World Vision and Children: Love Loses

World Vision and Children: Love Loses April 10, 2014

Rachel Held Evans offered an eloquent summary of the World Vision debacle and the crumbling façade of evangelicalism in her March 31st piece “How Evangelicals Won A Culture War and Lost a Generation.”

Kanon Simmons’s response to Evans, “Evangelicals and Homosexuality: A Response to Rachel Held Evans,” provides a typical example of the conservative’s understanding of what’s at stake regarding this issue.

Simmons asks, “What does it matter if we feed the poor, but we so mar the gospel of Christ that the poor are lost for eternity?” She closes her post with this deeply troubling challenge:

Is this fight worth it? Absolutely, because it ensures that those thousands of needy children, who are in need of salvation and nourishment, will have access to the only information that can save their souls.

Simmons believes that by tacitly endorsing homosexual marriage, World Vision would have done irrevocable harm to the gospel message that Christians are tasked with spreading. She feels that by over-emphasizing love, much of the Church has abandoned the crucial fact that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

But must a starving child be told that homosexuality is a sin while they’re being given food?

Must the one giving that food publicly profess a specific understanding of the nature of sin in order to receive our support?

The Bible never places such strictures on helping those in need; it consistently speaks out against imposing theological caveats on expressing our love to the world. The Good Samaritan isn’t lauded for his proper theology. The sheep weren’t separated from the goats because of their doctrinal fidelity.

There’s room for constructive disagreement among Christians on many issues. But when we elevate theology over love, when we’re more concerned with proper doctrine than practical compassion, we not only sacrifice the heart and spirit of the gospel, we turn our backs on the very person of Jesus:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Mat 25:45 NIV)


Dan WilkinsonDan Wilkinson
Dan is a writer, graphic designer and IT specialist. He lives in Montana, is married and has two cats. He blogs at

"6 Bible results for "be kind":2 Chronicles 10:7They replied, “If you will be kind to ..."

Seven ways Christians blow it
"GOd came to save us from eternal separation from God by dying on a cross?Do ..."

Did Jesus speak more about Hell ..."
"Eternal separation from God"

Did Jesus speak more about Hell ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I sponsored a child once with an organization other than World Vision. In my experience, I was disconnected from my child after years of writing and learning about him and receiving letters from him because the organization found improprieties with group my child was with. I was very hurt by that experience. I can’t even begin to imagine how someone else could toss their child away for any other reason besides gross misuse of funds. I can’t imagine how someone could hate gays so badly that they would want to stop supporting a child they wrote to and corresponded with, a child they had a picture hanging on their refrigerator door of. I read that 10,000 children had this happen to them. To me, this is a symptom of a serious cancer within the hearts of Christian people who claim to know the Jesus of the poor, the marginalized, and yes, the gays, too.

    • Ashlee

      Your last line reminded me of my favorite Christian author quote that I still keep on my Facebook page:

      “The truth is that we are supposed to love the hippies, the liberals, and even the Democrats, and that God wants us to think of them as more important than ourselves. Anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus.” -Donald Miller, “Blue Like Jazz”

    • And what’s sadder is that if those 10,000 kids knew *why* they were abandoned, it might just end up fostering their own homophobia, believing that if it weren’t for the gays, those people would have continued supporting them.

      Unless that was the plan. 🙁

  • it just saddens me that, to some, ideology seems to matter more than people, and that caring for the least of these seems to mean “only if these conditions are met”.

  • bonnienadzam

    Thank you so much for this, Dan. I found the slick, entirely intellectual move of shifting Evan’s “political” assessment to a “theological” one almost as troubling as the final lines of Kanon Simmons’s blog post. And in any case, as you gently point out, Simmons is wrong on both counts. It’s hard in the face of such certainty not to respond with a sense of certainty and absoluteness, as well. Thank you for bringing it back to the mystery.

  • John Bickham

    It’s unfortunate when bigoted dogma becomes more important then people. This is the same kind of attitudes Jesus nailed the religious leaders about during his day. It’s no different today…

  • Sounds like superstition to me: The children cannot be saved if they are fed by gays. Like contect to gay people would make them “unclean” in a cultic way or such…

  • Good article. Thanks. It steers us back to the basics, which always is good. It also reminds me of the thing when an atheistic philosophy professor was verbally pummeling me for my Catholic faith, and a liberal Protestant preacher stepped in and reminded the good professor that pedophilia is more likely to be committed by heterosexual men, and that it’s a power trip, not gender orientation.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I will say that, as an atheist, one advantage to having y’all call them out on this is that they can’t pretend that being anti-gay is inherently a Christian position. I get sick of them trying to claim that they should be allowed to bully gay people or deny gay people rights because of their religion. Obviously, it’s not that much a part of the Christian religion if y’all are perfectly fine with gay people.

    • I suspect that there are fewer Christians who are against the LGBT community than the vocal segment would like us to realize, and the numbers are falling.

      • Just about would have to be that way. The numbers indicate that a majority of Americans support equal marriage at this point. And some 70%-ish identify as Christian of one flavor or another. So obviously quite a few Christians must be totally okay with equal marriage. I suspect some maintain the party line in public but in private, vote with their consciences, just like in the last couple national elections.

    • Sheila Warner

      You’re absolutely right. Plenty of Christians such as myself do not believe that homosexuality or same-sex marriages are sinful.

  • This seems like a straw man to me. I don’t think the article was saying that you should tell a child that homosexuality is a sin every time you give them food. It was suggesting that we shouldn’t give them bread and say that it’s not a sin, or that sin doesn’t really matter as long as you are nice.

    Of course, we want to give boxes of food to every hungry child. But it makes sense that we don’t want to include a snake in that box. Maybe she’s wrong. Maybe homosexual marriage isn’t really a sin. But if she thinks it is, if she really thinks it can damage your relationship with God, how can it be loving for her to tell someone it’s not that big of a deal?

    • I’m having problems understanding the whole thing: How would a child getting a food box know about the sexual orientation of people working for World Vision? And in how much would they even care? Supposing homosexuality was a sin (which I don’t believe, because there is nothing about it in the bible), how could getting food make those children believe it wasn’t?
      And for those Christians who withdrew their funds: When did Jesus ever say to not help if there are sinners involved in the helping? Wasn’t even the good Samaritan (a man from a false religion according to the understanding of the time) called the next of the man who fell among the thieves. Should the host of the inn have refused caring for the man because there was a sinner, an unbeliever connected to the help which could make the man believe the Samaritans were right about their religion and the Jews wrong…? After all, wouldn’t refusing help mean that he would be saved from the false religion of the Samaritans?
      Didin’t Jesus say: Who is not against us, is for us?

      • Of course anyone who disagrees that homosexual marriage is sinful won’t see World Vision’s decision as a big deal. I am just saying that if you put yourself in their shoes, it might help you see that this might not be driven out of hatefulness and a desire to bully.

        Many Christians support things that aren’t specifically Christian and aren’t staffed by Christians. I can’t think of a single person I know that thinks you can only give support to people who are religiously just like you. That changes however, if part of the task of that group is to introduce people to your religion. Again, maybe this is a misconception, but most people that I know who support World Vision believe that it is a Christian Organization with a goal introducing people to Christ by providing for their physical needs.

        So, it seems fairly logical to me that someone may believe in part of an organization’s mission, but not the whole mission, and therefore choose to stop funding it. You could follow the adage, “whoever isn’t for us is against us,” as you suggested. But I dont think it applies here. Muslims don’t necessarily hate me just because they disagree with my message about Christianity. A gay person shouldn’t be called hateful if he choose not to fund a food bank that taught that homosexuality is a sin. In other words, it’s possible to not be for something, without being a hateful bully.

        • Every time I have seen World Vision promoted, and I’ve seen it several times over the past several year, it has been at a Christian events, but it has NEVER been promoted as a proselytizing charity, but a relief one, with the intention to help impoverished children have a chance at a better life. The wording “Introduce people to Christ” has not been part of the dialog, at least not overtly.

          I’ve not appreciated the “you will feel guilty if you don’t sponsor” methods that they have used at the events I’ve attended, as doing so is not in everyone’s budget, and some people, myself included prefer assisting on local levels.

          The reason why people are upset is that WV decided to make public an employment policy change, then reversed it because they got bullied into it, losing support along the way. They could have quietly made the policy change,which was in no way related to the work they were doing, and things would have gone on as normal. I suspect they were trying to jump into the debate, and may have intended to never hold to that policy change in hopes of gaining more conservative supporters. It was a crappy business decision that may doom the relief agency.

          And a poor child in Uganda, doesn’t care one bit if their sponsor is a gay person, or if the relief agency has LGBT on staff. The idea is so far off their radar, its laughable. They just want food, shelter and a safe, clean place to live, and hopefully an education. Most really don’t care that much about hearing about the religious views of their sponsors, usually having a faith common to their family, which serves them well enough.

          • You make a great point. I think that some people’s view/expectations of WV may not be what WV ever intended. Honestly, I don’t know to what extent WV considers themselves a “Christian company” seeking to promote a “Christian message.” Still, I think its relevant that many of their supporters think that is part of their mission.

            For instance, I know Christians who financially support the Ronald McDonald house. If we found out the the Ronald McDonald house supported homosexual marriage, I don’t think it would receive the same kind of response (of course there are always some people). None of the supporters of the Ronald McDonald house think that they exist, in any way, to present the message of Christianity. In fact, to find out that there are married homosexuals working for the Ronald McDonald house would be entirely un-newsworthy.

            The issue, right or wrong, is that some Christians pulled support from WV because they felt that WV sought to promote a Christian message. Obviously, they felt that supporting homosexual marriage was inconstant with the Christian message that they thought WV was promoting.

            My whole point is that this article seems to be attacking a straw man. No one is arguing that kids don’t need help, or that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to help kids. The problem is that some Christians actually think theology matters, and if part of your mission is to spread a theological message, they want it to be consistent with the theology they hold. I don’t see that as hateful.

          • I think theology matters a great deal. But 10,000 sponsors left WV when they changed their policy. 10,000! And people like Simmons seem to think that’s ok…even that it’s good! That’s not a straw man, that’s depressing and disheartening.

          • bonnienadzam

            I must agree with Dan. He distilled Simmons’ blog post clearly and fairly. There’s no straw man here.

          • bonnienadzam

            …and not incidentally, Dan’s summary avoided any value judgments about the author of the blogpost he was critiquing, focusing instead on a very few select pieces of text. It was generous and fair. We all stand to learn a lot here.

          • Sheila Warner

            True. But I am outraged at the behavior of those who dropped sponsoring children, and I doubt that my anger will go away anytime soon.

          • “We all stand to learn a lot here.” I would humbly add myself to that “all.” Though I try to be honest and upfront about what I think about these issues, I certainly don’t have it all figured out. As tempting as it is to vilify the other side (whichever side that is), I think we simply must engage differing viewpoints with love and charity. Saying that is easier than doing it, but it’s a goal we should strive for.

          • Sheila Warner

            And, as I pointed out above, there are Christian denominations that reject the notion of homosexuality being a sin. They perform same-sex weddings and have gay clergy. Those denominations received a slap in the face from the other Christians who pulled their money & relationships with children in order to make a point.

          • Sheila Warner

            The problem with what you say is that there are Christian denominations that not only support gay marriage, they perform same-sex weddings, and have gay clergy. The theological view of homosexuality as a sin is not endorsed by all Christians or churches. WV is a para-church organization, which means it works with all Christian denominations as it carries out its primary purpose, which is to provide for needy children.

            The problem was that the majority of denominations still reject homosexuality as anything but a sin, and the people within those denominations tried to crush WV by withdrawing resources and abandoning relationships with children they had maintained via their sponsorships. It was an act of blind rage on their parts, and it is abhorrent.

          • Shelia, I totally agree that there are different opinions about homosexuality within the church at large. I also think WV should be allowed to espouse any position they want, or not espouse any position at all.

            Where I disagree is that it is an act of hatred, or blind rage, to disassociate with someone who makes a claim that you don’t believe in. There are many wonderful service organizations in the world. If one begins to promote an idea that you disagree with, you can choose to support another organization without feeling or acting hatefully toward the first.

            I guess, at the end of the day, what I would like to see from this group is just a small effort to see things from other’s vantage point. The author is clearly not trying to be a bully or hateful. I think the article was written in a calm reasoned tone. You may disagree with her, and I think there is some ground to do so, but the accusations that she is filled with “blind rage,” or that she is a bully, seem out of place to me.

          • Sheila Warner

            No, it wasn’t disassociating with WV per se that I was referencing. It was cutting ties with sponsored children. Adults who had established relationships with their sponsored child, hanging his pictures on the fridge, getting letters & pictures from him, and writing back to him. That’s what was cut. An adult who sponsored a child was free to call WV and complain about the change in policy. I don’t think it was moral to cut ties with the child. I’ll never see eye to eye on the morality of such a decision with anyone who did that, sorry.

          • Sheila Warner

            “They could have quietly made the policy change,which was in no way related to the work they were doing, and things would have gone on as normal. ”

            That was the original intent. But someone leaked it to Christianity Today, a major player in Christian media, and then CT asked Stearns for his comment on the story about to be run. He confirmed the change, and all h3ll broke loose. Did you know that in two days, 10,000 child sponsorships were lost? That’s around a $350,000 loss of revenue. Had the bleeding continued, World Vision USA would have not been able to keep going.

            It was very telling to me, as a former fundie, to see the lingo used by WV when it reversed its decision and “apologized” to the Christians who were outraged. The whole “authority of the Bible” crap was included. But the main Bible passage all of those people need to remember is the one referenced in the blog post: Matthew 25.

        • cc b

          will you please make us a chart?

        • Okay, I wasn’t aware of World Vision being a missionary organisation, I thought they provide for physical needs alone…
          And that was the starting point of my thinking: They still provide food, helping the most vulnerable. The children are still vulnerable and World Vision is still providing for them. Only they hire homosexuals on top of all those freckled, glass wearers and allergic people they already have hired.
          Of course, one can consider all that bad and evil, but then again, that would be superstition in my eyes. I’m not American (as you can tell by my English), so I am not so much aware of the culture war you are in over there. I don’t care too much about who is bullying whom.
          If they found out the missionary organisation they support doesn’t teach their religion, of course this plays a role. But on the other hand. they can still write letters to “their” children, teaching them their own religion, and still help them…

        • I can think of plenty of people who only give support to causes that fit their religious ideals. And I know of several Christians who avoid like the plague any charity that contains overtly religious purposes.

          And I have to ask, why would a Muslim hate you? There is a great deal of similarities between the Islamic and the Christian faiths, enough common ground that we could and should be allies and friends, not enemies.

          • I didn’t mean to communicate that Muslims do hate me. I was trying to suggest that not financially supporting a group who promotes a message you don’t agree with does not mean you hate that group. In other words, I wouldn’t call a Muslim person hateful for not supporting WV if they felt that WV sought to promote a Christian worldview.

          • I support my local food bank, even though the current head is a homophobe. To me her views chaff my behind, but there are still too many hungry people in my community that need food.

          • That’s great!

            Obviously, however, you aren’t obligated to support that particular food bank. And if you find that part of the message of that food bank becomes something you feel uncomfortable supporting, it won’t be hateful or bullying to find another food bank or other charitable organization that serves your community in a way that is consistent with your beliefs.

            I think that was the advice the author of the article was getting at when she said, ” I also believe that, while we may no longer find it appropriate to partner with one particular relief organization, our responsibility to love the widow and orphan through service is still very much present, and we should actively be seeking ways to continue that service.

          • There are things and people I refuse to support, and 100% of my giving to community is local, and usually one on one, The socio- politics of an organization does matter to me, IF they make socio-politics an issue, that tells me that their true agenda, and mine are not aligned. That is why I won’t shop at Chic-Fil-a, or Hobby Lobby, or vote for any current US senator in my home state, or the governor, or support the local pregnancy crises centers, or even Samaritan’s Purse. I

          • Great, then it seems we agree!

    • cc b

      i agree. those of us who are straight (i.e. non-sinners) are alone responsible for the Lord’s work. yes, it’s burdensome, but if i, a non-sinner (i.e. straight person), don’t do it, all the (obviously also straight) people suffering won’t get aid.

    • One’s beliefs about homosexuality are a potential “snake in the box”? Really?

      • Some people think that sin separates us from God and that the wages of sin is eternal death. If they believe that sin is bad and has deadly consequences, then I don’t think it would be a stretch to compare it to “a snake in the box.”

        • I agree that sin is bad and has (deadly?) consequences.

          But why should one’s specific understanding of sin limit how we help people? Who’s putting that snake in there, and why?

        • Some think that sin separates us from God, and others think that God is not hampered by anything we do. They also don’t seem to look at “sin” the same way either.

  • Tim

    Here was the response I posted over there on the linked article:

    You reference a “gospel that doesn’t save” in connection with what you’ve outlined as the more important issue, which appears from what you’ve said above to be theological fidelity to orthodoxy. However, this is not the primary concern of the gospel as I find it in my bible. Jesus said that pure religion is helping widows and orphans in their distress. He also commanded us to love one another as he has loved us (self-sacrificially). No one is saved by adhering to a doctrinal or theological position, but rather by the grace of God. So it would seem to me that the priorities you’ve outlined above are, at the very least, the reverse of the priorities of Jesus and the gospel, if they don’t miss them entirely.

    We are not, as you’ve suggested above, saved by “information”, but by grace. Salvation by knowledge or information is essentially gnosticism.

    • “No one is saved by adhering to a doctrinal or theological position, but rather by the grace of God.” Beautiful!

  • Fundagelicals once again demonstrate that their real focus is on disapproving of people, not helping others or doing that totally boring stuff their savior actually explicitly commanded them to do. They think if they’re not around to totally disapprove of LGBT people, that nobody will ever disapprove of them, and we just can’t have LGBT people not being disapproved of, now can we?

    Their god is an awfully small god, I think; back in my day, we knew that only our god could convict sinners, that other Christians didn’t do nearly as good of a job of it. I guess fundagelicals have lost that lesson somewhere along the way. Thank you for speaking out against this shocking, shameful situation. Thank you for being a voice of reason. Your group is a shining star in the darkness that is modern Christianity.

  • A nice addition to the conversation. I have not heard the issue expressed in this way before.

  • Anna Lopez

    Uh, yes. Well said…

    This is the foundational flaw of evangelical christianity. That “salvation” is all about avoiding hell, and getting a ticket to heaven. If these people would just stop and listen to themselves, they’d realize how idiotic and irrational their thought processes are. To sit there with a straight face saying “let the children starve, if it means we get a step further in our culture war against gays.” Fundamentalist religion renders people insane.

  • KrisCynical

    It pains me to think of how many people have been scared away from Christ permanently, beyond repair, because of simpleminded evangelical bigots like this. When you treat others with hate, self-righteous judgment, scorn, and beneath you because you believe you are SO much more righteous and holy than the heathens you’re talking to, those “others” don’t always realize that it’s YOU that had made you into a holier than thou self-righteous bigoted asshole, and NOT Christianity. Why on earth would ANYBODY want to be a part of something they think turns you into such a horrible, spiteful person?

    One of my best friends in college was a gay man. He didn’t know I was a Christian when we first became friends and started hanging out, mostly because with the reputation evangelicals have saddled all Christians with… I just don’t tell people up front. I wait until the subject of religious/personal beliefs comes up. When he DID find out I was a Christian, though, it’s something I swear I will never forget for the rest of my life:

    We were sitting in his car after an on-site painting class (we were in art school for illustration), gabbing about stuff, and I said I was a Christian. He suddenly fell completely silent and looked at me with such a completely devastated look on his face it broke my heart before he even said a word. When he did, though, he said:

    “Does this mean you’re going to hate me now?”

    I told him of course not and, as the video here stated, we’re not all like that. I told him I loved him dearly, and I would fight to the death for him to have every right I did as a straight Christian, etc.

    My point is, though: it is HORRIBLE that our image to the LGBT community and nonbelievers in general has come to that; being automatically linked to HATE. It’s the antithesis of what Christianity is about! It makes me angry that my religion has been bastardized so badly but more than anything it makes me SO sad to think about how many people have been hurt by evangelical idiots weaponizing the teachings of Christ.

    And it isn’t even as though these people don’t SEE what they’re doing. They DO see that we’re associated with hate by the LGBT community. The sickening thing is that they actually think that’s a GOOD thing! They’ve worked themselves up into such a bloodthirsty pious RAGE against gay people that they think this complete alienation of them is a GOOD THING, as if making gay people think that their sexual orientation is disgusting, wrong, and an abominable sin is the desireable outcome to browbeating them with the Bible.

    I’m so happy to see things like the NALT, Progressive, and UnFundamentalist Christian movements getting a foothold and growing like this. Not only has it shown me I’M not alone in my beliefs, but that there’s hope that a voice of sanity and reason can still possibly be heard among all the batshit crazy pulpit preaching of the evangelicals, radical conservatives, and straight up CRAZY PEOPLE who hide behind God’s apron because they’re all too cowardly to own their discriminatory hate for themselves.