Friday, September 24, 2010

More social gospel, works-based righteousness from Campus Crusade for Christ Power to Change: shaming people into supporting humanitarian aid

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV)

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to see the increasingly liberal direction of Power to Change--the name under which the organization traditionally known as Campus Crusade for Christ now operates in Canada--since I predicted this when they announced a "new paradigm" in May 2006. Their latest stunt is a contest called "Paid vs. Aid," in which post-secondary students fill out a survey in order to have their names entered in a draw for $1,000 in tuition or $1,000 to be given to their choice of one of three humanitarian works. Here’s how Power to Change puts the options, in their own words (the contest rules may be found here):

PAID vs. AID – Can A Choice Change A Life?

This fall on university campuses across Canada is a contest like no other. You could win a choice between: 1) WATER: help drill a water well in Benin 2) TUITION: $1000 towards your tuition 3) SHELTER: provide shelter for 2 families in Haiti or 4) ORPHANS: support 22 orphans in Tanzania.

Each and every day, we make choices. We make choices about our base needs: what to eat, what to wear, how many cups of coffee we want to drink. We make choices about relationships: Who we want to befriend, who we love, how we want to be loved.

Have you ever thought about how you make choices? The conscious or unconscious thoughts that drive you towards one decision or another?

Here’s a thought: maybe the decisions we make in life all stem from our cravings deep within. How much I experience a craving or hunger for food will dictate:
How much of it I consume
What kind of food I will consume

In the same way, what my soul craves the most will sway large decisions in life.

If you had a choice to choose from the following four options to bring change what would you choose?
Water in Benin. Can a choice change Abeiuwa’s life? Abeiuwa lives in a small village in Benin. Every day she must walk to get water that is brown and dirty. Sometimes it has dried up before she arrives. She knows that this water makes her sick when she drinks it, but she has no choice. With help, a nearby water well can be built that will be easy to get to and will always be clean, so Abeiuwa and a thousand others can be healthy again.
Homes in Haiti. Can a choice change Jacques’ life? Jacques lives in Cite Soleil, Haiti. After the earthquake, Jacques and his family made a makeshift shelter from things they found. With no bed, Jacques and his family sleep on the ground. When it rains at night, they cannot even stay inside of their shelter because it is not waterproof. It could be months before the government allows construction of permanent shelters. Before then, help Jacques get his life back by providing him and his family with a proper temporary shelter.
An Education for an African Orphan. Can a choice change Ayubu’s life? Ayubu is 8 years old. Both of his parents died from HIV Aids when he was very young, Ayubu is now living at the Upendo orphanage in Tanzania. Your choice can help change Ayubu’s life and the lives of 21 of his friends by providing them food, clothing and school supplies. As we all know education helps give the poor and marginalized children of Tanzania a brighter future.
$1000 Towards your Tuition. Can a choice change your life? Education is a valuable investment, and an expensive one at that. A thousand dollars seems small, but it could make a difference on whether you need to take that second summer job – or not. It also goes toward putting your degree to work so that you can be the change you want to see in the world. Invest in your education today so that you can make a change in the world tomorrow.

Paid vs. Aid is a contest running on campuses across Canada. Each winner will win a choice between WATER, SHELTER, ORPHANS or TUITION. Presented before you is a choice; it’s not a simple choice of what to eat or what to wear. It’s a choice that has ramifications for your future and for the future of others. The choice between money for tuition, or money to go towards those living in underdeveloped nations isn’t cut and dry; it isn’t meant to be a moral guilt-trip.

We know that the decision is hard. So why present a choice?

We want you to think about what drives you to make your decisions in life. What does your soul crave?

Do you crave success? Security? Meaning? Justice? These cravings all end up impacting decisions to pursue a certain type of career, choices to subscribe to a religion, or to enter a relationship.

Which craving ultimately wins out?

Which choice would ‘satiate’ these cravings?

When we’re presented with a choice, and brought to a place where both options have their merits and flaws, apathy is no longer possible. We’re forced to reevaluate life and those things that we crave.

Until we take note of our cravings, they may never be quenched.
To read this, you're not sinning by taking the money--but you really are (even the title "Paid vs. Aid" implies that you're opposed to helping the poor and are robbing them of much-needed aid if you opt to take the tuition money--the contest isn't titled "Paid or Aid"). If I were still a student, I'd have no qualms about taking the money--I'd know exactly who it's helping, and I'd know exactly where it's going. I don't know who's donating the prize money, but if they're so concerned about these aid projects, why don't they just donate the money directly to them or make a direct appeal on their behalf instead of holding this contest?

What strikes me most about "Paid vs. Aid" is the complete lack of any distinctively Christian content. The aid is described as "humanitarian aid," not "Christian aid." The appeal is to everybody, not just Christians. The name of Jesus Christ isn't mentioned even once. Any secular charity could devise a similar contest, and it would look exactly the same.

I don't often agree with opinions expressed in the columns of the University of Alberta student newspaper The Gateway, but I agree with Alexandria Eldridge:

The Campus for Christ "Paid vs. Aid" contest simply perpetrates a narrow-minded view of what makes a "good" choice, without doing any real good to those participating in the contest.

This scenario can only pan out in one of two ways; either the winning student chooses to help one of the three charities offered to them, and they’re viewed as a hero and an overall good person, or the student chooses to take the $1,000 in tuition, and they’re seen as selfish and greedy.

Even if Campus for Christ didn’t mean for the contest to end up that way, that will inevitably be the result. And while that may not be the view that Campus for Christ as an organization has of the winning individual, the public perception is going to be either the condemnation or the celebration of the contest winner based on their choice.

That’s the main problem with the contest — the judgment that accompanies choosing the tuition money...

...All this contest demonstrates is that it’s right to give money to charity and wrong to take money for yourself. But not everybody can afford that at this stage in their lives and there should be nothing shameful or wrong about that.

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