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Sheldon Stones, Page
RE Coursework Assignment – Christian Perspectives
a) > What do Christians teach about the causes of hunger and disease?
> Explain the Biblical Teachings which they might use.
- Using Christian Aid, explain how Christians may respond to world hunger and disease.
- “Christians are responsible for each other – no matter where in the world they live”
Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view. You must refer to Christianity in your answer.
According to definition, hunger is discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain caused by a prolonged, involuntary lack of food. Disease is a condition of the body in which there is incorrect function due to heredity, infection, diet, or environment.
Wealth and poverty vary around the world generally from country to country. With wealth come advanced public health systems; private health care and therefore a reduced risk of disease. The poorest countries are most commonly (but in some peoples’ opinions; pejoratively) referred to as the “third world countries” most of these countries are in Africa, Central America, and South Asia. Most of them are in massive debt with western banks, lending organisations or governments, but cannot produce money to pay off the debts. The poverty in these LEDCs (less economically developed countries) is the reason why they are easily associated with hunger and disease.
I will use the UK as an example a MEDC (more economically developed country) and Mozambique as an example of an LEDC in the following statistics. In the UK, the infant mortality rate (those who die before they are 1 year old) is 6 out of 1000. In Mozambique, a less developed country, the infant mortality rate is 123 out of 1000; and the average life expectancy in the UK is 77 compared to a mere 45 in Mozambique. This shows that in comparison to the UK, there is a clear problem with the general level of healthcare and nutrition in Mozambique, which I think is a good representative to the majority of LEDCs. Action seriously needs to be taken if the world is going to a nicer; healthier place to live in universally.
Christians also have morals and lessons they have learned from the bible for a way of thinking about what the causes of disease and hunger. Adam and Eve; the first man and woman; were given the beautiful garden of Eden to live in, and they were care free, with no troubles or worries. They were told simply not to eat from a certain tree, the tree of knowledge, and their lives would be blissfully happy. A serpent (interpreted as representing temptation or the devil) told them to eat fruit from the tree, as it would open their eyes and give them wisdom. They gave in to temptation and ate fruit from the tree. Their eyes were opened but for the worse. They instantly felt conscious of their being naked, and made coverings for themselves. They hid from God, cowering in their nudity. God knew they had eaten from the tree and punished them for being disobedient and giving into lure. This is according to the bible; where worries and problems began for mankind. It is known as The Fall of Man.
God created human beings to look after the world and rule above other creatures; the fish, the birds, livestock and all of the creatures on the ground. God created humans in his own image. (Genesis 1:26-28). God had given responsibility to human beings to look after the world he had made, and therefore any problems which occur on Earth shall be blamed upon human beings, not God. This idea of looking after the world God has given is called stewardship. This teaches that God shall not be blamed for problems in the world; it is a fault of mankind that has caused a problem and thus, hunger and disease is a result of poor stewardship.
The book of Job is an Old Testament bible story that offers a godly explanation as to why innocent people suffer. Job, a good and pious man was successful, rich and well respected in the east. He suddenly lost his property and his children, and his body was affected by a nasty disease. His friends offered the explanation that God was punishing him for his wrongdoings, but Job refused this idea, and wished only upon his death. He refused to insult God. A wise man called Elihu told Job and his friends the truth; and God proved his greatness, and that he cares. God gave back Job’s success. The story tells that God cares about those who suffer, and will help them, but they need to be patient. This offers some biblical reasoning to the causes of hunger and disease. It may not be for evil deeds, and God will help, but people must prove themselves loyal and patient. This reflects Christian attitude.
To oppose these Christian beliefs on the causes of hunger and disease, there are what are referred to by Christians as the four myths; explanations or statements contrasting Christian belief. There is not enough food to go round; world hunger is caused by overpopulation; starvation is a result of natural disasters and science will be able to cure world hunger. Generally, Christians do not believe this. First of all, Christianity teaches that God rules over man in deciding who lives and who dies, he decides who suffers and who doesn’t- as a result, science cannot resolve starvation. A Christian can counter the first two myths by saying that if people in rich countries waste and eat less food and pay more attention to the problems and the needy elsewhere; there will be easily enough food to ‘go round’ – even as the world expands in population. Christianity teaches that humans should not blame their suffering on anything but their own fault; this is the concept of stewardship. Natural disasters cannot be to blame for starvation; for example one could argue Earthquakes in China and North America don’t result in starvation, so why should they in countries with less money? Is this coincidence? It all comes down to international equality and economy. Christians believe they can help these countries, but everyone needs to work together.
For every-day Christians who feel they don’t have the money or authority to make a significant change to hunger and disease, prayer is a significant way in asking God himself to hunger and disease and hunger around the world.
As there is Ramadan in the religion of Islam; there is a period of symbolic fasting in the Christian calendar called Lent. It consists of forty days of fasting over a forty-six day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Although in today’s world it isn’t as strict and practiced by Christians as it used to be; most Christians will give up a pleasure; often and traditionally some kind of food. Originally, Lent was introduced for self discipline before baptism on Easter day. Today it is widely supposed to empathise the forty days when Jesus fasted in the wilderness and resisted the temptations of Satan (Matt. 4:1-2). Lent is also a time where Christians can not only feel empathetic towards Jesus, but towards those suffering in hunger all year round in poorer countries.
Despite what many people say, Christians will argue there is enough food and money to prevent hunger around the world, and that the government; who have the power to make a difference; aren’t doing what they could to respond to major suffering. Some Christians will feel they are doing a part in helping solve hunger by attending protests and marches concerning the government’s attitude towards the LEDCs in huge debt and poverty; for example there was a huge protest prior to the G8 summit meeting concerning (amongst other things) aid to Africa. Many major leaders including Tony Blair were to meet and discuss what could be done, and a big protest before the meeting appealed for some major action taking. Some Christians decide to respond to world hunger and disease by involving themselves in these types of protests.
Other Christians choose to respond in a physical; but more expensive fashion; by visiting lesser developed countries to do volunteered work themselves. People feel this form of aid is the best, because you are personally helping people in a worse situation to you, you choose what you help with yourself, the people you are helping know that it is you that is helping and you can see the effects with your own eyes. This is an expensive way to give charity, but many people feel it is admirable and well worth the cost in exchange for an enormous sense of well-being, and a visible outcome.
For those who feel they can’t afford to make a significant difference to the issue of extreme hunger and disease themselves, but want to make a more personal difference than from giving money to a charity, there is a project called Operation Christmas Child. The idea is that a kind, charitable person fills a shoe box with Christmas gifts to give to a child living in terrible conditions somewhere in the world. There is also a money donation required, but this ensures the box reaches a child living in dull poverty. This may lead to extended contact by letters also. This method means that people have done a very nice deed to someone less fortunate than themselves, and they are sharing their love and wealth with their international neighbour.
Jesus said 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' (John 13:34.) Also, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,' of the ten commandments (Romans 13:8-10) are all fulfilled by love to one’s neighbour; because in loving someone, you do no wrong. “Love thy neighbour” is a concept read between the lines of the Bible, and it can be perceived in many ways; but most presume it means love for everyone, or love for other Christians. It also gives justification for helping those living in terrible conditions elsewhere in the world, and condemnation to those who don’t. Helping the less fortunate in the world therefore makes a better Christian; providing this is the correct perception of a neighbour.
Another example of reward and condemnation for aid given or not given to strangers is found in The Sheep and the Goats or "The Judgement of the Nations". It is about the last judgement when Jesus separates all of the people from all of the nations into those who are blessed and those who are cursed. The decision is based purely on acts of mercy and kindness done by people to fellow men in disadvantage. Jesus uses himself to refer to the fellow men. He tells the blessed people they are welcomed to paradise, he says this is because “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” As for the cursed, he says they will go to Hell, he says “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” For this, these people go into eternal punishment, the riotous go into eternal life. This parable teaches Christians to feed hungry strangers, and help the sick; for they will receive their just reward in time. This is the clearest of bible justification for helping others in sickness and hunger.
Christian Aid is a charity that was founded in 1945 under the name “Christian Reconciliation in Europe”, it was a post-world war two aid. It later joined the British Council of Churches, now called Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. In 1964 the charity took up the name Christian Aid. Since its foundation Christian Aid has worked on long term development projects where the need is most, assisting partner-organisations in sixty of the poorest countries of the world; importantly regardless of race or religion.
Christian Aid campaigns for the changing of the systems and rules that mean people stay in poverty, partaking on issues such as climate change, third world debt and trade justice. It is also a key affiliate of the Trade Justice Movement and the Make Poverty History campaigns. Roughly twenty percent of Christian Aid’s profit comes from Britain’s biggest door-to-door collection, Christian Aid Week, in May every year. Christian Aid don’t start campaigns so much as supporting existing campaigns.
Christian Aid is one of the co-founders of the Fairtrade Foundation, a charity and company set up to ensure third world producers get a fair deal selling their goods. At present, there are fifty members of staff working at the Fairtrade Foundation, working in the departments of Communications, Commercial Relations, Certification, Finance and Resources. There are also around 30 volunteers.
Christian Aid’s role in this is that they have campaigned since 1992 calling supermarkets to sell fair trade products which mean fair terms for producers abroad; and have worked together with other organisations sponsoring the cause, with much success. Over one hundred Fair Trade labelled products are now available, all of which guarantee fair conditions for producers.
Fairtrade products are grown by plantation workers or small farmers. Alot of these third world farmers or workers were previously getting a bad deal on their crops, and were being exploited by the companies that bought their crop, but they couldn’t afford to ask for more money in return. The chief aim of Fairtrade is to stop all exploitation in this situation and prevent it from happening at present and in the future. The Fairtrade policy is doing its part to put third world countries on the first stepping stone to reducing their debts, Fairtrade helps to get produce selling in third world countries, and hopefully will play a good part in bringing more economy into the countries too.
Fairtrade’s policies can be greatly admired by Christians. Fairtrade want to help the needy, and want justice and fairness. This reflects the Christian beliefs of “love thy neighbour” and the parable of the sheep and the goats. It agrees with all Christian morals and is a very respectable charity. Christian Aid shares these targets also, and is an agreeable way to help the poor for Christians. Christian Aid is different to most charities Christians can give to, because it uses morals and policies that other Christians relate to; to choose what money should go towards. Christians want to abide by what the bible teaches and give charity to the people who really need it, and Christian Aid shares their moral beliefs and aims, so it is a good choice in responding to problems around the world.
This quote suggests that Christians around the world should unite, help other Christians who are in need, and stick up for each other.
It does however suggest that the average Christian holds responsibility for the wrongdoings of Christians elsewhere in the world. There are after all extremists in most religions, and there are violent and sinful Christians doing sometimes racially-motivated crimes around the world. It could be said that it would be somewhat unfair for good, people-loving Christians to take the blame for the actions of exceptionally bad Christians. Exceptions of the faith, people who call themselves Christians but contradict the teachings of morality from the bible should not really mean that every Christian is frowned upon and labelled as a bad person. This however doesn’t realistically happen and actually shows that at the moment Christians don’t always take the blows for each other, simply because they don’t deserve to.
On the other hand, a very important aspect of Christianity is giving aid to those who aren’t as fortunate or in health, as demonstrated by the parable of the sheep and the goats; where Jesus tells people on judgement day that they are blessed because they have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, helped the ill, despite unfamiliarity or situation. The quote suggests that in spite of situation or unfamiliarity, Christians should take responsibility and take action towards fixing the problem.
The parable of the sheep and the goats however doesn’t specify that people have given to specifically Christians; I feel it is general people in need. The quote suggests a certain bias towards helping only Christians but not others. This certainly does not reflect Christian attitude, as Christians should practice Agape love, unconditional love. There should be no bias or lesser charity to people who aren’t Christian if they are equally in need, warmth and good deeds should not depend on faith. This is also reflected in Christian Aid’s policy which clearly states that their aid is given to the needy regardless of race or religion.
The term “responsible” here could mean that if Christians elsewhere in the world are in trouble, are living in poverty, need food or money or have lost a significant other or experienced something terrible, it is the responsibility of other Christians to lend a hand in giving charity, food, or simply praying for someone; and this is valid – a community among Christians is a humble idea and is certainly very true - people make alot of friends at church and it is a very close and supportive community, and it extends throughout the world.
Realistically not all Christians are responsible for each other in every way. Christ died at the cross a sinless man, but sacrificed himself meaning the sins from every Christian who prays for forgiveness and is truly sorry is excused by the Lord. If a Christian sins, it is their personal responsibility to pray for forgiveness from God. It is not any fault of other Christians and people cannot really say others are responsible to take any blame for their own wrongdoings.
There is more pressure on the wealthier countries to give to the needy, the starving, the diseased Christians of the LEDCs, but are Christians living in poverty expected to give aid themselves? I feel this would be a little unreasonable. There are Christians starving hungry scattered around the globe, is it also their responsibility to give what they are earning to others? If they are earning enough money to live in health, then perhaps they can be expected to share their success with the more needy in their community. But does this quote apply financially to people who can’t afford to look after their family and themselves?
To me the quote is very ambiguous and is true in some meanings but not in others. If this statement meant that Christians have the responsibility of taking action over fellow Christians in need; in poverty, ill health, mourning or so on; then I personally agree with the statement, although I would say it is one’s responsibility as a Christian to give aid to anyone in need, regardless of their religion. This again relates to unconditional love, and to stewardship. The concept of stewardship teaches that man was given the world to look after, and humans should be looking after themselves; and therefore one and other. Not only Christians should unite, but everyone should be helping each other and the world would be a happier place. This is the attitude I would expect more from a Christian. On the other hand, if the quote is suggesting that a certain amount of blame should be passed onto every Christian for the wrongdoing of a single person, then I think it is completely wrong. Although Jesus Christ demonstrated he would take the burden and punishment for every person’s sins for dying an innocent man, I don’t feel that just because a person shares the Christian faith; their wrongdoings should lead to discrimination of every Christian. It is up to them to pray for forgiveness, not to others. Due to the ambiguity of this quote I can safely say that I disagree with it. It is vague and a bit reckless in what it is saying. Some aspects of the point are true, but alot of what comes with this idea is indeed wrong.
This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Morality of War section.
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