I've been saying some rather deliberately provocative things on Facebook recently about thinking out-of-the-box about how to help the poor. The short version thereof is that giving money to humanitarian aid organizations that try to provide the things one might think of (food, water, medical aid, etc.) is by no means the only and sometimes not even the best way to help. One book I have cited is Robert Zubrin's Merchants of Despair, in which he talks about the fact that environmental policies have been absolutely disastrous for the Third World. Hence, I suggest that opposing the imposition of more such disastrous policies might save more lives than giving directly to buy food for people.
Other instances of this trend--leftist policies vs. the poor--abound on our own shores and provide (while I'm being provocative) other ways in which one could intelligently give money with the intent of helping the poor by opposing bad policies, bad lawsuits, etc.
An article that I mentioned briefly in an earlier post here at W4 but didn't say much about is this dreadful piece by Mark Oppenheimer in Time. Oppenheimer says that tax exemptions should be ended for religious non-profits even if this means that soup kitchens and other charitable works are driven out of business. He reluctantly makes an exception for hospitals, but his intention is quite clear. The worst paragraph in the piece is this one:
Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argue that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.
The chilling stupidity in this argument makes one almost reel. First of all, notice that Oppenheimer apparently thinks that churches aren't part of the country or society and that their concern for the poor is not a way in which (if not the major way in which) a country manifests the fact that it cares about the poor. Somehow a "country that truly cares about poverty" is supposed to show this in some way other than by a church's running a soup kitchen. Why? Are the people in the church not citizens of the country? Is their action not the action of "the country"? Oppenheimer's patent distaste for religion shows here as well. A country that cares about the poor, he pontificates, does not need churches (tone of disgust) to run soup kitchens. Ick! Why should we let those churches run our soup kitchens? Let's have nice, pure, secular soup kitchens. He is also ignorant about history. He doesn't seem to know that Western society wouldn't have thought about the category of caring for the poor much at all were it not for Christianity. Therefore, societies have for over two thousand years relied heavily on church-run charitable organizations to help and feed the poor. But Oppenheimer doesn't care about any of that. He ignorantly assumes that societies that really care can just do without charitable work organized around religious principles, at least if those principles clash with his and his friends' homofascist principles. His economics are also shaky. After all, if the organizations in question went out of business, would government revenues go up? He says that this is a matter "of course," but that is far from obvious. Still less obvious is the efficient use of any additional government revenue for the purposes the charities themselves were already serving fairly efficiently. Finally, and related to the rest, there is the sheer, breathtaking recklessness with which Oppenheimer proposes driving religious charities out of business. That this would be a major social experiment which would doubtless harm many poor people does not faze him in the slightest. Perhaps he is so foolish that he doesn't realize it, but in any event, he doesn't pause to worry about it. With a wave of the hand he declares himself, in essence, willing to take the risk of abolishing the delivery of help to the helpless, at least during a transitional period while the "caring society" figures out how to deliver that help in a suitably sanitized, secular fashion, and perhaps permanently if the transition is less than fully successful. Ideology over all. His hatred of conservative Christianity trumps his own concern for the poor, calling into serious doubt the success of the secular "caring" project he proposes.
Oppenheimer's arrogant, reckless, and cold-hearted attitude toward both religious people and those they serve has echoes in Western society at multiple points. There is, for example, the Obama administration's relentless, unending lawsuit against, of all things, the Little Sisters of the Poor. Better to drive out of business a group of nuns serving the helpless than to give up the Great Principle that employers must make sure their employees can access birth control and sterilization through their employer's health insurance. There is the Obama administration's denial of a contract for anti-trafficking efforts to a Catholic organization because they didn't provide abortions. There are the multiple shut-downs of foster care and adoption agencies that will not place children with homosexuals.
Most recently (the story that, in part, gave me the inspiration for this post) a chaplain, David Wells, who has worked for many years with young criminals, trying to help them to turn their lives around, has been barred from working as a volunteer with the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice if he won't sign a document promising never to teach in any way that homosexual acts are sinful. Presumably Mark Oppenheimer would sneer that a country that really cares about juvenile offenders doesn't need to rely on bigoted chaplains to counsel them.
The stories I've found about David Wells don't say whether there are any Muslim chaplains volunteering in the Kentucky system and whether they signed the document. I could understand questioning prospective chaplains about their views concerning jihad, but that wasn't what the Kentucky system chose to target, and somehow I doubt that Muslim chaplains will be affected, perhaps because of taqiyya.
The place where ignorance ends and malice begins in such policies is sometimes difficult to trace. One could argue that the jack-booted ideologues in Kentucky are at least sincere in their advocacy of homosexual activism, as the HHS is sincere in its feeling that it is a matter of justice that the Little Sisters' employer insurance pay for contraception, as the environmentalists were sincere in thinking that DDT needed to be banned, an act which has resulted in the loss of many lives to malaria. But I'm inclined only to give a pass, at most, to the last of these on the "sincerely misguided" front. For in the other cases, the attack upon those who are doing real good for the claimed objects of the left's solicitude is too direct, and hence the disregard of their best interests is too blatant. No one could miss it. It isn't just a case of the law of unintended consequences. Hence it becomes clear that the left cares more about promoting a rigid LGBT agenda than it does about, say, helping troubled boys in the Kentucky juvenile system or helping the elderly served by the Little Sisters.
Given these facts, an interesting point emerges about how we can help the poor. Once we realize how bad the left's policies are for the poor (or for those like young criminals who might be rehabilitated), we can start thinking of additional ways to help the poor. Giving to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which is defending the Little Sisters of the Poor) or to the Liberty Counsel (which is defending David Wells) becomes a way of helping those in need that one might not otherwise have thought of.
Typically, simple arguments for giving to Oxfam or to various Third World helping organizations take some form such as, you buy a lot of stuff you don't really need, dying of hunger and thirst are really bad, if you can help somebody not to die of hunger and thirst just by giving money that you would otherwise have spent on something unnecessary, you should; therefore, you should donate to Third World humanitarian aid organizations. One problem among many with such arguments is that they artificially restrict their range of "bad things" that we, as good-hearted people, should be out there trying to help or prevent. Going to hell, for example. Getting drawn into the homosexual lifestyle (which has a connection to going to hell). Being a baby and being aborted. Aborting one's baby. Having one's baby forcibly aborted in China. Being a criminal, or being radically uneducated, or dying alone in squalor in one's old age. Committing suicide. Helping someone else to commit suicide. The list goes on and on. Beyond that, they restrict our vision of the many routes by which to help. One of these could be by trying to prevent the enactment of further disastrous policies (e.g., under the "climate change" umbrella) that will restrict the ability of the Third World to develop its own resources. (Funny thought: Giving to the Cato Institute, listed by none other than Greenpeace as "anti-environmentalist," could be a way of trying to help destitute Third Worlders) Another way to help would be by supporting the ability of religious organizations to do all the good they do while retaining the religious character that motivates their efforts.
What is happening to Christian organizations with the homosexual agenda is so bad that sometimes one gets exhausted reporting it. This article mentions that churches' insurance may not cover their being sued for refusing to allow homosexual "weddings" on site. The rainbow thugs are doubling down on another baker, this time in Colorado, with new bad news just coming in two days ago. (He's defended by the ever-present Alliance Defending Freedom, in case you want to donate to them.)
Speaking for myself, I know that I often feel overwhelmed and don't know what new there is to say about such things, except, "Here we go again" or "Isn't it awful?" At least I can muster a "Never give up," but what I have tried to do here, beyond that, is to point out the indirect ramifications of these fights for religious liberty. We already knew that religious liberty was at stake. We already know (if we believe in souls) that souls are at stake, as the homosexual agenda draws in more and more young people. Also at stake in the left's multi-pronged attack are those many, many individuals who are helped by sincere Christians working in an organized form. As Oppenheimer's article makes clear, the left seeks nothing less than the dismantling of most of the safety net that has been carefully built by traditional religious organizations over the centuries. The cost of that dismantling in human misery is incalculable. Among others, that is a reason why we should never, never, never give up.