Christian Group Gives Aid to Haitians, but Leader Wants Something in Return

One question that atheists often get asked is: Why don’t you support Christian missionaries who help so many people in poverty-stricken countries?

It’s certainly wonderful that they have the ability and generosity to do the good work — I wish atheists had more of both — but there’s a reason we don’t like the way some churches do it.

Case in point, Pastor Frank Amedia of Touch Heaven Ministries, who has been distributing food in Haiti:

“We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I’m not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn’t want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.”

To paraphrase: We want to help them… but only if they convert to Christianity.

Amedia has been receiving some well-deserved criticism for this cold-hearted remarks. How has he responded?

I responded to a direct question from [AP reporter] Paisley [Dodds] which asked: “What would I do if I knew the person in need was a voodoo worshipper?” I responded that we would help them, but that everything we do is for the Glory of God and that we are committed to share our hearts. She then expanded her question to ask “Would I continue to help them knowing they were still practicing Voodoo?” I responded that I would show them our love by helping them and that I would hope to become their friend, and then as their friend, that our compassion and love might be the difference to lead them to Christ. She then asked “How long would we continue to supply them?” To that I answered that “I am not sure we could continue to support them in the long term because we would not want to perpetuate that process. We equate [voodoo] with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.”

So… he takes none of it back.

If I were a Christian public relations expert (and I *fully* claim to be one), here’s what I would tell other Christians in Amedia’s position to say:

We will continue giving food to Haitians who need it because that’s what our faith commands us to do. I would love it if, through our actions, those who received the food thought about why our faith compels us to act this way, but even if they don’t change their minds, we will still help our fellow brothers and sisters.

That is much more difficult position for atheists to attack.

Amedia represents the side of Christianity that drives people away from the church. Good. Let him keep talking; let him keep digging that hole for himself.

Those who give aid to victims of a tragedy with no expectations in return are far more generous than Christians like Amedia who want something in exchange for it. People like him are despicable.

Ted Olsen at Christianity Today asks an interesting hypothetical question to his readers:

If you aided someone for years and years and they never became a Christian, would you consider your efforts wasted?

(Thanks to Char for the link)

  • Erp

    Or with a bit more humility:

    “We accept our understandings of truth as incomplete and have faith that new perceptions of truth will continue to be revealed both to us and to others. ”
    American Friends Service Committee

  • Erp

    Or from a group, Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS), that AFSC is working with in Haiti:

    “HEKS’ Christian values command respect for people of all cultures and religions. HEKS helps individuals in need, irrespective of their race or religion.”

    and

    “Are donations to HEKS predominantly used to benefit Christians?

    It is precisely because HEKS is a Christian aid organisation that it gives aid to needy people irrespective of their religious affiliation and ethnic origin. HEKS gears the support to the indigenous skills and the needs of the local population.”

    Admittedly they don’t want to continue the aid forever but not because the people don’t convert.

    “HEKS collaborates with its operational partner organisations to support local initiatives. The objective is to eliminate dependence on all foreign aid and bring the projects to a successful conclusion.”

  • liz

    that’s exactly why i don’t give money to Christian organizations…because i don’t want a portion of my money spent on food, clothing, whatever they’re offering and another portion being spent on bibles and sending priests and what not to other countries..

  • Richard Wade

    Amedia said,

    … everything we do is for the Glory of God…

    Giving to the needy “glorifies God” BY THE GIVING. The recipient’s response in return has nothing to do with it.

    Amedia’s giving is unabashedly conditional. He’s not glorifying God, he’s selling God.

    His charity should come with a written disclaimer:

    “This offer of food and shelter is for promotional purposes only. Further aid will require purchase of our products and services.”

  • Jamie

    @Richard Wade

    You are awesome.

  • muggle

    This, in a nutshell, is why I won’t accept Christian charity. I admit that would be a harder call to make if I were in the unfortunate shoes of the Haitians but I’ve accepted Christian charity in the past and have always lived to regret it.

    Christian charity comes with a price tag and the price is your soul. Yes, I know we don’t have one. But they don’t. And I fear what they deem the soul is what I deem my independent mind. In other words, they expect you to cede your mind (soul in Godspeak) to the service and glory of their imaginary friend in the sky.

    The price is too high for some canned food or used clothes. (Hell, it’s too high for a mansion, a new wardrobe and the finest steak.) Therefore, thanks but no thanks.

    Charity from individual Christians given out of the kindness of their heart, indivdual Christians who I know and know to be good, trustworthy people and who they and I are there for each other as in next time they might need the help and will accept it in turn from me, sure. That’s what friends are for. To be there for each other in times of need.

    But Christian organizations. No how, no way, thanks but no thanks. I’m not willing to pay the cost you’re asking. I’ve already pissed off enough of you when the crisis passed and I refused to accept Christ as my savior. I don’t intend to ever again be called an ingrate because I don’t let you dictate the rest of my life and make myself a slave to your organization. Take your “kind” offer and shove it.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Do you think that the twisting of genuine charity work towards proselytising is a barrier to giving? If I have to research the charity that I am giving to in order to ensure that they don’t waste money or restrict their work to some based on religious bias then I’m unlikely to give money on the spur of the moment. Even if a charity is religious and does a fantastic job I am unlikely to give to them because I simply don’t know if they waste money of bibles, churches or prayer schemes and don’t want to take the risk.

  • Miko

    To be fair, giving up vodou and adopting Christianity aren’t synonymous.

    Anyway, help in the short term is (theoretically) all they need. Charity is good in the short term. But if the people in a country need help getting food over a long period of time, they either need more science and technology or a revolution. Probably both in the case of Haiti.

  • JD

    The goofy thing about it is that Haiti is almost entirely Christian. They don’t seem to understand this.

    Only about half of Hatians practice Voodoo. Voodoo runs contrary to several tenets of Christianity, however, most Voodoo practitioners are also Christian.

    But at the topic at hand, there is no command that Christian charity be only to Christians. Charity isn’t about return on investment. It’s supposed to be about giving generously and unconditionally as they believe their God gave to them generously and unconditionally.

    But when it comes down to it, there is a very strong correlation about strongly held religious beliefs and poverty. The more strongly the beliefs are held in a country, the more pervasive the poverty is. The US is the the only country that exists outside that correlation.

  • fritzy

    What Amedia is doing is not charity; it is blackmail.

    Hemant, maybe you missed your calling. PR might be your thing. I could not possibly criticize the alternative comment you provided.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    We will continue giving food to Haitians who need it because that’s what our faith commands us to do. I would love it if, through our actions, those who received the food thought about why our faith compels us to act this way, but even if they don’t change their minds, we will still help our fellow brothers and sisters.

    That is much more difficult position for atheists to attack.

    Even then, churches use charitable activity as a form of marketing. They want to get their brand out there. I even know of cases where church groups were participating in charitable activity using government money, and the first thing they did was pass out T-shirts to their volunteers so everyone would know their church was behind it.

  • http://www.myspace.com/youreundoingmybeltwronghun Tim D.

    “Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you back? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!”

    –The Bible

  • Fred

    Did anyone ask him “What if they stopped practicing voodoo, but instead of just switching one nonsense belief for another, they decided to think for themselves and became atheist?”

    I would *love* to their answer to that one.

    • RJ

      Are you implying that the only people who can think for themselves are athiests? if so, you are more narrow minded then you would likely wish to consider… 

  • Mags

    Thanks for pointing this out, but it’s their money, and they can do whatever they want with it.

  • Angie

    This phenomenon is why I refuse to support Samaritan’s Purse. While Samaritan’s Purse does a LOT of positive aid work for disaster victims, refugees, and people living in poverty, they do use charity as an opportunity to proselytize. For example, one of SP’s most popular programs is “Operation Christmas Child”, in which donors can put together shoe boxes filled with toys and toilletries for disadvanted children worldwide. Sounds noble, right? The problem is that SP distributes Christian gospel booklets to the young recipients when they give out the boxes. I think proselytizing to children is unethical to begin with, but proselytizing to emotionally vulnerable children who have been traumatized by war, natural disasters, or poverty is repugnant.

    To see what I’m talking about, visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/OCC_Impact/

    If you want to help people in need, there are plenty of non-religious charities to whom you can send donations. That’s what I do to make sure that my funds are not going toward unethical proselytizing efforts.

    TIM D — Great Bible quote!

    MUGGLE — I’m sorry to hear that you had bad experiences with Christian “charity”. No one should be expected to submit to indoctrination just because they accepted help during a difficult time. Kudos for standing your ground.

  • Ron in Houston

    “Christian charity” is a big oxymoron. I mean seriously, are you truly being charitable if you’re trying to score points with some “God” or hoping that you’re winning your way into some glorious afterlife?

    “True charity” is in my mind a lot like “unconditional love.” Both are wonderful concepts and goals that people should strive to attain. However, truly achieving them is quite difficult in practice.

  • AxeGrrl

    Ron in Houston wrote:

    “Christian charity” is a big oxymoron. I mean seriously, are you truly being charitable if you’re trying to score points with some “God” or hoping that you’re winning your way into some glorious afterlife?

    “True charity” is in my mind a lot like “unconditional love.” Both are wonderful concepts and goals that people should strive to attain. However, truly achieving them is quite difficult in practice

    Exactly.

    Can’t people leave their ideology at the door for ONCE when something horrific like this happens and just HELP people….simply because it’s the right thing to do?

    It’s like John Travolta flying his plane down there with supplies, etc (that’s wonderful John, it really is) ~ but why did he have to taint the whole thing by bringing Scientology ‘minsters’ with him?

    (sigh)

  • ckitching

    At least they’re not burning alive those they believe are practising witchcraft. I guess it’s a small improvement.

    Can it really be considered charity if there are strings and conditions attached?

  • JJR

    Hemant, your suggestion is in line with what contemporary Catholic missionaries do; they are sometimes less straightforwardly obnoxious than their Protestant counterparts; On the other hand, the whole anti-condom thing facilitating the spread of AIDS in Africa is unforgivable, so I suppose I should say that they find a different, more round about way to be obnoxious dicks than their Protestant counterparts.

  • ckottyboy

    The article quotes only ONE little-known leader who ministers to the needy in Haiti. MOST Christian organizations do NOT support this view, assisting anyone in need, Christian or otherwise. Unlike atheists, Christians do believe that there is life after death, and a God to answer to, so an eternal, spiritual dimension is essential for us; people can choose to accept it or reject our message. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime, but, sooner or later, that person will die. If they are not prepared “to meet their Maker”, there will be “hell to pay”, literally. We don’t do this for brownie points, but because of our love for our fellow man and God. While some say they don’t support Christian organizations for fear of them sending “Bibles and ministers”, I only support organizations that do.

    • Keshet

      You are right–but I will add one more thing–it MISquotes this particular Pastor, and it does so intentionally in order to spin the story. Gd bless!

  • Keshet

    I traveled with Pastor Frank to Haiti and fed 1 million orphans, hungry children, single mothers, and families in need-regardless of their faith or religious practices last summer. I am a Jewish woman and accompanied him, not to fulfill a religious purpose, but to help those who were in need. May I ask, what have you done to help people in need recently? Why are you so quick to judge others who you do not even know while you sit masked behind a computer? Religion aside, actions speak louder than words, and from where I am standing you seem like a coward. Why don’t you get up, get going, and DO something for someone else today–someone who you don’t know who has less than you do? Sacrifice your own comforts and your own direct needs and then come back and talk to me. Tell me how easy it was to judge the incentives of others who go out into the world and serve those in need. Who use their own dollar to transport relief supplies, food, and other essentials across great distances–not to mention, sacrifice their time, welfare, safety and comforts. Pastor Frank could have just as easily sat at home with his family, watching news of the destruction in Haiti on the TV. Instead, he went out there and did something about it. By the way, the specific article that you are basing your entire (invalid and untrue) argument on was GROSSLY misquoted.  Pastor Frank was interviewed by an AP reporter, who was relaxing poolside at a luxury hotel, while he slept on the floor in a shack with the rest of the majority of Haitians who had just lost everything they had ever known (which wasn’t much to start off with). This particular reporter warped the truth to use what she needed to get a story out that she knew would sell. She took Pastor Frank’s kindness and trust, his willingness to speak with her, for granted and made a mockery out of his servitude. If I had been in his shoes, I would never have offered to speak with an American reporter enjoying a “holiday” in the midst of chaos. But that’s just cynical me. As an experienced reporter, I can say that it is people like this who are the ones to condemn–those willing to lie and directly hurt others for the sole purpose of making a buck. By doing so, this particular reporter not only did the public the great disservice of lying to them and misreporting what was actually happening on the ground in Haiti, but she also committed the atrocity of viciously, and knowingly, incriminating a man who she had witnessed doing good for others. In going to Haiti, on, not one, but many, continuous trips to serve the needy (despite their proclaimed faith or religious ties) sacrificed, and continues to sacrifice, his own interests and resources for the purpose of serving others, despite certain trials and hardships. Even though this AP reporter scorned him, he turned around and brought meals to the hungry, to feed many children baptized voodoo, many struggling families, the elderly and much more. Not once did he ask them their beliefs before granting them supplies. Now that you know the facts, I truly hope you reconsider the validity of your sources before further incriminating people that you A) Do not know and B) Seek to make a general example out of.  Just because you are writing on a blog doesn’t protect you from the scrutiny  of others who actually know the facts and personally know the people who you are slandering…and we will hold you accountable in the future! Have a wonderful day!


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