We’ve come to expect it from government aid agencies, but why would a church treat the needy with the same bureaucratic abuse as the they get from the rest of the world?
It takes a special kind of moral resignation to tolerate the official government brand of charity. Every woman asking for any help at all is treated like a slimy hooker, for example. It’s that bureaucratic programmed assumption that all outsiders are some kind of enemy. I suspect I’d rather die of starvation than accept that kind of abuse. I once imagined that religious charities were better.
We don’t often use the local food bank, but things got tight this month and today they were open. It’s hosted by a local Baptist church. We would be surprised if the process didn’t include some attempt to share their version of the gospel message. But these folks act like any government welfare agency, demanding your Social Security cards, a copy of some utility bills, asking intrusive questions and pretending to lecture on being thrifty, etc. It’s very judgmental. In other words, there is very little effort to actually understand your situation and a fixed assumption that you must be some kind of immoral wastrel.
We saw that with the Pharisees and their teaching that God’s favor always means material prosperity, and poverty means God doesn’t like you. The Pharisees actually called the peasants “accursed” regardless of their genuine piety.
I suppose I can see where some of it comes from, given the snippy demands made by some of the clients coming for a handout. If you and I could spot that childish nonsense, why can’t the folks running this operation? They make precious little effort to distinguish. And they totally ignore it if you tell them you are engaged in ministry yourself. You’re supposed to do that only inside the church organization.
And I’m not grousing about taking what they offer, because God’s Word says you use what He places in your hands, and that no human can hold you morally accountable for what you don’t have. By the same token, within reasonable limits, we intend to eat most of what they gave us. We’ll do our best to pass along to others stuff we can’t use.
Still, the one thing that makes us so reluctant is the subtle dehumanizing abuse from church folks. This simply plays into the vicious cycle of adversarial posturing from both sides of the charity process.