Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Christian 'charity' + Christian self-interest

In my Coming Out of the Other Closet article, I mentioned the influence that the 2008 elections had in my evolving into an atheist.

What I did not visit was the fact that during the week of the 2008 elections, 26 kids died in Haiti from starvation. As the state of California prepared to vote away the rights of its gay citizens, Christians and Mormons spent millions of dollars in a diffamation campaign that was fear based, where gays were presented as predators that took advantage of children.

If the Christians had so much money to throw away spreading LIES about people that they didn't even know, they COULD HAVE made a huge difference in Haiti ... particularly at a time when not only was there a world food crisis going on, but our country was also going through the toughest economic era since the great depression.

Now after the earthquake, 'charity' work translates into more visibility for churches and they're using this as a platform to advance the evangelical message and to enhance their image as charity workers. As I read this article on missionary work in Haiti, with the instances of child trafficking and religious propaganda ... and as I see the curious way in which they always put the stamp of their denominations on everything that they do, I am reminded of Matthew 6.

Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-4

The reason why I always remember Matthew 6 in particular is because it coincides with a teaching in the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that I became acquainted with when I was a worshiper of Krishna. Christ was apparently paraphrasing Krishna. I always thought that was odd and interesting.

Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not to be given up but should be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls.
All these activities should be performed without any expectation of result. They should be performed as a matter of duty, O son of Prtha. That is My final opinion.

Bhagavad Gita 18:5-6

Is it fair to give a religion credit for services that are already known to a secular society as non-profit services? Clearly there is no need for supernatural agency or incentive. Humanitarian work can be done by atheists ... or by people seeking tax breaks. What should we make of Christian charity when it is ostentatious, in view of Matthew 6? What about all the hospitals and schools that are founded by religious groups and bear religious names, yet charge for their services and operate in every way just like all the other hospitals and schools?

Is it really a superior kind of virtue to name your non-profit organization after your religious affiliation when it is rendering the same services as other non-profits in the same industry? Is it fair to claim all this credit for one's religion in view of the teachings of the Christ and Krishna about not giving with a sense of self-interest?

Anyone wanting to give can give to the Red Cross or other aid agencies that are very much invested in helping Haiti, yet these churches are wanting to hog all the credit for being able to reach remote communities, where a lot of their work has to do with being critical of Voodoo and of the local religious culture and promoting Protestant ideals. As if religious zeal was what Haitians really need the most.

"Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret" ...

"So that your giving may be in secret" ...

"So that ... your giving may be in secret" ...

Something to ponder.

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