Franklin Graham goes the Full Olasky

Bruce Watson of AOL asks “What Would the Rapture Do to Real Estate Prices?

In New York City, for example, a 49% drop would reduce the city’s population to 1910 levels. In the short run, this would cause property values to plummet in the city, but the effects would quickly spread beyond mortgages and rents. …

This is assuming a post-Rapture world in which the political and economic systems would remain relatively stable — admittedly, a somewhat unrealistic expectation. … However, even if everything else stays the same, one thing is clear: The Rapture would have an apocalyptic effect on real estate.

And in one loosely written column, Watson has already spent more time on post-Rapture world-building than Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins spent in the whole of a 16-volume series.

Speaking of the Rapture …

The photo here looks like it might have been taken immediately following some mass vanishing event, but actually it’s from a huge tea party rally planned for South Carolina last week. Well, it was planned to be huge. They expected 2,000 people and wound up with 30. That’s not a rally. That’s barely enough for a soccer game.

Speaking of disappointing and woefully inadequate numbers …

Robert Parham says “‘Let the Churches Do It’ Is a Deceptive Myth.” He quotes Franklin Graham, among others, as a promoter of this deceptive myth. Graham said:

A hundred years ago, the safety net, the social safety net, in the country, was provided by the church. If you didn’t have a job, you’d go to your local church and ask the pastor if he knew somebody that could hire him. If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, ‘I can’t feed my family.’ And the church would help you. That’s not being done. The government took that. And took it away from the church.

That’s got all the hallmarks of Marvin Olasky’s bogus mythmaking:

  • Laughably false and easily disproved claims about the Golden Age of the past? Check.
  • Attempt to spin the church’s abandoning its responsibility as a case of government usurpation? Check.
  • Ridiculously inflated claims about the scale, capacity and expertise of faith-based assistance? Check.
  • Deliberate exclusion of the opinions of those actually providing that assistance, both today and “a hundred years ago”? Check.
  • Fundamental confusion that imagines all duties and obligations as mutually exclusive? Check.

Yep. Graham is five for five. That’s the Full Olasky right there.

Parham then turns to Wayne Flynt to explain what this would mean, for example, for Alabama:

When Flynt started making speeches about a just tax system in Alabama, he was accused of wanting government to solve all the problems.

“When people insisted that I was a socialist, that I wanted government to solve all the problems, I would offer this alternative,” said Flynt. “OK, I accept your argument. There are 10,000 communities of faith – Muslim, Jewish, Baptist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Shintoist – in Alabama… Let’s divide 10,000 communities of faith into the 740,000 [poor] people.”

He asked, “How many does your church get?”

The retired Auburn history professor pointed out that most of those faith communities had about 100 members. That meant that each faith community would get between 50 and 100 poor people to look after.

The “deceptive myth” Parham is addressing was most influentially promoted in a deceptive, mythmaking book by Olasky called The Tragedy of American Compassion. It’s a profoundly misled and misleading work that follows the basic outline above, portraying America before the Roosevelts as a paradise in which generous churches sufficiently cared for the poor with generosity and tough love and no one ever went hungry except lazy people who deserved it. For a useful counterpoint, see Norris Magnuson’s Salvation in the Slums: Evangelical Social Work 1865-1920. Magnuson covers the very same ground, but he provides an honest assessment of the actual scope of the poverty and deprivation of the time — most of which remained beyond the reach of the laudable, but vastly inadequate work being done by the churches.

More importantly, Magnuson cites the same primary sources as Olasky, but he does so in full and in context. That illuminates how selective and misleading Olasky’s use of those sources is. The devout believers Olasky cites to support his claim that the government has no role in helping the poor are nearly all revealed, in Magnuson’s book, to have been advocating and pleading for the larger government role that Olasky is arguing against.

Olasky is a partisan ideologue, but that’s precisely why I don’t think his mendacious book is evidence that he is lying. I think it’s a sad case study in what happens if one is, primarily, a partisan ideologue and the way that can blind one to anything one doesn’t wish to see. The tragedy of The Tragedy of American Compassion isn’t that Marvin Olasky is telling lies, it’s that he’s repeating lies he sincerely believes. (Call them “deceptive myths” if you’d prefer to be more euphemistically polite.) That and he’s trapped in an either-or framework of mutually exclusive responsibilities which prevents him from imagining that both the state and the church are responsible for those in need and that these mutual responsibilities are complementary, not competitive.

Anyway, speaking of Marvin Olasky …

The Randian Calvinist editor of World magazine belatedly weighs in on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s Love Wins, dubbing Bell an example of the “self-hating evangelical“:

Among the self-haters are those who display virulent opposition to the existence of churches that are not emergent, or don’t meet in a house, or are not radically redistributionist, or are not something other than standard.

Yes, “radically redistributionist.” He really talks like that. He really thinks like that.

And that’s what keeps him from realizing that what he describes here as “self-hatred” is actually pity and sadness for what people like him have become and the shame they’ve thereby brought to our evangelical family. I don’t hate myself, or my evangelical faith or heritage. What I hate is the selfish stupidity that people like Olasky foster in themselves and in their followers by using slogans like “radically redistributionist” as though they were quoting Jesus. I’ve seen how this weird devotion of theirs to an ideology of unbridled greed is a choice that makes smart people dumb, kind people cruel, good people bad.

And to paraphrase Dean Wormer, stupid and cruel is no way to go through life, son.

To be embarrassed by the enthusiastically stupid and cruel members of our evangelical family who have become our most vocal representatives doesn’t make me a “self-hating evangelical.” If Stephen Prothero is right, it puts me in the same camp as the Rev. Billy Graham. The iconic preacher and longtime friend of Jesus and Johnny Cash is now 92 and, Prothero notes, is suffering the indignity of having his eldest son going on TV and dragging the family name through the mud by spouting off the Full Olasky. “Franklin Graham is embarrassing his father“:

If you want to see how American evangelicalism has lost its way, you need look no farther than Billy Graham and his son Franklin. Billy Graham was a powerful preacher of the gospel. Franklin Graham is a political hack.

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  • Michael P

    Like anyone in New York would actually get Raptured.

  • http://homeinbabylon.com/ Chuchundra

    Well, all the children would…which would certainly piss off a lot of New Yorkers. That’s never a good idea.

    Here’s an idea for a rapture novel. After the Rapture, a group of pissed-off atheists team up to strike back at God for taking their children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    Here’s an idea for a rapture novel. After the Rapture, a group of pissed-off atheists team up to strike back at God for taking their children.

    Technically, I suppose, at that point they would not longer be atheists, but I can certainly see there being some…fallout.

    BTW, what is the age cut-off for the Rapture? At what point do you no longer automatically get taken up?

    (Also, do all Rapture believers believe all children get taken? My father, a devout Catholic, nearly had an aneurysm watching some guy on TV talking about how he didn’t know if his three-year-old was ‘right with God’.)

  • Anonymous

    If I’m remembering right it’s under 12, I think the LB kids series spin-off has a 12 year old or two. And more horrifyingly has a character whose parents got killed in one of the Rapture day accidents, and naturally, they gloss over the fact this poor kid’s folks got a one way ticket to Hell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    I think the LB kids series spin-off has a 12 year old or two. And more horrifyingly has a character whose parents got killed in one of the Rapture day accidents, and naturally, they gloss over the fact this poor kid’s folks got a one way ticket to Hell.

    Um, that finally penetrated my brain.

    There’s a…kids series spin off?

  • Shallot

    There’s a…kids series spin off?

    Yes, there is, and I think it’s worse.  I read the first book in both the adult and young adult versions years ago, long before I found Fred’s blog.  I remember being kinda bored by the adult LB, but the kids’ one made me ill enough that it went into the trash rather than the donation pile.  Thinking back on it, L&J probably decided that they had to make their theology even more obvious to supposedly-ignorant children, but then there’s nothing left but ugliness.

  • Rikalous

    The kid’s series is being snarked here: http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/
    Yes, it’s bad. I tried reading the first book back in high school, and got sick of it by the time all the main characters were introduced.

  • Mau de Katt

    There’s a…kids series spin off?

    Unfortunately, yes.  And from what I understand, it’s mostly a bunch of teens bowing to The Authority Of Bruce Almighty (before he’s killed off), debating whether the one kid is “really saved” because he Said The Magic Words when he was afraid he was going to die in the next few minutes (i.e. and thus “not out of a sense of ‘true conviction and repentance'”), and being all hero-worshippy over Buck the GIRAT and Rayford Fully-Loaded.

    There is an ongoing review & discussion taking place over at this site.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think ‘atheist’ and ‘post-Rapture world’ belong in the same sentence. Soon’s we figured out it had been the Rapture, we’d all convert to antitheism.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    It sounds like a bit of internet fiction called “The Salvation War“.  It is more or less an apocolpytic Rapture scenerio, but humanity decides to Not Go Gentle with it and a war between the mortal realm and the forces of heaven and hell breaks out. 

    Remeber that one episode in the second season of Buffy when the big-bads of that season raise a horrible demon who could not be harmed by “any weapon forged” and was only “contained” by the loss of an entire army many centuries ago?  The one Buffy handily gibbed with a shoulder-mounted anti-tank missile?  Imagine that kind of scenerio on the scale of a modern world-war. 

  • Matri

    Oh yeah, I read the first book. If there’s one thing we humans know how to do, it’s gib stuff. Into teeny tiny pieces.

    Then set it on fire.

    Then gib it some more.

    And then if you really piss us off, we’ll use our other hand. We might even bring in the nukes.

  • Michael P

    “We dump toxins into our air and water to weed out the weak! We detonate nuclear weapons in our only biosphere! We nailed our god to a tree! We are the Human Race; don’t **** with us!”

  • Matri

    Remind me of this.

  • Anonymous

    Well as a christian this always hurt to read how people are selling out their faith.

    Which brings me to doctor who:

    I had to think about how in the future the church is protecting human colonies and how badly they got slaughtered by the weeping angels or being erased by a crack in the universe.
    That was a fictional example of the church and yet they despite incredible odds they were trying to do the right thing.

    I mean when something as weird as the millitant space church in the future is somehow more inspiring than the real thing there is something terrible wrong.

  • Anonymous

    That’s not a rally. That’s barely enough for a soccer game.

    Hey Fred that are the numbers for the public when they are playing american football in the rest of the world.

  • http://apolarity.tumblr.com Adrenalin Tim

    In other Franklin Graham news, Former Aid Worker Flavia Wagner Sues Samaritan’s Purse After Being Kidnapped In Darfur.

    Wagner has brought formal charges against the U.S. evangelical charity
    Samaritan’s Purse for allegedly ignoring warnings that the Abu Ajura
    area was unsafe for aid workers, Reuters reports. (…) The lawsuit also accuses Samaritan’s Purse leader Franklin Graham of
    refusing to use an insurance policy to pay the ransom to free Wagner
    from her captors.

  • LL

    I’m still kind of amazed (doesn’t happen often anymore) how many evangelicals/fundamentalists/whatever can’t see how deeply compromised they are by their slavish devotion to the Republican party (and it is mostly Republicans, though I am aware there are a lot of Democrats who try to sound as Republican as possible for the sake of their reelection campaigns).

    And I do mean “slavish devotion.” Many of these people are voting in direct contradiction to their own well-being, because they’ve been told how evil “socialist” government programs are and they want to be sure to toe the party line, lest they be scorned by their fellow adherents. It gives me a very low opinion of either their intelligence or their morality.

  • Anonymous

    The Republican party is a strange mix of Big Business and the Religious Right.  BB wants to funnel money into their pockets, and the RR basically just wants to restrict abortion as much as possible.  So they have struck a strange deal, where BB will pretend to care about “Family Values” in exchange for the votes of the RR which are needed to keep them in power.  And part of this deal is that when the RR suffers financially, they agree to blame it on other poor groups rather than the actual people who screwed them over in the first place.  This is where racism comes in, although it’s certainly not the only tactic.  The RR gets angry about alleged welfare queens taking government money, because the RR wants that government money for themselves.  They have agreed to never advocate increasing taxes for BB, so they feel like it’s a zero-sum game because they refuse to ask their corporate overlords to pay their fair share.

  • Rikalous

    According to this video by the Young Turks, polls show that most Americans consider themselves conservative, but are very much in favor of progressive policies. I think Hanlon’s razor applies here.

  • Lori

     According to this video by the Young Turks, polls show that most Americans consider themselves conservative, but are very much in favor of progressive policies. I think Hanlon’s razor applies here.  

    In fairness, there has been a vigorous 3 decade long campaign to redefine Liberal as “slightly to the left of Ho Chi Minh” and also, inexplicably, “Hitler”. If you believed that you’d describe yourself as Conservative too. 

    Yes, people who believe that are stupid, but when practically the entire political and media establishment is marinating the country in dumbass sauce all day every day it’s more difficult to be smart than it should be.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/Blotzphoto Louis Doench

    “dumbass sauce”
    Monitor cleaning bill on the way…
    ;)

  • Lori

    Among the self-haters are those who display virulent opposition to the existence of churches that are not emergent, or don’t meet in a house, or are not radically redistributionist, or are not something other than standard.  

    So I guess that according to Word magazine “self-hating evangelical” is a synonym for “1st century Christian”. Good to know. 

    Also, you know what’s radically redistributionist? A system in which the top 1% have 24% of the income. That giant sucking sound you hear is the modern American economy vacuuming up money from the poor and middle class to shower it on the richest of the rich. The level of income inequality that we have is not some God-created natural state. It’s the result of decisions. Bad, bad decisions that need to be corrected.  

  • Mau de Katt

     Yes yes YES!  And a thousand times “yes.”  All the people screaming about how they don’t want “radically redistributionist” policies in America are in fact participating in policies that are very definitely radically redistributing the wealth and resources of the lower and middle classes up to the Very Richest of the Rich.  Who usually aren’t paying taxes on it all. Most of America is growing poorer and poorer so that the Very Richest can continue to pay less and less taxes.  And trying to correct that massive imbalance is Evil and Socialist and (::choke::) “Anti-Christian” to boot.

    ‘Cause Jesus was all about taking from the poor to help the Very Richest of the Rich and the Entrenched Politically Powerful, doncha know….  Those who have their “WWJD” bracelets made of diamond-encrusted gold and platinum.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    I’m always amused that the RTCs always assume that *they* will be among the Elect.  Seems to me that making that assumption would take a person right out of the running.  Pride, much?

    Also, effect of the Rapture on real estate prices in NYC?   Zilch.  Everybody knows that RTCs (and Real Americans, for that matter) don’t live in big cities (*especially* not NYC) — they’re all out in Flyover Country.

  • Patricksauncy

    “they’re all out in flyover country”

    It’s called Real America, and, if you say that one more time, you aren’t invited to my Alaskan tea party.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I enjoy the fact that Real, True Christians don’t live anywhere outside the US.

  • Patricksauncy

    “they’re all out in flyover country”

    It’s called Real America, and, if you say that one more time, you aren’t invited to my Alaskan tea party.

  • Ken

    And in one loosely written column, Watson has already spent more time on post-Rapture world-building than Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins spent in the whole of a 16-volume series.

    While still managing to miss the point.  Sure, he mentions the likelihood of societal breakdown, but what the Rapture really means is that the world is coming to an end.  It really won’t matter at the point how much you paid for a two-bedroom condo in the East Village.

    Hum, there’s a possible twist on the apocalypse story.  What if after the Rapture everyone took Matthew 19:21 seriously?   The entire world would be trying to sell everything, but no one would want to buy lest they be encumbered by possessions at the end.  It could be a bit like “The Bottle Imp” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

  • Anonymous

    When they write the book on American Christianity a key point will be trying to find the exact moment Christ was kicked out of it. Because seriously, a proto-socialist radical as the figurehead of untrammeled greed? Wow.

    And churches can look after the poor, but churches can also decided that if you’re gay, brown, a woman, or any number of unacceptable qualifiers they don’t have to and so long as they are wholly privately funded they don’t have to. That is one of the biggest reasons you need a federal social safety net. So that if the soup kitchen that believes it’s more important to hate gay people than follow Jesus’ teachings turns you away you won’t starve to death.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    When they write the book on American Christianity a key point will be trying to find the exact moment Christ was kicked out of it. Because seriously, a proto-socialist radical as the figurehead of untrammeled greed? Wow. 

    Around 1964, according to Brad Hicks. 

  • Caravelle

    When they write the book on American Christianity a key point will be
    trying to find the exact moment Christ was kicked out of it.

    According to this guy it might have been around 100 AD :
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/JesusEthics.htm
    :)

  • Caravelle

    When they write the book on American Christianity a key point will be
    trying to find the exact moment Christ was kicked out of it.

    According to this guy it might have been around 100 AD :
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/JesusEthics.htm
    :)

  • Anonymous

    I think Olasky is using “radically redistributionist” to refer to the church in Acts, i.e. proto-socialist, not merely a left-leaning position on income inequality. It’s part of a larger group of people who wish their evangelical churches were more liberal and less like a rock concert, which he calls “self-hating evangelicals.”

  • Matri

    In New York City, for example, a 49% drop woul-/blockquote>
    BWAHAHAHAHAHAAA!! 49 percent! Bwahahaaa!!
    Oh man, I can’t even continue this thought, I’m laughing too hard. Wahahahaaaa!

  • Patricksauncy

    Thank you for screwing up the markup tag. I now know how to block quote!

  • Matri

    Thank you for screwing up the markup tag. I now know how to block quote!

    You’re welcome.

  • Amaryllis

    From what I’ve seen, it’s a matter of dispute among the pre-millennial Rapture-Ready. Some believe that all children below an “age of accountability” will be raptured. Anyone above that age will be judged individually. That age might be expected to be around twelve-ish or pre-puberty, or around seven when most kids have begun to develop their ideas about right and wrong, or even, in the case of this poor man and his even more unfortunate toddler, as soon as they’re out of early infancy and capable of any independent action at all.

    Others believe that children below whatever age it is, will only be raptured if their parents are. That is, children too young to be accountable for themselves are included in their parents’ worthiness or lack thereof: judgment goes by household.

    And I’ve googled it, but I still can’t quite figure out what an “emergent” church is, or why it’s a bad thing.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    I’m part of an emergent church near D.C.: http://www.churchinbethesda.org/  The definition of emergent really depends on who you talk to.  A lot of our focus is on authenticity with people, being honest about our flaws and strengths both as individuals and an organization rather than “passionate sincerity” that does nothing and lives in a bubble.  What’s rather laughable about him calling the emergent church “self hating evangelicals” is that our church isn’t evangelical.  We consider ourselves multi-denominational, and draw from a lot of Protestant, but also Catholic and Orthodox theology.  My pastor regularly talks about saints and a variety of historical theologians, something that would be verboten in an evangelical church.  It’s also the only church that has fully respected both myself and my husband’s faith (who is Catholic).  Although I can’t say all, many emergent churches have a similar theology to us, which is heavily influenced by Brian McLaren’s book “A Generous Orthodoxy.”  Surprisingly, the wikipedia article is actually pretty useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerging_church

    In terms of our social justice work, we’re totally “we would love to do more but have little money.” We maintain a house for a family who has children in medical care at the National Institute of Health for free and certainly don’t pressure them to come to our service. I think I’ve seen the family in there now once at a service, but it was right after they moved in to thank us.  We also host the lunch service for the homeless twice a week in our building, but when we talked about moving it to the entire week, realized that we couldn’t handle the burden of the wear and tear on our building.  (I got an email this morning declaring that it was a miracle our A/C turned on and our pastor mostly wasn’t kidding – our building Has Problems).

  • Amaryllis

    I just saw this; thanks, storiteller.

    “A generous orthodoxy.” I like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Blotzphoto Louis Doench

    Meh, Billy Graham’s name didn’t have too far to go before it got to the mud as far as I’m concerned. Google “Billy Graham and Nixon”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kalleoskar.isaacson Carl Oscar Isaacson

    It’s only anecdotal, but having served as a Pastor in a modern American city, I can tell you that the church was easily overwhelmed by the needs of the needy. Whatever we tried to do, whatever I tried to do, for individuals down on their luck, was both inept and mostly un-helpful. The most frequent help was a request for money, and I was taken as often as I actually helped. I was taken because I didn’t have the resources to do background checks and because, as most clergy are, I was and am a people pleaser. 

    At the same time, my research into one social group making it through hard times with the church convinces me that the church prior to the Roosevelts only helped the “deserving poor.” One leader of the Swedish church commented, following the Chicago Fire of 1871, that the only Swedes who were lost in the fire were the ones who ought to have been lost – and the only poor who didn’t get help following the fire were the poor who didn’t deserve help.

    That kind of judgmentalism – which still prevails in some quarters of relief work – excludes anyone who has mental, psychological, sociological problems. Any woman who bears a child out of wedlock. And of course, anyone infected with the gay.

  • Anonymous

    Franklin Graham seems to have not noticed the difference betweens someone who offers spiritual advise to the rich and powerful and someone who is a rich and powerful person’s spiritual advisor. The former is a preacher, pastor, and prophet while the latter is a courtier.

  • http://blog.carlsensei.com Carl

    It should be pointed out that America’s NUMBER ONE ENEMY OMG WTF BBQ are groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic Brotherhood. How do those groups stay popular in the Middle East? Simple, they do charitable services for the poor over there. In other words, the conservative utopia where religious organizations help out the poor is exactly what we most fear happening in Egypt and already hate about Gaza and Lebanon… 

  • Anonymous

    This is also one of the reasons the Black Panthers were popular back in the Days of Aquarius; they set up daycare centers, food kitchens, and medical aid stations.  Often all we hear about is the violence, but they did a lot of community good, too.

    Greg Mortensen has been controversial lately, but something he said in “Stones into Schools” is very apt.  He noted, as you did, that when the Islamic Brotherhood is the only group to come into your poor village and offer to feed and educate your sons for free, you’re going to shrug off the indoctrination that goes with it, because there are no alternatives.  We need to provide alternatives, not bombs.

  • Patricksauncy

    See also Nation of Islam in 1960s US. Conservatives love that faith-based organisation.

  • Matri

    You know, these people are going to go into conniptions on Halloween.

    The rapture didn’t occur, the world didn’t end, and now the world is mocking them with a holiday that celebrates demons & monsters.

    They’d be in conniptions if they didn’t go catatonic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Pease/1324310862 Marshall Pease

    And I’ve googled it, but I still can’t quite figure out what an “emergent” church is, or why it’s a bad thing

    I think maybe it means they just show up, kinda spontaneous-like, without letters of  marque or caveats from the scribes, as if people could talk to God all by themselves and then talk to their neighbors about it. What could be more dangerous than that? Think The Creature from the Black Lagoon

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Pease/1324310862 Marshall Pease

    And I’ve googled it, but I still can’t quite figure out what an “emergent” church is, or why it’s a bad thing

    I think maybe it means they just show up, kinda spontaneous-like, without letters of  marque or caveats from the scribes, as if people could talk to God all by themselves and then talk to their neighbors about it. What could be more dangerous than that? Think The Creature from the Black Lagoon

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, ‘I can’t feed my family.’ And the church would help you. That’s not being done. The government took that. And took it away from the church.

    This attitude seems to be oddly common among the sort of people who would try to turn our govenrment into a church, who claim the US is a “Christian nation”.

  • Cossacksare

    Not much to say about this issue, but this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seems appropriate for this website: http://blogs.ajc.com/uga-sports-blog/2011/05/25/mark-richt-says-decision-to-sell-lake-hartwell-property-was-christian-motivated/

    It’s nice to see someone actually putting their money where their mouth is. 

  • Jenny Islander

    When I hear people say that charity should go back to the churches, I think of the answer I gave to that one guy who was insisting that us horrible rich plutocratic moneygrubbing organizations should be taxed to redistribute our piles of ill-gotten, stagnating wealth:

    When we get the costumes for our annual Christmas pageant out of the church attic, the first thing we do is brush off the snow.

    We collect food and toiletries for the local women’s and children’s shelter and make sandwiches for the men’s shelter.  If they had to depend on us for more than that, they would go under.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    In December of 1986, we – my parents, and I, who were the only ones living there at the time – had a house fire. While the house remained structurally sound, it was completely gutted on the inside, and what the fire and smoke didn’t destroy, water damage from putting the fire out took care of destroying. (Including my kick-ass Wolverine poster. I still miss that thing.)

    Our local (Lutheran) church began accepting donations, and pleged to donate the collection from the Christmas Eve service to us. Further, the ELCA pledged to provide matching funds up to $5,000.

    (Randomly, my mom just called, and I asked her how much we ended up getting.  It was about $3,500 all together.)

    (There were also some other efforts in the wider community to help us out with things like donated food, clothing, and so forth.)

    Despite the fact that some of the donated clothing was truly hideous, even by 1986 standards, this generosity was both helpful and deeply appreciated.

    After all, it took several months for the insurance money to come through, and in the meantime we needed to find a place to live, which involved taking on the new-to-us burden of paying rent, and we had to replace all of our furniture, cookware, and so forth.

    But the thing is, while the loss of our home and belongings was rather life-altering, and the support of the church helped us regain our footing, the fire didn’t exactly leave us destitute. My dad was employed, and our insurance premiums were up-to-date, and in the worst case, as we did for about a week or so, we could have stayed with my sister. Without the support of the church and community, we would have struggled for a time, but, eventually, we would have gotten back on solid ground.

    But if conditions had been different – if the insurance money had been delayed further, or hadn’t come at all, or if my dad had also been unemployed – and we didn’t have any means of support beyond what we got from the church, that support wouldn’t have gotten us very far.

    Further, the fact of the matter is that we were members in good standing of the congregation; I know of other people in the community who were not members of the congregation of that or any church who, when in similar – or even worse – dire straits, received no church assistance at all.

    I suppose that not being members of the church marked them as the “undeserving poor,” but the fact remains taht while I would in no way fault or dispute the generous and charitable spirit of churches – having experienced it firsthand – it’s clear that they church simply cannot provide an adequate safety net.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    Having talked to a few irrational types on this subject, I imagine one type of push-back you would get would be that if the govt. would only stop punitively taxing everyone, then everyone could donate as much as they wanted to their churches, and their churches could then afford to help everyone.

    But what do I know–I’m the one who, when people rant about taxation, likes to say, “Well we tried running a country of 300 million with the donations out of the free-will love-offering baskets on the mailboxes, but it just didn’t work out.”

  • Daughter

    Exactly, Charlotte.  Just read accounts of life for the average person in the U.S. in the 19th century (and not the sanitized historical fiction so popular among evangelicals).  Life was brutal if you fell upon hard times, and the churches couldn’t do enough to address it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I have a one word answer to people who go on about the beautiful times before social democracy came along and stole our charitable impulses: workhouses

    Anyone who want to espouse the overabundance of private charity to me has to go read Dickens first.

  • Mau de Katt

    I have a one word answer to people who go on about the beautiful times
    before social democracy came along and stole our charitable impulses:
    workhouses

    Anyone who want to espouse the overabundance of private charity to me has to go read Dickens first.

    Or better yet, for those who would decry that “that’s just fiction,” read a good biography of Annie Sullivan, who became Helen Keller’s “Miracle Worker” teacher.  Anne and her little brother were sent to a poorhouse after their mother died.  Conditions were truly appalling (but not at all atypical); her little brother died there from a tubercular leg IIRC, and Anne went nearly blind from untreated trachoma.

    The people who cry “let the churches take care of charity!” really mean that they don’t want their money going to “those people.”  And if their church is in charge of the “charity,” then it won’t have to.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    My response to anyone who says that Dickens was just writing fiction is to tell them to look into Dickens’ biography and learn why exactly he hated work houses so much…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    Having talked to a few irrational types on this subject, I imagine one type of push-back you would get would be that if the govt. would only stop punitively taxing everyone, then everyone could donate as much as they wanted to their churches, and their churches could then afford to help everyone.

    But what do I know–I’m the one who, when people rant about taxation, likes to say, “Well we tried running a country of 300 million with the donations out of the free-will love-offering baskets on the mailboxes, but it just didn’t work out.”

  • Anonymous

    One of the reasons I started on the path away from my church is that my church and all the religious people I knew used charity only as a way to exert control over the people who needed help.  I loved doing volunteer work, but any time I tried to do it with my youth group, my school’s Christian club, or any other religious group, there was a very heavy emphasis on using it as a platform to convert people.  They were always one-time events, and I think that if they offered anything long-term, they would not be willing to continue helping people who didn’t convert within a certain amount of time.

    I volunteered weekly at a soup kitchen.  There were some other regular volunteers, and occasionally groups would come in to help out.  By far, the church groups were the most selfish.  They would always serve the smallest scoops of food, and then afterward would decide how to divvy up the leftovers between themselves.  Any time that a group wasn’t there, we would give away any extra food for the needy people to take home.  It was clear that the church groups cared less about helping people and more about their image.

    I was also extremely outraged when my very own church kicked out a homeless man who had been sleeping in our lobby, but then went on to spend tens of thousands of dollars to add a fancy new addition to our building.  The only excuse that I got was that the fancy new rooms might lure people in who might then be converted.  But honestly, when people think that conversion or “being saved” is the only thing that matters, and that it matters more than actual life, then we should be wary of relying on these people to provide what people need.  I’ve heard to many lazy selfish people say that no amount of food, shelter, or clothing has any meaning if your soul isn’t saved.

    Religious-based help is nearly always conditional, and that’s why we shouldn’t rely on it as a society.  Nobody should be forced to convert to a religion just to get enough food to eat.  Nobody should be coerced out of or into a relationship just to get shelter.  Nobody should have to dress a certain way or read certain books or use certain language just to get help they need to live.  Maybe I’m just cynical, but I haven’t seen many religious-based charities that don’t try to use their position to influence or outright bully others.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    @banancat, what you describe is no good; no arguments here. But for what it’s worth it’s not universal. Far, far too common but not universal.

    I am a proud member of one of the largest charities in the country. It was founded by religious people and has a religious ethos, but no formal ties to a church, and we explicitly don’t proselytise. The only requirement to get help is that you have need. Interestingly, a bunch of people have no idea that we have a religious basis at all, even though “Saint” is in the name!

    I volunteer with the arm that goes out on the streets to help homeless people. There was a recently a survey of people who attend the service, asking what they liked and didn’t like. Overwhelmingly, the top two ‘likes’ were that they feel that someone cares about them, and that we don’t talk about God.  We’ve lost quite a few potential volunteers over the years, who want to use the service to evangelise, or who can’t handle the fact that the same people come back night after night, for years on end, and we don’t tell them that they need to stop taking drugs or get off the grog to continue to get services.

  • Anonymous

    Can you share the name of that charity?  It sounds like just the kind I would like to be involved with.  I have been meaning to get back into volunteer work, but it’s much easier to do it with a group.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Vinnies (aka The Society of St Vincent de Paul).

    Having given it such a big rap I feel like I need to add some caveats because, sadly, nothing is perfect. I can’t vouch for the extent to which each branch sticks to the ethos I outlined, but I really hope they do in your area, as in mine. As with every large group there are people pushing agendas, and I find the workers on the ground can be more in touch with the ethos of the society than the people who sit on the management boards.

    But I really like it for a few reasons. They helped out my family a lot when I was growing up, so there’s that personal connection. We don’t evangelise. And, in the last decade or so when every other charity was narrowing its focus, Vinnies stuck with its mission to all poor and marginalised people. I remember a bunch of streeties were quite upset when the Salvos said that they were going to focus on families from now on, and were pleased that we haven’t divided the poor into sympathetic cases and lost causes. Also, the current President is awesome in sticking it to government about their attitude towards the long-term unemployed.

  • nonny mouse

    Which charity is that, if I may ask?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    A synagogue in my area had an ongoing three-way struggle between some of the board, who wanted the homeless guys to stop sleeping on the shul porch, the rabbi, who was encouraging the homeless guys to sleep on the porch and buying them coffee, and the cops, who couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I met a homeless guy a few weeks ago who was telling me about a now well-known priest (well known for his charitable work and bolshy attitude). Back in the day the priest was a teacher at a Catholic boys’ boarding school, and since he didn’t have a wife and kids he lived at the school year round. Apparently during school holidays the priest would go to the local soup kitchens and quietly put the word out that there were empty beds available for a few weeks, then smuggle people into the school in his van. Needless to say, the school board was not aware of this :)

  • KevinC

    Bananacat wrote:

    Religious-based help is nearly always conditional, and that’s why we
    shouldn’t rely on it as a society.  Nobody should be forced to convert
    to a religion just to get enough food to eat.  Nobody should be coerced
    out of or into a relationship just to get shelter.  Nobody should have
    to dress a certain way or read certain books or use certain language
    just to get help they need to live.

    And here’s how the Religious Wrong sees it:

    Religious-based help is nearly always conditional, and that’s why we
    should rely on it as a society.  Everybody should be forced to convert
    to a religion just to get enough food to eat.  Everybody should be coerced
    out of or into a relationship just to get shelter.  Everybody should have
    to dress a certain way or read certain books or use certain language
    just to get help they need to live.

     
     

  • Mau de Katt

    But honestly, when people think that conversion or “being saved” is the
    only thing that matters, and that it matters more than actual life,
    then we should be wary of relying on these people to provide what
    people need.  I’ve heard too many lazy selfish people say that no amount
    of food, shelter, or clothing has any meaning if your soul isn’t saved.

     Well, of course!  They’re just following the Bible, after all!  Why, doesn’t The Bible  say “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to ‘them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but
    does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?'”

    Oh wait….

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ah, but Mau, you’re quoting from James there, and his is a gospel of straw. According to Martin Luther, anyway.

    Also good: If you who have the things of this world see a brother or sister in need and close up your heart to them, how can you say you have the love of God in you?

    That’s from 1 John, and as far as I’m aware Luther didn’t think John was too much of a socialist.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Religious-based help is nearly always conditional, and that’s why we shouldn’t rely on it as a society.  Nobody should be forced to convert to a religion just to get enough food to eat.  Nobody should be coerced out of or into a relationship just to get shelter.  Nobody should have to dress a certain way or read certain books or use certain language just to get help they need to live.  Maybe I’m just cynical, but I haven’t seen many religious-based charities that don’t try to use their position to influence or outright bully others.

    You know, this reminds me of the reason why “Christian Children’s Fund” changed its name to “ChildFund.”  Originally it was because it was founded by a presbyterian minister who made “Christian” part of its name because he believed that the kind of charity the organization was doing was a key Christian value, a part of “Love thy neighbor as thou love thyself,” and the work it was doing was of benefit to children without regard to their faith.  It was genuine altruism, giving without expecting anything in return. 

    However, a Christian charity watchdog group called Wall Watchers encouraged members of its distribution list to stop giving to that group, with Wall Watchers’ leader being quoted as saying, “It isn’t Christian in the way we look at it. If you’re going to be bringing help to these children, you should be bringing the Gospel.” 

    So it ended up changing its name.  It might not have been specifically because of Wall Watchers, it might have been because secular people or people of other faiths were afraid to donate to an organization that had the word “Christian” in the title because of the reputation self-professed “Christian” organizations tend to have these days.  Either way, it is rather unfortunately telling about the current state of faith-based charity. 

  • ako

    That is depressing.

    I must confess, I’m less likely to donate to religious charity.  Part of the reason is because  don’t want to fund the sort of coercive behavior described here (I’m willing to consider exceptions for specific charities if I know they treat people better).  Part of the reason is because so often, religious charity and donations by religious people are often lumped in together as ‘proof’ that religious people are better than atheists and everyone needs religion, so I’d rather put my money where it won’t be used to show that people like me are less moral than everyone else.  (And part of the reason is that I’m nearly always in a situation where there are plenty of secular charity options around to help people who really need it.)

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    I worked as a student representative in grad school for Christian Aid (http://www.caweek.org/), the development agency for the English and Irish Protestant churches.  I completely focused on climate change, which they were just launching a big campaign on at the time (and is still going). Raising money was interesting because the people who liked the “Christian” part of Christian Aid were often not very interested in climate change, and a lot of the people who were interested in climate change efforts didn’t like the “Christian” part. And that was in the UK, where evangelical-type churches are much more liberal.

  • Lawguy1946

    So if the elder Graham was so good, when did he come out against segragation loudly and continuously?

  • Lunch Meat

    “Emergent Church” is a very popular topic at my alma mater. It generally (as far as my understanding goes) refers to a church plant that forms out of the visions and needs of the community and the members, instead of being tightly controlled by the expectations of what the leadership thinks a church, and its members, programs, classes, building and ministry, “should” look like.

  • Daughter

    I blogged about the topic, “But what about charity”–and why it’s no substitute for a robust social safety net, in three parts: Part 1Part 2, and <a href=http://tacomagreenmama.blogspot.com/2011/04/but-what-about-charity-part-3.html.

  • Daughter

    I blogged about the topic, “But what about charity”–and why it’s no substitute for a robust social safety net, in three parts: Part 1Part 2, and <a href=http://tacomagreenmama.blogspot.com/2011/04/but-what-about-charity-part-3.html.

  • Daughter

    Sorry, my earlier link for Part
    3
    didn’t work.

  • Daughter

    Ugh, trying again. Part
    3
    .

  • Daughter

    Sorry, my earlier link for Part 3 didn’t work.

  • Intersection_Vic

    I’m reminded of a neighbour I talked to not long after reading someone (possibly Freedom Fighter) complaining about government taking over from charities. This neighbour had volunteered in an organisation which set up schools in places where children didn’t have access to schools- mostly overseas, but also in remote parts of the Northern Territory. She said they really liked it when the government, or more rarely a church, took them over, since it freed them to set up more schools with the people and money that keeping those ones going would otherwise have taken.

    ***

    Is there a similarity between the “Real True Christians” you talk about here who feel Christianity needs to be an exclusive group that most so-called “Christians” aren’t really in, and the “paranoid nationalism” Edward Said describes?

  • Intersection_Vic

    I’m reminded of a neighbour I talked to not long after reading someone (possibly Freedom Fighter) complaining about government taking over from charities. This neighbour had volunteered in an organisation which set up schools in places where children didn’t have access to schools- mostly overseas, but also in remote parts of the Northern Territory. She said they really liked it when the government, or more rarely a church, took them over, since it freed them to set up more schools with the people and money that keeping those ones going would otherwise have taken.

    ***

    Is there a similarity between the “Real True Christians” you talk about here who feel Christianity needs to be an exclusive group that most so-called “Christians” aren’t really in, and the “paranoid nationalism” Edward Said describes?

  • Intersection_Vic

    Paranoid nationalism being when people become afraid of other people successfully pretending to be (for example) American, and so try to work out ways to distinguish the real Americans from the false Americans.

    Come to think of it, I think people have already made that connection here. I forgot that.

  • Anonymous

    Looking at this thread an interesting, and I say accurate picture is coming out. It seems that for American Christianity, the churches that have the money aren’t spending it, or are spending it on a new basketball court for the youth group first, and the churches that want to help just don’t have the resources. And again, this makes a good argument for a social safety net.

    As for my own stories to share, the JW’s always mentioned their relief and rebuilding efforts…for other JWs. Which is nice if you’re a JW in an area hit by a natural disaster, but well, a buck fifty and that will get you a Coke if you’re not.

  • BC

    Regarding Franklin Graham – I contend he is a minister because he failed at all other vocations. He just assumed the mantle from his father without “paying his dues.”  To me, he is a grifter and opportunist and would be one of the first sycophants for the Anti-Christ if he thought that would help him in this world.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    Regarding Franklin Graham – I contend he is a minister because he failed at all other vocations. He just assumed the mantle from his father without “paying his dues.” To me, he is a grifter and opportunist and would be one of the first sycophants for the Anti-Christ if he thought that would help him in this world.

    You know, it does occur to me that these folks are credulously certain that the anti-Christ will APPEAL to people who are not them…secular people, people who believe in one-world-government and all religions being one and that. But that’s so easy to spot, when the anti-Christ preaches all that stuff you’ve always known was evil.

    The anti-Christ, like facism, would come to America carrying a cross and wrapped in the flag, and do a bang-up business. It’s so easy to seduce people when you tell them what they want to hear.

  • Anonymous

    When I think “a time when all charity was church-based and no social safety net was needed,” I don’t think of the 19th century.  I think of the Middle Ages, when charity was church-based because the Church was everything.

  • Hawker40

    “When I think “a time when all charity was church-based and no social safety net was needed,” I don’t think of the 19th century.  I think of the Middle Ages, when charity was church-based because the Church was everything. ”

    A time when the Church was almost, but not quite, the state.

  • Anonymous

    “A time when the Church was almost, but not quite, the state.”

    Also a time when the poorest people could easily starve to death under a hedge, because the local church/lord wasn’t wealthy enough or generous enough to help them, and they were too undernourished to make it to the next town.

  • ako

    It should be pointed out that America’s NUMBER ONE ENEMY OMG WTF BBQ are
    groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic Brotherhood. How do those
    groups stay popular in the Middle East? Simple, they do charitable
    services for the poor over there.

    And a number of conservative Christian groups want exactly that kind of power over people.  They don’t see the situation and go “How horrible!  Why don’t people get alternatives?”  The go “How horrible!  Why are their beliefs being marketed like that, and not ours?”

    This attitude seems to be oddly common among the sort of people who
    would try to turn our govenrment into a church, who claim the US is a
    “Christian nation”.

    Yeah, it’s a pity we can’t convince them that the government needs to legalize same-sex marriage and stop promoting abstinence-only education in order to avoid the government ‘taking away’ the role of their church in teaching sexual morality.

    But honestly, when people think that conversion or “being saved” is the
    only thing that matters, and that it matters more than actual life, then
    we should be wary of relying on these people to provide what people
    need.

    “The state of the body doesn’t matter – it’s all about the state of the soul!” is the sort of thinking that lead to the Inquisition.  It’s not a philosophy I’d trust when it comes to having power over needy and vulnerable people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    “The state of the body doesn’t matter – it’s all about the state of the soul!” is the sort of thinking that lead to the Inquisition. It’s not a philosophy I’d trust when it comes to having power over needy and vulnerable people.

    Old Chassidic proverb: “Why do you worry so much about my soul and your body? Take care of my body and worry instead about your own soul.”

  • Maigeri

    My church has a big porch in front, and homeless people sleep in it quite often. We used to give them breakfast. The local homeless centre asked us to stop providing food, because we were encouraging people to stay on our porch instead of going to the centre which could provide food and shelter but also legal and benefits advice, mental health services, addiction referral etc. The church wasn’t capable of providing the kind of care that homeless people needed and we were doing more harm than good. I don’t have the evidence to know whether they were right. We increased our giving to the homeless centre, which is state-funded.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    I could see that going both ways. The people who went to the porch were undoubtedly aware of the shelter, and I’d be curious to know why they preferred your location.

    A friend of mine occasionally takes her family to make dinner at local men’s shelter. After they serve the shelter residents, they take the leftovers across the street to the park. She says the park-dwellers tend to be there because want to stay with either their drugs, their wives/girlfriends/female partners, or their dogs.

  • Tonio

    Graham the Younger sounds as if he’s parroting racially coded arguments against government assistance, but stripping them of their context. I’ve read that many segregated fundamentalist schools in the 1970s were in danger of losing their tax-exempt status if they didn’t admit non-whites. I suspect that something similar happened with those churches’ other activities. Either way, I imagine the young Graham listening to his fathers’ peers grouse about how unfair the government was allegedly being to their churches.

  • Lunch Meat

    “Looking at this thread an interesting, and I say accurate picture is coming out. It seems that for American Christianity, the churches that have the money aren’t spending it, or are spending it on a new basketball court for the youth group first, and the churches that want to help just don’t have the resources. And again, this makes a good argument for a social safety net.”

    This is an irrelevant side note, but something that really bugs me about churches and money. Quick background–In the last several decades (don’t remember the exact date) there was a movement in Christian missions called the “Three-Self Movement”, whose purpose was to reduce western imperialism by ensuring that every church planted is self-governing, self-propogating, and self-supporting–a good thing. However, now there’s kind of an obsession with churches everywhere being self-supporting, so that people think that every church in every area needs to be able to take care of the needs in its area, and if it’s not then the members need to be taught to sacrifice and tithe more.

    This has never made sense to me. In the New Testament there’s a lot of evidence that churches in certain cities took up collections for churches in other cities when there was need. But apparently we can’t do that here because the churches need to learn to grow and be self-sufficient. And so we have churches in gated communities where no one is in need, which are fully capable of supporting themselves, but then we have churches where half the members are living on the street. How are they supposed to take care of the surrounding community in which half the people are homeless? There’s just not enough money.

    Okay, irrelevant side note over.

  • Mau de Katt

     Actually that’s not at all irrelevant.  Instead, the “churches need to be self-sufficient” mantra can be seen as a logical outgrowth of the Randian, Neo-Con-Libertarian beliefs of “everyone for themself” that has taken over RTC Christianity.  Only in this case, “self” has spread to include “self’s communities,” i.e. their own churches.  Translate this into the huge Fundagelical Megachurches who have all the money, and spend it on bigger buildings, fancier decor, and spiffier recreational areas for the congregation, being the “Deserving of God’s Blessings Because They Are So Blessed,” whereas the churches struggling to take care of all “those people” being “Undeserving Of God’s Blessings” because they struggle to just keep the soup kitchen going, or *gasp* actually help out those Unwed Sluts with their B***tard Children (and add in a nice racial dog-whistle to that one….)

    The church self-sufficiency thing may not have started out that way, but it has certainly mutated into it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ron.biggs Ron Biggs

    I went on a serious rant on this very point: The Seed of Individualism is an Appleseed.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been on the “Sorry, you don’t qualify” end of church help. About 5 years ago, I was living on Ft. Hood. My then-husband was deployed, so there was that stress…And then our bank account got compromised. Due to having no money while the bank investigated, I was suddenly facing eviction from our apartment, I missed a car payment (and other bills), there was no money for food…The works. 

    I got legal help through my unit to take to court when the apartment managers tried to evict me, but the rest…Not so much. The first recommendation? Get a loan. The second? Well, there are a TON of churches in the Ft. Hood/Killeen area…Call around and ask for help. 

    One church greeted me with “Why don’t you ask where you currently attend?” and shuffled me out the door shortly after hearing “We don’t.” Another straight up told me that they only help saved people “because it’s God’s money, and it should be put to His uses.” 

    Every church had a questionnaire type thing to be filled out, and all of them inquired as to my religion. I don’t remember the exact number of churches I talked to before we finally got help, but it was several.

  • Anonymous

    that sucks, that really sucks but how is it going now?

    did you get better?

  • Jenny Islander

    Are you okay now?

    I am proud to say that we may not be able do much, but at least we don’t demand shibboleths before providing aid.  In your case, we have a rectory with a downstairs where we put up people who are between places to stay.  When we are between priests (we get supply priests–we can’t afford to support a full-time priest), we can use the entire rectory for this purpose. 

    But there is so much need!  A house caught fire practically acros the street during the 10 a.m. service about a year and a half ago.  Total loss.  We have no idea which church the family belongs to or whether they are of another religion or any religion at all.  We immediately took up a collection, but it probably, I dunno, bought a new bed for one of the kids, or one set each of used clothes for the family at the thrift store.  (They were able to stay with friends, so they didn’t need the rectory.)

  • Froborr

    @EllieMurasaki: Misotheism, not antitheism. Antitheism is opposition to religion in general (especially theistic religion), and is usually considered a form of atheism, though it doesn’t have to be; misotheism is the belief that God or the gods exist and are evil.
     
    Personally, I’d still be an atheist in case of Rapture, because I find “someone using science we don’t yet understand to fuck with us” a lot more likely than magic.
     
    When I was young, my family got into serious financial trouble. One of the places we tried to go for help was the local Jewish Community Center. They informed us their charity programs were part of their outreach to the non-Jewish community, and barred from giving to Jews. They had no charities for Jews because, and I quote, “There are no poor Jews.”

    I really need to read Salvation War. I wonder if there’s an easy way to download it to the e-reader I just got for my birthday.

  • Lori

     They had no charities for Jews because, and I quote, “There are no poor Jews.”  

    Bwah? So your JCC basically agreed with, like, every anti-Semite ever about Jews and money? WTH? 

  • Froborr

    Pretty much our reaction, too.

  • Anonymous

    misotheism is the belief that God or the gods exist and are evil.

    *is edumacated*

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    When I was young, my family got into serious financial trouble. One of the places we tried to go for help was the local Jewish Community Center. They informed us their charity programs were part of their outreach to the non-Jewish community, and barred from giving to Jews. They had no charities for Jews because, and I quote, “There are no poor Jews.”

    Gah. And after a reception like that, odds are good that Jews who have the nerve to be poor won’t be back to the community. Ever. A shandeh. And the more we repeat the myth to ourselves, the more real it seems.

  • Lori

     “Looking at this thread an interesting, and I say accurate picture is coming out. It seems that for American Christianity, the churches that have the money aren’t spending it, or are spending it on a new basketball court for the youth group first, and the churches that want to help just don’t have the resources.

    This issue isn’t confined to churches. This is the way most private charity works. Charities that are doing front line work trying to help the needy and sick get their funds from corporate donations (given for tax write-offs and PR*) and contributions from small donors who have little money to give. As a result those groups are constantly struggling for cash. The wealthy give money to charity too, but most of it goes to charities that indirectly benefit them, like the arts. (Arianna Huffington once wrote that seeing up close how rich Conservatives actually behave WRT charity was the main thing that turned her into a Liberal.)

    Don’t misunderstand me, I love the arts and want them to be supported. My point is that even if we found ourselves living in a unicorn-filled future were people gave as much in free-will love offerings as they currently pay in taxes it would still never provide an adequate social safety net because not nearly enough of the money would go safety net charities. 

    *There are a lot of problems with the current system of corporate giving. For purposes of this discussion my only point is that corporations generally don’t give out of any actual desire to be “good corporate citizens” and if you change the tax laws they simply won’t give at all. 

  • http://jdg123.myopenid.com/ Josh G.

    Franklin Graham is about 475 years late to the party.

    Back in the Middle Ages, the church did provide social welfare on a very widespread scale, while the temporal rulers often did not. It worked fairly well, given the technological and economic limitations of the era. But one reason it worked was that there was virtually universal buy-in, and moreover, the church had many of the features of the modern state – the ability to impose taxes, for instance. It was in fact the closest thing to a pan-European federal government.

    The Reformation ended this consensus. And the new states proved extremely reluctant to support their poorest citizens as the church had done. For example, the dissolution of the monasteries in England almost immediately led to a substantial rise in the number of “sturdy beggars” – what we would call the homeless and/or unemployed. And the laws were extremely harsh on these individuals. It was not until the 20th century that the modern states of Europe picked up the social welfare responsibilities that they should have been shouldering for centuries before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marchantshapiro Andrew Abrams Marchant-Shapiro

    Once upon a time in upstate New York, the suburban LDS ward building where I attended needed remodeling.  My wife and I (as the token ecumenical types) were tasked by the Bishop with finding a place for the ward to meet during the remodeling.  This lead us, ultimately, to the American Baptist Church downtown, where we arranged to rent the building for Sunday afternoons.  Things went pretty well for some time (crosses make Mormons uncomfortable, but it had a full baptismal font and GORGEOUS stained glass) but then the week before we were supposed to move back into our own church, the remodeled building burned to the ground (it was arson; we later found out we were dealing with a non-denominational firebug, but I digress). 

    The Baptists asked us to *please* continue using their building (at no charge, IIRC) while ours was rebuilt, which was a wonderful act of charity on their part, since we knew that some of our members had made some of their members uncomfortable.

    Now, being downtown, and being in a building known for housing a fairly progressive ministry, we attracted occasional vagrants, who would ask for assistance.  This troubled our congregation quite a bit, it being made up of (mostly) suburban and (mostly) well-off people, unused to dealing with the homeless.  In fact, some members were tasked with sort of guarding the doors during meetings.

    Now, most active Mormons try to avoid commercial activities on the Sabbath (Sunday for us).  In fact, we tend to look down our noses at people who don’t.  So it impressed me no end when the Bishop would come out to meet with these people, occasionally take them across the street to the local convenience store, buy them a meal, a bus ticket, etc.  Whatever they needed.  Sabbath be danged.

    THAT is godliness–like that of the Rabbi above–and not the emptiness of whited sepulchers (sp?).  THAT is what we should (IMO) aspire to.  But in fact, the Bishop was pretty much in the minority, and lacking his level of compassion (and that of the Baptists), we *do* need the state to do something.  Until the Church (and I use that term broadly and inclusively) is willing to put its money where its mouth is, which (with respect to members of out-groups is likely to be never) the inclusive state is going to have that role.

  • Gela

    (Paraphrased from Mark)

    When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because
    they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
    When it was already quite late, His disciples came to him and said, “This place is
    desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the
    surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
    But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!”
    And they said to Him, “But none here has been baptized, or even submitted an application
    for church membership.  And see, this one has many children with no husband in sight; and
    this one is known to drink to excess; and this one is dressed poorly.  Shall we go and
    spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?”
    And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have?  Go look!”  And when they found out,
    they said, “Five and two fish.”  And he commanded them to sit down in groups on the green
    grass.
    Then the disciples argued, and said, “But Lord, what we have is not enough even for
    ourselves!  Surely we who have followed you all this way are more deserving to be fed
    first than this multitude?  We have not even established a committee to manage our
    limited resources, or to create standards for determining who may be considered worthy of
    assistance.  Aside from our loyal selves, that is.”
    Then He took the loaves and fish, and raised His hands to heaven, for His disciples had
    not learned anything, even though they had been listening to Him speak the full day.  And
    He then left them to argue yet amongst themselves, and took His multitude to the next
    hill valley, where the five loaves and two fishes proved enough to feed the full five
    thousand with twelve baskets left over.

  • Gela

    (Paraphrased from Mark)

    When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because
    they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
    When it was already quite late, His disciples came to him and said, “This place is
    desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the
    surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
    But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!”
    And they said to Him, “But none here has been baptized, or even submitted an application
    for church membership.  And see, this one has many children with no husband in sight; and
    this one is known to drink to excess; and this one is dressed poorly.  Shall we go and
    spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?”
    And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have?  Go look!”  And when they found out,
    they said, “Five and two fish.”  And he commanded them to sit down in groups on the green
    grass.
    Then the disciples argued, and said, “But Lord, what we have is not enough even for
    ourselves!  Surely we who have followed you all this way are more deserving to be fed
    first than this multitude?  We have not even established a committee to manage our
    limited resources, or to create standards for determining who may be considered worthy of
    assistance.  Aside from our loyal selves, that is.”
    Then He took the loaves and fish, and raised His hands to heaven, for His disciples had
    not learned anything, even though they had been listening to Him speak the full day.  And
    He then left them to argue yet amongst themselves, and took His multitude to the next
    hill valley, where the five loaves and two fishes proved enough to feed the full five
    thousand with twelve baskets left over.

  • Daughter

    Here’s an interesting article about this topic:  Libertarian State–Socialistic Church?

  • Anonymous

    I think Roger Ebert in his Atlas Shrugged review gave one of the briefest and best
    descriptions of Rand Libertarian “Individualism”,  he wrote “I’m on board; pull
    up the lifeline.”  And that’s about it, in a nutshell. Like it’s been said, it’s
    the First Church of Selfishness. “I don’t want my tax dollars going to those
    people, let the churches handle it…I don’t want my church donations going to
    those people, what do you know, we can spend the funds on repaving the parking
    lot. Eat it losers.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702271617 Andy Sherwin

    I’m not Mormon, but I was raised in the faith and have lived in Utah since I was ten. And for as much guff as evangelical Christians give the LDS church, boy oh boy does the church take care of its members. Parents lost a job? They have a specific division for helping members (or non-members, actually; it’s not strictly internal) find work. Don’t have any food? Go to the Bishop’s Storehouse (yeah, that’s what it’s called) and get enough to easily feed your family until you’re back on your feet. Lose your house? They’ll give you a voucher and put you up in a hotel and help you find a permanent residence.

    Despite all of my many theological and social problems with the Mormon church (enough that pushed me from my childhood faith), I have a hard time believing in the divinity of a god that would care more about the recitation of a paragraph than people who participate in the proliferation of a system as profoundly Christian as that.

  • Anonymous

    The LDS Church is also one of the few religious institutions that can afford that level of service, as they demand a 10% tithe to remain in good standing compared to the 2.5% take that most churches get (and most ministers who are receiving significantly more than that percentage are usually lining their own pockets).

  • Anonymous

    Meh, I’m not impressed by people taking care of members of their own group.  Every group does that.  Now that you’re no longer Mormon, would they bother to help you like that?  And this is exactly the reason that our society should not rely on religious groups for charity.  We need the government to provide a safety net for people who don’t want to convert to Mormonism just to get food and shelter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702271617 Andy Sherwin

    You raise a valid point, but, for what it’s worth, yeah, they actually did help me out in when I was trying to find a new job last summer after a summer of unemployment. Again, I have sooooo many theological and social issues with the Mormon church, but they, credit where it’s due, went out of there way to help me when I wasn’t paying any sort of tithe, contributing in any financial way, or in any other way participating outside of my need for employment.

    So, yeah, they were incredibly helpful to me in my time of need. And knowing full well my distance from the faith. I’ll always owe the church body for having helped in ways that I couldn’t possibly imagine them doing. 

    And yeah, I agree about the necessity for a governmental safety net, but it’s important ot note that, at least for me, the Mormons were willing to help not only someone who had abandoned their congregations, but the faith as a whole. And that’s worth something to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702271617 Andy Sherwin

    You raise a valid point, but, for what it’s worth, yeah, they actually did help me out in when I was trying to find a new job last summer after a summer of unemployment. Again, I have sooooo many theological and social issues with the Mormon church, but they, credit where it’s due, went out of there way to help me when I wasn’t paying any sort of tithe, contributing in any financial way, or in any other way participating outside of my need for employment.

    So, yeah, they were incredibly helpful to me in my time of need. And knowing full well my distance from the faith. I’ll always owe the church body for having helped in ways that I couldn’t possibly imagine them doing. 

    And yeah, I agree about the necessity for a governmental safety net, but it’s important ot note that, at least for me, the Mormons were willing to help not only someone who had abandoned their congregations, but the faith as a whole. And that’s worth something to me.