After expressing my concerns yesterday about charities with religious affiliations, I followed a trail in the blogosphere to some other sources, where I found I was neither alone nor unjustified.
Religious charities often invite aid recipients to partake in religious rituals or services. It may be optional but those on the receiving end may feel obliged, even if they don’t want to accept. Sometimes, the supposed do-gooders are even more crass and insidious. In those cases, charity is conditional. This doesn’t surprise me. It only confirms what I already know, based on personal experience.
About ten or fifteen years ago, when I was living in London, I’d just picked up some Fair Trade coffee near Waterloo Station, wanting to help the peasants who actually worked the land in Latin America. The staff had reassured me they had no religious agenda. Then, down the street, I encountered a charity worker associated with the Anglican Church, I believe. He said they feed hungry people overseas. I asked if the hungry people had to pray to get the food. Initially evasive, he then said, “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they pray, if we’re going to feed them.” The words were etched in my mind.
It’s comforting to know the good people of the church are on the same ethical level as Robert Mugabe. You’re starving and need food? I’ve got food. But, you have to support my cause…
If charity isn’t truly selfless, it isn’t charity. It’s marketing. A free gift for signing up. A loss leader to get you in the store. It isn’t charity if there is an expectation, or even a hope, of something in return.
Religious charity is an elaborate recruitment campaign. They don’t pray for so much as prey on. This isn’t just overseas. The twelve step program of AA and other addiction groups requires acceptance of god as one of the steps. They effectively replace substance addiction with addiction to god, creating an army of the desperate who cling to god and lies because they think they have to. Afraid of their own demons, this army of ‘lost souls’ is prone to political manipulation. Now I know where zombie movies come from.
If you want to help people without strings attached, try UNICEF, CARE, the United Way, Fair Trade, or nationally recognized medical research organizations in your country.
Tags: AA, addiction, aid, Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism, Anglican, Anglican church, charities, charity, ethics, free gift, god, loss leader, marketing, morals, pray, prayer, recruitment, Red Cross, religious affiliation, religious charities, Robert Mugabe, secular charities, strings attached, substance abuse, tsunami, Zimbabwe, zombie movies, zombies