My Fellow Inebriates,
‘Tis the season for charity, and at no other time is the need more visible. Whether through altruism or guilt, desire for salvation or pursuit of tax write-offs, people reach into their pockets in the festive season and find something for the less fortunate.
But should you give your money to that bell-ringing elf with the twitchy eye?
Guilt is a big driver for donors, and a jangly noise outside a store draws attention not only to the sketchy character wielding it, but to the harried shopper either walking quickly past or sheepishly digging in his/her pockets for small change. There’s something about being caught out publicly in an act of non-charity that causes us to pause and hunt for some coins to absolve ourselves of parsimony.
But who the hell is that elf?
If it’s a Salvation Army bell-ringer, it’s cool, right? The Sally Anne goes way back; its pedigree is solid enough to warrant forking over some bus money. But wait a sec. Visit the SA web page and you’ll see your charitable absolution comes with a price tag.
Fund Sally, and you fund a gay-intolerant agenda. Sure, they’re generous enough not to condone “vilification” of gays and lesbians, but they’re sticking by their biblical standards of “chastity outside of heterosexual marriage.” So if you happen to think it’s okay to be gay, maybe you want to find a different donation bin.
What if the elf is from the food bank? There’s no question food banks do good and necessary work. But the good deeds come with a party line. To quote my local (non-government-affiliated) food bank, “We give thanks and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ for His love which finds a visible and tangible expression in this building and those who work here. We give thanks and praise to the Holy Spirit for empowering God’s people with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and the message of salvation through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.” Booyah!
The Bible condemns a lot of practices in which I regularly engage, such as sloth, drunkenness, and bestiality, plus I have some gay friends (OMG!), some non-Christian friends and some (are you ready?) atheist friends. I even have network-marketing friends, and they are surely going to hell along with the rest of us. (I hear all the drinks down there are made with Jagermeister and tequila.)
The charity-religion connection is too often a bit of a power trip. There’s no everyday situation in which I (or most people) would feel entitled to lecture about morality, but a person who needs something, who needs charity—well! Sit down for the lecture.
What if you just want to give some money to somebody who needs it, but you don’t want to fund a church-driven agenda?
It means doing your homework. It means shutting out that ringing bell (if you want to) and giving your money to something you believe in.
Long story short: I’m going to choose a charity that doesn’t dispense its bounty along with lashings of religiosity. Because people who need money or food just need it, they don’t feel good having to accept charity, and trotting out a code of biblical morality alongside the groceries further erodes their dignity.