"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

A brief review of “The Hole in our Gospel”

Author’s note: I know I’m breaking a bit with my Wednesday tradition on the blog, but after reading this book, I’m considering devoting an extended series on the Apostles’ Fast in the Orthodox Church.  We’ll see, but I think the Apostles’ Fast relates strongly to the Church responding and relating to a world in need.

Richard Stearms takes an unflinching look at the status of global social involvement within Protestant Churches in “The Hole in Our Gospel” to challenge American Christians to extend their work among the global least of these.  Through five sections, Rich offers his story of becoming the president of World Vision, insights into his personal faith journey with Jesus Christ, the challenges associated with global poverty, the failures within the American Church, and an invitation to action.  The constant awareness of the personal remains an absolutely essential theme throughout the book.

I offer general endorsement of the book, with some important caveats.  Rich offers meaningful insights to the nature of poverty owing to his insistence to look poverty straight in the eye, recognizing the humanity of the other in the process.  He also provides a very helpful “Spider’s Web” metaphor to understand the interconnected lives of people in poverty.  The book maintains a realistic but positive outlook that we can make a difference in the experience of the least of these, one person at a time.

Where I must offer strong disagreement with Rich is that he asserts that visiting the sick or elderly and helping local food banks are “totally unrelated to global poverty” while also defining that meaningful service to the poor can only happen overseas.  Poverty can and does occur everywhere on the globe, even in American communities.  The Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is among one of the most poverty-stricken communities in the world.  Less people exist to raise awareness of poverty in the United States, but we have a lot of distressing statistics in our own country.  The question of “Where is the Church?” often applies just as much to these situations we find on our own soil.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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6 responses

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  2. em

    I’ve always found it curious that poverty is almost always portrayed as a problem that happens “over there.”

    Any thoughts as to why so many overlook the poor among US?

    20 May 2010 at 1:19 pm

    • I generally think that we don’t see poverty in the US for an array of features. Generally poverty in the US is not the “existing on less than $1 a day” poverty. Additionally, our widespread senses of government safety nets lead us to scoff at long-term involvement amongst the poor — the belief that the poor only require short-term assistance is widespread. Moreover, the poor tend to be exceptionally industrious, working 2-3 jobs to pay the bills, leaving American children to experience the most profound effects of poverty in America. I think that public-school kindergarten teachers are our best barometer of poverty in our communities.

      20 May 2010 at 3:43 pm

  3. Pingback: Taking On Poverty « A Practicing Human

  4. David

    The book crushed my heart further for the poor, but also for other things. “Death to the American Dream” was a difficult chapter title for me. What dream is better, the Chi-Com dream, the Cuba dream, the Soviet dream? Jimmy Carter’s quote about the root cause of the world’s unresolved problems is the widening disparity between the rich and the poor is just way over the top. Wealth is not a zero-sum game, and World Vision proves this by mirco-financing the poor so they can develop their own wealth. Sorry, this is the American Dream in a nutshell and it works. When it doesn’t work is when Jimmy Carter and others say “if you can’t afford a house, it doesnt matter, someone else will pay for it”. Demonizing America the most generous nation on the planet, is falling into banckrupt ideology, the kind which is currently crushing the world. I cannot recommend this book, however it will satisfy it’s intended goal of raising funds for the World Vision objective. I just hope the objective doesn’t included joining the world to denegrate America. My wife and I are supporters of World Vision, having a handful of their children. They just called us, and we increased our giving.

    24 May 2010 at 11:00 am

    • David, thanks for the insightful comment. I think the gap between the rich and the poor is most acutely felt within a common pay structure. If I have my own business and hire people at only the legal minimum while constantly adding value to my own salary to the point where I am the only one making additional money barring new legislation, then I have created a significant gap between the rich and the poor. Furthermore, in my scenario, I have control over disbursements. Globalization can add further distance between a CEO and CFO from common workers, but the common pay structure remains.

      We can add value to people’s labors in a myriad of ways. Micro-finance initiatives do fill a gap to advance entrepreneurship. However, there are some unfortunate truths that certain policies act to discourage leveraging one’s own talents to climb out of poverty. Muhammad Yunus has some very intriguing observations about using micro-finance initiatives to help the poor in the United States in his book “Banker to the Poor.”

      One comment about Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity initiatives in the United States: eligible families have to meet an income range (as in both floor and ceiling) while providing “sweat equity” of working on the construction of their home for a given time requirement. Those who cannot provide construction services have other options like clerical work in Habitat’s offices. Both construction services and clerical work provide some monetary equivalence as they are productive uses of time. If you have additional source information about Jimmy Carter telling the poor that it does not matter if they can pay, then I would sincerely appreciate a link to the source.

      24 May 2010 at 11:21 am

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