“When will Africans be able to take care of themselves?” was the question my grandmother asked as she discussed her nephew’s missionary work in Ghana. For decades she had been watching the news reports coming out of the Dark Continent and hearing the accounts from her family members living there about the condition of the African people.
My grandmother’s question is one that most thoughtful Christians have asked themselves at some point. How many calls for aid have emanated from pulpits across America asking for more money and supplies to end the latest catastrophe in Africa? By now, fatigue must be taking a toll on contributions. It was AIDS, Malaria, or Ebola, now it is civil war, next year it might be another genocide or drought. Africa always produces a steady stream of calamities in the event that Western reporters face a shortage of good stories. Euro-American Christians are told it is our obligation to fix the drought, save starving children, adopt homeless kids, provide AIDS doctors, and, of course, donate more money. Americans are told they are too rich to do nothing.
Before Euroethnic Christians donate more, however, it might be worth while to evaluate whether our money and efforts are actually accomplishing anything, and whether our aid constitutes wise stewardship of our God given resources. Christians know that economic aid is Biblically endorsed. The apostle Paul took up monetary collections for Jewish Christians struggling through a first century drought. The question, however, is whether the mere existence of poverty is grounds for aid, and what constitutes poverty.
Poverty has been defined in numerous ways by numerous people. On some level, a Christian definition of poverty has to be defined relatively. It cannot be defined by an absolute measure. For example, many of the rich people Jesus encountered during his ministry would be regarded as impoverished by twenty-first century Americans, but Jesus referred to them as rich. Even the residents of modern inner-city housing projects have a much higher standard of living then the average residents of ancient Rome. To some extent, poverty can only be defined within social and historical context.
When Paul was gathering aid for the drought ravaged first-century Jews, the Gentiles donated with a knowledge that the Jews had recently been prosperous, and that they had suffered a temporary environmental catastrophe which would pass. One-way Gentile aid was an extremely temporary phenomenon. Contrast this New Testament example with that of modern Africa. The entire sub-Saharan region has been in crisis for centuries, Africa never returns aid to Euroethnics, the situation is not improving, and Africa has never been prosperous (according to Euroethnic standards) in its thousands of years of history.
The twenty-first century idea of African “poverty” is based on a decontextualized view of the situation. Euro-Americans have been told to judge the living standards of Africa as if the inhabitants of that continent were their physical neighbors, but this is not a realistic perspective. Africa is not America nor Europe, and the African people are not of European descent. To pretend that Africa is Europe, and that Afroethnics are Euroethnics is to live in delusion. No church leader would preach that Abraham lived in poverty because he had no running water or indoor plumbing, but every week church leaders claim that Africans are impoverished because they lack the very same things. These thought leaders easily acknowledge Abraham within his context, but they ignore the African context when approaching the same issue.
This under sight exposes the broader problems associated with globalization and ethnic unity. Most distinctly, the deconstruction of identity through lack of context. Modern Euro-Americans are often dismissive of the poor in their own communities because they turn on the television and see thousands of people murdered in Darfur. In the same way, these Christians think of themselves as poor because they are constantly exposed to the incredible wealth of the super-rich one percent. Things could always be worse and simultaneously always be better. Globalism causes the breakdown of community by removing all natural boundaries that provide context to human life. In the African problem, globalism has created a scenario in which the differences between the groups are ignored because of an imagined sense of unity.
If Christians evaluated the plight of sub-Saharan Africa within its historical context they would discover that modern Africa is actually quiet rich. The life expectancy of the Average sub-Saharan African is higher than it’s ever been. The infant mortality rate is lower. Education is more widespread than at any other time in Africa’s history. Within the context of sub-Saharan Africa’s own history and social understanding it is experiencing its greatest period of wealth. Africa is not in need of aid.
Many Christians object that there are too many starving children in Africa and people suffering from preventable illnesses. This might be true but, again, context is key. A race of aliens who live for thousands of years might look down on earthlings and observe that we are living in poverty and have short life expectancies, but this does not obligate them to bankrupt themselves in order to give us the technology we need to live as long as they do. If they did this it might produce all kinds of unexpected negative results. For example, if we all lived a thousand years the population would explode and destroy the world’s resources.
In fact, this scenario is happening in Africa. The sudden infusion of enormous aid resources into African society has caused a population boom that has devastated Africa’s available resources and influenced the disharmony and conflict Westerners are now scandalized by. Human populations are supposed to grow incrementally as their technological and social understandings develop to maintain bigger populations, but Africa has grown artificially and immediately without any of the contextual resources to maintain their growth. Formally, starvation and disease kept the African population sustainable; today, there is no moderating influence and unmitigated growth has caused unprecedented tragedies. Euroethnic Christians should not make the mistake of thinking they can fix this problem. The African population will control itself whether by starvation or murderously killing one another. There are only so many resources in the region.
The current African population explosion has been the result of efforts exerted by Western organizations to provide food, water, medicine, technology, and infrastructure to various African ethnicities. But as the population has expanded so has the need for more aid because the African nations were never capable of independently sustaining the population they now find themselves with. The population expands as Euroethnic aid increases, and as it expands the need for Euroethnic aid to maintain it increases in proportion.
Obviously, this situation cannot continue. At some point, Euro-American Christians and governments will reach the point where they do not have the money necessary to support the massive African population. Following this point, Africa will implode into self-destructive violence over the limited resources its people can provide for themselves.
Is it possible the African economy will grow enough to eventually maintain its own population? While anything is possible, this scenario remains highly unlikely. The sub-Saharan African economy has remained stagnant for the last three decades. Since independence from the European colonial empires the region has faced unprecedented levels of socio-political instability. Even South Africa (once a prosperous state) has continued to disintegrate after the fall of Apartheid in the 1990s. In short, Africa’s future does not look any better than its past. In fact, many indications suggest sub-Saharan Africa may be living through its golden era at the moment.
The question of African aid and development requires an ethnic, genetic, and biological context. No Afroethnic population anywhere in the world has sustained the prosperity, success, and functionality of a Euroethnic society. Even the poorest country inhabited by those of European descent is richer than the richest country inhabited by those of African descent. In America, there are no majority African-American communities that could be regarded as wealthy or upper-middle class. Almost all majority Afroethnic communities are regarded as poor and dysfunctional.
The most Afroethnic nation in the Caribbean is Haiti. Haiti is the poorest per capita and most dysfunctional Caribbean country. This worldwide ethnic context must be used to evaluate the necessity of giving more aid to Africa. Christians must ask themselves whether God intended for those of African descent to maintain European levels civilizations.
In their important study, ‘IQ & Global Inequality,’ Tatu Vanhanan and Richard Lynn explain a link between the genetically inherited IQ of various ethnic populations and the prosperity of their respective nations. European and Asian nations scored highest on IQ tests and subsequently they are prosperous. African nations scored lowest and are subsequently the poorest in the world. If God has placed genetic borders around the potential wealth and success of Afroethnic states through genetically inherited IQ averages Euro-American Christians must respect these borders and not seek to violate God’s established order. No matter how much money American Christians pump into Africa it will never become prosperous against God’s will.
In its present form aid to Africa is a waste of money at the least, and at worst it’s probably causing many of the tragedies we now witness in the heart of darkness. To spend one’s money on African aid is comparable to throwing one’s money away on risky investments. God would not want us to defy reality with his blessing. We must use our talents wisely.