Credit Where It’s Due

In a recent New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof credits evangelicals with pushing for AIDS and malaria programs and for “doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.”

This is in contrast, he says, to the “save-the-worlders,”—that is, liberals. Kristof credits liberals for being concerned about poverty because for decades, they have supported big-government programs for the poor and sick, both at home and abroad. But since when is supporting government-run programs the only way, or even the best way, to help the world’s poor?

A new book by African economist Dambiso Moyo, titled Dead Aid, shows that sending billions of taxpayer dollars to Africa does often more harm than good.

Kristof also writes about the penchant of evangelicals to focus more on sexual morality than on helping the needy.

And this is where I do disagree. A thoroughly Christian worldview doesn’t categorize truth—moral truth, economic truth, etc. How we live our lives in our marriages or outside of our marriages affects every aspect of our lives.

For example, studies have shown that much poverty in the U.S. is sexually driven. That is, many children are poor because they were born out of wedlock. And as Robert Rector and Melissa G. Pardue write on the Heritage Foundation website, “The collapse of marriage is the principal cause of child poverty in the United States. Children raised by never-married mothers are seven times more likely to live in poverty than children raised” by married parents. I’ve seen this close-up in the prisons over the years, where almost 90 percent of the inmates have no father role model.

So those big-government anti-poverty programs liberals love don’t really do so much to help the poor—because they don’t address the root causes of poverty. Which brings me to those poverty-fighting programs run by evangelicals that liberals overlook.

For instance, evangelicals promote abstinence-only education—something Kristof opposes. And we volunteer at pregnancy care centers nationwide.

How do those things fight poverty? A recent study, which made the front page of the Washington Post, confirmed that abstinence-only sex education is more effective than any other approach in convincing kids to wait until they are married to have sex. Given how much poverty is caused by an unchaste lifestyle, abstinence education is a powerful poverty-fighter.

Pregnancy care centers also recommend abstinence to their unmarried clients. And they invite pregnant, unmarried teens to consider making an adoption plan for their babies—a recommendation that would allow children to grow up with financially stable, loving couples, not in poverty.

I’m grateful to Nick Kristof, and it’s nice to be praised in the New York Times for the good that we do. But it’s time to remind the world that the Church has been fighting poverty longer—and better—than governments have.

It’s another example of the difference worldviews make. We now have an abundance of evidence that reserving sex for marriage, as Christianity teaches, isn’t being prudish or Victorian as our critics charge. It’s good for society. Abstinence education turns out to be a very effective poverty-fighting program.

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