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A Conundrum

By John Shores ~

A coworker recently sent out an email containing the following:
To those who do not know, my husband is a new pastor and “we” have recently been appointed by the Methodist organization to a church in a small town in Nicholson Georgia, outside of Athens in Jackson County.  Being new to  the area where the church is located we  noticed immediately a few things; first the size of the town is small and secondly the need is great because the church is located in an impoverished farm community.

When families are not doing well economically the children suffer first. With that in mind the church has started an outreach ministry called “Beyond the walls”.  Our first community service act is partnering with the local elementary school in providing much needed supplies to grades K-5th.
 This emailed bothered be on many levels.


By nature, I am a giver. Hearing about families in distress holds a strong appeal to me. After all, we've needed help in the past as well.

At the same time, to give in this situation conflicts with my convictions which include:
  1. If you do good works, they should be done simply to do good works. To do good in order to advertise your religion is insipid.
  2. The Christian religion is a detriment to humanity.
  3. There are already far too many churches in Georgia.
For me to support such institutions would be hypocritical.

Part of the Problem

I think that a very good argument can be made that Fundamentalist Christianity as it is practiced in the South contributes to the problem of poverty.

Of the top 10 most impoverished states, 9 are in the Bible Belt.*

This religion commonly teaches that "god knows what he's doing" and so there is no sense of personal responsibility for the conditions of the community.

The Christian message in many places, not just the South, is basically, "Life sucks but you have to bear it."

Either god is "testing you" or "teaching you something." And god will "never give you more than you can handle." However it is phrased, the entire message is not only that there is nothing that you can do about the sucky things in your life but that the whole point of those sucky things is to push you to god.

It is a pernicious evil to set about doing good works in order to draw people into a religion that is designed to make paupers of those same people.

To me, this is like offering poisoned soup to a hungry person and when they get sick you tell him that the cure is to eat more soup.

The Christian message in many places, not just the South, is basically, "Life sucks but you have to bear it."
So what's a fella to do?

To state these things to my coworker would not be received well. Christians have no context for understanding any perspective that does not support their worldview. To say something would be taken as an attack on Christianity. And nothing gets Christians a riled up as faux persecution. It is a state of mind that drives them to cling all that much more to their belief system.

In the end, I did nothing and said nothing. But part of me feels guilty about this. Not only because I like to help others in need but also because I don't like passing on an opportunity to help another person to think clearly.

But, then again, anyone who makes money in religion will never, ever be able to listen to reason.

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