The least of these

Here's Bono in yesterday's New York Times commenting on Bush's trip to Europe. He depicts aid to Africa as something these arguing continents can agree on, and must agree on, and as part of that he makes this comment about European reaction to American pieties: [Bush needs to] clear up some confusion about America's basic beliefs. Americans are overtly devout. And yet Europeans, who inhabit a more secular world, give more per capita than Americans to what the Bible calls "the least of these" - the world's poor. The United States is in 22nd place, last in the class of donor nations. (Add private philanthropy and it's up to 15th.) Europeans see the discrepancy, and they smell hypocrisy.

Bono is, of course, European, so he would know how they think. But I can back it up: I was doing some extended visiting with many Christians, all of whom would have called themselves evangelical, in more than one non-English-speaking country on the continent around election season last year. I read a poll in the major French evangelical magazine in which about 70% of their readership answered "Do you believe that Bush is sincere in his profession of Christian faith?" no. I participated (and not of my own initiative) in multiple conversations about this topic in evangelical churches, Bible studies, and in the backs of vans, and they all had the same consensus: No one whose policies treat the needy (and/or the environment) the way Bush's do could possibly be a disciple of Christ.

Please hear me that I'm not trying to have a conversation about this topic here. Please. This blog has both Republican and Democratic readers, and the Americans here will understand clearly how Bush's Christianity, for a very large group of American believers, looks self-evident and typical. (Even Bono goes on to show that he understands that many Americans think about these issues quite differently then Europeans.) So I very much do not want to see a comment thread start on the premise "But I love Bush!" or "I don't!" I'm posting this just because I found it very interesting that Bono chooses to attack on that point: Do you Americans know being last in foreign aid makes your faith look ridiculous to us over here? And even to those who on every other point share Bush's evangelical Christian commitments?

Here's DATA's response to the 2006 US budget request, while we're at it.

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