Sunday, June 16, 2013

What if the IF Campaign Does Not Represent the Climax of History?

Those closest to me have heard me ranting senselessly about the IF campaign, though I stop short of saying that all involved should be sent to a gulag. I'm aware that I tread on dangerous ground when I criticize such a project, which is why I have kept the criticism close to home. Besides, Boff's question of "what have you done to liberate people?" stands in the way of armchair critics like myself. Who am I to critique the work being done to feed those whose lack food is not unrelated to my abundance of food?

Bertrand Russell said that Christians would rather die than think. I am nothing if not a thinker, and the IF campaign is a campaign of action. Tearfund tells us that there will be enough food for everyone if we "act and pray" (or, at least, that can be the church's role in the campaign.) Adhering to the false dichotomy between thinking and acting (and, indeed, praying and acting), I will operate under the Slavoj Zizek mantra of "Don't act. Think." Here, then, are a couple of thoughts on Christian participation with "IF":

- We can all agree that starvation is not a good thing. The people in the YouTube videos are not wrong to be outraged by the fact that 1 in 8 go to bed hungry. But what do we know of the relationship between our abundance and their poverty? Of our going to sleep with full stomachs and their going to sleep on empty ones? Do we not sense that there is something awry when there is an IF banner hanging on a church whose car park is full of Mercedes Benz's and BMW's? We may want David Cameron to do something about the issue, but are we prepared to pay the cost? And I don't mean give a monthly donation to Tearfund. I mean giving up the things that we think make our lives and the lives of our children secure. There is a precariousness to peace and a precariousness to justice that defies security and riles against our well-intentioned acts of charity. Do those participating in the effort to eradicate world hunger know what they are doing? To take an extremely cynical view, participation in the IF campaign may well allow some people to go to bed not only with a full stomach but also a clear conscience. The same applies to those wealthy enough to afford organic or fair trade goods.

- There is a sense (I'm using that word a lot. Must be the Pentecostal in me.) from Christians that the IF campaign is bigger than Jesus. From what I've read and heard from Christians involved, it is as if "this generation" stands on the cusp of doing something truly history-making. Yoder's critique of a certain type of Christian social ethics is immediately relevant here. The IF campaign is deeply constantinian. It is about getting a grip of the handles of history so that we can make history turn out the way it is supposed to. In this instance, the handles of history are represented by the G8, which is meeting in Northern Ireland this week. That Christians in Belfast see this G8 summit as being more significant for world history than the PCI General Assembly (which (I believe) was held earlier this month) tells the story of where we think true power lies. It lies not with Christ and his body, but with the rulers and authorities of this world. If Christians do not discern something troubling with the headline "Church leaders demands PM ends hunger", then we have forgotten not only correct grammar, but the identity of the Messiah and our identity as a messianic community.


  1. Declan you know plenty well that the proponents of IF campaign feeds me and I am grateful and for that reason I will keep my response to your criticism short and precise! I just want to re-echo what you have already said- Church making a historical mistake yet again of delegating its own mandate to the earthly rulers. By the way coming from Africa I can tell you that if Africa was to be affluent as the rest as some would want that to be, then Christianity would be no more. Pain and suffering has kept the faith going!! Short enough!

  2. You have mentioned a sort of paradox that defies explanation: the injustice that generates poverty can never be justified, and yet we must seriously ask in the light of Matt. 5: if there were no poor, whose would be the kingdom of heaven?

    There's a master thesis for you to chew on!