Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda:
the Fall of Reason in the Church

Chapter Seven
Gloom and Doom

Ron Sider’s book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, has sold more than 250,000 copies since it was published in 1977. In it Sider tells us that American consumerism is the cause of worldwide poverty: Americans devour an unequal amount of the world’s food;the United States is selfish with foreign aid;America consumes too much energy and nonrenewable resources.

Sider’s thinking is representative of the overall Liberal approach to world poverty. Basic to that approach is the idea that the earth’s resources are stretched to the breaking point and American’s are devouring more than their fair share of what is available.

That gloomy picture is shared by Tom Sine, who wrote, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, in 1981. These two books benchmark the Liberal Evangelical position.

RESPONDING TO THE LIBERAL EVANGELICALS

Many Christians have responded to both Sider and Sine. One is David Chilton. His Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators responded to Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. His response, originally published in 1981 and updated in 1990, is more than four hundred pages in length. Not only does he respond to Sider, but he lists ten other authors who have criticized Rich Christians.

The most notable among Sider’s critics is Herbert Schlossberg, a historian who authored, Idols for Destruction, a book which won critical acclaim from prominent Evangelicals. Schlossberg believes Christian leaders like Sider gravitate to humanism because "they gradually conform their thought life to that of the larger community"–they become secularized. (Remember the Christian who "wakes up a little bit pagan every morning?") Of such Evangelicals, he says:

Roman Catolicism and the evangelical wing of Protestantism, with their intellectuals increasingly trained in secular universities, have found it difficult to retain their distinctiveness and thus have had their walls breached from within. This is the phenomenon that caused University of Chicago historian Martin Marty to speak despairingly of "the relevant reverends, the hip and swinging clerics, the secular clergy."

Schlossberg suggests neoevangelicals are becoming humanistic because they keep too close company with the world. He has little time for Sider’s economic theories, dismissing him with uncharacteristic terseness:

In common with the evangelicals who support [his economic views], Sider has not bothered to learn anything about the economic processes on which he expresses such strong positions.

Schlossberg further writes:

Having convinced themselves, rightly, that the biblical tradition has much to say about economics, the church intellectuals make theological statements serve as substitutes for economics. They enlist what Mises referred to as the century-long battle against economics but without realizing what they are doing. Do church leaders who inveigh against "obscene profits" have any idea what would constitute adequate profit? Do they know the function of profit? Have they considered the ways in which profit is similar to and different from a salary? Is there lurking behind such statements a belief that any profit is wrong?

Chilton, likewise, centers on Sider’s naive economic views. The Third World, Chilton says, does not (as the LEs suggest) operate on different economic laws than the developed nations. The LEs should not say that Third World nations cannot develop–they can and will, but they will have to build their economies over time, just as the Northern Hemisphere nations have done.

Chilton derides the naiveté of the Liberal Evangelicals in a quote by P. T. Bauer:

Much of the literature [of the LEs] suggests that the world was somehow created in two parts; one part with a ready-made infrastructure of railways, roads, ports, pipe lines and public utilities, which has [allowed it] to develop, and the other which the Creator unfortunately forgot to endow with social overhead capital.

THE MUSTARD SEED CONSPIRACY

When Tom Sine’s book, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, was published in 1981, it was hailed by U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield of Washington as a book which "lays out what the world can expect for the eighties." Tom Sine calls himself a "futurist." But for Sine, the future is bleak. He shares Sider’s conviction that Americans are consuming the Third World to death. In 1981 he wrote:

We have abruptly awakened to a new image of our planet as not only a finite but a shrinking pie. Unquestionably the major contributing cause to the shrinking of our pie has been the dramatic economic growth of countries in the Northern Hemisphere…

Given the North’ insatiable appetite for resources, it should surprise no one that we are running out. Of course the most prominent dwindling resource is oil. It is predicted that the supply will fail to meet demands between 1985 and 1995…

But how accurate was Sine’s prediction? Sine certainly had a receptive audience. The United States had just experienced the "oil crisis" of the early 1970s. Americans had waited in long lines to fill their cars up with gasoline. However, Sine’s prediction about oil was dismally incorrect. The June 7, 1992 Los Angeles Times reported the following:

In the 1970's, accepted wisdom held that the world would soon be running out of oil, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would soon have a stranglehold on the developed nations as it pushed oil prices ever higher. Instead two decades later, oil and gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation, are at record lows, and oil reserves are far larger than ever anticipated.

A year later the same paper, commenting on the predictions of the 1970s, reported the that the doomsayers had said:

Crude oil prices would be sky-high by the 1990s–$60, $80, $100 a barrel–as rich foreign oil producers tightened their grip on a fast-dwindling resource. Gasoline lines would be the common symbol of a nation starved for energy. Crash programs to build more nuclear and alternative power plants, and to drill for more domestic oil, would struggle to catch up with booming demand.

But 1993 doesn’t look at all like that.

In fact, for the past seven years, crude oil has puttered along at a fraction of those prophesied prices. And with more estimated reserves today than when the embargo began, the world's oil tiger has become

tame–almost a dependable commodity. If anything, oil has reared back to bite those it was expected to best serve.

Sine was likewise pessimistic about the ability of the world to feed itself at the end of the century. And, of course, it was America’s fault. He spoke of the "consequences of our outrageous appetites in the industrialized North." He quoted another futurist, Alvin Toffler, who wrote The Third Wave, "We have treated the rest of the world as though it were our ‘gas pump, garden, mine, quarry, and cheap labor supply.’" And he repeated the same LE party line: "There is abundant evidence that the planetary rich are making it at the expense of the planetary poor."

Further, he said:

As the planetary population rushes toward 6.2 billion by the end of the century, we are not only running out of many of the resources we take out of the land; we are also running out of the land itself. The amount of land on which we can grow food is actually shrinking.

Well, we will investigate those claims in the last half of this chapter. We will discover that he is not any more accurate in those statements as he was on his prediction of the end of the age of oil.

However, I want to say a word about the "insatiable energy consumption of the industrialized Northern Hemisphere." I wonder if the Liberal Evangelicals who look at world consumption figures ever stop to ask themselves what we in the industrialized world are doing with all of that energy? One gets the impression the LEs seem to think we are simply using up the world’s oil supplies on Sunday driving.

Of course, it is not surprising to discover that the industrialized North uses the energy in industry. We not only manufacture automobiles to drive to church, but the industrialized nations like America, Japan, and Germany manufacture all the automobiles, locomotives, farm machinery, airplanes, and other heavy equipment used throughout the world–in the North as well as the South. It seems to be a fact too obvious to mention, but it seems to escape the critics.

America was originally agrarian, just as the Third World is today. It became industrialized and traded its manufactured goods with the rest of the world. As industrial nations invest in the developing nations, they too will become more industrialized. More manufacturing will "go South" (to Mexico, for instance).

My point simply is that when you hear that America "consumes" an unfair share of the world’s resources it doesn’t a;ways mean it "consumes" it. Certainly, Americans, with a much higher standard of living than the average earthling, do consume more. However, consumption often means "processing." The developed nations take in the world’s natural resources (i.e. iron) and turn out finished products). To say that Japan "uses" the greatest percent of the world’s steel would be insane; it "processes iron into steel and makes it available in the global marketplace. Third world countries exchange what they are able to bring to the marketplace for steel and other refined products.

In one place, Sine points out that Central America exports its beef to the United States while Third World countries are short of protein. He concludes, "the strong have gained at the expense of the weak, the rich at the expense of the poor." "Don’t hungry children," he asks, "in Central America and the Caribbean ‘deserve a break today’ too?"

The natural question to ask, which Sider and Sine do not, is "If America didn’t buy the Central American beef, who would the ranchers sell it to?" If the ranchers refused to sell beef to the United States, their production would go down. Overall, beef prices in Central America would go up, not down, making it even harder for poor citizens to afford it. Central Americans benefit from the expansion of foreign markets. If they can raise bananas or coffee and export it in exchange for construction quality steel, they will improve their standard of living.

It isn’t trade which oppresses the Third World poor–trade is their hope. What oppresses them is political systems which do not allow individuals to rise in the social strata in accordance with their ingenuity and effort.

What Sine misses is that American markets are the very things which make it possible for the Third World countries to expand. The idea that buying goods from Third World countries robs them is hopelessly naive and wrong-headed. No wonder Schlossberg asked why the LEs had "not bothered to learn anything about the economic processes" they criticize.

ARE WE RUNNING OUT OF RESOURCES?

For the last twenty-five years prophets of doom have been heralding the end of the ecological world. I was a college student in 1970 when the first Earth Day was celebrated. Television interviews featured men like Paul Ehrlich and Barry Commoner telling us we were at the end of the world and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a best-seller. A new "cause"–environmentalism–stimulated college students. Today, the same ecological-doomsday sentiment is propounded by self-styled ecologists like Amory Lovins and the environmentally conscious Vice-President, Al Gore.

Christians, of course, are certainly ecologically concerned. God Himself, in giving us "dominion" in the earth, charged us with caring for it, cultivating it, and replenishing it. We take our stewardship seriously. However, sane Christians, like sane secularists, do not allow radicals to manipulate and warp scientific evidence.

So, are we running out of resources? Again, not everyone thinks so. People like the late Dixie Lee Ray, former governor of Washington State and former chairman of the Atomic Energy commission made a convincing argument to the contrary in her 1990 book, Trashing the Planet. She wrote:

I am as much opposed to pollution as anyone. But I…part company with alarmists who misuse science to foment fear and who clamor with increasing stridency that industrial progress must stop or be redirected into uneconomic alternatives because the world is going to pot. Is it? Or is it that professional environmentalists and others whose jobs depend on the continuing environmental crises want us to think that all’s wrong with the world.

Ray and others believe the alarmists are wrong. The do not believe the world is on the brink of ecological disaster. They do not believe overpopulation is going to reduce the world to general starvation. They do not believe we are running out of essential natural resources. How amazing. Even as I write these words I can see how deeply the doomsayers have captured the attention of the media and how deeply the media has affected us, including me!

But the truth of the matter is that numbers of very respectable scientists are–like Ray was–absolutely convinced the doomsayers are wrong-pigheadedly wrong.

Typical of that argument is wager made by Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and his nemesis, economist Julian Simon from the University of Maryland. These two men couldn’t be farther apart on their assessment of the future of life on planet earth. Ehrlich opened his 1968 book with this line, "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death."

Simon thought this and other of Ehrlich’s pronouncements were wildly off the mark. However, Simon agreed with one thing Ehrlich said: that as natural resources run out, they become precious and their price on the open market rises. Simon offered to bet Ehrlich that the future price of raw materials would go down with time, not up–a rather radical idea to most minds. Ehrlich was eager to take that wager.

Simon bet Ehrlich $1000 that the price of any five raw materials (including grain and oil) would go down–in real dollars–over a ten-year period. Ehrlich picked chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Ten years later, when he lost the bet, Ehrlich paid up. The real price of all those resources went down.

Ehrlich represents the "Malthusian" viewpoint. Thomas Malthus wrote the now famous Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). He argued that population tends to increase faster than food supply, with inevitably disastrous results, unless the increase in population is checked by moral restraints or by war, famine, and disease. Ehrlich and his colleagues make the same argument.

Frankly, population growth numbers really can be frightening. An article in the Compton Online Encyclopedia (downloaded January, 1995) stated:

World population surpassed the 5-billion milestone in 1987…The time required for the population of the world to reach its first billion had stretched through all of human prehistory into the early 1800s. The second billion was added in a little more than a century, and the 3-billion mark was reached in 1960, less than 50 years later. The additional billions since then were accumulated in time spans of about a dozen years each, but the sixth billion may be reached within only a decade–by 1997.

Christianity Today did an in-depth article on world population. The author, Tim Stafford, commented upon Ehrlich’s Malthusian predictions. But Stafford pointed out that the lament of over-population leading to disaster is as old as recorded history. Here is what one Christian writer had to say in the 2nd century:

Plowed fields have replaced forests, domesticated animals have dispersed wild life. Beaches are plowed, mountains smoothed and swamps drained. There are as many cities as, in former years, there were dwellings .... Everywhere there are buildings, everywhere people, everywhere communities, everywhere life . . . Proof[of this crowding] is the density of human beings. We weigh upon the world; its resources hardly suffice to support us .... In truth, plague, famine wars, and earthquakes must be regarded as a blessing to civilization, since they prune away the luxuriant growth of the human race.–Tertullian, c. AD. 200

How, then, can people like Simon and Ray be optimistic about the earth’s future? Stafford pointed out the source of Simon’s optimism: people produce more than they consume. People are the ultimate resource:

Those people have mouths to feed, yes; but they also have hands to work and brains to create. In the short run, they are a drain; but in the long run, they produce more than they consume. The argument, as he sees it, has to do with your image of human beings. Are we fundamentally parasitic, consuming the bounty of the world? Or do we produce the bounty of the world?

IS THERE A REASONABLE HOPE FOR SURVIVAL?

I see, at the heart of Liberalism, an interesting pessimism. Of course, Liberals think they are the optimists and more conservative Christians are pessimists. But the Liberal pessimism amounts to a lack of hope in both man and God.

In the first place, the Liberals, by continually focusing on the physical and social world problems, lose sight of God’s active intervention in the world. God, they need to be reminded, continually intervenes in human history. He is the Rescuer of His creation. The Old Testament is the story of God involving Himself in human affairs and taking a hand in their outcome.

Second, Liberals who constantly focus on what man is not accomplishing for the poor, fail to see what he has accomplished. Man has constantly overcome the dire predictions of the Malthusians–we are still here! There are many who argue convincingly that man’s condition is improving. True, too many millions live in poverty, malnutrition, and disease, but worldwide life expectancy is increasing, and standards of living are rising.

The latest projections suggest world population will reach ten billion by the year 2050. The United Nations estimates population will probably then stabilize. But, can the earth sustain 10 billion people? If the Lord tarries, and the world population finally levels off at ten billion, will we be able to feed, clothe, and shelter that many people? Will man destroy the environment through pollution? Will he exhaust renewable resources and will he deplete fossil fuels before alternative energy sources are developed?

According to Scientific American, expert opinion is divided into two camps. Environmentalists regard the situation as a catastrophe in the making. They are joined by the news media. On the other hand, optimists, who include "many economists as well as some agricultural scientists, assert the earth can readily produce more than enough food for the expected population in 2050 [AD]."

The specter of an earth drowning is pesticides, acid rain, and air pollution is daunting. And it is repeatedly paraded before our eyes on the evening news. Time Magazine featured a doomed, overheated Earth as its "man of the year" in 1988. According to Dixie Lee Ray, only days later, Alaska experienced the worst cold in history. Rays says scientific evidence does not confirm the doomsday reporters dire predictions, including that of catastrophic global warming:

The observed and recorded temperature pattern since 1880 does not fit with the…greenhouse warming calculations…it appears unlikely there has been any overall warming in the last 50 years.

Ray also rejects what she sees as over-zealous fear campaigns which suggest the planet is about to succumb to the affects of contaminants like acid rain, asbestos, PCB’s, and nuclear radiation from nuclear power stations.

However, the public is repeatedly told only one side of the story. The media is squarely on the side of the environmental fear mongers.

CAN THE WORLD FEED ITSELF?

The fact of the matter is that many respected scientists believe that the problems pollution, deforestation, and population density will be solved. These optimists contend that technological innovation will be able to deliver high standards of living to a world population of much more than 10 billion. Although the number of undernourished people is still a crisis in many parts of the world, the total number of undernourished people declined by nearly sixty million people during the 1980s. In addition, the average daily caloric intake per capita climbed by 21%, to 2,495 calories in developing nations.

John Bongaarts, a member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, says optimists see "no significant obstacles to raising levels of nutrition for world populations exceeding 10 billion people." He also says, "the potential for an enormous expansion of food production exists."

The optimists, Bongaarts says, believe expanding food production will not be limited by pollution, deforestation, lack of arable land, or soil erosion. They think only one thing can prevent the world from feeding itself–politics. Government policies in some nations will deprive them of the technology and trade to raise their standards of living.

Agricultural improvements will increase food production through methods such as multicropping,(growing crops more times every year on the same land) and by attaining higher crop yields by using more high-yield crop varieties, fertilizers, irrigation, and pesticides. In addition to producing more food, consumption levels can be boosted by wasting fewer crops and by cutting storage and distribution losses.

Such improvements have caused food prices to drop worldwide in the last decade. According to the World Resources Institute, cereal prices in the international market fell by approximately one third between 1980 and 1989.

WHAT’S WRONG ANYWAY?

Some of my friends thought I was making a mistake when I chose the term "bleeding hearts" to be used in the title of this book. I realize it is a loaded term. People who use it, more often than not, can be classified in an equally derogatory way with the word "redneck." In fact, I wanted to use "redneck" in the title as well, but I couldn’t get it by the publisher. Perhaps you will understand why when you read the final section of this book.

But aphorisms exist because they fill a real need. Bleeding hearts are people who are moved by passion over reason. Here is a dictionary definition:

Bleeding heart–A person who is considered excessively sympathetic toward those who claim to be underprivileged or exploited.

Sympathy, as I have often repeated in this book, is to be admired. However, excessive sympathy is misplaced.

I have not been advocating a political solution to counteract the political solutions offered by the Liberal Evangelicals. George Forell, a theologian at the University of Iowa, has described political movements that range across the spectrum from left to right as "rival deck stewards competing with each other about the arrangement of the deck chairs just before the Titanic hits the iceberg."

No, the answer to the Liberal Evangelicals is the same answer given by the Evangelicals to the Liberals–"No!" Our hope does not lie in the way of humanism or human exertion. Ultimately, our gift to the Third World is not gold, but crimson. As Francis L. Patton, former president of Princeton University put it:

The only Hope of Christianity is in the rehabilitating of the Pauline theology. It is back, back, back, to an incarnate Christ and the atoning blood, or it is on, on, on, to atheism and despair."

The Liberal Evangelicals, like their Liberal fathers before them have returned to projecting upon sinners the vindication of victimhood. Such thinking places the burden of their solution not upon repentance and healing, but upon human saviors who must bring the healing balm of education, economics, and sociology to their rescue. To quote Schlossberg again:

The conviction that human actions are the products of environment rather than personal volition issues forth in legislation that assumes that society is responsible for the individual’s actions…[but] Moses’ challenge to Israel [was] "I have set before you life and death…therefore choose life" (Deut. 30:19).…We are not the passive victims of the interaction of the environmental stimulus…

Liberal Evangelicals play into the hands of the social reformers who reduce the dignity of man to the mechanics of birthplace. We have so much more to offer:

To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

I started this book saying that wrong ideas are dangerous ideas, that beliefs carry consequences, that what we believe will direct what we do. The Liberal Evangelicals wind up shifting the emphasis in a dangerous direction–away from the power of the message of the cross and toward the power of human effort.

The words Kenneth Kantzer’s used to describe Tony Campolo’s wandering emphasis serve to warn all Liberal Evangelicals: "Tony’s evangelistic emphasis falls less upon the individual sinner’s need for a right relationship with God than it does on the need for deliverance from life as a consumer."