Thinking Out Loud

October 8, 2018

The Danger of an Inherited Faith II

Discussion about the political scene in the United States for the past (almost) two years since the election brings out the worst in all of us.

I promised myself I wouldn’t wade into discussions of that nature. This blog is intended to be consistently faith-focused and therefore apolitical. But a few times I have made exceptions.

One of those was Friday.

In my comments about Franklin Graham, I incurred some well-warranted criticism from two people I greatly respect and have known for a long time. That stung. In fact, I did something I never do, and that is I basically took the weekend off from blogging; posting only an infographic late Saturday. (That post did however earn a Twitter like from someone who I greatly respect and is greatly respected internationally. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.) However…

I committed three very serious blogging sins.

First — and this is unusual for a blog which tries to put the cookies on the lower shelf — I did not provide any background as to what had provoked the post in the first place. In this case, the thing that really got me — my personal last straw — was when Franklin pulled all the Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child advertising from Relevant magazine when all they had done was quote him. I did not do enough to document his descent from emissary of the gospel to political commentator.

Second, I allowed my writing to become more emotional toward the end. To use the semantic argument that a person who has “lost the plot” of Christianity might never have been a Christian in the first place is not an argument unique to me by any means. But it reeked of judgement. The last three paragraphs have since been edited.

Finally, I think in my mind I was partially conflating Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. who we will look at briefly today. Both are the second generation of a top-tier Evangelical brand and both have wandered down the rabbit trail of leveraging or brokering their base to cozy up to the current U.S. political administration. I should have dealt with both, instead of saving one for now.

So with Jerry Falwell, Jr., let’s be specific.

I made the mistake of assuming that the same people who read my blog posts actually are tracking developments on the weekly link feed. I found it grievous that the Liberty University film students who returned from holidays last January discovered they would not get to complete the two projects they had planned, but were assigned to work on The Trump Prophecy film. I (and they) felt it totally diminished the value of the program’s reputation and the diploma they would receive related to it.

Also, there was the more recent incident where students were bused to Washington, D.C. to show support for Judge Kavanaugh. Again, I feel this is diminishing the university’s reputation and the degrees those students paid top dollar to receive. If the students are Political Science majors, then yes, the confirmation process is important, but this particular story also spoke to the issue of sexual assault in a case where it was difficult to tell which side was telling the truth. I’m not sure how many of those students really wanted to take a position on this issue; though some may have simply gone for the bus ride or because their friends were going, or for the tour of the Capitol building which followed.

And there are many more stories like this.

But Falwell didn’t simply put his film students and protesters (or counter-protesters, I’m not sure) in the middle of his pro-Trump, pro-Kavanaugh agenda; he dragged Evangelicals in the United States and (in my case) beyond into a moral and ethical quagmire of reasoning, where the glaring bad fruit of a person’s life is set aside if it is believed their ascent to political power fits or is in keeping with some higher purpose.

One reader simply suggested people Google “Franklin Graham controversy” for more, and I would add that “Jerry Falwell, Jr. controversy” yields some rather bizarre stories, like this one. But I really don’t want to spend more ink on that, especially where so many minds are already made up.

Another thing I need to reiterate — for my good as well as yours — is Paul’s advice to Timothy that a soldier does not entangle himself in civilian affairs. We belong to a different kingdom and our main energies should be spent on advancing and building that kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world.

In the end however, simply changing the name, I find I must simply repeat what I said on Friday:

In the last several years, many of us have watched Jerry Falwell, Jr. make statements which grate against the Christianity many of us are practicing and what we know of the Jesus many of us are striving to follow.

His remarks and their underlying attitudes simply don’t pass the WWJD litmus test. The fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit has left the building.

There is a danger in an inherited faith.

and its conclusion:

If what I write or say doesn’t resemble Christianity or pass the WWJD litmus test, then I would expect you to ask the question, am I truly a Christian?

Yes. I get the irony. It’s possible that in its original form on Friday I would have failed that same litmus test.

Point taken. Such are the times in which we find ourselves.

 

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October 5, 2018

The Danger of an Inherited Faith

In the last several years, many of us have watched Franklin Graham make statements which grate against the Christianity many of us are practicing and what we know of the Jesus many of us are striving to follow.

His remarks and their underlying attitudes simply don’t pass the WWJD litmus test. The fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit has left the building.

There is a danger in an inherited faith. At least three decades ago, someone pointed out to me in my much younger days how they had observed people in the Christian publishing industry who were second generation owners, CEOs and managers. He noted that they lacked the fervor of their parents; they simply didn’t breathe the industry the same way; they didn’t have the same love for books.

As someone who grew up in a Christian home I certainly get this. Receiving it all second-hand isn’t the same as crashing and burning and having nothing to do but look up. I’ve often remarked that the people who find faith in Christ after their adolescent years seem to have a much greater appreciation for the grace offered to them. Like the woman at the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee, those who have been forgiven much will love much. Or more.  

It also stands in contrast with the stories of Christian refugees who have come to North America escaping persecution. They are head-over-heels in love with Jesus.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs a “before and after” story. I can stand with everyone else giving a testimony; and while they testify to what they were saved out of, I can testify to what I was saved from doing. Furthermore, your testimony is what Jesus is doing in your life today. If your salvation story is entirely about something that happened 30 years ago, I’m not sure you have a story.

I would argue that if a person’s life doesn’t reflect the fruit of the Spirit, then we have to ask if they are a Christian. Simple as that.

I’m not exempting myself from that.

The things we post online — or if we have such a platform, say to the media — represent the fruit, or if you prefer the abundance of our hearts. If what I write or say doesn’t resemble Christianity or pass the WWJD litmus test, then I would expect you to ask the question, am I truly a Christian?

I’m saying that perhaps some of Ruth Graham’s and Billy Graham’s faith didn’t stick.

In other words, he needs to get reacquainted with the One he claims to serve.

December 8, 2013

Reconsidering Christmas Shoeboxes

Operation Christmas Child BoxesSeveral years ago I wrote a post here asking some questions about the whole Operation Christmas Child (OCC) thing. As I said a year later, I didn’t want to be a “grinch” when it came to OCC, I just wondered about some big picture issues.  Then last year, I reformatted the whole article to include some points that a reader had left in a comment.

This year, I was prepared to lay the whole subject to rest. Besides, collection for the boxes in our local churches has come and gone. But the article keeps attracting readers, and last week Lucy, a reader, left a comment that reminded me that as OCC grows — now with an online component that allows you to pack and ship a shoebox from the comfort of your own home right up to a much later deadline — people still have misgivings and second thoughts about the program.  Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thought I was the only one who had serious reservations about the OCC program. I just see it as a well-intentioned venture that, in reality, exports Western materialism. Even given the potential spiritual good, do we want children associating Jesus with wrapped goodies? Isn’t that enough of a problem here in America?

I’m a Christian who thinks Samaritan’s Purse has done wonderful things in helping people around the world. But let’s help children by really making a difference in their lives. World Vision and other ministries have programs where you can contribute toward gifts such as farm animals, wells, small business opportunities for women, etc. Much, much better than trinkets.

And thank you, Lucy for that comment. Organizations like Compassion, Partners International, The Christian and Missionary Alliance and Gospel for Asia are among the many — and I chose ones with both American and Canadian websites —  that allow you to make significant, life-changing donations to an individual or an entire village of the type Lucy describes.

Shoebox sized giving will produce shoebox sized results, and furthermore runs the risks she described in her comment. If you’re reading this on a computer — even in a library somewhere — you are among the richest people in the entire world. This Christmas, literally share the wealth.

There is a saying, Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going. The Christmas “gift catalogs” of the four organizations listed above allow you to know exactly where your money is going. Don’t lose this opportunity.

Comments can be made at the original article — first link above.

October 19, 2012

The Shoebox Thing Again

No post here ever got me in so much trouble as this one, when it ran in 2009 and 2010 and I became the Grinch that stole Operation Christmas Child.   I just wanted to be “thinking out loud” and look at the thing from all sides.   That doesn’t mean I would never fill a shoebox. I might just fill it differently. Besides a good blog is nothing if not provocative, right?   Or would you rather not think at all?

Comments are again closed here, but there’s a link to the original November 24, 2009 post where you can add your two cents, or whatever the equivalent is in euros. HOWEVER, this time around we’ve added some additional questions and concerns that came about when Sarah posted her comments. They begin with number 9 in the list below; items 14-16 are from an article she linked to in her comment.

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child project. To see the look of ecstasy on the faces of the children in the promotional videos is to really know the joy that comes with giving even something small.

To critique the program would be unthinkable. It would be like criticizing motherhood or apple pie or little kittens. But I have some concerns about this that I had not seen in print or online when I wrote the original post and thought I’d wade out deep into dangerous waters:

  1. A lot of people fill their shoeboxes with trinkets from the dollar store. When these items break — which they will — how will third world children deal with the disappointment that Western kids are accustomed to? Especially if they don’t own much else.
  2. Which begs the question, how are such items disposed of — sooner or later — in countries that don’t have an active recycling program? What happens to all those boxes? As barren and arid as some of those places are, dotting the landscape with red and green boxes seems a bit irresponsible. Maybe they can use the boxes for something.
  3. What’s the mileage on some of the trinkets and toys? Check out the country of origin, factor in the purchase point in the U.S. as an example, and then plot the destination point. We’re talking major carbon footprints. And not the Margaret Fishback Powers kind of footprints.
  4. What about the inequities of what the kids receive? One kid gets a cuddly Gund-type plush animal, while another gets socks. I would be the kid getting the toothpaste and cheap sunglasses, while my friend would get some kind of awesome musical instrument toy. Socks don’t make noise. I would learn jealousy and covetousness all in a single day.
  5. Which begs the question, is there ever theft? World wars have started over lesser things. Do kids in faraway places take the inequities into their own hands? Do they revere the licensed pencil case more than the one with geometric shapes and colors? Is there trading? If so, who sets the rules?
  6. Maybe not. Maybe they share better than kids in the West do. But somewhere along the line, it’s got to create a situation of personal private property. I live on a street with ten houses where everybody owns a lawnmower. We all could probably get by with one or two. What I really need is access to a lawnmower. But human nature being what it is, it rarely works that way unless you’re Shane Claiborne, or you live on an Operation Mobilization ship, or you’re one of the aging hippies living in the Jesus People project in inner-city Chicago. (Apologies to Glenn Kaiser.)
  7. What about expectations? If my kids don’t get what they’re hoping for there is always a great disappointment, and trust me, this year they aren’t getting what they’re hoping for. Reminds of me that old song, “Is That All There Is?” Some people get downright depressed after Christmas. BTW, anyone remember who the artist was on that song?
  8. What’s the follow-up for the giver? None. Unlike sponsored children — which is another discussion entirely — the gift is really a shot in the dark, unless in next year’s video you happen to see a kid opening a box containing a rather unique action figure and a pair of furry dice which you know could only have come from your attic storage the year before. (But furry dice? What were you thinking? The kid’s expression is going to be somewhat quizzical…)
  9. Does this encourage children to value Western cultures more than their own?
  10. Do “shoebox” gifts become better than something simpler made lovingly by a family member?
  11. Are they introducing commercial gift-giving into a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in that way?
  12. Do they respect people of other faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas at all? Is our intent to evangelize or convert with our gifts?
  13. Do they portray one race/culture as being better or more successful than others?
  14. When we include personal care products such as soap and toothpaste in our gifts, are we sending a message that we feel they are not able to maintain their personal hygiene?  Toothpaste may be perceived as candy. Should we be rethinking some of our efforts to help people?
  15. How do they work to bring about real change, in places where the needs are for justice, peace, and access to the necessities of life?
  16. Imagine yourself as a child living in a family where all resources go to obtaining food and shelter and suddenly you receive a package with a doll or a toy car. What does it feel like to receive something from someone who has such excess income that they can buy something that is not needed?

The link Sarah provided contains many, many position papers on the Shoebox program, that are good reading for any thinking person. Click here to access the .pdf file which contains notes from people who were actively involved in the distribution. Sadly, that article is no longer online.

Okay, so maybe there is  good that outweighs any potential downside. I am NOT saying don’t do this.  But it’s philosophy that I majored in, so somebody’s got to view things from outside the box — the shoebox in this case —  once in awhile. That’s why I call it thinking out loud.

Comments are closed here so that you can add your comment to the original collection on November 24, 2009. Click here.

October 29, 2010

Rethinking Rethinking Shoeboxes

Hey, give me a break.   I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Operation Christmas Child.   I just wanted to be “thinking out loud” and look at the thing from all sides.   That doesn’t mean I would never fill a shoebox.   I might just fill it differently.   Besides a good blog is nothing if not provocative, right?   Or would you rather not think at all?

This time around, comments are closed here, but there’s a link to the original November 24, 2009 post where you can add your two cents, or whatever the equivalent is in euros.

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child project. To see the look of ecstasy on the faces of the children in the promotional videos is to really know the joy that comes with giving even something small.

To critique the program would be unthinkable. It would be like criticizing motherhood or apple pie or little kittens. But I have some concerns about this that I haven’t seen heretofore in print or online. So I thought I’d wade out deep into dangerous waters:

  1. A lot of people fill their shoeboxes with trinkets from the dollar store. When these items break — which they will — how will third world children deal with the disappointment that Western kids are accustomed to? Especially if they don’t own much else.
  2. Which begs the question, how are such items disposed of — sooner or later — in countries that don’t have an active recycling program? What happens to all those boxes? As barren and arid as some of those places are, dotting the landscape with red and green boxes seems a bit irresponsible. Maybe they can use the boxes for something.
  3. What’s the mileage on some of the trinkets and toys? Check out the country of origin, factor in the purchase point in the U.S. as an example, and then plot the destination point. We’re talking major carbon footprints. And not the Margaret Fishback Powers kind of footprints.
  4. What about the inequities of what the kids receive? One kid gets a cuddly Gund-type plush animal, while another gets socks. I would be the kid getting the toothpaste and cheap sunglasses, while my friend would get some kind of awesome musical instrument toy. Socks don’t make noise. I would learn jealousy and covetousness all in a single day.
  5. Which begs the question, is there ever theft? World wars have started over lesser things. Do kids in faraway places take the inequities into their own hands? Do they revere the licensed pencil case more than the one with geometric shapes and colors? Is there trading? If so, who sets the rules?
  6. Maybe not. Maybe they share better than kids in the West do. But somewhere along the line, it’s got to create a situation of personal private property. I live on a street with ten houses where everybody owns a lawnmower. We all could probably get by with one or two. What I really need is access to a lawnmower. But human nature being what it is, it rarely works that way unless you’re Shane Claiborne, or you live on an Operation Mobilization ship, or you’re one of the aging hippies living in the Jesus People project in inner-city Chicago. (Apologies to Glenn Kaiser.)
  7. What about expectations? If my kids don’t get what they’re hoping for there is always a great disappointment, and trust me, this year they aren’t getting what they’re hoping for. Reminds of me that old song, “Is That All There Is?” Some people get downright depressed after Christmas. BTW, anyone remember who the artist was on that song?
  8. What’s the follow-up for the giver? None. Unlike sponsored children — which is another discussion entirely — the gift is really a shot in the dark, unless in next year’s video you happen to see a kid opening a box containing a rather unique action figure and a pair of furry dice which you know could only have come from your attic storage the year before. (But furry dice? What were you thinking? The kid’s expression is going to be somewhat quizzical…)

Okay, so maybe the good outweighs any potential downside. I am NOT saying don’t do this.  But it’s philosophy that I majored in, so somebody’s got to view things from outside the box — the shoebox in this case — once in awhile. That’s why I call it thinking out loud.

Comments are closed here so that you can add your comment to the original collection on November 24, 2009. Click here.

November 24, 2009

Another Look at Shoeboxes

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child project.   To see the look of ecstasy on the faces of the children in the promotional videos is to really know the joy that comes with giving even something small.

To critique the program would be unthinkable.   It would be like criticizing motherhood or apple pie or little kittens.   But I have some concerns about this that I haven’t seen heretofore in print or online.   So I thought I’d wade out deep into dangerous waters:

  1. A lot of people fill their shoeboxes with trinkets from the dollar store.   When these items break — which they will — how will third world children deal with the disappointment that Western kids are accustomed to?   Especially if they don’t own much else.
  2. Which begs the question, how are such items disposed of — sooner or later — in countries that don’t have an active recycling program?   What happens to all those boxes?   As barren and arid as some of those places are,  dotting the landscape with red and green boxes seems a bit irresponsible.   Maybe they can use the boxes for something.
  3. What’s the mileage on some of the trinkets and toys?    Check out the country of origin, factor in the purchase point in the U.S. as an example, and then plot the destination point.   We’re talking major carbon footprints.   And not the Margaret Fishback Powers kind of footprints.
  4. What about the inequities of what the kids receive?   One kid gets a cuddly Gund-type plush animal, while another gets socks.   I would be the kid getting the toothpaste and cheap sunglasses, while my friend would get some kind of awesome musical instrument toy.   Socks don’t make noise.  I would learn jealousy and covetousness all in a single day.
  5. Which begs the question, is there ever theft?   World wars have started over lesser things.    Do kids in faraway places take the inequities into their own hands?    Do they revere the licensed pencil case more than the one with geometric shapes and colors?   Is there trading?   If so, who sets the rules?
  6. Maybe not.   Maybe they share better than kids in the West do.   But somewhere along the line, it’s got to create a situation of personal private property.    I live on a street with ten houses where everybody owns a lawnmower.   We all could probably get by with one or two.   What I really need is access to a lawnmower.   But human nature being what it is, it rarely works that way unless you’re Shane Claiborne, or you live on an Operation Mobilization ship, or you’re one of the aging hippies living in the Jesus People project in inner-city Chicago.   (Apologies to Glenn Kaiser.)
  7. What about expectations?   If my kids don’t get what they’re hoping for there is always a great disappointment, and trust me, this year they aren’t getting what they’re hoping for.   Reminds of me that old song, “Is That All There Is?”   Some people get downright depressed after Christmas.   BTW, anyone remember who the artist was on that song?
  8. What’s the follow-up for the giver?   None.   Unlike sponsored children — which is another discussion entirely — the gift is really a shot in the dark, unless in next year’s video you happen to see a kid opening a box containing a rather unique action figure and a pair of furry dice which you know could only have come from your attic storage the year before.   (But furry dice?  What were you thinking?   The kid’s expression is going to be somewhat quizzical…)

Okay, so maybe the good outweighs any potential downside.   But it’s philosophy that I majored in, so somebody’s got to view things from outside the box — the shoebox in this case — once in awhile.    That’s why I call it thinking out loud.

December 1st update:  Don’t miss the comment here by Sarah and the link it contains.

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