Fifteen cents a day.

That's how much the US goverment spends, per American, on humanitarian aid to foreign countries. It adds up to about 15 billion dollars a year--about 4 billion dollars less than Americans spend on ice cream each year, about half of money we give to Mickey Mouse and .16 percent of the federal budget.

That's not 16 percent, not even 1.6 percent, but .16 of one percent of the US annual budget, according to yesterday's Washington Times, a figure defended by USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios. It's also about 1/20 of what we have spent so far in Iraq.

Private charity is not much better. Less than 3 percent of the 240 billion that Americans give to charities goes to help the estimated 1.9 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day, according to Rich Stearns of World Vision US.

Stearns, along with Jim Wallis, the president of the Covenant Church, and about 14 other Christian leaders from the US, have been pushing the US government to give an additional 2 billion a year (or two cents a day per American) to fighting global poverty.

In a press conference Monday that I covered, Stearn contrasted the medial frenzy over the disappearance of Natalee Hollway with silence over the deaths of thousands of children every day.

Here's a bit from the story I filed:

"But you know, on the same day that Natalee Holloway disappeared, 29,000 other children disappeared as well," Stearns said. "To be more accurate, they died. They died because they were poor. They died because the water they drank was unsafe. They died because they had no food to eat or because they lacked a two-dollar malaria bed net to protect them from malaria. They died because they caught a cold that turned to pneumonia and there was no doctor to see."

But the death of those 29,000 other children didn't draw worldwide attention. That's because "when something happens every day, it's not news," said Stearns.

"The most tragic thing of all is that they didn't need to die. They died because the world chose to look the other way," he said. "We're here today as religious leaders to appeal to the goodness of the American people and to declare that we must not allow ourselves to look the other way in the face of these tragic deaths."

I've got a least two cents today that says I don't want to look the other way any more.

How about you?


I consider myself a very lucky man, because, unlike Mark Lawson of the Guardian, I've meet very few Christians of the theocratic variety.

Most of the Christians I know are of the Gordon Atkinson variety. His essay, called Everett Joseph Smith was a Real Boy, ought be required reading.

Some preachers, who've gotten a little too big for their britches and have forgetten the "love thy neighbor" part of the gospel, have given ministers a bad rap these days. But they are still the ones you call when a baby dies in the middle of the night.

Here's some of what he writes about going to visit the hospital, where a premature little boy has just died.

When you are the pastor of a church, you are many things. You are an agent of grace and hope, a repository of spiritual and scriptural wisdom, and a gatekeeper at big events like weddings and funerals. Somehow people weave all of these into a complex image of you. You are all things to all people.

And sometimes you are the Black Rider of Death. People indulge in all sorts of denial while they are waiting for the minister. It’s a blessed procrastination that helps them make it for a short time. And then you appear, framed in the hospital doorway, bible in hand.

I am come. Let the grieving begin


I am a keeper of a most sacred truth. It is the incarnation truth that enables ministers to walk into the grief storm unafraid. If you come in the name of Christ and stand with people in their grief, you have done the most important thing you can do and the only thing they will remember. You might bring words with you, and they might even be good and helpful ones, but your presence is what matters.

If you know this truth, whatever you have will be sufficient. If you do not know this, all that you have will not be enough.


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