Posted by: Beverly Dale | January 21, 2010

Christians: Open Minds or Just Big Mouths?

I am really proud of the way Christians respond to emergencies and times of suffering. The mainline Christian denominations (such as the Evangelical Lutherans Church of America, United Methodists, United Church of Christ, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterians (PCUSA) and Episcopalians and others) routinely have offerings called the “Week of Compassion” or “One Great Hour of Sharing.” And these funds are always ready to disperse to victims of natural disasters. In addition to these denominations, Church World Service also has established contacts in Haiti providing much needed services and funds in the midst of the chaos. These established organizations distribute emergency funds and supplies usually faster and with more efficiency (and with less overhead) than do governmental ones. And, as was the case of the disaster in Burma/Myanmar a few years ago, some religious organizations provided surreptitious assistance when the military government wouldn’t allow anyone to respond.

On the other hand, there are folks like televangelist Pat Robertson who continue to grab headlines at every tragedy by suggesting there is always someone to blame. Although for him it is always gays or feminists, in the case of Haiti, it is because they evidently made a pact with the devil. As the wealthy founder of the Christian Broadcasting System with an annual salary of $1.1 million (in 1991) and as the son of a wealthy senator, surely he could afford to open his checkbook, right?

But no, this is what Robertson thinks of these churches now responding to Haiti. He said,  “You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don’t have to be nice to them.” (Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991)

It might be worth noting that these denominations are also often maligned by opening their arms to all God’s people, whether gay or straight, communist or socialist, or god-forbid, feminist! In spite of such criticism, mainline Christianity is the central tenet of its gospel to open our heart s and to love our neighbor. We say Haiti is a land of our brothers and our sisters as are all those who suffer.

Now is the time for us to be generous to all God’s children but with particular attention to Haitians both in the devastated country and in the Diaspora. This is not the time for egos to grab headlines.

And if you want to do more than send funds, “hygiene kits” and “baby care” kits are also needed in Haiti as well. Please respond with compassionate and generosity.

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