Why do all the charities have to be run by Christians?

“Why are all the charities run by Christians?”

Of course I’m fully aware that it is untrue to say that “all of the charities are run by Christians”! In fact, I was initially at a loss as to how to respond to the question when it was put to me.

My friend lives on a disability pension. Because he lives on a very low income, he avails himself of a range of community services in the local area. He has observed, with annoyance, that there is an overwhelming majority of Christians involved in running and staffing these services, including as volunteers. So he asked why, and whether it really has to be so.


 

The complaint.

“Why are all the charities run by Christians?” he asks. In fact, it’s a complaint. He doesn’t like it. These Christians keep wanting to pray for him and tell him about God, and he says that he’s not interested.

When I had first met this friend (at the Chat Room), he was complaining that someone had prayed for him (he had an injured arm), and that he didn’t like it. I took a close interest, explaining that it was actually rude of the person to do that because it is most certainly considered good manners to ask someone if they would like you to pray. He replied, “Oh, they asked. I said it was ok. I mean, I didn’t feel right saying no…”

Ok, that’s a little different…

So then I explained that “no, I’m not comfortable with that”, is actually a perfectly acceptable response. I then waxed a little about what prayer means among Christians, and how it is a very palpable expression of care and concerned love, to offer to stand beside someone, before God, and plead their case on their behalf. He moved away with tears in his eyes. Because that was the real question…

As it happens, within five minutes he returned seeking a private audience, which I promptly organised. He broke down weeping, and begging/demanding of me, “You prove to me that there’s a God“. His life experience had made it hard for him to conceive of a loving God. I refused his request (to provide proof), and we had a great talk about faith, and tragedy, and the goodness of God.

But I digress..

The response.

When my friend asked the question, I knew it was a complaint. He was just as much saying, “Why can’t some of these charities be run by people who aren’t Christians?” Because he would prefer that.

So what do you say to that?

Initially, I deconstructed the question, denying the premise: Not all charities are run by Christians! I know plenty of wonderfully community-minded people who are not Christians, and many are involved in charitable work… I quickly saw how useless this response was,  however, because it didn’t address the real question.

Secondly, I tried to explain that in fact, anybody could run these charities (which include running free barbecues for the homeless in the local parks, for example), but that it just happened that Christians were doing it. I as I went on, I began to realise that the statistics actually don’t support this hypothesis: Christians are in the minority in the community, but are massively overrepresented in coal-face charitable acts.

But it wasn’t helping him anyway. What he was really asking was, “What’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, which can account for this surprising statistical anomaly?”

Caught off guard (an unfamiliar sensation for me), I blundered around, talking about how Christians are taught routinely about the importance of charitable work, whereas non-Christians are not, and that this accounts for the difference. It was a stupid answer, and my friend was discerning enough to recognise, in his own way, that it was completely inadequate for his purposes. He went away, politely acknowledging my response,  but unconvinced.

What’s the answer?

The real answer, which I am ashamed to say I didn’t come up with on the spot, as to why there is a massive over-representation of Christians in charitable services to the community, is simply this: God cares.

The people of God flow to those places where God’s heart dwells. God has a special concern in matters such as the relief of pain, worship, prayer, illumination, and community, so those activities naturally attract Christians. The charities are flooded with Christians because God’s will is being expressed by those charities, and the call of the Christian is to participate in God’s will.

I’ll see my friend some time, probably in the next few weeks. I’ll give him the real answer then. It’ll bless him.

In the mean time, I counsel myself, as ever, to resist the urge to answer the questions that people are presenting, and instead answer the question that they’re really asking. That was one significant identifiable attribute of Jesus’ ministry, and it accounts for much of the positive responses I enjoy among people who come asking questions.

____________________________________________________________


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