Charity Under Duress: A Nonbeliever on Wrong-Believers

Human trafficking is a huge problem where I live yet, woefully, there are very few organizations that serve those victimized by it. I recently had occasion to donate goods to a deserving charity and, having moral compunctions about donating to either Goodwill or The Salvation Army, I looked around for a local organization serving women who are coming out of trafficking situations. I only found one.

This organization, which I will not name here, helps those victimized by human trafficking by offering them lists of the legal and physical resources available to them, giving them bags of toiletries and various sundries, helping them with resumes and job searches, offering a limited residential program, and proselytizing to them on the street. At this last bit I shudder. While I would rather have these women receive services than not, my heart grieves that they are only deemed worthy of the service if they are already Christian, ready to accept Christ, or willing to say they accept Christ. It also excludes helping men who are victims of sex trafficking because, in the sect of Christianity that runs this charity, homosexuality is a sin.

While I admire their willingness to put their faith where their mouths are, it angers me to think of them withholding potentially life-saving goods and services from those who are unwilling to conform to their beliefs. I have a similar issue with The Salvation Army.

I want to say this isn’t Christ-like behavior, but I see how it could be construed as such. In his life, Christ healed those who came to him and had faith in him. That I know of, he didn’t randomly heal and offer succor to people who did not seek him out or, once he came across them, offered him their faith. This, I believe, is the basis for organizations such as this who withhold services from nonbelievers.

On the other hand, Christ did preach to minister unto the poor and disenfranchised without reference to what they may believe. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Funny how some supposedly Christ-centered organizations tend to cherry pick which of his tenets they wish to follow.

But then, as a non-Christian who believes in virtue and vice rather than sin and salvation, am I guilty of a similar outrage by withholding my donation from a group of people who I deem wrong-believers?

Probably.

I asked a friend to help me find another organization serving the same or a tangential population that was not religiously affiliated. He found one right away and sent the link to me with this message (paraphrased), “Here’s one with no hint of proselytizing when people are at their lowest.” That was the organization to which I chose to donate.

He got me thinking: Aren’t there those who would say that the best time to proselytize is precisely when people are at their lowest? Is that not when they need faith and religion the most?

While I see the logic there, to me such a situation reads more like duress. I imagine a believer, and it could be of any religion, standing over a pit into which someone has hopelessly fallen. The victim of the fall cries out for help and the believer says, “I’ll only help you out of the pit if you believe as I do. Have faith, my faith, or else thirst and starve to death where you are. You really should take my offer because this is when you need to do what I tell you the most.”

Duress.

But again, am I guilty of the same outrage by withholding a donation from those who do some amount of good just because, as a nonbeliever, I think them wrong-believers? Do I stand next to the believer near the pit withholding the rope with which they would help the victim while saying all the while, “You’re doing it wrong! You’re doing it wrong!”

Is this such an innately human flaw that none of us are immune?

Maybe. 

-M.

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About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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One Response to Charity Under Duress: A Nonbeliever on Wrong-Believers

  1. Jesus also helped people who were pagan. His aid may have led them to convert to this new Christian sect, but I don’t think he required them to convert in order to be healed. I don’t know exactly where it is in the Bible (you can look it up on Religious Tolerance .org, searching on Jesus & homosexuality), but there was a pagan Roman who asked him to heal his beloved slave, which he did. Jesus himself never spoke against homosexuality, though he did preach against hypocrites and those who used the temple to lend and make money for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

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