Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Always Those Darn Christians

One interesting thing I’ve found while taking the Human Rights Human Wrongs class is how involved Christian organizations are in the fight for human rights. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens always blame Christianity for atrocities like the Crusades or the Inquisition. But in the twenty-first century, it seems that the majority of the organizations that are fighting for human rights on the front lines are Christian!

Think about it. Every day in class, we hear about the incredible work that Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service both do with refugees in Lancaster. Water Street Rescue Mission in downtown Lancaster provides meals and shelter to hundreds of homeless people every day. The Salvation Army also does great work in feeding the hungry and caring for the poor. Notably, the largest nonprofit organization in the entire world, WorldVision, is a Christian organization. Examples abound: Living Water International has dug 10,000 wells in nations where drought is prevalent. Every day, while living in Jerusalem, I could see the ancient church on the Mount of Olives that is now a non-profit Christian hospital run by Lutheran World Federation.

Victoria Augusta Hospital. Mount of Olives, East Jerusalem
Obviously, there are tons of charities and many of them are not Christian. It just seems odd to me that SO many charities are based on Christian principles. And these aren’t just to make converts: pushing Christianity is explicitly forbidden in WorldVision’s code of conduct.

The stereotype that some people have, that Christians only care about the afterlife, seems not to be true. So what exactly explains the preponderance of Christian aid organizations? Are they motivated by Jesus’ commands to care of the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the widows, and the orphans? Or is it just a coincidence that they happen to be Christian?

What do you think? Should religion play a part in advancing human rights? Or should Christians stay out of it?

I have my own opinions but I’m curious what you think. 


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting point - it is very apparent that many Christian organizations are involved in defending human rights. And, I have no objections to this at all - it is very noble for any organization to become involved and passionate in these issues; whether they are religious or not makes no difference!

I would also like to respond to some of your other points. First, you pointed out that Christians' participation is not motivated to secure good position in the afterlife. To me, it does not make a difference whether participation in these groups is motivated by fear of the afterlife. All that matters is that people are doing good deeds while on earth, no matter what the motivation.

And in response to your second point - that Christian participation is not motivated by hoping to convert others. I really do hope this is the case. I think, though, that this motivation can creep into religious groups' agendas, especially when they think that they have a very noble cause (which Christianity definitely has). However, I hope that all is being done to resist hopes of converting others from motivating participation in defending human rights.

Andrew B. said...

Good points Ross. I definitely agree.