How Things Work in the World of (Mostly) Rich Western Christians
It seemed like every time I ventured into the wonderful world of social media today, I was greeted by a new salvo from one side or the other of World Vision’s recent yes-we-do, wait, no-we-don’t position on whether or how they will hire gay Christians to work in their organization, with all the predictable bleating and threatening and pulling of support (in response to both decisions) echoing around the corners of evangelical Christian-dom. It was all very sad and pathetic, and mostly it just made me embarrassed to be a Christian.
I got home and I looked at two faces on my fridge. Steban Barrera and Erika Colmenares are twelve and ten respectively. They live in different parts of a poor area south of Bogotá, Colombia. Our family began sponsoring them a few years ago after I returned from a trip to the region they come from. I have not met them, but I hope to some day. Steban likes soccer—I would love to play with him. Erika likes listening to music—I would love to listen with her. I would love to meet their families. I have not seen where they live, but I have seen other houses nearby. There is plenty of corrugated tin, poor drainage, mud and waste. There is plenty of corruption and violence that provides the background noise to daily life. There are many, many obstacles to a life of flourishing and hope for these two kids.
I’m trying to envision how the furor that has erupted over the past week would sound to Steban and Erika’s ears. I’m trying to imagine having to explain the phenomenon of a bunch of (mostly) rich Western Christians using the sponsorship of children (!) as pawns in a theo-political squabble about an organization’s hiring practices to these two beautiful kids. What would I say? What would anyone say? “Well, yes, I know it’s a bit confusing, I know it seems a bit unbelievable that people would stop sending money to children and communities like yours that have great need because they don’t agree with certain behaviours (or because the organization they give money through changed their mind about certain behaviours), but that’s just the way things work. People care very much indeed about the real or imagined sins of those who sin differently than them in the world of (mostly) rich Western Christians.”
I can imagine Erika scratching her head and asking something like, “Well, do they get just as angry about other things? Do they withhold money from Christian organizations that ignore the Bible’s clear teachings about loving enemies and feeding the poor?” I can imagine Steban furrowing his brow and saying, “Surely, they must also stop giving to companies whose employees violate the Bible’s clear prohibitions against lust or anger or greed or failing to love or taming the tongue. But wouldn’t it get very complicated to keep pulling their money whenever a sinner is discovered in the ranks of those offering relief? How will anybody in the world be helped if the (mostly) rich western Christians redirect their money every time someone ignores the Bible’s clear teaching?”
And then I would say…
Well, you see things just work a bit differently in the world of (mostly) rich, western Christians negotiating the weighty burden of how to allocate their discretionary spending in an adversarial and noisy church culture that has little patience for nuanced reflection or measured responses.”
And then I would probably hope to God that Steban and Erika never understood the world of (mostly) rich Western Christians.
I took the photo above in a slum south of Bogotá in 2012. Erika and Steban don’t live here. But many, many children do.
“..(mostly) rich, western Christians .”
I know them well. I deal with these demanding arrogant religious types all the time at work, they are the ones who are always trying to ‘out do’ everyone else and make a bigger ‘show’ with their flowers at funerals (I’m a Florist) . The women most often tend to have blue or silver hair and carry a noticeable chip on their shoulders, expecting everyone to submit to them by reason of their obvious moral, economic and fashion conscious superiority The men tend to be aging cantankerous versions of the nostalgic “Marlboro Man” and are accustomed to getting their way, These self-righteous bigot and racist christians attend church most Sunday mornings, all-the- while keeping one eye squarely on their watch in anticipation of jocky’ing to beat the others to the steakhouse for lunch.
If I seem bitter at these (mostly) rich western hypocrites it’s because I am. They have caused me untold pain and grief over the years and I despise them for what they are..
Christ have mercy
I know of such people, Mike. I regularly groan at the fact that Jesus commands me to love such inconvenient people.
(Of course, others might see me on the wrong side of this equation, but that’s not relevant here, is it? 🙂 )
Bravo, Ryan! Well-said, as usual. I’m deep in the middle of “Love is an orientation” by Andrew Marin, and what you’ve said is his point: loving “the other” is far more important/effective than pointing fingers at sin and trumpeting truth in the other’s ear. From now on my response to the whole gay/straight Christian debate is going to be “Being gay or straight doesn’t matter to me. What matters is if I’m treating that person properly.” These kinds of debacles are shameful.
Thanks so much 🙂 . Yes, we have much to learn about how to love.