How Evangelical Christians Showed They Care Neither About Children Nor Marriage
Last week, World Vision, one of the top Christian charitable organizations in the world, announced that it would no longer discriminate against Christians in gay relationships in its hiring. Per a news article discussing the decision (which I won’t link now, because I don’t want to spoil what happened next):
World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.
Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.
If you keep up with conservative Christian issues at all, then what happened next shouldn’t really be a surprise. Conservative Christians put their money where their mouths were, with around 5,000 sponsors canceling. These conservative Christians spoke loudly and clearly — they will support organizations that stand for their values, and if an organization wants to be known as Christian, it better follow Christianity the way in which evangelicals understand it. And so, just two days after the announcement…
Last week, World Vision, one of the top Christian charitable organizations in the world, reversed its course and announced that it would continue to discriminate against Christians in gay relationships in its hiring.
On Facebook and elsewhere, conservative Christians have attempted en masse to show that this series of actions doesn’t represent evangelical Christians announcing to the entire world that they view charity as less important than political and social views (or at the least that they view charity as being contingent upon certain political and social views). One main argument that I’ve seen in several places is that most likely, the sponsors who canceled their sponsorships with World Vision simply transferred those sponsorships elsewhere…so they are still helping kids, just with organizations that better reflect their views.
As I wrote in response to this sort of argument:
One thing that Matthew’s blog goes into is about how it’s unfair to say religious conservatives care more about opposing gay marriage than helping children. One of the arguments is that we don’t know if the people who withdraw their support from World Vision decided or did not decide to donate to another cause.
But here’s the fact — they are determining where to donate their money based on the organizations’ opposition to people in “unrepentant” gay relationships. So, really, the author’s argument basically is, “Since World Vision isn’t the only anti-gay Christian organization, Christians can continue supporting children while being antigay by donating to any number of other organizations.”
But if all anti-gay Christian organizations decided not to oppose people in “unrepentant” gay relationships, then presumably those anti-gay Christians wanting to support children would have no option (save to make new organizations).
To which Tim assured me that yes, in such an event, “you could expect such Christians to make new organizations immediately and/or to start partnering with similar organizations outside of the United States.”
I want to highlight two posts written in response to the kerfluffle. First is Fred Clark at Slacktivist’s analysis that the moral ground that conservative Christians have staked as the line that cannot be passed has nevertheless changed over time:
Despite the gatekeepers’ former insistence on “clear biblical teaching,” more than two-thirds of white evangelicals in America no longer disapprove of interracial marriage.
Nowadays, even most of the gatekeepers have given up on the clobber texts they used to use to condemn interracial marriage. Most no longer fervently claim that the Bible clearly teaches that interracial marriage is wrong. Many of their old argument have been repurposed and reaffirmed, however, as part of a new gatekeeper extortion plot involving marriages that they now say are a violation of “clear biblical teaching.”
And that, by the way, is the other element of my worlds-collide story above. The playwright’s husband is a white man. The playwright himself is black. The gatekeeping bullies and their toadies would be even more upset by that than by the beer-drinking. They would aggressively act to punish the agency this good Christian man works for, declaring that it is impossible that he is really a Christian at all.
There’s no such thing, the gatekeepers say, as a gay Christian. There’s no such thing, the gatekeepers say, as a Christian in an interracial marriage. There’s no such thing, the gatekeepers say, as a Christian who drinks beer. They can cite clobber texts that they say support all of those lies, but none of those texts has the power to make those lies true.
The second post I’ll cite is one that is more in line with what many conservatives are thinking — Timothy Dalrymple on the right lesson to learn from the World Vision kerfluffle.
…Even in the letters and phone calls and statements since the reversal, the leadership of World Vision has explained that they were trying to bracket a “culture war issue.”
That’s the problem right there. This is not a culture war issue. It’s much more than that.
It’s hard to imagine any issue more profoundly moral and theological than marriage. It’s hard to imagine anything more important to the cultivation of healthy societies than the cultivation of healthy marriages.
When Stearns and his team call it a “culture war” issue, that belittles the significance of the issue. It makes the people who work for healthy families (and therefore for healthy environments for children) feel that their labors are devalued. And it shows, I think, a limited engagement with scripture and the theological tradition on the issue as well as a shortsighted vision of God’s redemption of the world. It’s extraordinarily important to serve the poor. Putting food in the mouths of children who would otherwise starve is sacred and eternally significant work.
But it’s also extraordinarily important to strengthen families so that fewer people will be poor in the first place. It’s also extraordinarily important to speak for God’s truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that more people — rich and poor alike — can enjoy a reconciled relationship with God forever. And it’s also extraordinarily important to uphold the truths and values of God, because people who embrace anything short of that are, ultimately, embracing self-destruction.
It feels as though Stearns and team, regrettably, have bought just a little into the left’s narrative that feeding the poor is driven by compassion while fighting for a biblical model of marriage is driven by anger.
It’s simply not so. God loved humanity enough to give us the sacrament of marriage. We should love enough to give that sacrament to one another. And when a secular and skeptical society raises the cost of standing up for the truth about marriage, we should love enough to stand up for the truth anyway. Not because we’re angry. Not because we’re hateful. But because we want the best for people.
This sort of message is how I’m not convinced that conservative evangelical Christians care either about the children sponsored or about “healthy marriages.”
Simply put: if your main salvo in support of “healthy marriages” is to oppose gay marriage, then I can’t really be sure that you have any credibility when talking about healthy marriages, healthy families, healthy environments for children, or even how to strengthen families so that fewer people will be poor in the first place. Yes, you certainly show that you care about what you think God’s truth is, and what you think is the gospel of Jesus Christ (which it’s not even certainly that it’s “clear biblical teaching” on what those entail), but you haven’t shown that you have any sort of link — any sort of nexus — between this and people’s lives.
I mean really, really, if the deal breaker issue for you — if what “devalues” the labors of those who work for healthy families — is committed, married gay couples (many of whom may be raising children!), then I just can’t sympathize.