When there are difficult things to talk about, I find that it’s easier if I think about what I would want to say to Atticus. So I’m breaking out the old-school letter to clarify a few things for myself. This is my attempt to explain why things have been a little quiet here the past couple of weeks.
Yesterday we were at the NC Literary Festival and we heard Jay Bakker speak. You wanted to keep playing with Legos, but I put my foot down and insisted that it was my turn to pick something to do. So we went to see Jay Bakker. One day your dad will tell you about his family’s history with the Bakkers, but for now all you need to know is that Daddy and I take great comfort in seeing Jay doing so well.
There were a couple of points where I thought maybe it was some questionable parenting on my part, because they were talking about sexuality and h-e-double hockey sticks but you were busy drawing on yourself and the chair (sorry to the NCSU library) so you didn’t seem to notice.
I knew from the Q&A at the end that these were my people, especially when the lady behind me asked about World Vision. Quick recap: Christianity Today published an article about a change in World Vision’s hiring policy, allowing married gay and lesbian people to work for them. People got mad. Sponsorships got pulled. World Vision changed their policy back. The rest of us got mad. Now everyone is mad. Glory, hallelujah.
There is a certain segment of the world that knows about these sorts of things and takes them seriously. Maybe too seriously. Blog posts were written, lines were drawn, labels were rejected. But I confess that I had a certain amount of ambivalence to the whole thing. I was happy (and a little bit surprised) to see the policy change and disappointed (but unsurprised) to see it change back. I was disappointed (but unsurprised) to hear that people were pulling their sponsorships. It seems like the thing that Christianity is known for these days, this expression of faith through dollars and cents. Your dad and I met in a Christian bookstore. We know how that industry works.
We as a family didn’t respond financially to World Vision. We were going to, and then they changed their policy back and honestly I was kind of mad about it. I understand that they had to protect the communities where they work. I think they were probably right to do what they had to do to stop bleeding dollars. I meant it when I said that I believe that giving should be an important part of our lives. We’re not going to bail on our young man from Compassion just because the organization is more conservative than we are these days. But if I am going to start giving money to an organization, I want our dollars to go places that make sense for us as a family, and for us that includes hiring LGBT employees.
Last week, the news came out that 10,000 sponsorships had been dropped after World Vision changed their policy but before they changed it back. I think that the way that Christianity is so tied up with money is kind of sickening. I think it is worth saying that when I read the words of and about Jesus in the Bible, I don’t see a lot of justification for people who are wealthy by the standards of the world to pull support from the least of these. I hope we are teaching you that.
A coworker came in to the library right after I found out the news, and immediately asked if I was okay. I am sure I looked pale and teary, because that was how I felt. Also I thought I might throw up. That’s a lot of kids without sponsorships, and whether you think it was based in hatred for gay people or standing up for the gospel it seems like a pretty sad thing. I tried to briefly explain the whole thing to my coworker but she hadn’t even heard about the first round, let alone which ever round we were on at that point. That was a shock to me, that this nice Christian lady hadn’t even heard about this thing that we had spent so much emotional time and space on.
Oh, Atticus. I wish I lived in the segment of the world that doesn’t know about the Christian issue du jour. After I heard that number, 10,000 kids who lost sponsors, I had a fleeting thought that I didn’t want to be part of the church anymore. I just wanted to go somewhere far away from this whole mess. The truth is that I probably need to take a step back from online Christianity, especially its more conservative voices. That there are good and faithful people who still don’t know about World Vision’s policy change is a beautiful thing as far as I am concerned.
(And since we are being completely honest here, there’s probably a part of me that wishes I didn’t know about it so I didn’t have to help.)
Shortly after Jay Bakker talked about World Vision yesterday, you got your leg pinched in the seat and I had to take you out screaming. After we ascertained that your leg was not going to fall off (which you really seemed to fear), I tried to apologize to people as they left for interrupting the program. So many of them, strangers to me, were as kind as they could be. He was so good, they said. I am glad he’s okay.
To be a faithful follower of Jesus is to play the long game. We keep the big picture ideas of love and neighbor in our hearts and reject the theology of righteous indignation as much as we can. This is the church I want you to experience, Atticus. People rooting for the son of a disgraced televangelist. Kindness and generosity to a tired woman and her loud son (sorry, but you are pretty loud). Pursuing thoughtful and patient responses rather than burning up and burning out. And I’m pretty sure it can also mean donating to an organization even when you don’t agree with all of their policies because you are worried about the kids. While I was writing this, I realized that was the example I would want to set for you, so thank you, as always, for being my clarity. I designated our money to help women and girls as needed.
Here is my promise to you: I am going to be less rubbernecky about things on the internet, to take you to the park instead of reading comments that make my blood pressure rise. I am going to click unsubscribe and be okay with being left out. I am going to look for ways to be faithful with my time and my money that don’t involve knowing all the issues and seeing the dirty laundry. I want to play the long game, and I would rather play it with you and your dad than anyone else in the whole world.
Side note: The message about World Vision’s numbers was (as far as I have seen) put out through several bloggers. I personally have a few questions about the numbers that I have not seen answered, like: how many of those were big organizations (such as churches) dropping groups of sponsorships, and how many new sponsorships were picked up during that time period. So I acknowledge that that number may not tell the whole story, and it feels a little bit manipulative to me. But I also think that dropping so many sponsorships like that was a really crummy thing to do. I love what Zack Hunt says here about 10,000 chances for redemption, though without a little bit clearer sense of the numbers, I am not personally going to endorse a donation for other people. If you feel compelled to help make up the difference, he has a link on his page.