Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Life by Proxy

May 4, 2008

A couple nights ago, there was a story on the news about the little McCann girl who went missing in Portugal.  This one took a different angle.  It looked at it from the point of view of a Canadian clergyman who was assigned to the Anglican church in the Portugese town where it happened, a few days after the tragic event.

In the course of the story, the minister’s wife spoke of how she and the entire congregation prayed constantly for the little girl’s safe return.  They’re still waiting and praying.  She then asked, “How can so many people pray for the same thing and it not happen?”  If ever a question answered itself…  It was screaming out.  I wanted to scream it out.  “Because there’s no one on the receiving end of the prayers, of course!”

How she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see it is beyond me.  Why millions of others can’t see that prayers aren’t answered is beyond me.  Everyone in a competition can pray for victory, but only one will win.  Millions have prayed for loved ones to come home from wars who didn’t.  Other people will survive complicated surgeries or be found by the police, but these are the results of human actions, not  prayers.  I guess people really are that desperate.

At best, praying for someone is extending good wishes and hopes by proxy, albeit an imaginary one.  But, why channel good wishes through a third party?  Why not give them directly?  It expresses the sentiment you feel and, ultimately, is more sincere.

Prayer could actually be seen as a selfish act.  It makes the person praying feel better.  It does nothing for the target of the prayers.  There was even a study done in Europe recently that monitored results for people who prayed and those who didn’t.  It made no difference.

I was going to say, “At worst, prayer is a selfish act”.  Then I remembered another news story that demonstrates it can be worse.  If any of you are thinking praying can’t do any harm, think again.  Remember the story of the girl who died because her parents chose to pray for her rather than take her to a doctor?

If you want to help someone or extend your good wishes, do it in the real world.  Send them a card or letter.  Phone them.  Tell them face to face.  Take them to the hospital or feed them.  Contribute to a fund or charity (one that does practical things rather than convert people and pray for them).  You might just give them a little comfort, rather than yourself.  You might even save their life.  Praying won’t.

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Preying For God

March 5, 2008

If anyone doubts my claims that religions, particularly Christian missionaries, employ predatory recruitment and conversion practices, grab a sick bag and watch this news story.  In a case of perfect timing, I just watched the news and saw this story about what’s happening in post-tsunami Thailand.  It confirms what I wrote about yesterday and in the past.

http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/internationalus/christianity_comes_to_thailand_1.html

The scum of the earth claim the moral high ground while they prey on the needy and desperate.

It still doesn’t answer the question of what is being done with the huge sums of money donated to charities after the tsunami to help the victims recover and rebuild.  If they had been used for their intended purpose, these predators might not have much of an audience.

Not So Passive Aggression

March 4, 2008

Passive aggression can be a dangerous thing.  The good people of the church appear to be quiet and peaceful, on the surface.  In practice, however, they are aggressively expansionist.  They want to spread the word, spread the faith, and convert the heathen.  One of their favourite methods of doing so is under the guise of Christian charity or aid.

Conditional charity is not uncommon.  Asking recipients to pray or attend a service in return for food or other assistance happens, as I’ve mentioned before.  This can lead to international incidents with consequences.  A while back, a group of South Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan.  One was executed, I believe.  Their government negotiated the release of the rest, eventually, no doubt after paying a hefty ransom.

There is a debate going on in South Korea about this incident.  What the western media didn’t seem interested in reporting is that these missionaries weren’t just helping people, they were trying to convert them and spread Christianity.  Should the government be responsible for them?  Should they bail them out and pay taxpayers’ money to save them from a situation they got themselves into?  Why should the country pay for their aggression and mistakes?

South Korea has the second highest proportion of missionaries in the world.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is a growth market for Christianity.  How did it become so popular in a traditionally Confucian or Buddhist country?  It’s growth has its origins in the aftermath of the Korean War.  I use the term ‘aftermath’ loosely because, technically, the war is not over – there is only a truce.  After the cessation of hostilities, the U.S. military stuck around to keep North Korea in check.  With American soldiers on the ground, Christianity was able to spread.  This should come as no surprise.  Religion has often followed armies around and spread with empires.  Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and expanded with it.  The pace accelerated after Constantine’s army, reputedly ordered to display the Christian logo on their shields, were victorious at Milvian Bridge and he took control of the empire.

Faith and the sword became partners again in the medieval age when Christendom responded to the spread of Islam with Crusades and Inquisitions.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I suspect this may also be when the death sentence for leaving Islam may have been introduced.  If you think you have problems today, consider yourself lucky that you weren’t a Moor given a choice between “Convert or die” and “Convert and die”.

Missionaries came to the New World, protected by European soldiers, to convert the indigenous populations.  The results were often disastrous.  From the New World the faith has spread to Asia.  So many souls to convert and save.  So many donations to collect.  The temptation is too great to ignore.

It’s not enough to keep the faith and live by the word.  They have to spread them.

Beijing-Style Censorship in Canada

March 1, 2008

Yesterday, there was a story in the news about changes to the Income Tax Act that will allow the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films it decides it doesn’t like, after the fact.  The bill, C-10, is now in the Senate, having been passed by the Commons unnoticed.  Now that it’s become public knowledge, some opposition MPs who voted it through the minority government first house are suddenly protesting.  It makes you wonder if they even read the legislation they vote on.  It also makes you wonder why the media didn’t pick up the story before it was passed.

This bill is a form of censorship.  There aren’t any criteria to determine which films will be rejected.  It will be entirely at the discretion of a panel set up by the government.  David Cronenberg says it’s the kind of thing you’d expect from Beijing.  This is clearly open to abuse to further political or social agendas.  For evidence you don’t have to look any further than who takes credit for making it happen.

Charles McVety is a clergyman and the president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, a fundamentalist evangelical group that seeks to restore “Judeo-Christian moral principles” in Canada.  He seems to be as interested in American social politics as Canadian, if not more, because on his Word.ca website you will find an ad for his new book, rather grandly entitled ‘Earthism’, which appears to claim that the disgrace of fellow clergyman turned gay crackhead Ted Haggard fits nicely into the ‘great falling away’ prophesied in the bible.  It doesn’t seem to matter how hypocritical and wrong these people are shown to be, they’ll still find a way to claim it proves they’re right.

His group lobbied for years to get these changes.  His contacts included people in the PM’s office, fellow fundamentalist Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and like minded backbench MPs.  Although he didn’t meet with Stephen Harper or Heritage Minister Josee Verner personally, the government finally agreed with the group.  Verner replied to his written materials by saying said she didn’t want to fund movies like ‘Young People Fucking’, for instance.

Conservative MP Dave Batters also cites ‘Young People Fucking’ as an example, despite not having seen it.  In a committee meeting with Michel Roy of Telefilm Canada, he said the purpose of Telefilm is to “facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society, films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families…”  He doesn’t seem to understand what a mainstream movie is.  A commercially successful movie is mainstream, because it appeals to a wide audience.  A film can be mainstream and be unsuitable for a seven year old.  Many mainstream movies have ‘mature’ content.  Although I agree the decision makers at Telefilm annoyingly seem to have their own preferences, and I’ve heard the evidence myself at trade forum seminars, this kind of censorship is not the answer.

I haven’t seen ‘Young People Fucking’ yet, but I will.  What I have read about it indicates that the title is probably the most shocking part.  It might just be shocking enough to get it noticed and help it break through to the mainstream – an achievement for a little Canadian movie in a Hollywood dominated marketplace.  Good marketing.  The easily offended moralists may unintentionally help that cause.

If McVety and the government want to talk about ending offensive tax credits or breaks, let’s talk about ending the free ride for religious organizations.  Churches and their affiliates don’t pay taxes even though they profit from investments.  Not all the money they receive is used for charity, and their idea of charity is often actually tied to recruiting new members and spreading the word.  They have also been havens for paedophiles.  Talk about offensive.

The long feared appearance of the moral right wing of the Conservative government may have come.

Charity With Strings Attached

January 17, 2008

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.

There Goes the Neighbourhood

January 16, 2008

I found out a while ago that the building being constructed a couple hundred metres down the road is a Catholic church.  I groaned.  Just what the world needs – more churches when the existing ones are empty, in every sense.

Then I wondered how they pay for it.   If the churches are largely empty, the collection plates must be too.  Besides, shouldn’t that money be used for good causes?  I mean real good causes – like charity, feeding the starving, housing the homeless – as opposed to building unnecessary churches.  They’re not cheap – especially these days in Vancouver, where the superhot construction sector often hits cost overruns.

Some time later, a thought crossed my mind.  I’d heard that most of the money given to charities like the Red Cross to provide aid after the Asian tsunami a couple years ago hadn’t been distributed yet because they basically didn’t know where to begin.  The Red Cross has Christian affiliations, doesn’t it?  I gave them money to help those people.  They better not be using it to further the aims of the church, by building churches, for instance, or sending out missionaries to spread the word and convert people.

There was a story in the news the other day about abuse of aboriginal children by clergymen at government run schools they’d been sent to for conversion.  Apparently, the Catholic church has refused to pay $10 million compensation, their share of a settlement.  They claim they didn’t take the kids away from their parents and put them in those schools, the government did.  I suppose the government made them penetrate the children, too.  The church will not take responsibility.  They seem to think they’re above blame.

Incredibly, a new deal was struck in which the government would pay for the church.  Where does the government get the money?  Taxes.  Your taxes.  Money taken away from you is being used to pay a penalty the Catholic church refuses to.  How can the church get away with that?  Why would the government do that?

Although the church denies responsibility, they aren’t necessarily unaware of what their priests get up to.  A while back, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart talked about a similar abuse case in the U.S. where the settlement was a whopping $600 million.  But, in that case, believe it or not, the church had SEXUAL ABUSE INSURANCE that covered the bill.  If you buy insurance, it’s because you know there is a reasonable risk of something happening.  To even consider something like sexual abuse insurance, you’d have to think it was likely.

The Catholic church seems to be very good at getting others to pay their bills.  They’re also a large organization that seems to think it has limited liability.  Sounds kind of like a corporation…  Maybe it’s time they started paying taxes…