Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision, same sex marriage, and priorities

This post will probably get me in trouble again, but here goes:  As I continue to compile photos for the sequel to my “Levi’s First Week Alive” post, I decided to share this short piece from one of my other blogs.

The World Vision controversy has been blowing up my Twitter stream and Facebook newsfeed this week, so this may also be of interest to my readers.  Some may not give a rip either way.  If not, check back here soon for more outdoor adventure and family pics with Lena and baby Levi!

This is not a blog post about gay marriage.  It’s a plea to avoid putting doctrine ahead of compassion.

Personal disclosure: While I still believe World Vision is a wonderful relief organization, my preferred means of supporting impoverished children overseas is either via the Church of God’s Children of Promise or through Compassion International.

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On Monday, Christian relief agency World Vision sent shockwaves through many segments of the Evangelical community with an unprecedented revelation-- they were dropping an employee conduct policy that previously forbade employees to participate in same-sex marriages.  U.S. branch president Richard Stearns explained that World Vision was not necessarily endorsing same-sex marriage, but simply promoting unity by choosing to not take a stand on what he viewed was a divisive issue among Christians.  Predictably, controversy ensued.

And then this morning, in response to a flood of both criticism and praise, Stearns made the startling follow-up announcement that the employment policy change would be reversed.  He described the original move as a mistake.

Many people whom I love and respect disagree strongly about whether the real misstep was the decision or the reversal.  Many on the extreme Right are renewing talk about proponents of the LGBT agenda trampling on Biblical values… and many on the extreme Left are accusing anyone associated with traditional marriage views as homophobic.  So what else is new?  Level headed people on both sides will continue to be loving and open minded enough to at least LISTEN to the hearts of people with whom they may disagree.

But here’s where things got really upsetting:   Before World Vision caved to the criticism and reversed their decision, the internet was awash with some very vocal Christians who were so incensed with the policy change that they encouraged their audiences to stop supporting World Vision completely.  Worse yet, nearly 5,000 [3-29-14:  5,000 is an updated number, based on this interview] actually CANCELED monthly support for their sponsored children (and some even boasted about it on Facebook).  That’s right, they disagreed with a World Vision employment policy and chose to make severely impoverished children and communities pay the price.

In the words of Rage Against the Minivan blogger Kristin Howerton:

"Is access to food, water, and education trumped by keeping gay people out of a job at a nonprofit? If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about who we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It's astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there."

How could this possibly reflect God’s love?  Here are some honest questions:

Shouldn’t Christians be eager to work together with anyone who is passionate about ending poverty, regardless of their beliefs?  Would Mother Teresa have discouraged someone, based on his or her lifestyle, from helping the needy?  Would the Portland Rescue Mission refuse help from someone whose personal conduct fails to align 100% with Biblical values?  And shouldn’t doctrinal debates play second fiddle in a lifestyle that actively prioritizes the Biblical values of holiness, unity, AND God’s concern for the poor and for social justice?

Plus, wasn’t it Jesus who chose to heal that dude with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath in Matt 12:9-14, despite the religious leaders being uncomfortable with Him breaking the rules?  I’m pretty sure that Jesus also mentions something about the value of a human life in that passage…

The heated discussion about same-sex marriage isn’t going to end anytime soon.  But neither should our support for organizations that are committed to providing food, clean water, shelter, education, and safety for impoverished communities around the globe.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché-spouting goofball, I’ll end with this:  Together, we can change the world.  We should focus on our commonalities, not our differences.

So let’s get past this controversy and refocus on a common goal: Ending poverty!

1 comment:

Garth Hamilton said...

Update: I amended this post today to reflect Richard Stearns' estimates that nearly 5000, not 2000, child sponsors may have been lost due to the events of this week.

Thanks to Jim Leslie of Pittsburgh for bringing this number to my attention.