The Problem with the WorldVision conversation

If you haven’t heard, Christianity Today ran a piece about a change in WorldVision’s hiring policy. The charity organization has simply removed a clause that requires abstinence for anyone other than straight married couples to include any legally married couple, gay or straight. They still require unmarried persons to be abstinent. They still have lots of other requirements for hiring based upon orthodox Christian faith. The decision was made for the sake of unity, says President Richard Stearns. They defer to churches and denominations to decide that question (as well as states), so that they can keep their focus on their priority, which is to tackle poverty and injustice as it affects children.

OK. So- If you know me at all, you know that I have an opinion about everything. If you read this blog, you know that I do not often choose to discuss the lightning rod issue of the day, not because I don’t have opinions, but because in my opinion the biggest result of those blogs are a comment section and other blog responses that tend to bring out the worst in people. Please know, from the bottom of my heart, that is not what I’m trying to do here. But I do see a trend in Christian commentary on the day that I find very, very disturbing, and I’d like to point it out.

The problem is one of priorities. We do not know how to stack our beliefs in a meaningful way, or in a way that makes logical or theological sense. Think of it this way: imagine your beliefs are like Russian nesting dolls, one encompassing the next, until you reach the center. With regard to belief, the smallest, most inner doll is more primary. It’s most central.

With that loose metaphor in mind, the problem is that people are arguing as if EVERYTHING is the small, central doll. Every issue simply cannot be the small doll. It isn’t. Not all the dolls can be at the center. That’s problem number one. We can’t talk to each other rightly when we treat everything like the center doll.

Problem number two is that people disagree on what the smallest doll IS. I’ll just put it out there: to me, without argument, the smallest doll is to preach Christ and him crucified. Everything else moves outward from that. You can argue for the smallest doll to be something other than that, but to me, at that point you’ve ceased to be what we’ve called Christian for 2000 years. I’m going to continue my argument assuming we all agree on this.

So then the question becomes, which argument/issue is closer in? Which doll is the smaller doll, closer to the middle? Which one has priority? In the WorldVision conversation, some think it’s child poverty and injustice and others think it’s marriage. If you think the smaller doll is child poverty, then what WorldVision decides to do about their marriage policy is secondary or tertiary or quinary (5th in line…which I say only because you rarely get a chance to say quinary). If you think the smaller doll/more important issue is marriage, then you  are choosing to drop the child(ren) you sponsored through WorldVision today because of their decision.

You can probably already tell, I think the people who are planning to pull their support from WorldVision are wrong. And here’s why.

Without arguing about gay marriage specifically, can we at least discuss gay marriage in relation to poverty and injustice?

Please, feel free to get out your Bibles and a paper and pencil. Make two columns, one for each issue. Please take a moment to think about or mark the instances in which Scripture talks about each of these. What you will find is that poverty and injustice have, roughly, over 2,000 verses and sections of Scripture that discuss it. If you mark how many times Scripture talks about homosexuality, you will find 7. Those 7 include verses that are talking about something totally different than adult consensual relationships, so it’s really less than 7. I’m going to count them all because the point is the same either way.

2,000 to 7. The poverty and injustice doll is 285 times more important than the homosexuality doll. 

You may disagree on gay marriage. But it is completely and utterly implausible for a Christian to stop doing the work of justice or supporting an organization that is doing the work of justice for something that is, mathematically speaking, 285 times less important.

You can say that you are going to take that money and reinvest it in the work of justice somewhere else, and some of you will. Some of you won’t. Either way, I doubt where you’re putting that money is going to be as well-connected or well-respected as WorldVision, who has been doing this work now for a long time and has learned a lot and made a lot of strong relational connections in the process. When we’re talking about an issue as far-reaching and as serious as world poverty, we should stick with the people who seem to have figured out a good bit of this complicated process.

It’s proof to me that the arguments over gay marriage are culture wars, not Scripture wars. Because if we look at Scripture, and we’re not talking at LEAST as much about something 285 times more important, we’ve got a serious problem.


  1. Linda ToepferMarch 25, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I read the entire article and like the analogy to the nesting dolls. Helped me visualize. If you don’t mind, I may use that in other explanations as well, if you don’t mind. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for writing this article. I also liked you pointing out the fact that homosexuality is really barely mentioned in the Bible. It seems like such a small controversy compared to other issues be they local or worldwide. I am not perfect but hypocritical, so-called “Christians” really disgust me. (I know I need to practice my tolerance more.

    Thank you for your time.

    Linda Toepfer, a teporarily, congregationless Episcopalian, who is asked by her Presbyterian friends and cousin, “Are you sure you aren’t Presbyterian.”. (My Mother was)

  2. (spoken in my — completely sarcastic/snarky — fundie Christian voice:) “But, Danielle, the smallest doll is THE BIBLE, the INERRANT WORD OF GAWD! and the Bible is CLEAR homosexiality is WRONG. So if we get that WRONG, then we get the whole thing WRONG. So we’re not really arguing about poverty vs. homersexiality, we’re arguing THE BIBLE vs. everything else. Because without THE BIBLE we wouldn’t even know about Jesus, or what to think about poor people, or what do about the gays, etc.!!”

    These people who are thinking exactly that right now (and you know who I’m talking about, they are out there – they may even be reading this right now), they may be biblicists or bibliatarians or some other word, but they are not Christians. They’ve replaced Jesus with the Bible. The Bible is on the throne of their hearts, not Christ. I don’t expect them to ever see it that way (because they’ve got it all figured out, they’ve got “absolute truth”), but it seems pretty clear to me where they’ve gone astray.

  3. Laura BlakeMarch 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks for writing this Danielle. I have sponsored several kids through WorldVision for many years but I wasn’t aware of the “policy change.” At any rate, I have stayed out of the gay marriage debate, mostly because I haven’t really investigated scripture on the issue, but I really like the matryoshka metaphor. I think I will take you up on the “make 2 lists” idea and use it as an opportunity to do some Bible study and see what God reveals.

  4. Thanks Linda. Glad you found your way here! And hope you find your way to a community of faith soon!

    Steve, I do think this comes down to an issue of Scriptural interpretation. I think if we can find out where biblicism/bibliolatry has gone “off the rails” so to speak, we could probably find ourselves as Christians a lot more unified than we are at the moment. The Bible isn’t the center doll, and putting it there creates all kinds of problems (not the least of which is unseating Christ from that central spot!).

    Laura- thanks for your comment. I do hope you will continue to sponsor your WV children. And prayers for wisdom and discernment as you study Scripture. If you would like some suggested resources, send me an email and I’ll give you a few book titles that may be of help.

  5. Julio Roberto MoralesMarch 26, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    La biblia es la carta de amor que Dios escribió a los hombres, en ella se refleja los extremos a los que Él estuvo dispuesto por nosotros, entonces podríamos cuestionarnos ¿hasta donde estamos dispuestos nosotros por vivir desde el fondo de nuestro corazón ese amor que Dios nos heredó a través de Jesucristo?, el no discriminó a prostitutas, pobres y toda la lacra social (por llamarle así a los no gratos de su época) si no que al contrario construyo su reino con aquellos que aceptaron su amor y aceptaron vivir este amor con su prójimo (o sea próximo) heterosexualidad vrs. homosexualidad seria cuestionas si uno es persona y el otro no, si uno tiene amor y el otro no, y Dios nos manda amar a tu prójimo como a ti mismo tal y como el lo hizo, y en este mandato no hizo exclusiones.

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