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Let’s do some word association. Don’t worry, this will be short. I’ll give you one word. Actually, one name: Bono.

What comes to your mind? Frontman of the world’s greatest rock band? Mega-voice with sunglasses to match? Self-appointed African ambassador? The founder of the One and (RED) campaigns? I’m sure the responses would be many. Today my answer would be: one shrewd dude. I know, it doesn’t have all the sophistication and depth that others might supply but let me explain.

A week or two ago I read an article about the achievement of the (RED) campaign, which was begun by Bono as an attempt to get companies to designate one of their products (colored red of course) of which a portion of its sale would go to help fight AIDS in Africa. It was interesting to say the least, and when I asked others who were more in the know that I am what they thought of it, opinions ran across the board. I don’t really know enough still to comment intelligently about whether (RED) is successful or not. However, in doing a little (emphasis on little) research on the (RED) campaign I discovered how well Bono knows the West and has capitalized on that knowledge for his, and (RED)’s, advantage. On the (RED) webpage, after explaining what (RED) is all about, Bono concludes his pitch:

You, the consumer, can take your purchase to the power of (RED) simply by upgrading your choice. Thus the proposition: (YOU)RED. Be embraced, take your own fine self to the power of (RED). What better way to become a good-looking samaritan?!

As I said, Bono is shrewd. He knows us maybe better than we know ourselves.

  • Question: How do you get a bunch of consumers, who live life thinking they are the center of the universe, to give money to your cause?
  • Answer: You speak their love language of possessions and narcissism by telling them how great they will appear in the eyes of others when they don their (RED) shirts, IPods, shirts, cell phones, stuff ad infinitum, and be recognized as hip and a do-gooder at the same time!

I read his words and, once again, am amazed how we’re so consumed with ourselves that even our charity must be about us. One thing that (RED) does is tell us how culturally-savvy Bono is (he speaks fluent Western-ese) and how terribly small our national soul has become. I wonder how much we would give if it meant nobody knew anything, if it meant that we don’t get to wear a hip shirt around for others to see? What do you think? I believe you know the answer as well as I do.

Let me be clear. I’m not against (RED). I hope it raises as much money as possible to help real people who are really dying. I’m also sincere in my praise of Bono’s shrewdness. He knows the pulse of the people and is trying to do something good with it. Folks are going to spend money, why not try to take some of that consumer cash and funnel it to something that’s truly worthwhile? I can’t argue with that at all. More power to him! Bono has done more for those in Africa than I (and most others for that matter) probably ever will. Furthermore, I don’t think everyone who wears something (RED) has done so with self-centered intentions.

It’s just that in all this (RED) stuff I, as a Follower of Jesus, need to pause, take a moment to reflect and check my heart before I tell that salesperson at the mall to grab me a cardinal colored XL t-shirt. Why? Remember Bono’s final plea to join his cause: “What better way to become a good-looking samaritan?!” While that may be a great motive for a consumer to give it isn’t for a follower of Jesus. Contrast Bono’s words with the words of Jesus: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)

As an appeal to consumers, Bono’s conclusion is genius, but for those who follow Christ, it’s dangerous because it seeks to arouse the stuff in us we’re supposed to be trying to die to.

I know this may sound (RED)iculous but if you want to give to help those dying of AIDS in Africa just give directly and 100% of your money will be used to serve others. You may not catch the eyes of others but you will catch the eye of One.

What better way to become a Good Samaritan?

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

2 thoughts on “(RED)talk”

  1. maybe we should have had Bono come and pitch our “Whatever It Takes” t-shirts…we probably would have hit our goal…LOL

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