Whose World Vision Is It, Anyway?

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(Image shamelessly lifted from World Vision website)

Yesterday, World Vision – an Evangelical Christian organization which does truly great and meaningful work with children around the globe – announced that in the spirit of recognizing theological diversity within the church, and in an attempt to foster Christian unity within diversity, it had revised its discriminatory employment regulations to allow the hiring of individuals who are part of a legally married same-sex couple. Conservative Christian backlash was immediate and vitriolic, full of claims of apostasy and threats to withdraw financial support. Read that again: these people who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ were so worked up that the organization would merely allow the hiring of gay people who are legally married, that they would choose to withdraw funding for the food, clothing, and shelter of the poor, the starving, the diseased, the crippled, the neediest of the needy in the world in order to protest the new hiring policy. As a result of this appallingly misguided and hateful blowback, World Vision reversed its decision today, claiming that they had erred, and that effective immediately, they would resort to their original position of engaging in legal discrimination against people in the name of religion. This is simply tragic. I pray for the day that World Vision would have the courage to take the stand it took fleetingly yesterday, but this time for good. I pray for the day that the admirable, genuinely Christlike concern that they have for, and extend toward, others around the world, would also be extended toward those fellow Christians in the LGBTQ community who feel called to work in mission as part of the World Vision organization.

This situation is absolutely mind-boggling to me. It’s a perfect illustration of precisely the kind of self-righteous, Pharisaic hypocrisy that throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus saved his most vehement criticism for.

Of course, the organization also gained new supporters yesterday – people who support LGBTQ equality and who wanted to simultaneously do something good for poor children as well as show support for this Evangelical organization which had stood up against conservative religious conventional wisdom and made a stand – a proper stand – and for all the right reasons. However, in contrast to the obscene decision to defund the organization – no, that’s too sanitized; the obscene decision to defund starving children, supposedly in Jesus’ name – I’ve noted not a single call for the new supporters to engage in a similar defunding in the wake of the reversal. To the contrary, I’ve only seen comments that register disappointment in World Vision’s decision, while simultaneously calling for continued support for the good work that they do in spite of the organization’s return to its discriminatory policies.

The hypocrisy here is just overflowing. First, there’s the hypocrisy of every single one of the self-righteous people who feel it would in some way taint their supposed holiness to help children through an organization that didn’t discriminate against married gays and lesbians. I wonder how many of them work for companies that hire LGBTQ folk. Is their holiness besmirched, are they complicit in immorality, if they engage in commercial operations with gay and lesbian coworkers? Does helping to earn a profit for a company that hires and therefore financially supports people engaging in such supposed immorality mean that they’re working to advance godlessness and impurity? How many of these people work for companies that sell their goods and services to members of the LGBTQ community? Should they renounce somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of their annual salaries, an amount commensurate with the percentage of the population that’s LGBTQ, so they aren’t enjoying financial gain through providing those people goods and services, and thereby supporting their supposed decadence? Should they demand to know the sexual orientation of everyone who provides them with goods and services, so as not to be in league with Satan by patronizing these people or their organizations? I mean really, if these people are so dead-set on maintaining their purity and not being complicit in supporting what they view as a grave sin against God and their faith, let them take a stand just as rigid as they demand of World Vision. Let them refuse to pay their taxes, and refuse to accept any governmental and public services, since some portion of those taxes would go to pay the salaries of LGBTQ government workers, including police, EMTs, and firefighters. Let their houses burn to the ground so they can remain holy by not having to worry whether some of the firefighters are gay. Let them refuse any help from the police force when their homes are robbed, their spouses raped, their children abducted, so they can remain theologically pure by not having to rub elbows with a lesbian police officer or social worker. Let them refuse to accept anything – any healthcare, any professional services, any consumer products, any performing arts, any sports, any retail operations, any food service, any hospitality, any… anything – where people who are LGBTQ are actively employed, because such engagement equals complicity.

And the hypocrisy of World Vision is almost as bad. If they truly think that their short-lived experiment in non-discrimination was actually an error, and that they must discriminate in order to be properly Christian, then the organization should, despite any wishes to the contrary of the actual donors themselves, refuse to accept any contributions from donors who are LGBTQ, or who support equality and non-discrimination. Accepting money from the likes of these supposedly awful sinners, giving them even a bit of moral cover to their sinful lives, just makes the organization complicit in shoring up and supporting what they have stated is an  immoral lifestyle choice.

Of course, neither World Vision, nor the hypocritical conservative Pharisees who brought the hammer down on the organization, will do anything remotely like that, because neither group is wiling to confront the absurdity of their self-righteousness by taking their position to its logical extension. Neither group really believes the full implications of what they claim to believe; they only want to apply the alleged religious/moral principle asymmetrically in order to justify discrimination against a particular group. Neither side would really apply the moral principle they claim to be upholding, because on all fronts, it’s really all about money, and not about a moral principle at all. Maybe that’s the driving world vision of the organization, and that of the conservative Christians who would rather pull the funding of children than accept the reality that there are indeed LGBTQ Christians, and that a Christian mission organization can do its job effectively and faithfully with some employees who might happen to be gay. That might be their world vision. But it sure doesn’t seem to be the world vision of the Jesus I meet in the gospels.

(Note: the original blog post mistakenly identified the name of the organization in question “World Vision International.” It has been corrected to its actual name, “World Vision.”)

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Whose World Vision Is It, Anyway?

  1. Big mistake in your opening, this was World Vision, U.S. NOT World Vision International. Many people failed to note that. As far as Christians turning their backs on the poor, no one was talking about doing that, rather they were simply going to give through other fine groups like Food for the Hungry, Compassion, Samaritans Purse, etc.
    This may be of interest: http://shaungroves.com/2008/03/the-difference-between-world-vision-and-compassion-international/

    • Michael, thank you for pointing out my error in the name of the organization; I’ll correct that as soon as I reply to you here. As far as the rest of your comments, I’m sorry, but that explanation doesn’t fly. People are pulling their funding from an organization with a proven track record of faithfully and effectively achieving its goals of Christian mission, hampering its ability to do the work of the kingdom of God, because they believe that a policy of non-discrimination against legally married gay couples makes the organization, and by extension those donors, complicit in condoning or supporting supposed sin. The primary point of my essay is the hypocrisy embedded within their decision to act in such an abhorrent and selective way, and that hypocrisy and judgmental, false holiness is not eliminated even if these people diverted their giving to other similar organizations which engage in legalized discrimination of this group of individuals. As Christians, we must be able to have precisely the unity within diversity that World Vision originally called for when it announced its willingness to hire legally married LGBTQ folk. Across the span of my life of faith, from my earliest days as a Christian to now, as an ordained Presbyterian minister, I have occupied territory across almost the full spectrum of conservative to liberal theology. I know that there are fine, deeply committed and devout Christians everywhere along that spectrum, many of whom I have deep theological differences. Yet I find a way to embrace the faith together with them, and to engage in the work of the reign of God arm in arm with many people with whom I disagree, even some with whom I disagree very strongly. Not only do gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ need to be gainfully employed, they are also just as frequently, and just as seriously, called to serve in the kingdom of God as are straight Christians. This includes working for mission/relief organizations.like World Vision. If World Vision does admirable work in God’s name now – and it does – then that work is no less admirable if it achieves it while not engaging in employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and there is no justifiable reason for withholding financial support from them. This is further the case if those who would withhold funding are not applying their personal “holiness code” with the same level of rigidity in all areas of their lives, which they quite clearly are not. If fellow Christians are standing on principles of supposed purity and holiness in order to obstruct in any way God’s higher concerns of love, mercy, justice; and if fellow Christians are complicit in obstructing other Christians from using the spiritual gifts given them by God, and from following a call given them by God, then those Christians are complicit in very great sin indeed. Saying that it was acceptable because these people took the withheld money and gave it to other organizations – which also engage in the very same kind of obstruction and discrimination, and which uphold this kind of divisiveness within the kingdom – is, in my opinion, no justification that Christ is likely to look favorably upon whatsoever.

    • Darian, thanks for your kind words. And yes, I checked out your post and enjoyed it a great deal. I find something really hopeful for our faith in this. The two of us, who come at the same subject matter from somewhat different theological baselines – me a good bit to the left of center and you from somewhere right of center – can look at this matter and reach a high degree of consensus on the tragedy contained within it. It’s a tragedy for trying to do Christ’s work in our world, a tragedy for a good organization (and yes, I say that even while having significant theological differences with their statement of faith), a tragedy of appalling reaction from Christian people in positions of leadership who should know better, and a tragedy to many of the children caught in the middle of an internal spat within the church that I’m convinced makes Christ hang his head in shame, if not outright anger.

      In any case, keep blogging, my friend; I’m looking forward to reading more of your thoughts. 🙂

  2. Unfortunately, what you suggest–that people should scrutinize every patron that walks through the door and, if they are LGBTQ, deny them service–is exactly what that rash of new laws being passed is doing.

    • Yep, I agree. The intent of those misguided laws does indeed go further down that path, but it’s still an exercise in a hypocritical selective morality. Passing on a cake order here or there, or an occasional same-sex wedding photo gig, is a relatively easy and pain-free way to engage in self-righteousness on one’s cuff – a kind of “cheap righteousness” corollary to “cheap grace.” It conveniently doesn’t take that supposedly moral stance to its logical conclusion of not sullying one’s moral self by interacting with, and thereby “endorsing,” a supposedly immoral lifestyle choice in any way, when it involves more costly scenarios. I doubt that if one of the cake-bakers refusing to make a wedding cake for Adam and Steve had a child in the ER, they would refuse treatment by the ER doc – who, ironically enough, just happened to be Steve himself – on the basis that paying for his services would be an endorsement of the healthcare his alleged immoral lifestyle. That’s obviously an extreme, but the point of selective self-righteousness remains.

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