What do the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney have in common? They all performed at last night’s “12-12-12” concert for “Sandy relief” in New York City. Madison Square Garden was the site for what producers called “the greatest lineup of legends ever assembled on a stage.”
More than $32 million was raised before the concert began. With a potential audience of two billion across six continents, the event could raise tens of millions more. Celebrities including Billy Crystal, Chelsea Clinton, and Leonardo DiCaprio took part in a telethon during the concert. Donations will go to the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which provides materials and money to groups helping those hit hardest by the storm.
Skeptics will probably view the event as a publicity strategy, but I’m not sure the musicians who volunteered their time need more media attention than they already receive. In my view, the concert is an example of American compassion at work.
According to the Charities Aid Foundation, our nation ranks #1 in the world in charitable giving. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the exiled Russian novelist and Nobel laureate, would not have been surprised. After visiting America, he noted: “The United States has long shown itself to be the most magnanimous, the most generous country in the world. Wherever there is a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a natural disaster, an epidemic, who is the first to help? The United States. Who helps the most and unselfishly? The United States.”
Then he added: “And what do we hear in reply? Reproaches, curses, ‘Yankee Go Home,’ American cultural centers are burned, and the representatives of the Third World jump on tables to vote against the United States.” Does such animosity exempt us from compassion? Not at all, according to Solzhenitsyn: “This does not take the load off America’s shoulders. The course of history—whether you like it or not—has made you the leaders of the world. . . . You must think about the whole world.”
Why do we feel responsible for hurting people in our nation and around the globe? Is our enduring commitment to compassion one example of Christian influence at work in America from our founding? Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed that “providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty.” Patrick Henry was adamant: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly, nor too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
This “Gospel” includes service to the least, the last, and the lost. Jesus “had compassion” on hurting people (Matthew 9:36); his word teaches us to “clothe yourselves with compassion” (Colossians 3:12). Scripture also states, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Who will know that you know God today?