As The Hunger Games continued to do big box office during May, the battle over a less intrepid heroine named "Julia" displayed the weaknesses of both contemporary liberalism and conservatism.
The battle began last month when President Barack Obama's website unveiled "Julia," a slick infographic about a fictional woman, her government benefits, and the need to defeat evil Mitt Romney so Julia could receive cradle-to-grave support supplied by Washington (barackobama.com/life-of-julia).
The Heritage Foundation promptly countered with its own infographic about how "conservative reforms" would give Julia a "better life" (blog.heritage.org/ a-better-life-for-julia). But what is that better life? Neither the liberal nor conservative infographics mentioned God or even husband. Both versions gave Julia one child who makes a single appearance upon entering kindergarten (when Julia is 37) and then disappears.
In real life, most women live within families and neighborhoods. They have husbands. They belong to churches or other organizations. They are not solitary, poor, and nastily alone. Many do charitable work. Google "Julia, civil society," and learn that real-life Julia Cleverdon chairs the Teach First charity, Julia Hon works at a nonprofit devoted to strengthening local communities, and Julia's House is a charitable hospice for children. Google "Julia, philanthropy" and learn that Julia Khodorova and Julia Kitross are Israeli and Seattle philanthropists, and Santa Julia is a home in Mexico for abandoned girls.
In this issue we look at what other real-life people do by beginning to report the results of our seventh annual effective compassion contest. WORLD subscribers nominated nearly 200 ministries that are explicitly Christian, local rather than national, and dependent on donations rather than government grants. Narrowing the field to nine semi-finalists was hard (and we'll reconsider for next year's contest some who did not make it this year).
Some of the semi-finalists are innovative ministries that have lasered in on a specific need: This issue includes profiles of one group that fixes cars for single moms and widows, and another that links dad-less boys with men who become father figures. Other semi-finalists are worthy in themselves yet also represent much larger efforts: This issue includes a profile of one pregnancy resource center, and we could have looked at a thousand others that also deserve recognition.
Profiles in three subsequent issues will also report on groups good in themselves but representing many others: Semi-finalists include a Christian school, a rescue mission, a center for refugees, a community development program, a Christian health clinic, and a program that helps hard-to-employ folks find jobs.
Overall, the ingenuity and perseverance of American Christians in helping the poor and powerless continues to impress and hearten me. Muslims shout that Allah is great, and believe he shows his greatness by giving them victories. But Christians know that Christ showed His greatness by deliberately losing, in human terms, and then gaining resurrection from the dead. Christians glorify God by losing, in human terms: giving of themselves to those with little or no ability to give back.
And through God's grace we are sometimes privileged to witness the resurrection from the living dead of those addicted to drugs and other idols, or those abandoned and alone. Julia does not live by bread alone, whether provided through government or her own efforts. The better life starts with trusting God and drinking deeply of His living water.
2012 West Region finalists
• Boys to men | Our Western Region winner finds fathers for the fatherless
• Hands of the Carpenter | Denver-area organization founded in 2003 repairs the cars of single moms
• Alpha Pregnancy Help Center | Crisis pregnancy center reaches rural residents with a mobile ultrasound unit
Read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2012 on WORLD's Hope Award page.