Response to "Does God Believe in Jeff Sachs"?

I invited Jay Lawlor, the head of Millennium Congregations, and Jonathan Denn, the head of CountingPrayers.Org to respond to the blog post. I have not heard yet from Mr. Lawlor, but Mr. Denn responded. His letter follows: Dear Professor Easterly,

Thank you for notifying me of your blog, and the invitation to respond. I was most sorry to hear of your severe crisis of faith, hopefully this will be of solace.

A couple corrections, I am the author of the The Counting Prayer {EDITOR INSERT: “The world now has the means to end extreme poverty, we pray we will have the will.”} As of this morning almost 1.5 million Counting Prayers have been offered in The Prayer Vigil to End Extreme Poverty and on the Billion Prayer March (endorsed by the United Religions Initiative, I am not a clergy person but I have a deep and abiding spirituality about eliminating the suffering caused by abject poverty. I am, also, the author of the "sin against the Creator" quote. I believe we are unambiguously obligated to help our neighbors as evidenced by over 2000 mentions about alleviating poverty in the Bible. I also find common ground about poverty alleviation (if for slightly different reasons) with my secular humanist brothers and sisters.

I believe God believes in all of us, rich and poor, even economists with disagreements, and that God believes we will act to eliminate suffering. We may fail but we must not stop trying.

I live in a simple world. People trapped in poverty need a clinic so family members can stop dying prematurely of easily preventable causes. The next morning when they rise and illness is not crippling their family these folks can get on with making life better for themselves. To do that they need dependable access to fertilizer, seed, water, and then when they finally have something to trade, someone to do it with. Oh, and a road to get to market.

The world has long had the wealth and knowledge to lift up our disadvantaged brothers and sisters to clear this very low bar. We merely lack the will, and in the past the expertise.

In 2002, the United States entered into the Monterey Consensus to provide zero point seven percent of na tional household income to the poorest nations to help with developing these necessary infrastructures. Only Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands have kept their promise, the U.S. is tied for a distant last place with Japan. Relief work is essential but without development it is unfortunately eternal. Without development there can be no self-sufficiency.

I believe that if every person of faith (or conviction) made up their pro-rata share of their countries' shortfall, what I call the Millennium Tithe, that we would indeed soon see an end to extreme poverty, at least in the countries with relatively stable governments. And, that would be an incentive for other countries to enact stabilizing policies. I believe this to be a communion of humanity, secular and religious working together to end easily preventable, extreme poverty (misery).

Our Millennium Tithe would amount to about $15 per household per month (equal to two movie tickets), and I would suggest tithers find the highest yield development projects to fund, those with proven effectiveness and efficiencies and verifiable results. These are increasingly coming from secular NGOs, and there are most impressive results coming from the Millennium Village Project, of which I am a volunteer Ambassador. If I were to find an organization with a better poverty solution metric I would then volunteer my time to help them. If you have a better model, I would be happy to volunteer my time to you. For volunteer I must to the best action takers.

What is the theology of not vigilantly supporting and/or advocating the most effective poverty solutions available?


Jonathan Denn