True Christian Charity

>> Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I am somewhat a free thinker and I frequently find myself diametrically opposed to the religious right on many issues. I've frequently been frustrated by the apparent attitude of many visible religious leaders when it comes to tolerance and open-mindedness to such things as science.

I, personally, am uncomfortable looking to anyone else to decide my morals. However, although antagonistic to certain visible individuals, I have long maintained that these attitudes aren't necessarily endemic to those who are religious (or, specifically, Christian). I've also thought anything that people use to encourage them to become better people is good. My issue, really, is only with those that use religion as a divisive wedge, as an excuse to hate.

This article brought that message home. When you see Pat Robertson talking about Haiti getting what they deserve because of their deal with the devil, it's easy to forget that there are many Christians (and people of other faiths) who use their love of God as a springboard to do good for others.

So, I thought I'd provide a reminder. This editorial from the New York Times is all about people who have channeled their religious fervor into doing good for people around the world, without pushing a religious agenda. It reminds me that, although there are many things in history that reflect poorly on most organized religions, there have been good things done during every period of history with the same inspiration.

Just thought I'd mention it.


  • Jeff King

    Thx, i didn't see this.

  • Roy

    There's been a big push from athiest and humanist groups pleading the case that you don't need to believe in a religious doctrine to have altruistic impulses. That's what's behind all those "You don't need God to be good" bus sign and billboard campaigns. They have a point.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I don't disagree. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly. I don't think anyone corners the market on being good.

    However, frequently the conversations here and elsewhere focus on churches who push intolerance or celebrate the death of soldiers and other less than Christian practices.

    I included this (as part of my let's-have-less-divisiveness series) just to point out that having God doesn't mean you can't be good or do good.

  • The Mother

    As does Roy, I will point out that non-theists are also charitable people--in fact, that's what secular humanism is all about.

    Jews, also, have a long social history of intense involvement with the plight of their fellow man.

    Which is why I find the very term, "Christian Charity" offensive. As in so many things, this group believes they have a lock, and often use that as a battering ram.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I'm sorry you found the term "Christian Charity" offensive, the Mother. I'm not sure I understand why, or perhaps I do. Perhaps for the same reason I chose it; that it can be used to describe less than charitable practices, and has been. I used it to point out that it can be used as originally intended as well.

    I fear my efforts at pointing out things we have in common is falling flat.


    Can't Christians be charitable? Is there a problem with noting they can do more than obstruct gay marriage and insist on anti-abortion language in healthcare reform?

    Having Christian (or Buddhist or Islamic or Jewish) people do good things doesn't belittle or take anything away from secular groups that do the same thing. Why should it?

    Christians doing good things doesn't mean that there aren't effective Jewish or Hindi or Wiccan organizations. My mother-in-law, an ordained Pagan Priestess, is involved with the latter.

    I've written many times about not needing religion to be good. I'll be the first to stand and argue when someone say that, without religion, we have no morals, no compassion. I'll argue vociferously with those that insist that this is a Christian (and only Christian) nation, or that Christians alone do good work. But I think we are just as intolerant as the worst of the Christians if we imply that being Christian precludes good work or good thoughts or understanding. I know many compassionate tolerant people of all religions. I am just as compelled to defend them against a one-size-fits-all characterization as I am to defend the notion that science is amoral, that atheists are rabidly anti-religion and would persecute Christians if they could.

    I have to admit, I don't understand the harm in remembering, as we remember the witch burnings and Spanish Inquisition, that Quakers were a big part of the Underground Railway, helping slaves to freedom and that religion provided much of the spur for abolitionists (even as it also provided rationalization for those defending slavery as an institution). If we don't acknowledge the good with the bad, we lose our own balance.

    And we become just as intolerant as those whose practices we decry for their intolerance.

    In my opinion, we should be able to take good wherever we find it and accept it without feeling like it belittle our own efforts. Is that so wrong? Isn't there room in the world for everyone's good deeds?

  • Shakespeare

    Sometimes believing in anything is a battle... and like the main character in LIFE OF PI, I am bemused when I have to be selective in some way about what I believe.

    The truth is, zealots of any belief--Christian, atheist, anything--can turn regular nice people away from it. Given some of my experiences with religion, I sometimes fight the creeping dread I feel when I encounter an overtly Christian event or comment. I struggle to remain nonjudgmental when I see message boards outside churches in my neighborhood that spout hate and judgment and fear week after week. It is the same type of feeling MLK fought-- to not answer hate for hate, but persist in one's pursuit of freedom and love despite the hate one encounters.

    I have to remind myself, as you have done here, that most Christians--like most atheists, most old people, most young people, most people with red hair, most smart people (you get my meaning, by now, I hope) are NICE people. The majority of us don't want others hurt, don't wish others to suffer, try to make the right choices... it's just that the creeps are the ones who yell the loudest...

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • The Mother

    I think you may have missed my point, or perhaps I didn't explain it properly.

    I never implied that Christians can't be charitable. Of course that's not true. But why can't we just use the term "Charity?" Why do we need the religious designation on the front?

    I, like you, live in the Bible belt. I fight to keep ID and revisionist history out of our schools. I get frustrated as I read headlines about an atheist being denied his rightfully elected seat in a governmental body.

    I fume when an acquaintance tells me that she was surprised to find out I was an atheist/Jew, because she would have thought I was a nice person.

    Yes, that's what my life is like.

    So maybe I do get a little upset when the Christian right waves Bibles and claims superiority in the morals area. It's maddening.

    I, as I suppose you do as well, think it's time we evaluated people by what comes out of their mouths, not what book they read.

    Just as our foremothers fought to remove sexist designations from political life, I ask only that we remove religious designations from that same arena.

    Charity is good. Labeling it as one religion or another is both facetious and denigrating.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Clearly, you read more into the term than I ever intended. Since that's how you see it, arguing would be futile, even if you missed my point as well.

  • brett

    This is fascinating.
    I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.

    study abroad

  • brett

    This is fascinating.
    I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.

    study abroad

  • Relax Max

    Though I am physically unable to make myself read anything in the anti-American socialist-mouthpiece Times (I hope I don't sound closed- minded), I do fervently agree that the teachings of Christ which advocate helping one’s fellow man are far superior to sending money to the likes of Pat Robertson.

    A post which started out shakily turned out pretty nice. I too wish there were less hatred and divisiveness in the world.

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