Opinion: Giving should depend on an organization’s works, not its values
After learning about World Vision’s landmark decision to employ faithfully married gay individuals and the decision’s immediate reversal, I hopped online to learn more. What I found was a disturbing slew of posts from angered Christians threatening to pull their support for certain children if the decision was not reversed. Here’s a sample: “We have supported a child through World Vision for six or seven years and will be sorry to withdraw our support because of your organization’s poor decision. The sheep and the goats are being separated.” This is a relatively tame post but broadcasts the same message as most: “We have no choice but to cancel our sponsorship.”
Now, let me make one thing clear: you always have a choice, and depriving an impoverished child of resources is never the right one! I don’t care what World Vision’s theology is; if they still take your $35 a month and give it to a child in need, you keep paying. Write an angry letter, post a line of sad emoticons, burn some rainbow flags, but don’t stop helping that child.
I tremble at the idea of what a struggling kid would think about our faith if she realized that we Christians were willing to wager her life to get our way. The suggestion that her struggles for food, education and equitable treatment are somehow less important than defending our theological opinions should make us question our theology.
To World Vision: I understand your situation. Your president, Rich Stearns, suggested that the number of dropped sponsorships was near 5,000. That’s over $2 million of lost funding a year. I can wrap my mind around your policy withdrawal because I know that it probably ensures a lot of kids a lot of help. But I don’t understand the way you handled this flip-flop.
In a statement on March 26, you said, “Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake … and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.” Stating this is like welcoming someone into your home and then not only asking them to leave but disgustedly scrubbing down the walkway behind them as they go.
Stearns then concluded, “What we are affirming today is there are certain beliefs that are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs.” This is the statement that breaks my heart. What you really affirmed is that excluding LGBT individuals is a core part of our Christian faith. You confirmed that this issue is the battle ground. You made LGBT people the enemies just when you were about to finally make them your friends. And we wonder why the church is labeled hypocritical. We wonder why young people are leaving in droves. We wonder why so many LGBT Christians lose their faith.
Finally, to LGBT Christians and their allies: friends, when I heard that those individuals ready to publicly hang their kids out to dry got their way, I was furious. I was ready to kick down the doors of World Vision headquarters, begin sponsoring a child just to threaten to abandon him and create a Twitter account just to publicly announce my scheme. I ached for the LGBT Christian community and I wanted to pout about it. But then I realized something: we LGBT people and allies are not the victims.
I don’t mean to trivialize the pain the church has caused so many of us nor ignore the fact that this new decision really twists the knife. But, we are still not the victims. The victims are those who choose between food and education and who know deeply that each day brings enough trouble of its own. The idea that a mere $35 dollars on my part can provide for someone on the margins of society is heartening; the idea that I would withhold that $35 for any reason is heartbreaking. These people are not poker chips. They are not pawns. They are people, and they need help.
There have been a lot of Bible verses thrown around in this squabble, but I would like to throw out just one: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27a). Our greatest call as Christians committed to justice is not to bicker about who’s in and who’s out but to help those in distress.
When I first heard about World Vision’s reversal, I was disappointed that LGBT individuals were not seen as fit to join in even this most basic Christian duty. However, I’m realizing that this decision does not mean that LGBT people cannot still join in this service. No, they cannot get married and work for World Vision, and I am upset by that. However, I will be far more upset if we LGBT Christians and allies mope around feeling sorry for ourselves and let our suffering justify the suffering of someone else.
So, to my LGBT and ally friends: keep giving. It may take being humiliated and betrayed and let down again and again, but when I think about all my third grade friends’ favorite bracelets and ask myself what Jesus would do, I realize that it looks a whole lot more like this unconditional giving than it does like pulling support for the least of these.
And also to my straight, cisgender and socially conservative friends: keep giving. And to my Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist friends: keep giving. If you currently give to World Vision, don’t stop. And if you don’t give to World Vision, I would strongly encourage you to start. Regardless of their employment policies, they do good work in the world, and they serve good people who are worth far more than any policy.
This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily represent the views of Calvin Chimes, Calvin College or the Christian Reformed Church.
Read differing view: Opinion: World Vision policy change contradictory to biblical teachings