Charity And Jesus

You may have heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There’s another day you might want to know about: Giving Tuesday. The idea is pretty straightforward. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, shoppers take a break from their gift-buying and donate what they can to charity. Bill Gates

I wanted to think about charities a bit as I am involved in quite a few. The whole basis of a charity is to help someone else. Some charities are (low) paid positions. Some are completely volunteer. Some are paid an actual living wage. Listen to this TED talk about charity if you have time. He talks about thinking about the salaries of CEO’s in non-profit vs. for profit companies. I especially like this question “Why is it ok to make tons of money not helping people but if we want to make a little money spending time doing something that does help people that is looked down on?” (paraphrased).

I believe each of us should make it our goal to work the government out of the “charity” business as much as we can. I believe the role of the government should solely be to provide security for it’s citizens, whoever they may be. If people are free to go about their business not harming anyone that would be a wonderful society. The government has to keep people from starving, as that is a part of providing security. This is a wonderful idea, in theory. Unfortunately in practice there can be people who will exploit this system so they never have to work in their lives or work very little. They are abusing the system. This is unfortunate and I don’t believe that most people who receive that help are in that situation. I have faith that most of humanity is “good people” who honestly want to work and get ahead. We should all recognize that. We should also all work to help those who need help as much as possible.

I listened to a speaker at a church recently. He was a missionary, meaning he went to other parts of the world to “Share the good news of Jesus”. I don’t completely understand what his exact message was to those people as there are many Christian sects and they all preach a little different stuff. The part of the story that really was touching to me was after their mission left and they had spent 2 years teaching people about Jesus, then the locals started a bunch of outreach missionaries such as providing food to the needy. Now people will say “Look at the great things these people who were taught about Jesus are doing now”. I believe that one aspect of religion is that it allows us to be vulnerable without being completely vulnerable. We always have something to drop back on, to say “Well that wasn’t totally me that was religious me.” To protect our strength if someone wanted to joke about our vulnerability. I also think a lot of people feel like they need permission to do good. They don’t feel they have any authority. I believe that part of what the missionary gave these people was a purpose and some authority. I wonder if the missionary had come in saying “We should work tirelessly to love others.” If that would have gotten the people to work towards helping each other quicker.

Another aspect of charity is that we are told we aren’t supposed to brag about giving to charities. That is supposed to be a personal and humble experience. If we give to charities but then go telling others about it that is not being very humble. I think part of the issue with this is the bible verse
Matthew 6:1-4
Giving to the Needy
1. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4. so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Maybe we could announce it just a little? Maybe that would encourage others to follow the lead? Much like the opening thought about CEO salaries for non-profit vs. for profit, I pose the question “Why is it OK to tell others how much money you have by purchasing expensive houses/cars/etc but it’s not OK to discuss how much you are helping others?” Why is that the “bad” thing? We need to get out of the cycle of being negative when others are expressing their pursuits of helping others.

To provide a few things to think about I want to ask:

How much are you giving to charity? Both time and money are valuable. Honestly time is perhaps more important as it will help you realize how much you really have. It will eventually inspire more monetarily giving once you understand the organizations you are giving to.

The second question I wanted to pose was in response to my continued struggles with “the followers of Jesus” in a general sense, not towards any one denomination. Do you think it is more important that others know about Jesus or that others are provided with security? I believe that a lot of “believers in Christ” think that it is their duty to spread the name of Jesus so others can say the magic words “I believe in Jesus” and thus be “saved for eternity”. I am personally thinking along the lines of “If there is an all powerful and loving God he should be more than capable of taking care of our eternity. We should be more worried about acting like Jesus to others here, helping them prosper on this earth and extending their lives and making them better in the here and now.” I would argue that if you are more worried about people’s eternity you aren’t actually showing your faith, you are showing your lack of faith because you are still worried about eternity. I want to end as much suffering on this earth while I am here.

The reason all this ties together is that I am arguing that there shouldn’t be any such things as a religious charity that is focused on “saving people for eternity”. We should be more focused on helping others here and if they happen to ask we can mention our true motivations for helping them, if it’s really not just because you love them as fellow human beings.

This brings up one more situation related to Jesus and charities and non-profits. Many non-profits are religious based and are dedicated to spreading the name of Jesus, even in places that it might be dangerous to people’s lives to even know about Jesus, much less believe in him! Do you think it’s more important that people believe in Jesus in this life or that they are provided security here? I believe that if we really care about others we should be more worried about working to provide them a safe environment that they can then develop beliefs in instead of pushing our religion on others and then praising their bravery as they are killed for believing something we introduced them to.

What do you think?

The Most Important Thing

In the intro to “Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth” Buckminster Fuller’s granddaughter recalls a car ride that he asked her “What is the most important thing we can be thinking about right now?”

Here is the list of things that I thought of off the top of my head that are I am trying to determine if they are important. I think most of them are but how to decide “the most important”? I’ve probably started writing about half of these but often I find there is something else I thought was more important to write about at that time or I reached a point where I wasn’t sure what I thought about it.

How to help Syrian Refugees?
Can I “adopt” a refugee?
How to stop abortions?
How to stop senseless violence?
How to stop people from shooting each other in Waterloo, IA (where I live)?
How to effectively guide the charity I just became vice president of?
How what is my 5 year plan?
What are my life goals?
Will I ever get married?
Do I want to get married?
Why do I want to get married?
Can I more effectively “fix the world” if I’m single?
How much should I save in my 401k and how much should I invest in people?
Should I buy an electric car?
Should I sell all my “toys” and donate that money to some charity?
Should I buy a house?
What book do I want to write?
Why do I want to write a book?
Why do I spend so much time writing this blog stuff?
What is my purpose in life?
How do I be a better older brother?
Do I want to start my own company?
What would that company even do?
How do I help those less fortunate than myself?
How do I start a company that I enjoy working at, helps the world and makes money (self sustains).
What am I really passionate about?
Should I go back to college for more school or should I just learn by doing in life?
Is there a God?
If there is why is everyone telling me about their own different god’s and acting like some of them are the same god when it’s pretty obvious to me they are different?
How do I politely ask people about beliefs of theirs that I think are ridiculous?
Is it ok to be selfish sometimes?
Is it better to try to be a politician to change the world or do it outside politics?
Is it selfish to have your own kids?
Why are most Christians so obsessed with the bible but they don’t seem to remember that Paul said it is better to be single like he was?
Why do Jews have so many laws but try so hard to get around them?
Why do so many Christians leaders (pastors etc) preach “following the Bible” but forget that Paul had a full time job outside of preaching about Jesus?
How do I love more and judge less?
Should I listen when people are negative or tell them to just change their attitude and that will change their circumstances?
Instead of converting people to Christianity in places where that belief could get them killed why don’t Christians work to change the laws of that country or work to get people out of that country?
How do you motivate people to improve their situation?
What is the situation in other countries for labor? I hear about factories in China, Afghanistan, where people are paid very little and there are still effectively “company stores”. Are those true? If so how do we stop those practices?
How does my purchase of cheap stuff from other countries affect the above?
How do we expose people to the “very poor” and get them motivated to help those people?
Would religions be more effective helping people if they were less worried about pushing their doctrine on others?
What makes me happy?
What makes others happy?
What does it mean to be happy?
Is there an afterlife?
How do we store energy so we can use renewable but not consistent power sources like wind and solar?
When will the Chinese people become sick of restrictive laws like the 1 child policy and the conditions of the factories I mentioned above and have a large revolution?
How do we stop child sex trafficking, both in the USA and in the rest of the world?
Is it selfish to lift weights and eat a lot of protein and generally “be huge” while some people starve? I am not trying to be critical of people who lift weights. I am just generally interested in why we don’t help others more. This is also asked above in the 401K vs Charity question. I think about “Is this action selfish” a lot.
Why is promiscuous sexuality so stigmatized as a sin in Christian churches while obesity (gluttony) is not?
“You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! – Nix (Tomorrowland – movie)

What do you think is the most important thing you could be thinking about today?

Religion, Love And Relationships

What seemed to happen is that I became…
Less interested in religion and more interested in life
Less interested in doctrine and more interested in truth
Less interested in piety and more interested in love
Less interested in heaven and more interested in peace
Less interested in hell and more interested in suffering
Less interested in church  and more interested in people

  • Jim Palmer

I’ve been experiencing growing discontent with “religion” in a general sense lately. A lot of this has come from engaging those of various religions. While I do get a lot of enjoyment from understanding other’s beliefs I also find a lot of judgement.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like when people imply that I might be going to hell for not believing exactly what they believe, regardless of the actual number of people they would be condemning by making those accusations. Usually it’s a LOT since there are so many different denominations.  No wonder people are sick of Christians. I was raised Christian (of the Catholic variety) and really didn’t know much else until late in my college career. Now the more Christians I talk to the more I find that they all think each other are completely wrong. Why would someone listen to any Christian when they’d have to pick from 30,000 different interpretations of the same story?

When I dug for an answer to the question “What do you have to do to go to heaven?” I received various responses, generally centered around “Believe in Jesus. Actions are useless.”

When I asked if you had to be baptized I got various answers ranging from yes to no. Same with receive the Eucharist/communion or going to reconciliation/confession. Prayer didn’t show up as a requirement to often either.

I also found that a lot of the above things weren’t bringing a ton of enjoyment to my life.

I was told by at least 3 followers of their respective (different) religions to “try it and see if it works for you”. If that’s the best you got I’m not buying! “If it works” is a very subjective measuring stick for anything. Kim Jung Un would say that his ruling of North Korea is working for him but few people would say it’s the right thing to do. I say few because there are some people that have argued with me that he’s doing a good thing, or at least that it’s not bad!

I looked around and found that what I was really missing was love. I didn’t truly love others. I knew others. I liked some people, but I didn’t really love them. I didn’t act like I loved them and I certainly didn’t think I loved them. I remembered the following quote that I read one time.

“When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” C.S. Lewis

Maybe “trying it” would work for this? It has! Now I’m not saying that I perfectly love everyone I meet, or even do it particularly well. What I am able to do is ask myself everyday why I didn’t love the people I encountered that day.

It is sort of difficult today to walk around loving others. Especially if you are a single guy. Depending on who you are talking to it can be seen as unwanted advances or perceived as an advance when it’s not meant to be. For people who the age gap is big enough, it can come off as you are trying to get something from them or take advantage in some other was.

What I’ve found is it’s difficult to love people if you don’t know them. To know people takes time, time most of us don’t think we have. I often ask myself how I am showing love to the people I already know. Often I find that I’m lacking in that area. If I don’t love people I already know how can I love people I don’t know? Seems like that’d be pretty difficult.

On getting to know people, that is another place where I see religion being misused. People will meet someone and assume they know them if they practice the same religion. They will feel safer around that person. I understand why. As I said above, we all think we don’t have any time to “waste” getting to know someone we aren’t sure about, if they do some of the same things we do certainly they are more like us than those who don’t go to the same church every week. This often leads to people only having a very small group of likeminded friends. This is a dangerous practice as pointed out in “Reasonable Atheism” by Scott F. Aikin & Robert. B Talisse

“Groups of like-minded people who discuss their common views tend to unwittingly radicalize – they cause each other to adopt more extreme beliefs.” P36

If that doesn’t describe many religions and denominations I don’t know what does. Here the thought of a radical belief doesn’t necessarily have to be that everyone else is the devil, but it often does manifest in “Everyone else is wrong and only we have the Truth.”

At one time, I would ask others what they believed so I could tell them the truth of what I believed. I am slowly working to break that habit. These days, if I ask what you believe it’s not because I want to convert you to what I believe. I legitimately just want to know what you believe and why. I can see why people would be suspicious though as many people  are still in the same mindset I was and ask only to share their own judgemental beliefs. Once you do share your beliefs with me I will ask some pointed questions that might offend you a little, depending on how thick your skin is. I will do that only to get you thinking though, not to be actually offensive. It is to really get to know you and perhaps to help you know yourself.

With that background laid, I ask you the following questions.

Have you really been living like Jesus (If you are a Christian and are telling others how they need to be living like Jesus.) To get thinking about this more I highly recommend the book “Being Jesus In Nashville” By Jim Palmer (quoted at the beginning of this article).As usual, if anyone actually reads this and wants me to buy the the book just let me know and I will!

For those non-Christians (who likely don’t care about being like Jesus), I just ask you to recognize your group of friends. Are you unintentionally (or intentionally!) self-radicalizing? If so what? Is it a reasonable position? How can you find someone who holds differing views from you? What can you learn from them?

For everyone I ask, how are you maintaining the relationships you have? Are you truly sharing love? Who are you neglecting?

If we all took some time to think about these types of questions more I think the world would be a better place.