The artificial and apparent conflict between mainstream charity and LGBTQ: the World Vision incident

I sometimes experience various kinds of pressure to support or become involved in specific programs at various charities.

A few years ago, I got a Saturday phone call to support the “30 Hour Famine” (as I think it was still called then) from a local church that I often attend.  In fact, several churches I know have supported it.  The famine is a 30-hour exercise run by World Vision.

My immediate reaction was to decline.  I think a teenager’s decision to participate in a past is strictly between that teen and his or her parents.  I should not be involved.  Yet I know the double edges, about having one’s skin in the game when one is a visible pundit.

World Vision was involved in controversy in March 2014.  Apparently it announced it would not exclude from employment persons who had engaged in same-sex marriages.  This event occurred over a year before Obergefell in the US was decided, but same-sex marriage was recognized in many states and other western countries.  There are various accounts that claim that World Vision had banned all gays, or all people who would not commit to limiting sexuality to heterosexual marriage.  I think as a practical matter the policy was probably more like “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” (even as Bill Clinton had once meant it).

Under extreme pressure from some evangelicals, World Vision reportedly reversed itself in a couple days (Huffington account).  But during that time, supposedly, a large number of overseas child sponsorships were canceled by “evangelical” supporters (patheos account).

In fairness, there are other accounts that say that World Vision quickly replaced the sponsors and that this had little quantitative impact on worldwide child sponsorship as a whole. Here’s a balanced blog post.

I support Save the Children (which is secular), and back in the late 1970s I actually “sponsored” individual children for a while    Sometimes I got letters.  I was at a loss to reply.  (It’s the “skin in the game” thing again.)  I don’t sponsor individuals now.  I think this is something you either put a lot of time in to or not.  But I have Facebook friends overseas who constantly send emotion-laden sponsorship pleas.

There are many critics who think individual child sponsorship is a deceptive model.  This used to be said a lot in the 1980s.   There are legitimate questions as to the direct connection of the child to the money.  Charities do end sponsorships and switch people.  But other reports relate people having the same child for as long as ten years and being able to visit the child overseas.  That’s what I think if appropriate to expect;  sponsorship ought to be a step toward adoption and custody.  I’m not aware of any issues with gay sponsors.

I had at one time tried to include World Vision on my own charitable contribution list that I run through Wells Fargo.  I had received mailers from them.  But oddly the contribution was returned.  I don’t know why, but some charities seem unable or unwilling to work with automated systems at banks.

Churches often send older teens and college students on missions overseas, to Central America and sometimes to Africa.  Faith-based organizations help run infrastructure projects overseas.  Sometimes these organizations need to employ engineers as to do many major US companies (such as oil companies).  Dealing with countries hostile to personal practice of homosexuality can present a problem for companies and charities, as to deploying .  Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa  have hostile anti-gay laws (Nigeria is one of the worst) and in some cases American evangelicals may have participated in provocation overseas, in largely Christian countries separate from the Muslim world.

Anti-gay laws and practices overseas to result in some migrants to the US requesting political asylum, sometimes after lawful visa periods (for students or for work) expire.  It is unclear whether the current Trump administration with attorney general Sessions will try to narrow how the idea of “particular social group” may be interpreted with asylum requests.  But they probably cannot do so based on personal beliefs alone.

The local (liberal) church I know recently observed a “30 Hour Fast”, but that is renamed (from “Famine”) because the church switched to “Charity Water” as a sponsoring charity in 2014 after some teens (and even parents) objected to the controversy at World Vision.

Is fasting really an effective way to approach charity?  Of course, the libertarian leaves this to individual conscience.  Some faith-based organizations admix the service experience with one of specific religious belief. (Teens can prepare or deliver food while fasting, or even make short films.)  I don’t personally live in a zero-sum world where charity depends on giving up a Starbucks latte.  But “doing without” (as for Lent) sometimes does help people to experience walking in others’ shoes and helps build emotional resilience.   So does giving time to some organizations, even given their pimping appeals, bureaucracy and sometimes lack of transparency.  You can’t always be prepared for someone else’s bullets and then get up again.

There is tension among all these elements.  Is it more important to take care of the poor in other countries (because they have less opportunity to help themselves), or to “take care of your own” in an “America first” world?  Do personal lifestyles (appropriating personal sexuality to personal satisfaction before taking on procreation and having families) contradict the mission of charity?  You could look at the history of domestic charities like Salvation Army, too.

Older supporting legacy blog posting of mine.

(Posted: Sunday, February 26, 2017 at 3:45 PM EST)

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