Speech given at the 2006 Washington Prayer Breakfast. The way he begins his speech is tremendous.
"If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. I'm here because I've got a messianic complex. Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.
Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural…something unseemly…about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the south of France. Talk about a fish out of water.
Great sense of humour! He appears to be an unusualy honest person with a sense of realism about his weird path he has walked to be where he is.
I'll jump beyond his introduction to this section where he talks about his early faith:
I was cynical…not about God, but about God's politics. Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick – my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call – and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.
What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lord's favour? I'd always read the scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)… 'If your brother becomes poor,' the scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself…you shall maintain him…. You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'
It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this.
Pretty good words. Now I'll fast forward to the end of his speech.
This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. 'Do to others as you would have them do to you' (Luke 6:30). Jesus says that. He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Get involved in what God is doing – because it's already blessed.
Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what he's calling us to do. I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to 10% of the family budget. Well, how does that compare with the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than 1%.
Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America: I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional 1% of the federal budget tithed to the poor. What is 1%? 1% is not merely a number on a balance sheet. 1% is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. 1% is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. 1% is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. 1% is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This 1% is digging waterholes to provide clean water. 1% is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism toward Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.
America gives less than 1% now. We're asking for an extra 1% to change the world. to transform millions of lives – but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us. 1% is national security, enlightened economic self-interest, and a better, safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, 1% is the best bargain around.
These goals – clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty – these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a globalised world. Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.
But I can tell you this: To give 1% more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed. There is a continent – Africa – being consumed by flames. I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did – or did not to – to put the fire out in Africa.
History, like God, is watching what we do. Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all."