. I've come across a couple of posts on the internet from parents whose children's interest was peaked by the show and they have been inspired to get involved. Getting young people involved in projects of social consciousness is a good thing and there are lots of families that watch AI.


Dana and Maria,
Thanks so much for your comments. I actually don’t have any disagreements with you. You’re preaching to the choir in one sense. I’m an avid ONE supporter, wear my ONE band everyday, have facilitated ONE drives on the campus where I teach (about 100 new ONEs this semester) and even have my blog listed on the ONE blog page. As of this morning there are 75,000 new members of ONE. Wonderful news!!

My post came more from my own understanding and frustration that something was missing. AI didn’t present the whole message; it was just an introduction as you so articulately noticed (and there certainly is a place for that). That brought an awareness of how hard it is to present such a solemn topic in such a light-hearted context. The danger is that people just continue to believe that money can be a Band-Aid to a festering wound without asking why the wound is festering.

The stronger reaction I have is to celebrity fundraising. There are very few celebrities who know much about the cause they support. I can’t think of any who have invested as much as Bono has in holistically understanding an issue. Here’s a guy who reads The Message alongside the economic treatises of developing nations. That’s an informed, intelligent and articulate activist!

Another example: This one regarding the show Extreme Makeover - Home Edition. Ty and the gang rolled into Henderson, TN, to do a very good deed by rebuilding the home of a firefighter that was destroyed by a tornado. A friend of mine who lives in Henderson watched as the construction crews, news media and TV personalities staged a massive publicity event around a wonderful act of charity. But nothing was mentioned about my friend’s family, and hundreds of others, whose homes were also destroyed or damaged. Yes, it was a good deed, nobody would argue that or wish that the firefighter’s home wasn’t rebuilt. But a larger community was left to deal with issues, trauma, bills, relocations, etc. that these types of drive-by charities never acknowledge. The media has learned that charity sells commercial spots and increases ratings – that’s the bottom line for TV corporate execs.

I’m glad that the AI show aired and I’m ecstatic about the attention give to ONE. My recognition of “a problem with Bono” is not to point out his problem, but to call attention to America’s problem: selfishly driven acts of benevolence. Deeds that appease us rather than move us to deeper levels of commitment.

Having said that, thanks again. Feel free to leave other comments!

Thanks Tim..great stuff. It's your fault..you inspired a post of mine called...of course.."Pepsi, Sex, Elevation...& Mission Trips That Are Actually Missional"

read it here:


oops..the link:


Hi Tim, I think what you're bringng up is the uncomfortable feelings we get when we suspect we are witnessing some level of hypocracy, especially in someone we admire and want to defend. I think it's human nature to want to use the influence we've been given and to think we can parlay or leverage it for the good of the kingdom. If a celebrity shows they are willing to sacrifice, (wait...) it may convince millions that it would be good for them to do it too. Motives? Look at all the good deeds I am doing! Now I apologize if I'm way behind the curve here, but when I see stuff like this on TV, it just takes me right to Matthew 6:1 (NLT) Take Care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose your reward from your Father in heaven. (Then all the way threough verse 6.)
However, I also see in the discussion here some are questioning how we are to judge someones motives, and also talk about deciding what is justice. I believe we can save a whole lot of time if we hand all that to God.
Back to Idol, the Petersen paraphrase of Matthew 6:1 puts it this way: It might make good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding.

The problem with that Jeff is that this is not the type of work that can be done in private. Their aim is fund raising and awareness raising. Do you really think that American Idol could have donated close to 70 million dollars on their own? Also over 90,000 people joined the ONE campaign in response to this show. Doing their works in private could not have accomplished that. Simon made a six figure donation but did not announce it on the show. He mentioned it hesitantly in an interview in response to a comment about Ellen DeGeneres $100,000 donation but I got the impression he would have preferred to keep it private. Bono does not publicize his private donations but does use his voice to raise awareness. As uncomfortable as it may appear and as much as their motives may be in question in the end they have raised much money and motivated people to join ONE so are you going to tell the people whose lives were saved by that money that we shouldn't have done that because their motives weren't pure? The other consideration is that although self-interest may be their initial motivation that doesn't mean that it stays that way. To me it was very evident that both Ryan and Simon were very strongly affected by that trip to Africa. Yes, Ryan is particularly plastic seeming but I think he was just better at keeping his game face on. You could see the cracks though. And Simon was totally blown away, maybe even moreso by what he saw right there in the States where people think stuff like that doesn't exist.

If someone came to your church because they were trying to make a good impression on someone rather than to hear the message, would you turn them away because their heart wasn't in the right place, or would you welcome them in and try even harder to reach them? It is important to praise first and then critique so that they are encouraged to continue. Now actually Tim's post was not overly critical but many are. I'm just trying to raise awareness of the potential harm done by being critical without balancing it with praise where it is due. Some of the comments seemed to focus only on the negative aspects of the show and that is something that we should all be carefull of.

This has been a great discussion and I have enjoyed everyone's comments.

I'm not saying at all that we shouldn't raise awareness or funds. And yes, I understand that is a public endeavor. I was trying to address the "game show" or showiness that a forum like Idol is going to bring to anything they take on. Any well-intentioned celebrity is going to have their motives questoned by others. I just don't know anyone there well enough to make that kind of call, and personally don't worry to much about their motives. That's between them and God. Maybe I'm too busy questioning my own...

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