Poverty, although it has declined dramatically in the last few decades, affects more than a billion people in the contemporary world. Their levels of material well being, education, and opportunities are little changed from those of their ancestors. Much is now understood about the causes of lack of development and poverty, but in many places progress is depressingly slow. U.S. attitudes and policy toward global poverty have been and remain ambivalent and inconsistent, at best.
American Christianity, vibrant and relevant to the lives of the majority of Americans, is increasingly engaged in international humanitarian and missionary work, through denominational bodies, international faith-based NGOs and congregations. Millions of American Christians contribute billions of dollars to humanitarian and evangelical efforts, and millions are themselves personally involved in one or another international activity, much of it directed at the alleviation of poverty and hunger.
Perhaps American Christianity has the potential to help shape a more humane and sensible response to global poverty on the part of American society as a whole and the American government in particular? This paper attempts to explore both the potential and the challenges.