God’s Great Gift of Ice Cream

Vishal Mangalwadi’s work The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is a treasure. Ice cream lovers like me will appreciate God’s grace in the gift of readily available ice cream in the West just a little more after reading the book.

From India, Mangalwadi offers unique insights on the Western world through the eyes of an Easterner who has studied the West. A disciple of Francis Schaeffer, he shows Westerners the benefits we have received but often fail to appreciate. In a time when many Christians see the weaknesses in American culture, Mangalwadi reflects on the great things the Lord has done here that we ought to cherish and cultivate.

The book is part philosophy and worldview, part history, part economic treatise, and part missionary biography. He paints a broad brush. One might wish his scholarship were a little tighter in places or might disagree with his analysis of history and conclusions. But he provides a refreshing perspective that is not mere theory from a man writing from a leather chair at a mahogany desk; he’s boldly tried to work out the implications on the ground in rural India in the face of great opposition over three decades.

So what about the ice cream? Mangalwadi illustrates that economic value is added to something like milk supremely in a Christianized culture where people’s morality has been shaped by the awareness of a personal, loving, omniscient God. Corruption will only dissolve if people’s hearts are changed. He tells the story of visiting Christians friends in Holland. His Dutch host took him to a neighboring dairy farm. The farmer was not in the barn, but Vishal’s friend helped himself to the needed milk, and then paid for the milk on the honor system as he deposited cash in the basket next to the milk tank and fished around in the basket for the appropriate change. Vishal was stunned by what he saw, knowing that in most Indians would have walked out with the milk and the cash since no one was looking. Then, he explains the cost of corruption succinctly:

If this were India and I walked out with the money and the milk, the dairy owner would need to hire a cashier. Who would pay for the cashier? I, the consumer, would; and the price of milk would go up. But if the consumer were corrupt, why should the dairy owner be honest? He would add water to the milk to make more money. I would then be paying more for adulterated milk. I would complain, “The milk is adulterated; the government must appoint inspectors.”

Who would pay for the inspectors? I, the taxpayer, would. But if the consumer, producer, and the supplier were corrupt, why should the inspectors be honest? They would extract bribes from the supplier. If he did not bribe them, the inspectors would delay the supply and ensure that the milk curdled before it got to me.

Who would pay for the bribe? Again, I, the consumer, would pay the additional cost. By the time I paid for the milk, cashier, the water, inspector, and the bribe, I would have a little money left to buy chocolate for the milk – so my children would not drink the milk and would be weaker than the Dutch children. Having spent extra money on the milk, I would not be able to take my children out for ice cream. The cashier, water, bribe, and inspector add no value to the milk. The ice cream industry does. My corruption keeps me from patronizing a value adding business. That reduces our economy’s capacity to create jobs. (p. 250)

God has added value to our economy and filled our freezers with ice cream in no small part because of the influence of the gospel on our culture. Tonight, I plan to take up a dish with gratitude, and I hope you will too. While you’re at it, take up Mangalwadi and read. You won’t be sorry you did.