You’ll Never Believe Why This Church Closed Its Food Bank

***Update***: This story is from 2000, just FYI. Thanks to everyone who pointed that out.

Just read the headline:

The gist of that particular article is that Unity Truth Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba created a food bank to help feed the hungry — a wonderful gesture by any group of people — but they’re shutting it down for a couple different reasons.

1) It’s attracting unpleasant clientele:

… The church’s board of trustees made the decision to cancel the bimonthly food bank after receiving an e-mail from a sister church in Victoria.

“Most clients of food banks have not yet come to a sense of personal responsibility in life. They are still in denial, blame or seeing the world as owing them,” wrote Rev. David Durksen of the Unity Church of Victoria.

Unity Truth Centre’s new minister Charlotte Prossen says the notion that they’re shutting down the food bank because of unpleasant clientele is bunk. But she won’t elaborate on specific reasons it wasn’t working for them. Instead, she offers a different reason…

2) Prossen wants the church to get back to the basics:

Prossen says people in the congregation meant well when they first decided to get involved in the food bank.

But she says the group had been without a minister or leadership for years, and now, it needs to return to more spiritual pursuits.

“I don’t know why it would be hard to understand that we are a church and we must identify ourselves as that in our community. We need to use our space, to introduce our programs to the community.”

Ms. Prossen praised the work done by food banks, and said the church will still collect food for baskets but focus more on people’s spiritual hunger.

Right… Why feed the hungry when you can deliver sermons about how important it is to feed the hungry?

You know, far be it from an atheist to tell Christians how to be “better Christians” or how to run their church…

But I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.

I’m not just saying that. Hell, you’re doing it wrong based on the very beliefs you espouse on your church’s website:

Unity is positive, practical Christianity, teaching effective daily application of the principles of truth taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ.

One Christian blogger is appalled by Prossen’s decision:

When I worked in the counselling office I saw 5 guests a day, and I didn’t throw them out if they weren’t my kind of person. As a Christian EVERY person is my kind of person. And they required not only spiritual food but also physical nourishment that their life circumstances couldn’t always provide for them. And we provided it for them. Not to say that I got any time off from Purgatory for this, or that anyone else did, for that matter. That’s not why this particular Christian church provided food for hungry people. It’s because that is exactly what Jesus expects of us.

You can eyeroll at the Christianese, but I’m pretty sure most church-going Christians hold that stance as well.

So to any Christians in Winnipeg who want to hear meaningless words, Unity Truth Centre has a service for you. But if you want to apply the principles you talk about in church, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

I suggest a Humanist group. At least they’re not interested in mere lip service when it comes to helping others.

(Thanks to Rich for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    I disagree with you, Hemant:
    I think this church is doing exactly what jesus wanted them to do..
    They are letting the dead bury the dead.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593675787 Glenn Davey

      This guy again…

    • Anonymous

      Maybe the poor can eat the dead.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    I suggest they begin their ‘spiritual’ focus on Matthew’s gospel:

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’(Matthew 25:41-45 ESV)

    • Fsumike2000

      C’mon now, everyone knows Christians don’t actually READ the bible.  Besides, this passage is hazy, and up for interpretation.  I mean, how do you know they aren’t implying “spiritual hunger and thirst”?…

      • http://twitter.com/anarchic_teapot anarchic_teapot

        How about the parable of the Good Samaritan? It’s fairly explicit about help also being practical.

        • http://twitter.com/nullifidian nullifidian

          I always find it hilarious that the “good samaritan” parable is about a non-christian helping out.

          • just_saying

            The parable is in the Gospel, the books about Jesus’s time on earth. By definition there were no Christians at that time since they don’t arrive on the scene until after Christ’s death.  Hence, there are no Christians in the story period.

            Samaritans and Jews actually shared a common ancestry but went separate paths religiously and warred constantly.  The Samaritans were the race the Jews hated the most, so the moral is that you should help even your enemy.

          • SJH

            Correction, non-Jewish. Christians did not exist yet. However the purpose of the story is to communicate that just because you call yourself good and believe in the right things it does not mean that you are on God’s side. You must have actions to back up what you preach. This can apply to Christians and anyone else for that matter.

            • http://twitter.com/nullifidian nullifidian

              Also non-christian.  As to the “purpose” of the story, I’ll leave that to the navel gazers to mull over.

      • SJH

        The verse probably applies to all kinds of hunger; spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual. We all have needs in these aspects of our lives and we should be willing to help feed each other in one or each of these.

  • Anonymous

    Why give someone food and keep them alive when you can give them a spiritual uplift as they die and get to go to heaven even quicker, the lucky, lucky bastards.
    Cynical, moi?

  • Rich Samuels

    I think their new strapline should be “when reality leaves you hungry come to us for a nutritious slice of fantasy”.

    • Iam

      I think all of you should loo at something that is current rather than 12 years old. This is from 1999

      • Rich Samuels

        Yes we know, it says in the article above. Everything else looked at on the site is pretty current but we’re looking at this now because it’s also recently come to the attention of some christian bloggers (linked to in the article above) who have also recently commented on the story.

        I fail to really see the significance of the age of this story, however – so what if it’s a decade old? It raises exactly the same discussion amongst theists and atheists as it would if it happened last week. See this very comment section for exactly that discussion amongst the atheists readers and theist readers of this blog. 

        Anyway when you focus on a 2000 year old text for moral lessons etc the age of an action seems even more irrelevant.

    • Matt F

      Friendly, I thank God for your friendliness which is a gift from God.  Also for your forum which is well attended.  You have faith my man, faith in “something.”  You bear witness to your beliefs.   What the issue with the food bank if I may judge, is mismanagement.  When you have a ministry such as this you bring the Lord to the unsaved.  You don’t merely feed them slam bam.  Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.  God bless this church and may the Holy Spirit bless them with wisdom to manage their ministries in the future to promote the glory of God!

  • BrentSTL

    Uh, Hement…

    That should be Winnipeg, MANITOBA!!!  ;)

    This coming from a native St. Louisan, BTW. *LOL*

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Whoops! Fixed. Thanks!

      • BrentSTL

        No worries!! =)

  • Anonymous

    “Preach the gospel always.  If necessary use words.” – Attributed to St Francis of Assisi but not bad advice for Christians who’d rather pray and have meetings than actually get off their arses and help others.  It’s a good thing that they aren’t all like that or Christianity would have a terrible reputation as a selfish, money grubbing cult of loud mouthed bigots.  Luckily that’s just a vocal minority.  An ever growing vocal minority.

    • The Captain

      Well remember though, for most christians they only get into heaven by what they think, not what they actually do.

    • just_saying

      The saying is intended to mean just the opposite, that you should be an example through your actions. It’s specifically aimed at Christians who don’t “get off their arses”.

  • http://heartfout.typepad.com/blog/ Heartfout

    Is there an atheist/humanist group around there who could help pick up where they left off?

    • eqdw

      I know of three groups around here, of which I’m involved in one. We are not prepared or equipped to do this on anything approaching a regular basis (right now we’re just ~10 people who meet for beers once a month), but, at the very least we’ll post a blog post (if that helps at all, lol)

  • Karab

    hmm closing your doors to people and being unapproachable? Sounds like some sort of elitist group or boys club of sorts. I’ve been homeless as a teen. I’d hate to think my  ‘poorness’ would keep someone from helping me.

  • http://honesttogodless.blogspot.com Matt Foss

    In my experience volunteering at a soup kitchen, I understand the frustration with people who have no sense of responsibility and act like the world owes them something.  However, closing down the soup kitchen will not teach them a lesson.

    I’m also not sure why they think that the line about feeding people’s “spiritual hunger” is any better.

    • Ekkygirl

       Matt,  consider for a moment the radical idea – what if the world does owe ‘them’ something.  In fact what if we all owe each other something regardless of who we are? Jesus was a communist

  • Littlewoodimp

    Wow, that’s one up on Marie Antoinette – not even cake!  “Let them eat the unused oxygen from our prayer meetings” 

  • http://twitter.com/chrishansenhome Chris Hansen

    This happened 11 years ago, by the way. And Unity is a semi-Christian sect that espouses the “prosperity Gospel”, whose basic tenet (in my opinion) is that you’ll know you are Christians if you are rich. So Unity is actually a pantheist group of money-worshipers. 

    I also gather that Unity’s participation extended simply to allowing their premises to be used by a local Winnipeg food bank. This bank has since extended its reach and is getting to many more people who need its services.

    • Em

      That might be why I wasn’t able to find the original article on the Ottawa Citizen’s website! I was wondering. Thanks for clarifying the timeline.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Croghan/588166801 Mike Croghan

    Speaking as a Christian, I’d say that you have every right to suggest that Christians get our heads out of our arses in a case like this.  Speaking as someone who has done a little bit of work with folks who are poor, it’s ridiculously easy to read between the lines of this church’s stated reasons for shutting down the food bank.  They stopped doing it because that kind of work is HARD.  Quantitatively, it’s just a lot of work, and relationally/culturally/socially, it can be really effing challenging, especially for many “church folks” (to throw out a gross stereotype).  So they got in over their heads – or felt like they were, anyway – and decided they had to quit it.  If they had simply said that, folks like you and I might have questioned their judgment and fortitude (if we heard about it) – but it wouldn’t have been a news story, so we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so.  Churches (and other organizations) shut down programs all the time simply because they decide that they don’t have the resources to sustain them.  Unfortunately, one thing that many institutions are fundamentally incapable of saying is, “Yeah, we failed because it turned out we just didn’t have what it takes.”  So instead they say stupid crap like these people did.

    P.S., Yes, even shutting down an actual “helping people” ministry simply because it’s too challenging – in favor of just doing “worship” and “spiritual” stuff and not trying to replace the shut-down program with something else that actually practices what Jesus said and did – is highly hypocritical for folks who claim to be followers (not just fans) of Jesus.  (Even though it happens all the time and is viewed as normal institutional change when not accompanied by asshat justifications like these folks spouted.)  Keep saying so, atheists, and thanks for being kind when you tell us what hypocritical idiots we are.  I know we don’t usually return the kindness.

  • Anonymous

    Unity believes in the Law of Reciprocity … “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously…. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 

  • Josh

    I’d like to dispute one statement. I’m pretty sure that the majority of christians aren’t out doing volunteer work for the homeless. At best they give a few dollars to a guy outside the Starbucks and then go inside and drop twice as much for a cup of coffee. Not that some christians don’t do good work, but I think talk rather than action is the standard procedure for everyday christians. Donating ten percent of your income to a church isn’t charity, its passing the buck.

    • Odgie

      Can you back that up or is it just an assumption?

      • Neptune818

        In the same way that the non-believer must prove that god does not exist. You must prove that the majority of christians are doing goods deeds. Good luck!

    • SJH

      Yes, please back that up. Otherwise it is just a prejudiced, uneducated statement.

      • Neptune818

        He doesn’t have to back it up, he has Faith!

  • Nazgul7of9

    The assimilation of the church into the Republican Party is now complete. Religious people now support torture, the death penalty and oppose universal health care more than the non-religious.  Oh and lets not forget all those Middle Eastern wars they adore, you know the ones that will bring about the “second coming” and their ascendance into the heavens, of course everyone down below gets to suffer and die then suffer so more.  Yet they are always telling us that we need to get our values from religion.

    • SJH

      Not all religious support these. Most practicing Catholics and other orthodox Christians are pro-life (in terms of abortion and capital punishment), are against war except in extreme cases and do not condone torture. Most are also for some sort of universal healthcare however many don’t believe that it should be provided by the government.

    • Cheryel Lemley-McRoy

       Just like the German Church in the days before Hitler.

  • http://diaryofamessylady.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    Whoever wrote that headline was doing their job right.

  • The Captain

    I one time volunteered to do some pro bono work for some friends which consisted of producing a video for a large local church. At the preproduction meeting the youth pastor explained they where going to have a day of good deeds where the kids would learn about helping strangers and the less fortunate. They where to going to get into vans and drive around finding people who needed help and the kids where supposed to help them. This actually sounded like it was going to have at least some good artistic opportunities in it. Shots of poverty, emotional old poor ladies ect, demo reel stuff.

    So on the day of the shoot the crew and I showed up expecting to get shots of them praying around a bit, then head downtown (where the highest concentration of people who needed help where duh). Buuuut no…. after the praying around part, they climbed into the van, where they headed off the three blocks to…. the richest neighborhood of the city! Now I’m not even talking about say the richest part of detroit (is there one?), this was literally where all the CEO’s and politicians lived. Their “good deeds” consisted of randomly jumping out of the van to hand a coke to a guy on his riding lawn mower cutting his huge yard. Or helping a teenager wash his parents Maserati! At one point they actually stopped the van and all the kids jumped out and helped an old, but very capable, lady cross the street. Which she then had to cross back herself as we drove away because she wasn’t crossing the street in the first place (she was actually waiting for the bus, a concept these kids would never understand). Then we passed a middle class latino neighborhood (seriously, it wast middle class!, it’s was where the domestic help of their neighborhood lived)  and when the other camera guy suggest we get out there, the kids turned pale white, and the adults nervously said that no, we should head back.

    And even more telling, at one point when the kid started acting up, the adults actually “threatened” to take them downtown if they didn’t behave. 

    We eventually ended up at the house of some guy they knew who had cancer and they all laid hands on him and prayed for a while, so more doing nothing. I thought is was ironic that when I went to the pub from my apartment to sin that night, that my atheist drunk ass helped more people in actual need when I gave the homeless guy a dollar.

    • Anonymous

      Wow, do you still have the footage?  That is incredibly telling of that particular groups “generosity”.  Had a little spit take about the bit where the capable old lady had to walk BACK herself after being aided across the street.   ;0)

    • Uther

      That is one of the saddest things I have ever read :(

  • Anonymous

    Christians, dedicated to helping the poor, except when they aren’t.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      As an atheist I think this entire thread is about a smart a a guy who lives in a greenhouse throwing stones at the lighthouse next door.

  • DavidcATL

    Calling this “Unity Church” a Christian church is a big stretch.  You can easily see from their website section “What we believe..”, they are not a true Christian, Bible based church.  They just use parts of the bible that make them feel good, and believe totally opposite  of what Bible says in other parts.

    • Neptune818

      ” They just use parts of the bible that make them feel good, and believe totally opposite  of what Bible says in other parts.”

      How is this different from every other Church?

  • Anonymous

    Bottom line……. Christianity is like the shit you can’t scrape off your shoe, once you step in it.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place without it?????  I believe so…….

  • Anonymous

    I remember this!

    At the time it reminded me of an experience in my youth where an evangelical church was running a youth group and shut it down because it was exposing their kids to kids that questioned the bible.

  • Rebecca Gavin

    I’ve always found Unity to be kind of a an “icky” denomination, anyway.  As Christians, they do go lighter on the dogma, and that’s good, but they also tend to preach the gospel of prosperity.   Positive thinking and all that, not unlike “The Secret.”

  • Anonymous

    I have yet to find an atheist who believe that the poor are just lazy individuals and brought their suffering on themselves. I am sure there are some Libertarian atheists out there but I have yet to meet them. I have however met plenty of Christians who do not believe in feeding the poor because they feel people should work for their food.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      Some are lazy and some aren’t.  Some are screwups and some aren’t.   Some are impulsive and some aren’t.   Some spend more than they take in and some don’t.  Some are stupid and some aren’t.    Some are handicapped and some aren’t.    Some are a combination of many of these things.   Some had bad parents and some didn’t.   Some do drugs and some don’t.  Some come from bad cultures and some don’t.  Some poor grow up to be rich. and some rich lose it all and become poor.    

      So yes, some people are poor predominately because they are lazy.   However there are a lot of other reasons one can be responsible for your own poverty.   Likewise there are many reasons why you may not be.  It could be the fault of your parents for example because they blew all that lottery money they won.

      One thing is for sure.    There is such a thing as bad incentives and unintended consequences.     I’m sure the government welfare system has a lot to do with an increase in the number of people guilt of the observation that, “Most clients of food banks have not yet come to a sense of personal
      responsibility in life. They are still in denial, blame or seeing the
      world as owing them,”I’ve never run a food bank but I’ll take the word of someone who obviously has since they shut down their program for specifically that reason.   At least with regards to their own local.Are you aware that before the government got involved in giving the dole that charities would require able bodied people to do work before receiving a handout.    They also had other means of winnowing out the truly needing and down on their luck from the lazy, irresponsible, etc.

  • Differnet

    Here’s your problem.  I just went to the Ottawa Citizen and tried to look up this story. It doesn’t seem to exist.  Second, I googled the church and there is no minister there by the name of Charlotte Prossen.  I’m not sure if you made this up or if you were spoofed.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I updated the post with this, but it turned out to be a story from 2000. It’s possible the minister may have changed by now.

      • http://twitter.com/cupofstars KT

        http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2000/02/21/church.html

        It says here that they actually closed because of concerns over whether or not their activities were covered by the church’s insurance, which sounds like a valid concern to me.

  • Anonymous

    One could also wonder if the church would prefer next time when you are down and out to at least approach them with the appearance that you’re not really that down and out in the first place. Sticking around for a session on god probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either right? That of course might help assuage them of their guilt and at the very least give the impression to fellow church goers that the church hasn’t now become a haven for derelicts and crack heads. Which is another way to say, it’s alright to sin, but as long as it’s the appropriate kind of sin- I propose tax fraud if you must sin.
    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2011/08/church-closes-food-bank-because-it-was-attracting-poor-people/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

    Wow, skimming through the comments I see that people are fairly ignorant of what the whole concept of charity (and Chrisitan charity in particular) was about in the first place.   It’s judgmental and rightly so.    If you are in need then you either got in that situation because of behavior that needs correcting or not.     Much better to teach a man to fish than to just hand him a fish.   Otherwise one day he and his decendants will eat you out of house and home.   Of course there are situations where it’s no fault the beggar, but it was obviously enough of a problem to drive charities to the various solutions they came up with.    

    No one enjoys giving their own hard earned money to the undeserving.   So they are a more responsible about getting the person on their feet.    That’s where the dole screws things up.    Hard to correct the behavior when you have no control over where your tax dollar is spent. 

    Seems like the sooner is upon some countries before others.    Look at Greece.

    • Anonymous

      Oh yeah, we’re the ones who are ignorant of the concept of charity.
      /sarcasm

  • Catriona

    Dear Rev. David,

    You are a Dick Head,

    Sincerely,

    Catriona, Australia

  • LisaZ

    This is a Unity church, not a Christian church.   Many people at Unity/New Thought churches do not consider themselves Christians though they might talk about the Christ.  It’s quite different.  I know, there was a Unity Church (which renamed itself a Spiritual Center) in my neighborhood and we attended for a while.  Nice people, but not necessarily Christian.

  • Frontenac

    This is nuts…what is John the Baptist came rolling into this church all decked out in Camel Hair cloaks and dirty ole sandles…would he be considered an unpleasant client? 
     

  • Jillydaines305

    Perhaps God had the plan in mind for your church, to be a food program for the poor.  While they are eating, have a down to earth, plain clothes pastor who introduced Christ as he would to a child, not patronizing, in plain but not posh clothing, no microphone but sitting amongst them. Ask yourself “what would Christ do for these people, don’t preach, be their friend first. 

    Sorry for you, reallly am.
    You haven’t got a drop of Christ’s blood in you.  
    Jill Daines
    Australia

  • QuestioningKat

    Hey Hemant, I’m really late to this post. As a atheist who formally belonged to a Unity Church, I completely get the perspective of this minister. I stumbled onto this article after curiously wondering what Unity is up to. It’s too complex and crazy to explain. You’d need to entirely reframe every Christian view (far far far away from the traditional view – even Jesus is optional) and delve into views more similar to “The Secret.” In a nutshell, poverty is an illusion and we each wake up to our own truth that we are One with God. They ditched the food bank because it attracted people of lower spiritual Consciousness and in turn subjected them to bad “vibes.” Each person is to wake up on their own in their own time. By helping them they saw themselves as enablers. I was shocked to read that some people started a food bank- it is rare in for a Unity Church to do this type of act. Collect backpacks for kids – yes. Help the poor – no way. Unity is big on prosperity Consciousness and taking personal responsibility (self-centered) to the point that they are blind to hardships of others. You fix yourself, because “God” will not save your sorry ass. The resurrection and Christian story are symbolic – having more to do with you renewing yourself so that your successful in all aspects of your life or mean whatever you want it to mean. Like Hindus, they feel that poverty is part of their karma and that these people attracted problems into their own lives either in this life or a previous life. They brought it on themselves, but they have God within, so they just need to wake up so that they can claim their truth and fix the mess that they got themselves into. Some believe that this world is an illusion so poverty, abuse, violence, disease are all a result of turning away from God. Typical Christian views do not apply here.

  • tsubee

    The other thing to point out is that this is a Unity church… so not Christian actually but a metaphysical spiritual path that is an alternate to Christianity – in fact it might be called atheist… grin… lolol


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X