Ethics of Christian charities using material help as an opening to spread the gospel or convert - Mothering Forums

View Poll Results: Is it ethical for Christian charities to use material help as an opening to spread the Word of the g
Yes, always 0 0%
Yes, but only if those being helped are not pressured 7 33.33%
That depends (explain) 4 19.05%
No 10 47.62%
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#1 of 22 Old 10-12-2011, 05:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I had a thread in spirituality about differences in Christian and secular charities, and this topic on the ethics of a charity providing food, shelter, etc and using this as a later opening for introducing the Bible or Christian viewpoints came up.  I am posting here so that those wishing to debate, can, and I am interested to hear what everyone says.

 

For the record, I am the most comfortable with Christians providing service in response to Jesus' commandment that we feed the hungry and aid the sick, rather than for directly preaching the Gospel.  I think that providing a good example is enough, and will lead people in the right direction ( the whole "By the fruits of their works you shall know them" thing), and I think that if you build a relationship with the person you have helped, it is OK to respectfully share your viewpoint without pressuring (by telling how your life has personally been positively affected by your faith), but I am not comfortable with people in a position of vulnerability feeling pressured to profess a faith.

 

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#2 of 22 Old 10-12-2011, 03:34 PM
 
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I think it is ok so long as they are up front about it.  Luring people in under false pretenses is never ok.    I do not think it is wrong to have an agenda or offer help with the expectation that people will conform so long as they know that going in.   People with an agenda will always have an agenda.  at least people will be getting help this way.    It is not help I would likely take or only take as a last resort.  The way I see it no one if forced to feed me.  So if there are strings attached and I know it is on me to decide if I want their hand out or not.  

 

I think this sort of thing is ineffective for both the giver or receiver.  but at the same time ethical.  However charity that comes with a price tag is not charity.  it is an item for sale.


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#3 of 22 Old 10-12-2011, 04:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by lilyka View Post

I think it is ok so long as they are up front about it.  Luring people in under false pretenses is never ok.    I do not think it is wrong to have an agenda or offer help with the expectation that people will conform so long as they know that going in.   People with an agenda will always have an agenda.  at least people will be getting help this way.    It is not help I would likely take or only take as a last resort.  The way I see it no one if forced to feed me.  So if there are strings attached and I know it is on me to decide if I want their hand out or not.  

 

I think this sort of thing is ineffective for both the giver or receiver.  but at the same time ethical.  However charity that comes with a price tag is not charity.  it is an item for sale.

 

 

I agree with the bolded.  Charity is giving freely, not expecting a return.  I also think agendas are OK when people are up front, although I would draw the line at it being OK with people whose life and safety are at stake.  Choosing hunger over conformity isn't much of a choice.
 

 


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#4 of 22 Old 10-12-2011, 07:50 PM
 
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#5 of 22 Old 10-12-2011, 09:14 PM
 
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I don't agree with it, especially having been a recipent of it. 

 

There is a bread / food bank in town here, that requires you sit through a 45 minute sermon and meet with a pastor before they will give you assistance. I discovered this when I went there for help, after being referred by 211 in our area. Nothing about these requirements are mentioned in advance. Once you are done filling out the paperwork, you are sent to a room with others to hear the sermon, and not allowed to leave until it is finished even if you decide not to take the assistance. 

 

I don't agree with this at all - especially when it is done in a deceptive manner. It's my choice if I want to hear something religious or not - charity is supposed to be for all not just those of the same faith as you. 


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#6 of 22 Old 10-12-2011, 09:46 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmama View Post

I don't agree with it, especially having been a recipent of it. 

 

There is a bread / food bank in town here, that requires you sit through a 45 minute sermon and meet with a pastor before they will give you assistance. I discovered this when I went there for help, after being referred by 211 in our area. Nothing about these requirements are mentioned in advance. Once you are done filling out the paperwork, you are sent to a room with others to hear the sermon, and not allowed to leave until it is finished even if you decide not to take the assistance. 

 

I don't agree with this at all - especially when it is done in a deceptive manner. It's my choice if I want to hear something religious or not - charity is supposed to be for all not just those of the same faith as you. 



Ick  that's just wrong. I agree completely with your last statement. What you experienced was coersion, not giving.

 


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#7 of 22 Old 10-13-2011, 03:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post

There is an implicit power imbalance between someone needing help and someone offering it. I really have a hard time understanding the motives behind anyone attaching expectations around faith (proclaiming or listening to testimony) to that help and I'm not really sure why the two ideas (help/witnessing) are entwined. Why not just help those who need it and let that be the end of that story? What is the upside of helping only those who would 1) listen to a testimony or 2) promise to convert? Do those ties not make the "charity" more about the needs of the giver than those truly in need? (I'm genuinely asking because I can't wrap my head around that concept.)

 

I would also feel as though I had been offered help under false pretenses if someone "developed a relationship" with me in that context and then tried to convert me. It would errode every bit of trust I had in that person, their motives, or the intentions behind their association/church/charity . I am (clearly lol.gif) not a fan of proselytizing and even less so if it is tied to "help". 

 



 I think you are referring to my first post, and while I agree that some people "build a relationship" under false pretenses of conversion, that is not what I was personally talking about.  I'm talking about having an actual relationship and sharing your point of view even if it is not secular or politically correct.  For example, working as a nurse in long term care, I worked with some residents over a period of several years and really developed a relationship with them.  I'm sure some people working with or volunteering for charities have long term relationships for recipients of the charitable help, too.  Over time, some of these people, power imbalance or not, are like family.  Being "professional" is important, but being kink means more, and if you have an actual relationship with a person, that can mean honesty within the scope you are allowed for your role.  So if Mrs So and So's husband that I've known for three years is dying, and she worries for him and the loved ones left behind, can I not ask, "Would you like me to pray for you?" rather than a lame "I'm thinking of you?".  If someone says, "Why was I made to go through this suffering?" and I know them well enough to tell if this would bother them, can I not say, "God gave you the strength to withstand this and you are in our prayers.  It seems unfair, but you can get through this with help". If that is how you feel and what you believe, is it any more honest to wrap things in politically correct language.  My point about the relationship is not to build it under false pretenses, but that if you have a real one, you know whether your statement would hurt or offend rather than help.  There's a two way street between the helper and the helped, and there comes a point where if you have seen the same person at the soup kitchen, day in and day out, you've worked with the same young offender, they want to know the real you, not a watered down politically correct version.  If your faith is a large part of who you are, then the honest thing is to share.

 

I would be very turned off by proselytizing under false pretenses of relationship, too, and it's not really honest.  And certainly, pressured promises for conversion aren't only unethical, it wouldn't be a true conversion of the heart, anyway.  But does it really harm a recipient of charity to hear a testimonial given in an honest way without pressure?  I'm Anglican, and we are not very Evangelical or into direct proselytizing or trying to obtain conversion, in fact only some Christian religions take this approach.  But if someone asked what turned my life around, it was seeing my father go back to church, obtain spiritual counseling and the fellowship of a community, and get the mental health help that he needed so that he was able to be a less unpredictable father.  He didn't feel supported enough before this to get that help.  Someone else could use a different method than he did, one that is totally secular.  But if I had a real relationship with a person, I would say that my life was changed at seeing how my father was actually able to change through his faith in God and the support of the church.  I could water it down and say I saw he changed his life by getting counseling, but I don't believe that is all there was to it.  Relationships are about sharing, and knowing limits.  I have never tortured Atheists with pleas for death bed conversion when working or volunteering in hospice (I have worked years in both).  I simply listen, and support, and ask what they want done.  I have read from both the Koran and the Bible, too.  The relationship tells you what is right.  Sorry for the long post.  My point is that the secular line is not honest with those you know well if it is not the view you actually take, and after 18 years  working and volunteering in "helping" fields (nursing, teacher's aid, parent counseling,respite, volunteer hospice, volunteer senior's companion, youth worker) I no longer believe in the "be a professional and leave personal relationship at the door line".  It's fine to help and stay impersonal with those you don't know well, but there comes a time when the helped wants to know the helper, and a little honesty and sharing goes a long way in allowing the helped person to feel they share a part in the relationship.  If you are religious, then the fact you felt a calling to your field from God may be the honest thing to say.


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#8 of 22 Old 10-13-2011, 03:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmama View Post

I don't agree with it, especially having been a recipent of it. 

 

There is a bread / food bank in town here, that requires you sit through a 45 minute sermon and meet with a pastor before they will give you assistance. I discovered this when I went there for help, after being referred by 211 in our area. Nothing about these requirements are mentioned in advance. Once you are done filling out the paperwork, you are sent to a room with others to hear the sermon, and not allowed to leave until it is finished even if you decide not to take the assistance. 

 

I don't agree with this at all - especially when it is done in a deceptive manner. It's my choice if I want to hear something religious or not - charity is supposed to be for all not just those of the same faith as you. 



 

 

That is downright disgusting.  Refusing to help unless someone agrees with your faith is both unethical and I think un-Christian.  I can't see any basis for such cruel behavior in any belief system secular or otherwise.  A sermon for food is a really degrading exchange.  Has anyone stepped up in your town to start a grass roots food bank without these strings attached?  There would be outright revolt, here for that sort of thing, letters to the paper and all that.  I feel so bad for you and the other people to have had to endure this.


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#9 of 22 Old 10-13-2011, 06:22 AM
 
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That is downright disgusting.  Refusing to help unless someone agrees with your faith is both unethical and I think un-Christian.  I can't see any basis for such cruel behavior in any belief system secular or otherwise.  A sermon for food is a really degrading exchange.  Has anyone stepped up in your town to start a grass roots food bank without these strings attached?  There would be outright revolt, here for that sort of thing, letters to the paper and all that.  I feel so bad for you and the other people to have had to endure this.



There are other food pantries here, thankfully. However many people choose to sit through the sermon as this one offers fresh bread and veggies, unlike many of the other ones in town. And yes - it's disgusting. I called 211 and complained until they put a note of the requirements in the file for them in their database. 


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#10 of 22 Old 10-13-2011, 07:05 AM
 
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#11 of 22 Old 10-14-2011, 11:05 AM
 
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I face this in my own family.  A cousin, her husband, and kids are missionaries in Indonesia.  I'm a revert to Islam.  My parents have a magnet with their picture on it asking them to pray for their family and their mission.  It just sort of rubs me the wrong way.  I believe that people have the right to religious freedom--so that's not the issue.  However, I have a problem that they seem to be there under false pretenses.  I believe officially they're aid workers or some such thing--yet in reality, they are there to convert people.  Perhaps part of my problem is the feeling that there is a need for American missionaries there when there are already Indonesian Christians? (Mainly of Chinese-origin.)  Perhaps that's the problem.  If you want to help the people of Indonesia--great.  That's wonderful.  But if you're there just in hopes that they'll convert to Christianity, then it makes me a little wary.

 

Actually, I guess I have a problem with the whole evangelism thing--my faith is better than yours type thing.  I'm an ex-Christian, so I get the impetus...but I guess at heart, I'm more of a Universalist.  I like how in Islam one is supposed to be judged by God by one own's prophet--Jews by what was revealed to Moses, Christians by what was revealed to Jesus, etc.  It just seems more equitable to me.

 

I have similar little tolerance with people who get caught trying to sneak in Bibles and the like into countries which prohibit it--and then are upset if they're arrested.  While I don't agree with the restrictions, you need to accept the risk you're taking by going against the law--if this is something that you truly believe in.

 

I really think that the way you live your life, how you treat others, how you respond to adversity is advertisement enough for one's faith.  One doesn't need to do bait and switch type tactics.  Help people because they need help--not because you want to change their beliefs.  


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#12 of 22 Old 10-14-2011, 12:02 PM
 
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I havent had a chance to read thru all the responses, but as a christian I wanted to just quickly point something out. We are called to serve the community, love our neighbour as ourselves, and give generously. We are also called by our God TO share the gospel unreservedly. The two can go hand in hand or they can be two seperate things. I cant speak for the organisations anyone here has had any experiences with but for myself, I give out of the love I have towards people in general. That same love produces a deep desire to share my faith with others, particularly those who want to hear it. If someone doesnt want to know, it doesnt stop me from wanting to give or share with them anything else.

 

I volunteered in a christian center for people who needed support bc they lived on the streets or were down and out. I was encouraged NOT to share my faith with those who came in unless the situation absolutely warranted it bc they didnt want to make anyone feel so uncomfortable that they refused to come into the place to use it as they needed (they provided a place to take showers, hot meals, clothing, bedding, etc).

 

 

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#13 of 22 Old 10-14-2011, 04:55 PM
 
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I think its one thing to offer a helping hand and just be a shining example of your faith. But to use food, clothes or some other material gift as a way of coercion is terribly wrong on a basic human level. That's my big beef with xtianity anyway, is that they feel called to proselytize all the freaking time.
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#14 of 22 Old 10-14-2011, 05:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by umsami View Post

I face this in my own family.  A cousin, her husband, and kids are missionaries in Indonesia.  I'm a revert to Islam.  My parents have a magnet with their picture on it asking them to pray for their family and their mission.  It just sort of rubs me the wrong way.  I believe that people have the right to religious freedom--so that's not the issue.  However, I have a problem that they seem to be there under false pretenses.  I believe officially they're aid workers or some such thing--yet in reality, they are there to convert people.  Perhaps part of my problem is the feeling that there is a need for American missionaries there when there are already Indonesian Christians? (Mainly of Chinese-origin.)  Perhaps that's the problem.  If you want to help the people of Indonesia--great.  That's wonderful.  But if you're there just in hopes that they'll convert to Christianity, then it makes me a little wary.

 

Actually, I guess I have a problem with the whole evangelism thing--my faith is better than yours type thing.  I'm an ex-Christian, so I get the impetus...but I guess at heart, I'm more of a Universalist.  I like how in Islam one is supposed to be judged by God by one own's prophet--Jews by what was revealed to Moses, Christians by what was revealed to Jesus, etc.  It just seems more equitable to me.

 

I have similar little tolerance with people who get caught trying to sneak in Bibles and the like into countries which prohibit it--and then are upset if they're arrested.  While I don't agree with the restrictions, you need to accept the risk you're taking by going against the law--if this is something that you truly believe in.

 

I really think that the way you live your life, how you treat others, how you respond to adversity is advertisement enough for one's faith.  One doesn't need to do bait and switch type tactics.  Help people because they need help--not because you want to change their beliefs.  



 

 

That is really neat.  I didn't know that about Islam, even though I know a lot of Muslims.  My own father has always told me this, despite being a Christian and it being in Christian teachings, and I've always believed it, too.  It has never made sense to me that God wpu;d [unish a whole people for following the belief system of their culture's prophet.


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#15 of 22 Old 10-15-2011, 02:10 PM
 
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This isn't about a charity but it relates- a local community church had a fall festival with games for the kids. We decided to participate even it wasn't our faith, but the kids had a good time. Then, a few weeks later we were visited by the Pastor because we won a guess the bean contest. The Pastor was nice until when dh was asked what faith we were and then everything changed. The sign and ad for the paper mentioned that this was a free community event, so I wasn't happy to learn that the Pastor told dh our religion was wrong. And yes, he said the word, wrong.

 

So, I believe it should be given out of love and not because it is an opportunity to evangalize.

Another church in our community has various events for families that are free, and they do offer materials if you are interested but if you chose not to accept them, they are very respectfu.. They do label gifts/food items with stickers that say, "With God's love, no strongs attached." This I have no problem with, because it is offered as a way to share their faith without making you do anything.

 

To me, these type of events/charitable giving are fine to me.

 

 

 


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#16 of 22 Old 10-16-2011, 09:32 PM
 
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This is a topic close to home because it's caused a lot of personal introspection in my life.

I am a former evangelical fundamentalist (all my life) turned Christian mystic/Universalist over the past year. I was an evangelical missionary since I was 15. It was my life, my passion, my "calling", I was willing to die for it. I've been to Russia 7 times. I almost didn't marry my husband (whom I can't imagine life these 7 years without) because I thought I was "called" to the mission field never to return and he wasn't.

Now I ask myself, "what in the world was I doing?" (after I stopped being afraid I'd go to hell for changing my views haha). Looking back I was never comfortable with the actual "evangelism" part. Especially breaking out the old 4 Spiritual Laws. I was always drawn to mercy ministries, actually helping people. Now I know why.

I am at peace now that if Jesus is the Son of God, the Gospel is about the Kingdom of God here on earth that may or may not stretch into eternity, not about salvation from sins and hell. So yeah, I'm all about sharing THAT gospel now. That gospel says that feeding the hungry is the gospel itself, not a means to an end. It is an act of worship, what we were created for. I don't believe in hell any more so I am not stressed out about "saving" that person for the after life. Sure, we may eventually have a conversation about Jesus if we have a genuine friendship and share our life experiences. Or we may talk about Buddha or whatever else is relevant to that person.

I have very little patience now for all the "ministries" out here that require you to sit and "hear the gospel" before you receive your benefits. So as someone said before, though it personally irritates the heck out of me since I use to do it myself, it is ethical as long as it is not deceptive. But it is not effective or very respectful. We even have a dear friend that is doing this with a "homeless ministry". At least he walks the talk and lives in poverty himself so really is entering into their world. But I've gone a few times and some of the people he's had speak embarass me that I was part of it. But my husband says we're not there to tell anybody anything, we're there to experience life together and help a brother/sister in need. He once had one of the homeless guys ask HIM why he wasn't reading his Bible more. Ha. Like he needed us to guide him spiritually before giving him a hotdog and some chips..... =)

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#17 of 22 Old 10-16-2011, 10:11 PM
 
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I'm a practicing Christian, but in a denomination that doesn't proselytize (even though we have the word "evangelical" in our title winky.gif). I'm also an academic in a field where one of my main jobs is to train people who are going to work mainly with immigrant and refugee communities. I've also served on the university committee that oversees search with human participants. As such, I'm highly sensitive to power imbalances in relationships. Teachers will always have more power than their students. People who give will always have more power than those who receive.

 

Under these circumstances, there is no possible way for the person in power to evangelize (even after the help is given) without it smacking of coercion. I think if you have any other agenda when you're giving charity, it's going to be coercion. So, when our church prepares meals for the local family homeless shelter, we go, we prepare the meal and we serve it. We don't tell them where we're from unless they ask. We don't say grace, even. There's a local church who volunteers a lot at our kids' school. They serve as an act of charity and grace, not because they have an agenda.
 

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 I think you are referring to my first post, and while I agree that some people "build a relationship" under false pretenses of conversion, that is not what I was personally talking about.  I'm talking about having an actual relationship and sharing your point of view even if it is not secular or politically correct.  For example, working as a nurse in long term care, I worked with some residents over a period of several years and really developed a relationship with them.  I'm sure some people working with or volunteering for charities have long term relationships for recipients of the charitable help, too.  Over time, some of these people, power imbalance or not, are like family.  Being "professional" is important, but being kind means more, and if you have an actual relationship with a person, that can mean honesty within the scope you are allowed for your role.  So if Mrs So and So's husband that I've known for three years is dying, and she worries for him and the loved ones left behind, can I not ask, "Would you like me to pray for you?" rather than a lame "I'm thinking of you?".  If someone says, "Why was I made to go through this suffering?" and I know them well enough to tell if this would bother them, can I not say, "God gave you the strength to withstand this and you are in our prayers.  It seems unfair, but you can get through this with help". If that is how you feel and what you believe, is it any more honest to wrap things in politically correct language.


Given the power imbalance, there is no possible way you can say these things without coercion. It just isn't going to happen. But, there are other ways for you state your beliefs with out the coercion. You can pray for them  without telling them. You can ask her what her beliefs are. You can listen to her concerns and empathize with her. You can say "I'm holding you and your family in my heart." IF she states she's religious, then you ask "Would you like me to pray for you?"

 

You can skip the "God gave you the strength to withstand this..." if you don't know them well enough to know if they believe in God. You can still say "It seems unfair, but you can get through this with help. What can I do to help? Can I contact someone for you?" (I'm not sure I agree, theologically, that God gives people the strength... having been through a very rough time recently, what I can say is that God gave me a community to help me through. The people who came over to walk with me every day to were members of my church community, but they weren't talking faith then. They were there to support and listen and love. Maybe it's too fine a theological point to worry over, but my point is that you can create that community for someone without bringing God into it at all. The single most helpful thing our pastor did for me was to call all these people and ask them to help. I was not in a spot to do that myself, but I get tears in my eyes when I think of the outpouring of support those phone calls brought.)

 

But because they're dependent on you, anytime you bring religion in, it's not without strings.

 

I would never, ever say such a thing to one of the college students I teach, even if I knew they were Christian. My students, if they pay attention, know that I go to church. Part of my 'teaching experience' is teaching Sunday School to 2-4 year olds, and I tell my students that if it's relevant to the class I'm teaching. I tell anecdotes in class to help my students link concepts to something in the real world, and sometimes I'll mention something that happened at church. But that's scene setting, not evangelizing. I never go further than that, and all they know is that it's 'my church'. I've even had students seek me out as an advisor for their MA work because they wanted to write on a topic related to Christianity (e.g., developing a curriculum for church-based ESL teaching), and academics who are also religious are few and far between. I'm  happy to advise them, but one of my tasks is to help them become intellectually honest about (a) their beliefs and interpretation of the Bible and (b) the fact that this is a situation fraught issues related to a power-differential. If they're teaching people who are already Christian some English, that's very different from teaching people who want to learn English as a way to spread the gospel.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post

I think its one thing to offer a helping hand and just be a shining example of your faith. But to use food, clothes or some other material gift as a way of coercion is terribly wrong on a basic human level. That's my big beef with xtianity anyway, is that they feel called to proselytize all the freaking time.

 

Not all of us do. Unfortunately, the denominations that focus on proselytizing are the ones you hear about all the time, because they're out there front and center, well, evangelizing. When was the last time you were approached by someone from the United Church of Christ? (And no, I don't belong to the UCC, but I like their belief system.)
 

 

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Originally Posted by genifer View Post

I havent had a chance to read thru all the responses, but as a christian I wanted to just quickly point something out. We are called to serve the community, love our neighbour as ourselves, and give generously. We are also called by our God TO share the gospel unreservedly.

 

But if the two are linked, then it's not serving the community, IMO, it's evangelizing. I have no trouble with evangelizing, but I'd much rather it be straight out "let me share my beliefs with you" than have evangelization be delivered under the guise of charity.

 

I also have some trouble, personally, evangelizing, having been told several times that I'm not "really" Christian because I don't believe whatever the evangelizing person believes (e.g., I do not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, nor does my denomination preach that.)

 

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Originally Posted by Karenwith4 View Post

There is an implicit power imbalance between someone needing help and someone offering it. I really have a hard time understanding the motives behind anyone attaching expectations around faith (proclaiming or listening to testimony) to that help and I'm not really sure why the two ideas (help/witnessing) are entwined. Why not just help those who need it and let that be the end of that story? What is the upside of helping only those who would 1) listen to a testimony or 2) promise to convert? Do those ties not make the "charity" more about the needs of the giver than those truly in need? (I'm genuinely asking because I can't wrap my head around that concept.)

 

I would also feel as though I had been offered help under false pretenses if someone "developed a relationship" with me in that context and then tried to convert me. It would erode every bit of trust I had in that person, their motives, or the intentions behind their association/church/charity . I am (clearly lol.gif) not a fan of proselytizing and even less so if it is tied to "help". 

 

 

I agree -- I think that if people are using charity to evangelize, then it is more about their need to spread the word than the their serving people. I think the two should not be entwined. I also agree that someone tried to 'convert me' after developing a relationship with me, it would erode all my trust in them. I've had students who, when they find out I go to church, have asked to pray with me. It makes my skin crawl because it feels wrong on so many levels.
 

 


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#18 of 22 Old 10-16-2011, 10:49 PM
 
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Once you are done filling out the paperwork, you are sent to a room with others to hear the sermon, and not allowed to leave until it is finished even if you decide not to take the assistance. 

 

 


That can't possibly be legal!

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#19 of 22 Old 10-17-2011, 07:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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LynnS6, I have been thinking about this all week, and actually I even talked to my minister about this, and like you, I am not from an evangelizing church.  Maybe it would have been better if I had prayed silently, or have left God out of the help.  I might even do things differently were I in the same situation again.  However, neither you or Karenwith4 have addressed the actual circumstance I was referring to, and that's if you formed a real relationship over time.  This is not something I have experienced with charities, but working with people, but I wondered if some people working in charities have experienced this, too.  I'm talking about people you know well enough that you already know their religion because they have already told you of their own accord, or they may have already opened the doors in discussions about prayers.  My point was that it is not really evangelizing to share views with those who have already shared with you, and I'm giving some charity workers the benefit of the doubt as to whether they are evangelizing or sharing.  I've spent 5 years working with the same people at certain points of my career, and have been literally asked by them to pray with them at times, or asked what my views are.  I've seen Atheists leave hospice work because they couldn't handle being in the room with people praying or asking them to be present while they prayed, or read to them from the Bible or the Koran (and yes, I've read from either).  And I've seen some recipients of care absolutely demoralized because no one A)bothered to ask about their beliefs or find out if there were any spiritual needs they wanted attending to or B)were so "professional" that no topics of consequence, not just religion, but philosophy or politics or many other points of view, get discussed, and they wonder what's wrong that someone can know them that long, and never share.  I guess this view point isn't directly related to charities evangelizing, but I brought it up because some people even consider the  charity worker bringing up religion at all to be evangelizing.  I know from some soup kitchen workers that they have had the same clients for 10+ years, and I just wonder if they bump into some of these experiences, too.  And Karenwith4, both hospice workers and volunteers are generally given information as to the religion, involvement or wishes of the client, so I don't see how in their case dealing with religion is inappropriate as long as they respect beliefs different than their own.  Not attending to someone's spiritual needs in their last days would actually be unprofessional in this field.  I specifically brought this up because I thought it was important that people consider that the secular, politically correct line does not apply to all charitable situations, because sometimes spiritual needs are part of the caring relationship.  Of course, these are also direct situations where the person has already asked to share, and you are being direct as to what you are sharing, so the "sneaky" element isn't involved.  I certainly don't agree with, for example, a homeless shelter presenting itself as being there to offer help and then using it as a sermon giving opportunity.  Helping  just because it's right to help should be enough.


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Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~ Buddha

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#21 of 22 Old 10-19-2011, 05:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by FarmerBeth View Post

LynnS6, I have been thinking about this all week, and actually I even talked to my minister about this, and like you, I am not from an evangelizing church.  Maybe it would have been better if I had prayed silently, or have left God out of the help.  I might even do things differently were I in the same situation again.  However, neither you or Karenwith4 have addressed the actual circumstance I was referring to, and that's if you formed a real relationship over time.  This is not something I have experienced with charities, but working with people, but I wondered if some people working in charities have experienced this, too.  I'm talking about people you know well enough that you already know their religion because they have already told you of their own accord, or they may have already opened the doors in discussions about prayers.  My point was that it is not really evangelizing to share views with those who have already shared with you, and I'm giving some charity workers the benefit of the doubt as to whether they are evangelizing or sharing.  I've spent 5 years working with the same people at certain points of my career, and have been literally asked by them to pray with them at times, or asked what my views are.

 

The key difference here, I think, is that they asked you to pray with them. No, it's not evangelizing if they've opened up to you in the process. But I do think they have to bring it up. I think it's OK to pray silently for people.

 

I have several good friends who are either agnostic or atheist. I know that about them. I know that offering to pray with or for the atheist would be offensive. My agnostic (but raised with Christianity) friend takes in elements of several different traditions (Buddhism, Christianity, mainly). I offered to take her to a healing service at our church when she was struggling health-wise. She had to think about it, but did come to one service.

 

I have another colleague who is also Christian and when I was going through my very rough patch, I told him, and he offered to pray for me. I was grateful. He was actually on his way on a business trip to Jerusalem, and prayed for me at the Western Wall, the Milk Grotto and within sight of the Temple Mount, I was touched. I also guarantee you that I am the only one in the department who he will pray for, because we share a tradition.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FarmerBeth View Post  I've seen Atheists leave hospice work because they couldn't handle being in the room with people praying or asking them to be present while they prayed, or read to them from the Bible or the Koran (and yes, I've read from either).  And I've seen some recipients of care absolutely demoralized because no one A)bothered to ask about their beliefs or find out if there were any spiritual needs they wanted attending to or B)were so "professional" that no topics of consequence, not just religion, but philosophy or politics or many other points of view, get discussed, and they wonder what's wrong that someone can know them that long, and never share.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

Given the power imbalance, there is no possible way you can say these things without coercion. It just isn't going to happen. But, there are other ways for you state your beliefs with out the coercion. You can pray for them  without telling them. You can ask her what her beliefs are.

 

I don't think we're as far apart as it might seen. I did say that you should ask about their belief system. If their belief system is Christian, then by all means. I believe that everyone's spirituality needs tending, but I'm leery of foisting Christianity on others, as that comes with a whole lot of colonial baggage and yes, oppression, that I'd rather avoid. Surely hospice workers can be trained to ask about beliefs and what sort of practices would help the dying and their families without assuming it's a belief in God.

 

And volunteering is a bit different from charity (i.e. food baskets or meals or clothing). There are certainly secular places to volunteer. If you're volunteering as a means to help out people, and you have resources to give out, I think we need to be very very careful about the border between coercion and help.


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#22 of 22 Old 10-19-2011, 06:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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LynnS6, I don't think we are so far apart from what you have said.  It is a pretty tricky balance between coercion and help, isn't it?  People's needs and backgrounds are all so wonderfully different.


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