I’m a storyteller at heart, so imagine with me…
You’re stirring a pot of sauce on the stove, thinking over your last interview. This job is exactly what you’ve been looking for. After growing up in the foster care system, the thought of a job that helps destitute children stay with their families, feeds them, clothes them and schools them…it’s just such a perfect fit.
You tell yourself not to get too excited. The third interview seemed to go really well but you probably won’t get in anyway.
When the phone buzzes on the counter, you take a deep breath and answer. And then you smile in wonder…
You’re in!! The job is yours. You stick the pot of sauce in the fridge and tell the family to get ready to go out to your favorite restaurant. It’s a night for celebration.
You call your friends and tell them the news. The job you’ve been hoping for is yours. And you breath a sigh of relief, knowing that finances won’t be so tight anymore. Not that the job is a windfall. But it’s a step up from your University salary and more than that, it’s exactly what you’ve been praying for.
The next morning you wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and you begin to formulate ideas for your new position. You can hardly wait to start.
You have orientation to attend so you put on your suit and head to your new office. As you make your way to your supervisor’s door, you notice some odd stares and whispers. You smooth your hair, wondering if something’s out of place. You glance at your feet to make sure both shoes are the same color.
What is going on?
Your supervisor opens her door before you reach it.
“Come on in,” she says with a strained smile. Warning bells go off in your head. Something is definitely wrong.
“Have a seat.” She indicates the chair across from her. “I have some bad news. And I’m really sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but we have to terminate your employment.”
It feels like a bowling ball has just lodged in your gut. “What happened?”
“I’m so sorry. I truly am. I think you are perfect for this position. But the policy change that allowed us to hire you has outraged many in the Conservative Christian community. So many have canceled sponsorships or threatened to, that we’ve had to reverse our position. We just couldn’t survive the backlash.
And in the end, we have to think about the children we serve. We couldn’t allow them to suffer. I wish I could do something but it’s completely out of my hands. I hope you’ll understand. Thank you for coming in.”
Dismissed. Let go.
You were in but now you’re out, once again.
Granted, this is a fictitious story. I don’t know anyone who was hired at World Vision and then let go. But it seems that all the righteous indignation and posturing on social media ignores the fact that we are talking about real people. Those affected by the decision and reversal of World Vision policy last week, are real. They are not fictitious. They are not a political statement. They are not an enemy. They are moms and dads with families and bills to pay and they are loved by God. But they probably don’t feel so loved by Conservative Christians right now. (Or in some cases, ever.) I can’t even imagine how they feel but I know the whole situation has made me angry.
In case you don’t know, here’s the deal. Early last week, World Vision U.S. President, Richard Stearns, announced in a Christianity Today interview that World Vision had made a “very narrow policy change” regarding “conditions of employment.” (To read the full article on ChristianityToday.com, click here.
In effect, based on their hiring policies that state that they require employees to practice abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage, they broadened their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples (in keeping with the laws of Washington State where they are headquartered).
Keep in mind, this was not a change in whether or not they will hire someone who is gay. They essentially have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. So it’s not like they were saying they previously would not hire gay people but now they were changing that policy. It was stating that they would no longer consider someone in a gay marriage as someone who was having sex outside of marriage (because sex outside of marriage goes against their hiring policies.)
The article by Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber in Christianity Today, March 24, 2014, states:
In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently “tearing churches apart” over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.
Given that more churches and states are now permitting same-sex marriages (including World Vision’s home state of Washington), the issue will join divorce/remarriage, baptism, and female pastors among the theological issues that the massive relief and development organization sits out on the sidelines.
World Vision’s board was not unanimous, acknowledged Stearns, but was “overwhelmingly in favor” of the change.
“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”
I saw a bunch of comments on Facebook, the day this was announced. Some were for it and some were against. That’s expected, any time you’re dealing with a polarizing issue. My post today is not meant to land on one side or the other of the raging debate over same-sex marriage. (I don’t have the energy to enter that debate right now.)
No, today’s post is more of an appeal to fellow Christians to consider the people affected by your protests. When I saw comments like, “I’m canceling my sponsorship. I don’t want to send money to a company that doesn’t maintain Christian values.” Or other similar posts, I just wanted to throw up. Seriously. There are so many things wrong with the way many Conservative Christians handled this situation. (Not all Christians, by any means. But way too many!) And, within 48 hours, World Vision caved to the pressure and reversed their decision.
They issued apology statements and assured their conservative, Evangelical Christian base that they were not initiating a change in their stance on the morality of gay marriage nor were they intending to question the authority of scripture. Basically, they said, “Ooops, my bad.”
So, now, I imagine all those people who called and yelled at the poor men and women who answer the phones at World Vision are feeling vindicated. As a matter of fact, now that they’ve been heard and the decision has been reversed, I doubt they will give it much thought anymore.
But honestly, I’m left feeling embarrassed to call myself a Christian, this week. To be clear, I’m not embarrassed of Christ. I don’t think the Jesus I serve would ever behave the way that a number of his followers did last week. To see people of faith, whom I respect, stating that they canceled their sponsorships because of World Vision’s policy change made me wonder if I were in an episode of The Twilight Zone.
How can a person who loves Jesus possibly think it’s okay to tell some little African girl, “Sorry sweetie, I can’t continue to feed you and help your family anymore because I don’t like the hiring policy of the program you’re in.” Are you freaking serious? How is that loving? How is that a good witness? How is that standing up for what’s right? I can’t even comprehend it. Yet thousands of children were dropped.
I don’t believe that most of the people who reacted hastily and revoked their sponsorships are bad people. I really don’t. But I do think they behaved badly. (Which I understand because I’ve certainly behaved badly at times in my life.) I’m not trying to be judgmental. I’m just reacting to my puzzlement at how this was handled.
By all means, if you don’t agree with the stance a relief company takes on an issue, you can avoid sponsoring any more children and take your dollars elsewhere. I may not agree with your reasoning but certainly, that is your right. But to cancel current sponsorships? To take the picture of that little South American boy off your refrigerator because World Vision might hire a married gay person? Can we not see how upside down that is?
Should we refuse to support a Homeless Shelter who hires a woman who had an affair and got divorced? Even if she claims to be a believer? Jesus didn’t even mention homosexuality but he mentioned divorce plenty. So, should we hold that line?
Um, no. That would be ridiculous in most Christian’s eyes. Yet people pulling their sponsorships from World Vision last week is the same thing, in my eyes.
The fact that children were dropped from sponsorship…that’s what drove me absolutely crazy about this whole thing. But I’m also so saddened by the message sent to the gay community. I believe the church has botched this issue over the years (myself included). And healing needs to take place, not more division!
I understand that the Evangelical Christian Church maintains that being gay is a sin. Well, even if it is (I’m not entering that debate either, btw…at least not today), so are lots of other things. Why is special evil status given to this one issue? Why are gay people made to feel like they are less worthy of Christ’s love? How must this uproar make them feel? Christians would rather let a child starve than allow a gay person to work in their organization? I’m sure that feels pretty crappy.
I haven’t asked any gay friends how they feel about this, yet. I actually feel too embarrassed to bring it up because there is no way I can defend or explain what Christians did. But I can’t imagine the gay community thinks too highly of the body of Christ right now. They probably wonder if there will ever be a place for them in the church. When I see things like this, it makes me wonder if there’s a place for me, either. Some days, I’m not sure I fit where I used to.
Again, I’m not intending to come across as judgmental. I’m just frustrated and disappointed. I wish the church, as a whole, would be more concerned with loving people like Jesus did, than they are with rallying the troops and calling for boycotts.
In closing, I believe an organization has the right to make their own policies within the law. And consumers have a right to support or not support whichever organizations they choose. I just think it’s a shame that Christians can be so blinded by this issue that they forget that they are talking about real people who have real feelings and who’ve been treated really badly by the church. And in addition, in this case, that the check they write every month goes to feed real children on the other side of the world, who don’t even know or care what a hiring policy is.
When I was younger, WWJD bracelets were all the rage in my youth group. “What Would Jesus Do?” It was a good question. And it still is.
I wrote this post a week ago and I’ve just kind of sat on it. Not sure I wanted to put it out there. But last night, I read a post by a guy named Ben Moberg that confirmed how I thought some people on the receiving end of this mess might feel about it. I don’t know much about Ben, other than that he’s a great writer/blogger who is a gay Christian. (I know many Christians think that’s not possible…to be gay and a Christian. But I believe it is.)
His post (read it here) made me so sad that I decided I would go ahead and publish this, even if it causes some backlash from my readers, friends, fellow church goers, etc.
I don’t think my post will make much of a difference in the debate. But if one person reads this and feels like they are not alone in their puzzlement or disappointment over what happened with World Vision last week…well that’s good enough for me.
P.S. The other reason I wasn’t sure if I should post this is that I’ll be out of the country all week and unable to access internet/email, etc. I didn’t want to start something and not be able to respond to comments and questions. But, after reading Ben’s post, I just couldn’t sit on my thoughts anymore. So, don’t take it personally if I don’t respond to comments right away. 🙂