When Faith & Charity becomes Toxic
For centuries, faith institutions have gone to countries to spread the gospel, provide societal correction and, basically, colonize the “uncivil”. And, it’s horribly true that people have been financially, physically and mentally assaulted by people spreading the gospel. The recurring atrocities of Catholic priests have damaged countless lives — and, often, without physical evidence to substantiate the claims. We’ve witnessed the horrible stories about how some — not all — members of the Catholic Church have harmed people — and have been for a long time. We know, too, that other faiths have had leaders (from bishop to choir lead to pew member) have been equally abusive towards their sheep and/or peers for years — from the megachurch to the storefront sanctuary). And, unfortunately, there have been enablers, who sit silently by; they see something but won’t say something.
The atrocious actions of Arizonan, Jimmy Taylor, a self-described Christian Missionary & U.S. military vet, is abominable. And, his excuse? Medical issues. Get real. But, think about it; he’s from Arizona, the land of infamous racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The video in this article is disgusting, but not uncommon. Those of power privlege routinely reign with a superiority complex, instead of a spirirt of compassion and suppport. It happens everywhere. And, without the tape, showing how ugly that man acted towards a service worker, would he have been arrested? Would that worker had been believed? Look at the myriad evidence that gets ignored. We know that all too often, the accuser is automatically guilty or innocent, based upon who is being accused. Naturally, authorities would be fearful of angering the organization & allies affiliated with Jimmy Taylor. This is an international incident — where will this administration stand on this abuse? The answer lies in how America has stood on recorded racist abuses right here. Remember, this is also the administration that pardoned Joe Arpaio. That fear of stirring trumpian and evangelical anger could stop justice for the abused from being served (the tape doesn’t matter) — and could vindicate & embolden the abuser.
Please explain where God & mission is in Taylor’s words, racist statements & physical assault. Tell me how his actions are a positive reflection of a U.S. veteran & the church? Where is his humanity in this mission? Jimmy Taylor’s vile acts aren’t unique. If you are practicing God’s love, you will expose, denounce & eradicate abusers like Jimmy. That’s what Jesus would do.
Uncivil acts in the name of Jesus
Wealthier countries bully the poor in other countries, much like the wealthier bully people in this country, through: exploitation and inequity; home & land displacement; under-payment; slave labor; over-incarceration; etc. Add faith and you’ve got super power — sanctioned by the self-proclaimed “chosen”. Religion has even been used to turn people against their own. Think of those who have rejected — even killed — their own children & family members because of an unacceptable “lifestyle”. God’s commandments seem to come with an asterisk in their opinions.
Pay to Pray Our Way
In the documentary, God Loves Uganda, you see how missionaries use sexual orientation to justify rejecting — yes, even killing — gay people. You also see how lucrative it can be to follow the faith leaders in their condemnation. There is an urgency to impose their values on people they want to save ; especially, the poor— particularly, Black & Brown people of the world. The documentary is very disturbing, but, again, demonstrates how charity can be toxic — even fatal — when used the wrong way.
Speaking of Toxicity…
The book, Toxic Charity, opens up the dialogue about how charity can be used for good or to perpetuate harm. Ideally, it will prompt those who want to strengthen communities to self-reflect on how much empowerment are the missions leaving behind. How does your missionary work show up? Yea, there is such a thing as toxic charity. If those you serve are in perpetual need of service every time you visit, how effective are you? How much power-building is in your service? Is your giving a treadmill or a launchpad?
You should be regularly interrogating your missions work. If, the strength in a community remains weak every time you return, those in community are not the weak ones. Your mission, with all of the resources you bring, is failing them.
It’s time to re-evaluate who your mission is really serving.
God is watching.