I Don’t Blame World Vision. I Blame Homophobia and Hate.

I don’t blame World Vision for reversing their decision to accept employees in same-sex marriages.

I don’t. They made the exact decision they had to, precisely for the people they serve in impoverished communities. They made the exact decision many writers and bloggers called for yesterday. Many asked folks to think of the children who would lose sponsorships, and that is exactly what World Vision did.

In the nonprofit world, money talks. Period.

But now, let’s talk about what we didn’t yesterday. Let’s talk about homophobia. Let’s talk about hate. Let’s talk about injustice. Let’s talk about how the vile theology spewed yesterday by far-right evangelicals is indicative of the kind of theology that gets gays and lesbians around the world killed, brutalized, and declared illegal. See Uganda’s anti-gay laws if you doubt me.

Evangelicals have a hate problem when it comes to homosexuality. Period. I know that’s extreme language. But it’s true. We can disagree over an issue and still find common ground in aiding the very poor and disenfranchised. We can work side-by-side in the work of Christ and not agree on every single marginal issue. And homosexuality, as it relates to the Bible’s message and meaning, is marginal. There are 31,000 verses. Only around 8 or 9 can really be said to have anything to do with homosexuality. (None are actually about homosexuality — monogamous, committed relations — as we understand it.)

That’s around 0.026% of Scripture.

And yet that fraction of Scripture has become central to the public identity of evangelicalism.

They have placed homophobia at the center of the Gospel.

The way evangelicals treat LGBTQ+ people is wrong. It is extreme. It is sinful. It is hateful.

And it is absolutely terrifying.

In the past 24 hours, we just witnessed the extent evangelicals will go to keep LGBTQ+ people marginalized, to keep an organization from the simple thing of recognizing their already legal marriages. They will starve children. They will deprive impoverished communities of aid and help.

So, no, I don’t blame World Vision. Its leaders did exactly what everyone urged them to do — both on the left and the right.They thought of how it would affect the children.

Rather, I blame the far-right evangelicals who held World Vision hostage to their homophobic agenda. These evangelicals held a gun to the head of World Vision. They forced an organization to choose between aiding hungry children and offering a small step towards equality for gay and lesbian people who work for them.

And no matter what World Vision chose, these evangelicals were always going to pull the trigger on one of the hostages.

Update: I was deeply moved by this blog post and, particularly this quote. Please read the whole article:

Though I understand that World Vision essentially had a gun to its head after evangelical leaders incited a mass backlash of dropped funds, it doesn’t make what they did right. Their reversal hurts more than anything I read from the evangelicals ranting.

Update: After 206 comments, I’ve closed the comment section. Thank you all for your feedback and your passion. 

About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Thank you for this perspective David.

  • Bonnie

    That last sentence is so much the truth and so on spot that I got chills reading it, even though it exactly sums up this entire thing.

  • http://www.natalietrust.com/ Natalie Trust

    Thank you.

  • Alise

    This sums up my thoughts about this situation perfectly. Thank you.

  • BrotherRog

    One small step forward, one too darned big step back. This is a truly tragic development. Yesterday World Vision took one loving step forward, and today they took one tragic step backward. They made a decision based upon a worldly utilitarian metric – learning about the number of people who were contacting them to threaten to withdraw the continuation of their funding. This decision also based upon a worldly fear-based perspective. Like the ancient Hebrews wandering in the desert who longed to return to slavery in Egypt, they feared changing the unjust status quo. They doubted that God might have greater things in store for them in the promised land of civil rights and unconditional love and acceptance. Pity. Praying for less fear and for more faith.

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

    See: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/world-vision-reverses-decision-gay-same-sex-marriage.html

    • Rob

      “They made a decision based upon a worldly utilitarian metric” Heh, you mean like their original decision to kowtow to intimidation by the LGBT activists? You are very selective in your reading of Scripture. Those ancient Hebrews were also given Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13. Their problem wasn’t a “fear based” perspective. Their problem was disobedience. Do you even know what the heck you’re talking about, or do you just have supreme confidence that the libprog robots who read your nonsense are as ignorant as you are?

      • Jordon Wright

        It amazes me that you just called him ignorant. Yet you ignorantly reference Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which you read at face value, without interpreting them by looking at context or meaning. I find it interesting that you guys that quote Leviticus 20:13 rarely ever want the last part of the verse about gays being executed to be taken literally today. (Or maybe you do and aren’t willing to say so.)

        I find it interesting that well fed people, who hold a very narrow and historically inaccurate view of the Scriptures, used a debate over doctrine to hold under fed children hostage. If that’s what your theology demands, it’s time to take a second look at your theology. Because it certainly doesn’t resemble Jesus.

      • writer

        He has a Masters from a theology school,,, so he MUST know what he is talking about. You can not deny a preist with an education.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

        Those laws were part of the purity/holiness code and were designed to separate the ancient Israelites from their neighbors. Those laws also include things like not eating pork, shellfish or rare meat. And tons of other things we understand as cultural for the time designed to highlight how they were different from their neighbors.

      • http://leftcheek.wordpress.com/ Jasdye

        “kowtow to intimidation by the LGBT activists”?

        What part of LGBT People Are People is not clear?

      • toujoursdan

        Those two passages condemn one act only – male to male anal sex – no more and no less. It’s perfectly possible to be gay and not have male to male anal sex. Lesbians don’t do it and many gay men don’t either. Being gay and keeping frum (observant) are compatible. Conservative Jews welcome gay couples into their temples and bless same sex relationships while expecting men to abstain from that one act.

        Besides, Christians don’t have to observe Mosaic law.

      • tanyam

        “Kowtow to intimidation by LGBT activists.” Got any evidence that happened?

  • Rebecca Erwin

    Perfectly said. Thank you.

  • Jenn Baerg

    Just for the record Rob, World Vision Canada follows a policy of equality so technically the change isn’t really a change either way. Although really that being said, who is “wicked?” The last time I checked we all are, sin isn’t a sliding scale of the things I like, as not really sins, and the things I don’t like as horrible, evil sins.

    While it is not the point at, but since you’re claiming that we’re not interested in helping, I am an unemployed graduate student who budgets from my student loan to maintain a sponsorship I had before I started my MDiv, so on that note, I care a lot.

  • Just Another Jugemnental AHole

    Thank you, for once again using the word Evangelicals as a slur and painting us all with the same brush… Woulda killed you to use the words “some” or “those who would call themselves…” or…”a lot of”?
    Part of the problem FROM ALL SIDES are sweeping statements.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      If you’ll notice, I both open and close the piece with the framing descriptor “far-right evangelicals.” I was intentional in doing this because I know not all evangelicals ascribe to this. But statistics and research from Pew and others say that *most* do.

      • JenellYB

        All of them that I know, which s a lot of them, do think and feel that way. They are very heartless and cruel toward LGBTQ, among others.

  • Jordon Wright

    “When large organizations are co-opted by wicked people, they need to be abandoned, starved.”

    1. The fact that you would call LGBT individuals wicked says more about you, and your poor theology, than them.

    2. Those being abandoned and starved would be the children that World Vision helps. Children that you guys seem more than willing to hold hostage to ‘get your way’.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      I deleted Rob’s comment.

  • Tom Asdell

    Why don’t people that use scripture (often twisted) to justify their position against the homosexuals take a stand against divorce, overeating, gossiping, not taking care of the poor, not showing the love of Christ…which the bible dedicates a lot more space too? If the stance is that hiring homosexuals is wrong because of what they find in scripture, then where is the out cry about having a person that falls short in so many areas that the scriptures address as sin – you know the areas that so may of us, if we are honest admit that we fall short in. You know the little white lie, the gossip that is served up as a prayer request, the prideful attitude that “I am a good Christian”…

    • Chris

      Because its a lifestyle. Homosexuality is a lifestyle. If you are continually committing the same sin, whether it is overeating, gossiping, (insert whatever you want), then it is no different. The problem with your post is you are grouping everything in the same category. I agree that it is all sin, but those that are homosexual are ‘practicing” the same sin everyday, with no regard to change. Most Christians I know do not wake up everyday and say, “I am going to overeat today at lunch and talk about my co-workers.” On the other hand, a homosexual wakes up and says ” I am going to be a homosexual today, as well as tomorrow, with no intent to change”!!

      • olyar

        How many overweight Christians are there? How many Christians are there living in divorced relationships? They are daily “choosing their lifestyle” too!

      • Mike

        I would guess that most gay people wake up and say “I am going to be a homosexual today, as well as tomorrow, with no intent to change” about as often as I wake up and say “I am going to be a heterosexual today, as well as tomorrow, with no intent to change.” At nearly 48 years of existence now, I can remember no day that I did so, and don’t expect that I ever will wake up with such a pronouncement, no matter how many more years of existence I’m granted.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

        “On the other hand, a homosexual wakes up and says ” I am going to be a homosexual today, as well as tomorrow, with no intent to change”!! <– This is really quite silly and disingenuous, ignoring the research and work about sexual identity and how it forms.

      • Diana Dermit McCarthy

        Basically because they CAN’T change how they are going to wake up!! A heterosexual doesn’t wake up and say I intend to be heterosexual today. A person simple IS who they are!! And so what if the Christian who wakes up and doesn’t think about over eating at lunch or gossiping if they still end up doing it.

        And a divorced person DOES wake up every day intending to be divorced. It is so ridiculous to have to continually point out to people that just the very fact these people breath makes you “sin”. If God doesn’t want gay people he should stop creating them!!!

      • Ann

        Chris–so your sins are better than what you perceive someone else’s to be? What business is it of yours to judge others? When did you choose the heterosexual lifestyle? I believe the Bible says we are ALL made in His image. Not some of us, not most of us, not the ones you want to like. So, so sad.

    • thatbrian

      Falling short is not the same thing as wallowing in and celebrating S I N.

  • John Thomas

    How many people will be fired because they came out at WorldVision yesterday?

  • elephantix

    “The way evangelicals treat LGBTQ+ people is wrong. It is extreme. It is sinful. It is hateful.”

    So intriguing that both sides of this argument (within Christian circles only) use the same arguments. And both appeal to scripture. And both intend to be doing the right thing. And yet one side is right and one is wrong?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      I did not say their perspective was wrong. In fact, I said we could and should work together in spite of a marginal difference. I said their actions are wrong, of holding hostage an organization, LGBTQ+ persons, and impoverished communities helped by WV.

  • CBC runner

    You shouldn’t blame evangelical Christians you should blame God and what he has put in the Bible. Evangelicals don’t hate gays it is simply a sin in the eyes of God. No different if I had a relationship outside my marriage. We don’t hate the sinner we just hate the sin. If we hate the sinner we might as well hate ourselves because we all sin.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      Those select, cherry-picked passages are read more faithfully, in my opinion, when placed in their historical and cultural context. When this is done, homosexuality is not a sin. I linked to an article in the text expounding on this.

    • anonymous

      If homosexuality is just a sin, then why aren’t we banning overeaters or those that masturbate from getting hired in Christian organizations? It is easy to point out the differences in others and claiming them as “sins.” Since homosexuality seems to affect a minority of believers, it is generally the one targeted.

      Most people in the LGBT community want the same thing as heterosexuals, a monogamous, committed, life-long relationship. They can’t choose who they love, or how they feel. By targeting the LGBT community with hateful and unequal treatment only reinforces the negative stereotypes of Christianity.

      • CBC runner

        They are not picking on LBGT community. They would not hire me if I lived with someone of the opposite sex even if I told them we were in a life long committed relationship. This not a hate issue this is a doctrinal issue. I have friends that are having sex outside of marriage the bible says it is a sin but I still love them. Should they have a leadership roll in my church, no. I have gay friends that are having sex but I still love them. Should they have a leadership roll in my church, no. If they want to work for World Vision they would need to stop.

        This is a faith based organization they are just following what the Bible says.

        Love you

  • Mateo Bergland

    Both Homophobia and hating people in the LGBTQ community are both sins but what is worse is lowing yourself to there standard which are both not very Christ like. Christ would say go and sin no more but he would also heal them internally (spiritual and mental) and externally (physical). I’m no Liberal Christian but I believe that Christ is the ultimate to all these problems. Pray, pray, pray. Amen in Jesus Christ’s precious name. Amen

    • Tracy

      yeah.. both those words bug the heck out of me. Homophobia, haters, and don’t forget Islamaphobia…. it’s all rubbish. Its called a difference of opinion. That’s all. And its perfectly ok to have one that differs to the next person.

  • Tracy

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath, and not rush around firing insults at the ‘other side’. I am a Christian, and wasn’t bothered by WV decision. At the end of the day, my concern is with the children, and caring for them. This is what Jesus told us to do. Not squabble over whose right and who wrong, and have people starving in the meantime. Another thing is… they are not allowing gay people in a postion of authority or teaching. They are allowing them to work there. Big deal. Since when do we deprive someone from working based on their sexuality? And as someone pointed out… how many fat people work there? Are they all going to get put off due to gluttony issues? Of course not. I don’t think the pro gay group or who wrote this realise they are actually attacking Christians straight across the board and calling us all narrowminded bigots and homophobes. They do what they accuse us Christians of doing to them. But with more vehemency. Christians dont hate gays ( well some might, but not the ones I know) . They have a belief that says homosexuality is wrong, and they stand by that. You believe being gay is right and stand by that.. so what’s the difference? Are people not allowed different opinions without being called haters? maybe its different in America…

    • thapack45

      Tracy,

      I appreciate your point but I would like to explain why I disagreed with WV’s initial decision.

      You see, I don’t care one bit if World Vision wants to let gay people work for them. Just a hint, if you listen to how the “liberals” depict people in my position, they just flat out get our position wrong.

      I has nothing to do with homosexuals. I mean, they didn’t even do *anything* in this instance! It has to do with the fact that *World Vision took a stance which said that someone can be a faithful Christian and live in an openly homosexual relationship.* That’s the problem. They’re a Christian organization. If they were Wal-Mart, I couldn’t care less. *But they are claiming to represent Jesus Christ.* It undermines the gospel…it gives a false picture of who God is…it’s not a secondary and unimportant matter like others are trying *really really hard* to get us to think it is.

      As for your point about insulting each other: I agree. I don’t understand it. I especially don’t understand those who disagree with me. They talk virtually exclusively about the wide grace and mercy of God and all of His boundless love…but the second you disagree with them you’re condemned and a pharisee. Hmmmm,…. claiming tolerance..but then…

      • tanyam

        No, wv never said, “someone can be a faithful Christian and live in an open . . . ” in fact, the original statement said clearly, “this is not what this means–we are not stating a position on this issue.” What they said is that they would no longer discriminate in hiring. They would hire married gay Christians. To feed people. To translate if they had the appropriate language skills, to employ their engineering skills or medical training if they were the most qualified for the job.
        And today, they said they won’t. They won’t hire a gay, married Christian. Even if they are more qualified, better trained, and more experienced than another candidate.
        I’m sure it smarts to be called a Pharisee. And its not right. Its useless. But I’m sorry, today I can’t help but think that one wing of the Christian church went to the canyon where the Good Smaritan had been, and hung signs saying, “if you’re a Samaritan, leave people in ditches. We don’t want your help.”

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

        If your gospel is undermined by a gay couple, let me suggest you have a very small gospel that has little to do with Jesus.

      • Tracy

        Well i hear what you are trying to say, but it doesn’t work that way. Yes you can be openly gay and be a Christian, as salvation is not based on behaviour, but faith in Christ’s atoning work. And that REALLY bugs most Christians who think the more they ‘do’ the better God approves of them. I am NOT saying that I agree with homosexuality only that it is possible to be one and a Christian. You only see the part of their journey in the now, God sees the journey as a whole life of growing and changing, and its the work of the HS in them that will change them. Not us making them feel bad about a small part of who they are. No representatives of Jesus do a perfect job. Not even you or me.

      • tanyam

        You do realize that not all Christians agree with you. And you do realize that gay people are not a third entity — they are Christians too. A “Christian organization” may or may not include people who are gay, or who think being gay is fine. You can’t own the copyright on the word “Christian.”
        WV’s original statement insisted they were NOT making a statement about gay marriage. They were recognizing that differences already exist among Christians, and they were not going to take a stand. Period. Neither would they discriminate against gay people in their hiring. A great Christian engineer, a terrific Christian translator, or physician, or refugee expert — best person for the job? –they’d take them, gay or not.
        But now: no. That’s what just happened here. And that is deeply upsetting to many of us.
        And I agree, its inappropriate to call one another Pharisees.

  • Former Employee

    Not that WV’s programs actually accomplish what they claim to accomplish, but regardless, a gutless decision taken by an organization that showed its true values today – $$$$

    • thapack45

      So this decision was about $$ but it somehow wasn’t about $$ in the first place?

  • Katzenbooks

    So, what if evangelicals insisted that they would withdraw their support unless World Vision only hired white people? Would World Vision cave to those demands because they want to help starving children? WV could have done the right thing and campaigned gorgeous new donors instead of buckling under to the Evangelithugs.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      I don’t disagree. But this is the reality of the nonprofit world. They are beholden to their fundraisers, much as corporations are to their shareholders. I’m not excusing or defending their behavior, but I can intellectually understand why they did it.

  • thapack45

    Good job misrepresenting virtually everyone on the other side of the issue.

  • Momof4js

    David, you spoke the truth…”Evangelicals were always going to pull the trigger on one of the hostages”. Finally though someone called it correctly and publicly. For me, I have left the evangelical community because of their hate filled behavior and actions and chose to join the Episcopilians. More should do the same. Leave, dont walk, but run to your nearest Episcopal church! The denomination uses reason, tradition and scripture in their teachings and worship. Did you catch the “reason” part? I thank God for this denomination and that I am no longer affiliated with an evangelical church.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

    Please don’t compare gay and lesbian people to pedophiles. It’s derailing and offensive.

    • toujoursdan

      Pedophiles abuse children who can’t give consent. Gay marriages are not exploitative. Secondly, not all Christians agree that gay marriages are sexually immoral according to scripture. Several major denominations perform gay marriages. All Christians do agree that paedophilia is (as well as it being illegal.)

      • toujoursdan

        No it is not (especially in the original languages.)

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

        Technically, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1), not the Bible. Jesus is silent on homosexuality.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

        I have deleted Elgin’s comments, after repeated requests to end comparisons of homosexuality to pedophilia. I do not want this space to perpetuate harmful assumptions and stereotypes.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      Again, second reminder. Stop derailing and making false comparisons. Thanks

  • toujoursdan

    Of course it is about homophobia or hate. WV has employed sinners for years. Have evangelicals withdrawn support because they employ heterosexuals in second marriages, even though Jesus calls them adulterous? Of course not.

  • HRGuru

    The hate I am seeing here is not from evangelicals. What a graceless diatribe.

  • Benjaminscholten

    It’s not quite accurate to call Christians with theology not supporting homosexuality ‘far-right’ as they take up most of the church going spectrum.

  • tanyam

    Honestly, I think the word “hate” is a sledgehammer. And, as many of your commenters say, that is not what their beliefs feel like to them, so they shut down as soon as they’re accused of “hate.” They genuinely think that homosexuality is wrong, and they aren’t completely incoherent. That Jesus never mentioned it seems a weak argument He didn’t directly address a lot of things. There are better arguments. Piles of scriptural commentary, even by evangelicals, (Jack Rogers, Paul Achtemeir) who take each one of those texts and the history of their interpretation seriously, and come out on the side of acceptance.
    Still, this is a bitter pill. WV was clear when they issued the new policy statement, they weren’t making a theological case “for” gay marriage, that wasn’t their job they said. They insisted on that very point. They were changing their hiring practices, recognizing that Christians are of different minds about this, they weren’t going to take a position. They were going to hire Christians –who are married or single. Period. Presumably the best water engineer, the best refugee expert, the best medical worker with language competency they can find.
    And two days later — they issued a statement –insisting they take the Bible serioiusly. Was that ever in doubt? Does that mean they do, and those of us who don’t see homosexuality as sin must not? Suddently, they do seem to want to take theological positions.
    It appears that WV wants to be known as a conservative evangelical charity, not merely a Christian charity. That, in my mind, is disappointing enough.

  • Jaron

    Actually, it’s not homophobia at all. It’s God’s holiness and following His ways. It’s the fact God has a wise design. It’s not about keeping people back from something good. It’s about doing our best to not push people into something bad. God isn’t trying to deter people from something good. He’s doing His best to warn people about something that is bad/destructive.

    Job 35:7-8 ASV
    (7) If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? Or what receiveth He of thy hand?
    (8) Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; And thy righteousness may profit a son of man.

    1Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV (Please view the whole passage. It has some Good News to it.)
    (9) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
    (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
    (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    In other words, God mentions that certain things are sins because they are destructive to the person practicing it and to those around them. If we are stuck in a sin, there is a way out! That’s Good News for all!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      The Greek in I Corinthians is poorly translated. Paul uses a word basically found nowhere else among writers contemporary to him. The words likely reference male prostitutes. Whatever the case, he’s not referencing homosexuality as we understand it today in terms of sexual identity, orientation, and within committed, monogamous relationships. Follow the link provided in the post for a more in-depth study.

  • Bob Mueller

    David, you and Rachel Held Evans have eloquently spoken my thoughts on the fiasco. I am beyond disappointed and reaching disgust that people would withdraw support for a child like this. I wonder how many of them would write a letter to that child explaining why they’re doing it?

    My question is: how is WV’s policy not a violation of Washington’s laws on marital status discrimination? There doesn’t seem to be a religious exemption. See WAC 162-16-250. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=162-16-250

  • Raymond Watchman

    I don’t live in the US, so can someone please clarify: Is it legal in your country for an employer to discriminate against a person who is legally married on the grounds they “disapprove” of that person’s marriage?
    And can someone explain to me how any person who would, as a means of protest and coercion, withdraw life-giving sponsorship from an innocent child, claim to be a follower of Jesus?
    And can someone explain to me how it is that churches who demonize gay people and decry same-sex marriages are quite happy to turn a blind eye to – and even celebrate – marriages involving people divorced for other than adultery, in blatant defiance of Jesus’ unambiguous teaching? (The same Jesus who said nothing about homosexuality and same-sex relationships.)
    What a tragedy World Vision lost its righteous courage and reneged on its Gospel-inspired stand for social justice. Had it stood firm, the hatesayers and hypocrites would have been further exposed for what they are for once and for all, thus helping Christianity to rid itself of an albatross around its neck.

  • Pastor Dave

    So sad that you actually have bought into the lie that to disagree with someone is the same as hating someone. I know this may be hard for you to comprehend but people actually have a the ability to disagree and to love at the same time. They are not one and the same. I totally disagree with you and the homosexual community and yet I do still love you.


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