Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#122 Broadcasting how much their church donated to Haiti

posted by Stephanie Drury

homer.jpgNatural disasters are a great opportunity for Christian culture to advertise their generosity. Over on Twitter pastors are announcing the dollar amounts that their churches raised for Haiti and they’re getting loads of retweets and accolades. It’s Festivus and they’re reveling in their feats of strength thinly disguised as acts of righteousness. They’ve just got to let their left hand know what their right hand is doing on this one!

 
How can we get our egos stroked if we give in secret? The sermon on the mount was such a buzzkill. 
 
Matthew 6  1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret.


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Jake Belder

posted January 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm


Natural disasters are also a great opportunity to fly to those areas and make movies about it.



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Em

posted January 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm


Gross.
Not that some churches don’t have their heart in the right place, but I was raised in Southern mega-churches and they used to bleat over the loudspeakers every summer “543 souls saved through summer outreach!”. Once when we did a mission trip with an organization that generally didn’t approve of that sort of thing, I remember being so ashamed of our behavior. It’s not about how much you give or how many people you affect, it’s about being a positive influence on the community.
Funny, they always thought they could brush over this by going “All glory to God!” after it. God doesn’t need to be told to be glorious, but people need to advertise their do-gooding to feel glorious.



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Lee Herring

posted January 26, 2010 at 5:48 pm


Ms. Drury,
D’oh. You are exactly right.
Pastor of a head counting, income announcing denominational church,
Lee



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kenneth

posted January 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm


I guess I’d be more impressed by churches or anyone else who was raising funds for Haiti before the earthquake, and any that are still doing so six months and six years from now.



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Bill

posted January 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm


Good point, kenneth. When the initial shock and awe of this dies down, there will be suffering for a long time to come.



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Arni Zachariassen

posted January 26, 2010 at 9:31 pm


The atheists are just as bad: http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/ They just don’t give as much money! Hah! We win! :)



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Jessica

posted January 27, 2010 at 6:11 am


Yes, there’s probably some self-congratulation in there, and I’m not in the States right now, so I’ve no idea just obnoxious it might be. I do think there’s probably a less loathsome element to it, though. It would be important to me as a member of a church or as a seeker of one to know that a church is active in showing the compassion of Christ in the local community and in the world. Important to know that the church is not oblivious to the needs beyond its own walls. Important to know, too, that my pitifully small contribution together with others’ actually matters–though perhaps that, too, is selfish. It doesn’t have to be expressed in numbers,and it certainly doesn’t need to be posted on giant billboards, but I think it’s good for the Church to be visibly engaged in healing…there just needs to be a spirit of humility along with it, not self-aggrandisement.



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Mikey P

posted January 27, 2010 at 11:44 am


I don’t believe that’s in the Bible. How are we supposed to market that?



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King of fools

posted January 27, 2010 at 5:23 pm


@ Jake – OH, SNAP!!!



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Sue

posted January 28, 2010 at 6:25 am


@Arni: since when has giving to those in need being about winning? And I can’t see where they’re broadcasting how much has been given either.



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Simone

posted January 28, 2010 at 11:50 am


Arni, I hope you were joking. I’m an atheist and I was going to post the same link! Here it is again! http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/
And why do we need to do this? Because we are tired of believers insisting we have no morals or goodwill toward our fellow man so in this particular case, it was set up to show that atheists aren’t just out for ourselves as believers like to believe about us. Clearly YOU like to believe it and judging by your attitude, I’d have to say you do NOT win at life. Way to turn a horrific tragedy into a pissing contest.



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Sarah

posted January 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm


Simone, the best, most compassionate, giving and authentic people I know tend to be atheists and agnostics, and I’m sorry for the wide (even if lighthearted) dismissal that people without faith, or without a specific faith, receive from believers. From my own perspective, I tend to think that God is often a lot prouder of atheists and agnostics than he is of Christians. Thanks for speaking up; sorry we didn’t sooner.



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Sarah

posted January 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Oops, I didn’t see that Sue already did. Thanks, Sue! :)



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Bill

posted January 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm


Simone, let me second Sarah’s apology for your experience of judgment. Also, I will add that the institutions mentioned on the site you link to are always at the top of my list as well. At a time like this, what’s needed most is unconditionality, competence, and professionalism. Whatever else I may wax on about, I want my donations to go to medicine, water, sanitation, food, shelter, workers, security. I don’t want to be the one putting a Gideon New Testament in the hands of a starving person.



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Sarah

posted January 29, 2010 at 6:52 am


Bill…exactly.
And, as regards the post, hats off to Mikey P. for his comment about marketing. Seems to me that this (Christian culture’s broadcasting of charity) is another instance where Christian culture has blended faith with conservatism/capitalism/Age of Enlightenment thinking. If something is successful, it has to be measurable and marketable. Scientific method, statistics, ad campaigns, etc.
Which isn’t how Jesus approached anything. To him, a destitute widow putting a few ha’pennies in the collection box was worth more than the lavish donations of the wealthy. One can argue that her ha’pennies objectively wouldn’t feed as many people, but we’re talking about the Jesus who took a loaf of bread and a couple of fish and filled the bellies of a crowd with them — the Jesus who wasn’t fazed by numbers or arguments of what is and isn’t possible. But miracle is mystery, and faith is mystery, and we’re really not comfortable with that. You can’t measure, predict, take credit for, or in any way control mystery; “God helps those who help themselves” yields much more trustworthy (and measurable, and marketable, and rewardable) results.
But humility gets lost when everything we do can be reduced (or inflated) to a tally or a percent. In the end, reliance on numbers is the opposite of faith, and betrays a subtle fear that God isn’t really participating at all. (I love, love, love Stephy’s Annie Dillard quotation on this blog.) It’s not that we shouldn’t give — not hardly — but cheerful, noncompulsory, fiscal demonstrations of love for the suffering world might do the church, and the suffering world, a lot more good than pep-rally-type GO TEAM! efforts at fundraising, which are inherently self-centered. And really, wouldn’t we rather hear, “Every citizen in Haiti has shelter from the elements, medical care and enough food and water” than “We raised $10,000 to send to Haiti! Boo-yah!”? Shouldn’t we just keep giving until the former is true, without neglecting the poor and hungry in our own neighborhoods?
That last bit becomes a big problem in crisis times like this — Food pantries and homeless shelters here at home struggle to get by (and domestic hunger is still a big problem in the US) when people and/or institutions abruptly stop their regular donations to humanitarian causes at home in order to help the suffering abroad or get their feel-good moment in the spotlight. I remember, when I worked at a homeless shelter in Indiana during the months following the Katrina devastation, the dwindling stock supply of donated food, clothing and other necessities, and the widespread worry that we wouldn’t be able to meet basic needs. Perhaps in times like these, where there is significant extra need, some of us could take extra measures in order to help out the big crisis without hanging the little ones to dry — maybe giving up Starbucks or going to the movies for six months, or a year, in order to have more money to donate.
Obviously numbers matter. But they’re not the most important aspect of what it means to take the love of Christ (a love not limited to evangelism) to the world. Giving in faith, more organically, without knowing everyone else’s numbers, gives God a lot more room to work miracles (if a church says, “Let’s raise $10,000,” and continually publishes the progress toward that goal, it seems reasonable that people would stop giving at $10,000 and feel great about themselves, when if a goal hadn’t been set and numbers hadn’t been paraded perhaps the church could have raised $50,000 based on what people felt they should give); and giving in humility gives God a lot more room to shape us, and the world through us.



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Billy

posted February 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm


Yeah, because judging the motives of others isn’t in the Bible, huh Steph?
Simone, regarding your link, I like this one “Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers”. So I have to be an atheist to be a freethinker? Stereotype much?



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stephanie drury

posted February 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm


In the sermon on the mount Jesus wasn’t talking about motives, he said “don’t advertise your good works.” But someone who attends Elevation Church won’t agree with much in this blog!



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Billy

posted February 1, 2010 at 3:55 pm


Uhh, I think that it is necessary to look at the context of the scripture. When we announced what we as a church was able to give to aid in Haiti, it was done with a sense of gratitude, with the purpose of “we as a staff at Elevation Church are thankful and proud of a congregation that steps up in giving.” We didn’t take a special offering either, it was money that has been put aside for times such as these. The pharisee’s would brag about their giving, and they did give well. But Jesus told them that even though they tithe to even the tenth of their herb gardens, their hearts were far from him. Many times Paul thanked the churches throughout Asia and the Mediterranian for their generosity in their giving. Motives, the motive of the one’s Jesus was directing his ire is important to consider.
Actually, I do think that your blog in interesting, just inaccurate at times. Not that you want or need my approval, but you’re cool in my book.



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Zud

posted February 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm


American Evangelicals love to wave their trophies in the air and then defend their motives for publicizing their charitable kindnesses. They can spend time defending their actions from their offices all week long. Gotta fill in those 40 hours somehow.
Funny though that so many of those leaders won’t publicize their salaries. Hmmmm.



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Bill

posted February 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm


Billy, the “freethinkers” in the link you refer to on the page Simone linked to refers to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_thinkers
It doesn’t have anything more to do with stereotyping than does the rather grotesque understanding some Evangelicals seem to have of Atheists or other world religions. I hope your sarcastic accusation wasn’t directed at Simone, because she doesn’t deserve it.
Stephy’s distinction between public and private giving is a valid question. Churches and pastors have a part in the corporate aspect of giving, and certainly they need to be transparent about finances–but what is the point where that communication causes the giving to become something less than the worship it should be? Twittering and retweets and accolades sound a lot like trumpets to me. Maybe it didn’t start out that way, but it seems to arrive there. To point this out is not necessarily judgment on Stephy’s part; it might simply be giving us eyes. The fact that this topic is a sore point–both for and against–means to me that it is an opportunity for reflection and self-examination.
Or, in a slightly shorter version:
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Jesus
“If the shoe fits, wear it.” – Grandma
If everyone was as judgmental as Stephy is, the world would be a far better place.



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Billy

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:12 am


Oh well, this is a circular argument. I, personally, couldn’t imagine that critics would be any happier if the pastor walked into their pulpits and said “we gave money to the relief effort in Haiti, but I can’t tell you how much, that would be a sin.”
As far as salary is concerned, wow, wouldn’t that give some people more to rant about? What is that your business, if you don’t like that his/her salary is not made public, find another church who publicizes that information. I’m an auto technician, I don’t tell my customers how much I make a year before working on their car.



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stephanie drury

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:36 am


I’m pretty sure that when Jesus gave this sermon he was saying that announcing the amount of a tithe in a public forum is commendable only by people who would be impressed with it, but that he isn’t impressed by it. For accountability purposes, it makes sense for the amount to be made available if someone is interested in where their tithe is directed, but it’s quite a different thing to announce the amount and receive applause than it is to give quietly. It takes the focus off of who will purportedly direct that money’s usage (God) and puts it onto someone’s commendable good works, making it about them, not about God. It seems to me to be a distraction at best, and bragging at worst.
A wise pastor wouldn’t say it would be a sin to disclose the amount. The amount should be made available, just like a healthy church’s financial records should be made available to the congregation and people who are curious as to where their giving is going. This is where accountability comes in. Jesus taught that you should give to faithful stewards and not to people who will abuse their church’s tithe, and the church body has a responsibility to look after this. Healthy churches disclose their budgets because they have nothing to hide. This is the difference between being employed by an auto shop or other sort of business, and being employed by a church.
PS – Billy, my check engine light has been on for five years. Does this mean my car might conk out or explode or something at any moment? I’m curious but not enough to actually do anything about it beyond asking someone who would know. :)



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Billy

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm


If it’s been on for roughly 5 years, it wouldn’t be anything serious. What make of car do you drive? Could just be something as simple as a gas cap. You could try disconnecting your battery overnight, that would clear the trouble codes from the engine computer. If the check engine light returned, then it’s probably something you want to get looked at. Too bad I’m 3,000 miles away. If you have any questions, you have my email address, or message me on Facebook… I’m the Billy with the Jermaine profile pic. ;)



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