“A Response to World Vision Bullies” or “On the Backs of Children”

I found out this afternindexoon that World Vision reversed their decision to allow people in same-sex monogamous relationships to have the pleasure of being employed by the largest Christian charity in the world.

It’s taken me this long to calm down and write a response…

Look, I’m not that mad at World Vision.  If you, from a charitable perspective, were facing thousands of sponsored children losing their sponsorship (food, education, clothing, shelter, companionship, medical care…you know, basic dignity), you might also have second thoughts about retaining the policy that caused the defection.

From a charitable perspective it makes some business sense.

But one ethical dilemma gives way to another…

World Vision not only reversed their policy decision, but they’ve also “asked for forgiveness.”

And, to me, the group that needs to ask for forgiveness are the bullying bigots who forced World Vision’s reversal.

Less snark in this one.  Snark isn’t called for.

This is a come-to-Jesus moment, as a former Sunday School teacher of mine would say.  And Jesus is not to be found with the bullies.

How dare you?

You hold up the clobbering texts that tout a very ancient understanding of homosexual behavior (that hold very little in common to same-sex monogamous relationships in the modern understanding), and you forsake hundreds of other Biblical texts, texts about feeding the poor and needy, texts about loving neighbor as yourself, texts about welcoming the stranger in the name of God.

All things that World Vision, at its best, does. And all things you were willing to chuck out the homophobic window just because World Vision might hire someone in a same-sex relationship.

Any ethicist will tell you that the one wrong does not cancel out the other.

And any playground attendant will tell you that this “I’m taking my marbles and going home” stunt you pulled is nothing more or less than an old-fashioned shake-down.

You’re bullies.  Plain and simple.

Have you read Luke 17?

Let me refresh your memory

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

Bullies who withdrew support from World Vision, listen up: you just caused stumbling.

Should we now tell our children that when we don’t get our way we just get to go home no matter the consequences?  You don’t think your children are watching?  “It’s OK, Johnny, to not feed those children because first you have to hand it to that same-sex partnered person, and it’s no good coming from their hands.”

In what freaking world is that defensible?

Because it’s not in the Christian world.  That mess only works on the playground.  But, perhaps, you think this whole life thing is one big playground; one big game of tit-for-tat.

Grow the hell up.

See, I think that you don’t even realize the consequences.  Many of the people, most of them children, that World Vision helps are continents away from your theological smugness.  You can withdraw support and never feel the pinch.  It’s far away from you and your lovely privilege.

Lord, isn’t it nice to “believe” all the right things if you’re privileged enough to have the time and resources to do so?

And all the while these World Vision folks saw children losing support…you forced their hand.

Some might say “shame on them” for giving in to bullies.  Fine; we can say that.  There is some truth there.

But you want to know what I bet?

I bet the World Vision folks are betting that the theologically progressive Christians who are in support of their briefly-held new hiring policy won’t pull their support now that they reversed the decision.

And you know what?

They’re damn right.

But I’ll go to bed alright tonight, knowing that my actions, both the support of their briefly-held hiring policies and my gifts to the people they help, are as pure as possible.  I am not sinless, but I am not on the wrong side of this issue.

You who bullied them into this, on the other hand, please know that you leveraged what you called a “gospel issue” on the backs of children.

And that is never gospel.

Would be better to have a millstone thrown around your neck, so I hear.  If that’s not a literal stumbling block (have you ever tried to walk when dying of starvation?  I imagine there’s quite a bit of stumbling involved…) I don’t know what is.

But, take heart.  There is always a chance for repentance.  There is always forgiveness.  I’m serious about that.  Whether or not World Vision switches their policy back, I plead that you repent.

If anything, you’ll sleep better. And nothing is better than forgiveness.

And if you don’t go to bed a little uneasy tonight, well, that’s indicative of a whole host of other issues.

Finally, a quick word to my theologically progressive friends: don’t pull your support from World Vision.

We won’t be bullies.  Millstones don’t belong around necks.  We cannot play these games.

So we pray, we watch, we encourage, we lift our voices.

And we feed children.

Because that’s what the Christ calls us to.



27 thoughts on ““A Response to World Vision Bullies” or “On the Backs of Children”

  1. It is sad to me that World Vision so quickly backed out of the decision. Unfortunately, bullies often get their way through brute force and the bullied end up being the ones to apologize.

  2. Hey, I understand why you would be upset at fellow Christians who would stop feeding children. But I’d like to point out that the people I know who were talking about not supporting World Vision anymore were urging people to switch their support to Compassion. So, it’s not that they were saying, “Hey, let’s stop feeding children now.” It’s that they were choosing to feed children through an organization that better stood for their Biblical beliefs. That’s something that every Christian has the right – and I would argue, the duty – to do. Evaluate the organizations we give to. Are they standing for Biblical positions in the midst of their good work? If not, look around for another organization that does good work AND stands for our Biblical convictions. So, I think you may want to be a little less accusatory here…it’s not wrong for Christians to keep feeding children, but do it through a different organization. And that’s what a lot of people were choosing to do.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I understand your sentiment, but disagree wholeheartedly with the conclusion.

      I don’t think it’s every Christian’s right to take their marbles and go home whenever they find something they disagree with in a policy decision of a large, multi-national, corporation.

      Do these so-called Christians shop at equal opportunity stores? Do they go to Starbucks? Do they shop at Walgreens?

      Or do they all buy their coffee from Hobby Lobby?

      Do we see so-called Christians divesting from Coke for the slaughters in South America over land rights? Do we see them calling outrage at the Gap for sweatshops?

      No. But mention that you might feed people from the hands of a gay person, and boom…trouble in the water.

      If you’re going to take a stand, stick to your guns. Divest from every organization that hires people in same-sex monogamous relationships.

      But this…this is pure bullying. And there’s some justification in being accusatory, because that is exactly what happened. World Vision was bullied into a position, and that’s not right.

      Bullying by any measure, is sinful.

      • I think it cannot be as simple as switching support from one organization to another, because we aren’t talking about blips on a computer ledger — we are talking about real people, about children and families who have cultivated relationships with their sponsors. You can’t simply switch one child out for another and call it even — that’s why I want to be sure it is my child who walks through the front door after school each day, and not just any old kid who wanders off the bus! Relationship matters.
        On another note, World Vision is an international agency, and as such has varying hiring practices around the world. In Canada (for instance) their hiring practices are in compliance with provincial laws which prohibit discrimination in employment, thus allowing for the employment of people in same-sex monogamous relationships. If this issue is a deal-breaker to so many supporters, why were they contributing to this charity in the first place? Do they think they can somehow keep their money from being touched by LGBT hands before it reaches its final destination?
        I take heart in your final exhortation: “So we pray, we watch, we encourage, we lift our voices. And we feed children. Because that’s what the Christ calls us to.”

      • An astute point, MBT.

        If WV runs their organization as they claim to, which is direct sponsorship, real children lost real items in switching from one place to another.

        How sad for them that child A is sponsored by this organization, and child B by that one.

        And they pay the price for our lack of community.

    • The only problem with that response is that it still pulls the financial and relational support from the specific child whose picture has been proudly hanging from the refrigerator or placed in a wallet to be pulled out and shown to others.

      • Yes. A hundred times. If WV does direct sponsorship, which they claim to, then this is a real problem.

  3. What a let down! The sad fact is, the bullies know how to exert their pressure skillfully and as a result, in the name of Jesus, do the most unchristian things. I am a retired Lutheran Pastor and have come to believe that, to be honest, I will have to refer to myself as a “Follower of Jesus” and not as a “Christian.” To much evil has been and is being dispensed in the name of “Christianity.”

  4. Thank you Tim for so eloquently expressing the righteous anger I too feel at this tragic move on the part of World Vision. I have supported a child living in Malawi since 2008 following an eyeglass mission I helped lead into the area where she lives. I could not abandon Patuma, not even when I am so disappointed in the actions of World Vision. Or should I say World ‘not so insightful’! I will not be bullied either. As with the man who was born blind, May those who threatened to pull their funding of children and communities have their own epiphany. You will have your reward.

  5. Nate Pyle is another blogger whose views I respect. He wrote a post talking about us (the Church at large, especially anyone condoning the outrage at World Vision) sacrificing children on the altar of theology. Strong words, but sometimes words need to be.
    Great post. Some things have to trump being right about everything all the time.
    Or not. I mean, the Pharisees didn’t worry about that, and they were best buds with Jesus.

  6. World Visions flip flop is outrageous. No matter what side you are on. They should be about integrity and take a stand and not waiver to popular opinion or any other forces. However, I am missing where you are offering the grace of God in this situation. It almost sounds like judgmental bullying on your part. Negativity and vitriol never accomplish anything!

    • Hey UM,

      Thanks for the response, and I hear you.

      There is grace; absolutely there is. But there is also moral outrage. And while we were arguing back and forth over a theological issue, we did so on the backs of children who may or may not lose their sponsorship because we, in our privileged state, could afford to quibble about sex.

      I can understand how you’d identify that outrage as “judgmental bullying,” but bullying, in the formal sense, is leveraging something over and against another to demean them. I don’t have any leverage over those who divested from WV. Instead, I’m just naming the shame that’s here.

      This is a shameful abuse of privilege, I think. And I’m willing to err on the side of moral outrage, believing God will err on the side of grace.

      • I’m disappointed in WV — specifically, in reversing the decision on employing individuals in committed same-sex relationships. For about 72 hours, they took baby steps towards being somewhat progressive.

        Then again, I’ve never been a supporter of WV — in large part because of their discriminatory employment policies.

        I agree that progressive Christians likely won’t withdraw their support as a result of WV’s policy insta-reversal — but I wouldn’t blame them if they chose to do so. There are any number of great charities out there and it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to do a bit of research to find organizations that make effective use of our hard-earned dollars, are accountable and have policies (including HR policies) in line with our beliefs.

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  8. Sigh. Your post helped me past my distress at World Vision’s retreat. I guess I won’t abandon Ravi over this but I am heartily saddened that so many “Christians” would willingly abandon their children over this.

    • Thanks, C.

      Yes. Let us resolve ourselves to helping the poor. In truth, I do think there are better organizations out there than World Vision, but it has nothing to do with their hiring policies and everything to do with their distribution model.

      That being said, once we sponsor, we should continue to do so for the sake of Christ. World Vision does a good job at sponsorship, and the children shouldn’t suffer because Christians can’t get their act together.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your story.

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