Why Our Reaction To World Vision Says More About Us Than It Does About World Vision Itself

April 2, 2014

You may have heard, because the internet lost its mind temporarily last week.Gift Catalogue - Kandia ADP - Animals

World Vision, known for sponsoring desperately poor children in dozens of countries revised its hiring policy, opening the door for employment to legally married homosexuals…

Then they revised their hiring policies again…back to their original status.

The entire process took about 48 hours, give or take.

And in between the beginning and end was a whole lot of yelling (virtually speaking). A lot of people lashing out at World Vision, heaping on condemnation, so much so that apparently World Vision could not ignore the protests.

This would probably have been an event that I would have been able to ignore entirely if it wasn’t for the collective outcry that drew so much attention to it.

And in retrospect, I have come to an inescapable conclusion, that this event says more about all of us than it does about World Vision.

What World Vision Did Not Count On

To be honest, I’m a little surprised.

I would have thought that a major organization, known throughout the country, with what I assume are tens of thousands of sponsors, would have carefully considered the consequences of such a momentous decision.

I would have thought that World Vision would know that the mighty hammer of American Evangelical justice would fall swiftly and surely upon their heads, crashing into them with a deafening force.

I would have thought that history would tell the leadership of World Vision such things. And I thought that with such a momentous decision, they would have prepared themselves to stand up to the backlash, no matter how severe it became.

Right or wrong, what this decision actually reveals about World Vision is that the mighty hammer of righteous indignation, wielded by American Christians is much mightier than they assumed.

How Many Bible Verses Are We Willing to Ignore

So, you are sponsoring a child through World Vision. And suddenly, they make a decision about how their organization will run that you vehemently disagree with.

What is your recourse?

Apparently, an acceptable course of action is to pull out support for World Vision by canceling your sponsorship of a hungry little child. Apparently, it’s much easier to care about the orientation of someone you will never meet than it is to care about the emptiness of a child’s stomach. It is easier to care about sin than about sickness. It is easier to care about wrong than about widows and orphans.

I hope everyone who made a fuss about this has made sure the child they are sponsoring isn’t gay either, because feeding a hungry gay child would be an abomination.

We have made it very clear what our priorities are. If we make children to be pawns in our everlasting arguments, there is no going back. Our zeal is unquenchable. We have proven how many Bible verses we are willing to ignore to enforce what we believe about a few Bible verses.

When Are We Going to Tire of This?

See, we talk in this country about “compassion fatigue,” the sensation that we have given enough, we are “tapped out,” our compassion and our wallets have been sapped and we just can’t care anymore. I wonder if starving children get “starvation fatigue.” I wonder if they get “my-mom-and-dad-are-both-dead-from-war-and-I’m-a-refugee-in-a-camp-with-no-clean-water fatigue.” My guess is they are just as tired of inconveniencing us by being poor as we are.

It seems we so easily become fatigued with the problems of the world (didn’t Jesus say that the poor will always be with us?) But we never tire, never become weary of this never-ending, ever-escalating fist-fight we are collectively having over this one issue that warps and destroys everything else we might stand united for.

Friends, I am becoming weary. I am fatigued.

We Can Be Motivated…If We Want To Be

Yes, American Christianity, we can yell. That is what this episode illustrates about us.

Apparently, we can yell loudly and with great force when our fury is awakened.

We can unite in a mass movement, to eat chicken sandwiches, to stand up for a multi-million dollar corporation.

We can stand up for millionaires on television who parrot your values back to you.

And we can shout down a humanitarian organization, until they backtrack, if not by conviction, then by their will to save children from being abandoned by their sponsors.

I wonder if World Vision has ever seen such a mass uprising of Christians who actually care about what they do. I wonder if World Vision has ever had to deal with such an enormous amount of attention. My guess is they have not.

I wish the motivation that Leviticus 18:22 seems to elicit could be matched by our zeal for James 1:27.

Christianity, if you are comfortable saying to future generations “This is our top priority and everything else be damned,” then go for it.

But I am fatigued.

What do you think? Was the outpouring of rage at the expense of children justified?

12 responses to Why Our Reaction To World Vision Says More About Us Than It Does About World Vision Itself

  1. 1) For what it’s worth, I read that the original intent at WV was to roll out the new hiring policy gradually at some of their offices where SSM had recently become legal (Seattle, etc.)–reportedly that info was leaked to Christianity Today, possibly by a disgruntled employee, so the WV guy released an official statement. It seems it was intended to be a bit of pre-emptive damage control that wound up biting them in the butt. Which makes the whole mess even more maddening–this is the kind of political jockeying that should be relegated to an episode of “The Good Wife”, not a group of (supposedly) Christian organizations.

    2) I’ve felt unwelcome around evangelicalism for some time, but these events actually convinced me that I’m pretty much done with it for good. Not with Christianity, mind you, just the evangelical branch of it.
    The politics, the dehumanizing focus on ideological purity, the oversimplification of sin down to just two big ones (okay, maybe 3 if you count voting Democratic), the crazy lengths that adherents go to to avoid “condoning sin”—truth be told, I don’t see Christ in any of it. I’ll be looking for him elsewhere.

    3) If I have any kind of fatigue right now, I think it’s “rage fatigue”. I’m tired of being pissed off all the time, particularly about crappy unjust things and not being able to do anything about it. The one thing that I have taken away from last week is that I need to find ways to direct my energy into something positive–I know I can’t fix all the injustice I see, but just reading about it and stewing in my rage isn’t going to help. I’m still looking for a way to accomplish that.

    • You read my mind, Abby. I am just tired of being angry and indignant. And judgemental. I have been all of those things, and I don’t want to be that girl anymore.
      After growing up in an evangelical church, I too, am weary and embarrassed.
      I love Jesus first. I thought that’s what was required of me to be saved and to be assured eternal life with my Savior. I love people next. These are the 2 things on which I am going to center my focus. The end.

  2. I smell a rat in this whole thing. Piper, Franklin Graham, et. al, didn’t have a problem with WV not pursuing evangelism (they don’t), yet this was worthy of comment? I don’t buy it. Anyone who would have a problem with WV’s interdenominational practices could have done their research, supported Samaritan’s Purse or something along those lines instead, and saved a whole lot of heartache. Instead, some influential souls landed a territorial pissing match. Congrats, rich and powerful evangelicals. You just lost a supporter, and at least this time no one has to starve.

  3. Hey Matt, you said:
    “Apparently, an acceptable course of action is to pull out support for World Vision by canceling your sponsorship of a hungry little child.”

    But a lot of those people who pulled out of World Vision have transferred to another organisation like Samaritan’s Purse, so perhaps they have simply moved their money from one hungry child to another hungry child … so the net result is 0, not -1 hungry child. Or is it more complex than that?

    Overall I think the outpouring of rage was unwarranted, because I don’t think anyone should consider the marital status of a few employees to have greater significance than the feeding of hungry people throughout the world.

  4. World Vision does share the gospel where it is able and chooses to stay in countries to help people regardless of whether they are able to preach the gospel or not. In other words, they are doing what they feel that God is calling them to do and leave the rest to Jesus. India is a country that no longer allows Christians to share the gospel, so the child who we sponsor through World Vision in India is given generic cards. I found out about the controversy after the decision had been reversed. I am pretty sure we would have continued to sponsor the kids we were sponsoring, but then maybe switched to another organization once the kids aged out. Then again, we are still supporting boy scouts because we believe that every boy should have the chance to be a scout if he so desires.
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  5. I completely concur with your thoughts here. In fact, with your permission, I would like to quote you in a blog post I am doing that touches on this subject (but that also balances that with the recent ouster of Mozilla Firefox’s CEO).

  6. Interesting. We will still have Christians turning against Chritians just as satan intended. Christians already fed up with evangelicals get a chance to reiterate their displeasure while it seems like they are declaring for the first time a discust that already feels to me to be well establashed before this issue. Evangelicals are afraid of standing against a God who allows others to reap the consequences of our own disobediences. So Christians blame each other when it was the minds of WV management who created this division. Keep the blame out of it and allow WV to consider its own consequences and repentance. As for the rest of us? How do we go about our business? How will the world know we are truly Christian? “By the love we show to one another.”

  7. Late to the game, as usual of late, but what I found interesting was that once they reversed their policy, there was even MORE backlash from evangelicals (and others). It was a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” situation, once the cat was out of the bag.

    WV has never been my child sponsorship organization of choice (they’re better at community development and disaster relief, imo), so it didn’t affect us either way, but I’ve gotta say, I’d hate to be in the situation where it _does_ affect us. I read the original press release and he made an excellent point – why do we draw the line at certain (unrepentant) sins and not others? Do they refuse to hire someone who is an unrepentant glutton? Gossip? But on the other hand, they work in countries where homosexuality is treated ….poorly…… and they could very possibly endanger their workers/associates in those countries by this policy.

    And we all have to keep in mind too that they’re not a “Southern Baptist” organization (or any number of other anti-gay marriage denominations). They draw sponsors from probably all Christian denominations (and likely other groups too) – some of which sanction gay marriage. I understand why they thought about doing this. But I agree with you, Matt. They didn’t think it through….at all….. And that’s surprising in this day and age. The press release wasn’t flippant – it showed some clear thought….but to be surprised at the backlash – enough that you reverse your decision? That was way more than naive. I would almost go as far as to say that it was negligent given that they support so many through employment and all of their various programs.
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