Does God Believe in Jeff Sachs?

I recently had a severe crisis of faith when I attended Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Manhattan. Although I am an Episcopalian, there was one part of the liturgy the congregation was reciting in unison that caused me doubts. The problematic prayer in the liturgy was: “The world now has the means to end extreme poverty, we pray we will have the will.”

The first part is apparently meant as a statement of fact, which economists currently argue about (who is the world? Whose are the means? How does “the world” with those “means” actually end poverty?) The whole prayer seems to presume a particular approach to poverty: collective global action, which again economists argue about as being the right or the wrong approach to alleviate poverty. So why is God taking sides in a debate among economists?

This prayer was the brainchild of an Episcopal priest named Jay Lawlor, who prior to his ordination was an economist working for 10 years with – you guessed it – Professor Jeffrey Sachs. He now is the head of something called Millennium Congregations, which has an even stronger statement on its flyer:

At some point in the not too distant future benign neglect and callous disregard for the world’s extremely poor (living on under $1 a day) will become a crime against humanity and a sin against the Creator. This is the time to pray, advocate, and to take action. Promises have been made, and the time for debate is over because solutions now exist.

This is really bad news: having a debate with Jeff Sachs is now a sin against God.

Maybe this all happened after Jeff’s eloquent sermon at the Washington National Cathedral on September 11, 2005, where he was billed as “The Prophet of Economic Possibilities for the Poor.”