Usually, I set Fridays apart to highlight five of the best articles from lesser known bloggers that I have had the privilege of reading in a piece I call “Friday’s Fab Five.” Given the events of this past week, however, I decided to devote this week’s “Friday Five” (I’ll leave out the “fab” given the nature of this week’s events) to gathering and highlighting the development of the decision made by World Vision on Monday and the resounding shockwave that reverberated throughout Evangelicalism.
I have to say, up front, that this saddens me. To me, this was not simply an issue of people standing up for how they define marriage. These were Christian Evangelicals who gathered together in one voice and publicly demonstrated that it was more important for an organization to refuse to hire gay men and women than it was to care for the poorest of the poor, even children. If reports from Tony Jones are any indication, the evangelical backlash almost ended World Vision’s existence as an entity, and today thousands of children are waking up around the world to discover that the people who had committed to feeding them have pulled their sponsorship. It is a sad day in Christendom, no matter where you stand on the issue.
And here is how it happened.
March 24, 2014
Christianity Today broke the story that World Vision had made a policy change: given the denominational diversity they represent and the division within Christianity over the issue of same sex marriage, they have decided to revoke their policy that those in a same sex marriage are not eligible to be hired.
March 25, 2014
The initial backlash began quickly, with writers across the web painting this decision in very stark terms. Albert Mohler was somewhat delicate about it, referring to it simply as a “flawed moral vision,” but John Piper went so far as to declare that World Vision was now trivializing perdition and the cross. From that point forward, the terms began to grow increasingly stigmatizing. Russell Moore would announce that this places the very gospel at stake, and by the time New Testament professor Darrell Bock chimed it, World Vision’s decision was described as a “betrayal of Christianity” itself.
The reaction led to countless sponsors pulling their sponsorship of children, and the eruption of a counter-backlash from the other side. Rachel Held Evans pointed to the hypocrisy of the situation, with evangelicals that reacted to World Vision’s policy, pulled their funding of the children, and then wept “for the children that are hurt by this.” She would then go on to specifically address the problem of simply moving sponsorship to another organization. David Hayward put the same hypocrisy on visual display in a rather scathing cartoon that simply posed a question: “Dad, if you won’t pay gays at World Vision to feed starving children, why will you pay gays at the grocery store to feed yourself?”
The line was clearly drawn in the sand. Christianity is once again publicly divided, and the mass exodus from World Vision has begun.
March 26, 2014
Responding to public outcry and the sudden and overwhelming defunding of their organization, World Vision reverses their policy change. Fueled by information from a contact inside the agency, Tony Jones reveals the trauma and grief that had been taking place within World Vision since the backlash first began. Apparently, the reaction went beyond the overwhelming number of evangelicals who chose to abandon their child sponsorship; World Vision was looking at the very real possibility that the funding which allows them to remain a viable entity would cease. In other words, the reaction was so powerful that it almost ended one of the largest charity organizations in the United States.
March 27, 2014
And then, the reactions to the reversed policy started appearing. Karen Spears-Zacharias drew connections between the evangelical response and the late Fred Phelps, declaring that “those who bullied World Vision into retracting their position might as well marched alongside Westboro Baptist at military funerals with placards claiming Starve a Child, Save a Gay.” Jamie The Very Worst Missionary posed the very powerful question, “What does it say about our Faith when our response to a corporate policy change is to kick a needy child in the teeth?”
And it is this question that I think we need to ask ourselves as a Christian culture. Scripture speaks about homosexuality a whopping four times, yet demands that we care for the poor over 400 times. That should tell us something about emphasis, and that should expose our misplaced priorities.
I am not suggesting that we abandon what we hold as ethics, or that we celebrate something that we disagree with. However, I reminding the people of God that the enemy works through distraction, by leading us to fixate on things which rob us of our ability to be effective for the Kingdom of God.
And this past week, it was a very successful tactic.
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