Chapter 22 - Why do so many children live in poverty?|
If, on any Sunday morning in America, you were to visit a Sunday school class full of small children, there are two things that are nearly guaranteed. On the wall there will be a picture or poster of Jesus with a group of children around him. And the class will end up singing the song "Jesus loves the little children." Christians are quite fond of both the imagery and the music.
The question that we should ask is a simple one. If Jesus is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, and if Jesus loves the little children, then why do so many children live in abject poverty? A paper entitled "Chronic poverty in India" describes the poverty faced by the world's children in this way:
Poverty has been described as a situation of "pronounced deprivation in well being" and being poor as "to be hungry, to lack shelter and clothing, to be sick and not cared for, to be illiterate and not schooled; Poor people are particularly vulnerable to adverse events outside their control. They are often treated badly by institutions of the state and society and excluded from voice and power in those institutions." Using income as a measure of poverty, the World Development Report refers to the "deep poverty amid plenty" in the world and states that a fifth of the world's people live on less than $1 a day, and 44% of them are in South Asia. [ref]
Even in the United States -- one of the wealthiest nations on earth -- poverty is a major problem. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 26 million children in the United States participate in the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost or free lunches to children at or near the poverty level. [ref] 26 million children represents about half of all the children in the United States.
One thing that you quickly realize, if you allow yourself to think about it, is that the number of people living in abject poverty on this planet is staggering. A "fifth of the world's people" is more than a billion people. You also realize that $1 a day means that these people are living in hopeless, wretched conditions. Think about how little food you can buy for $1. Now consider the fact that the $1 is spent on that little bit of food, so there is no money left for housing, clean water, restroom facilities, clothing, shoes, health care, education, infrastructure, etc. etc. Disease runs rampant. Starvation is common. This level of poverty is nearly unimaginable to most people in the United States, yet more than a billion people live this way today.
Now consider the fact that, if you raise the bar to $3 a day -- still an extremely meager amount -- half of the people on the planet are living at that level of poverty. More than three billion people. As discussed in Chapter 5, 10 million children die every year as a result of abject poverty.
Where in the world is Jesus?
Here is what Jesus has to say about poverty in the Bible. If you look in Matthew chapter 6:25, you will find this amazing quote:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
If "your heavenly Father knows that you need them all," then what in the world has gone wrong? When Jesus says, "Do not be anxious," what could he possibly mean? If you are living on $1 a day, you are going to be anxious about everything including food, clean drinking water, clothing, basic medical care, sanitation facilities and education. More than a billion people are living like that today.
How many people is a billion? Take all 300 or so million people in the United States. That is a lot of people. Quadruple that number. That is how many people are living in abject, wretched, unimaginable poverty around the world. If Jesus loves all the little children of the world, he has a truly bizarre way to show his love.
What any normal person realizes, when looking at the facts that are plainly visible in our world, is that what Jesus said in the Bible is completely wrong. Jesus' statements about poverty in Matthew 6:25-32 are clearly false. God is not looking out for these people. God is not feeding them, nor is he clothing them like lilies. Jesus hates quite a few of the little children of the world, and he demonstrates his hatred by imprisoning them in abject poverty.
Jesus is completely wrong
This is not the first example that we have seen in the Bible where Jesus is completely wrong. In section 1 of this book, we saw that Jesus is clearly wrong when he talks about the power of prayer. Jesus says in Matthew 21:21:
I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
That is obviously false. Section 1 demonstrated dozens of examples that prove this statement to be incorrect. See in particular Chapter 7.
This statement is also false in John chapter 14:12:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
If this were true, we would have completely eradicated all diseases and eliminated all poverty centuries ago.
This statement in Mark 16:15 is provably false:
And [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
If this were true, we would not need doctors, hospitals or pharmaceutical companies. You would not need health insurance. The two billion Christian believers on planet earth today could take care of all of our medical needs for free by simply laying their hands on us.
This passage from Matthew 15:21-28 is quite bizarre:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
The thing you notice is the incredible racism. Jesus equates the woman to a dog because she is not an Israelite. Would God do that? Imagine a world leader today equating someone to a dog because she is not of the correct nationality or religion. The negative reaction would be overwhelming.
What you realize is that, if you go through the Bible and actually read what Jesus says, he is completely wrong in quite a number of cases. The question you must ask yourself is this: If Jesus is God, why is he not perfect?
Here is the thing that I would like to help you understand: The reason why Jesus was incorrect in so many places is easy to understand. Jesus was not God. Jesus was a normal human being who was way, way out on a limb.
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New York Times Coverage
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New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
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Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.
Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."