Category Archives: Charity

Facebook Debate Review

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Over the weekend, a Facebook friend of mine, a Deacon, made the following post:

“I was saddened this morning to see how a young lady who went on mission trips with <our> parish and was confirmed, posted yesterday pictures of her supporting Planned Parenthood.    I know that she is unaware of the truths of abortion mill that they are running and how they are murdering children.   I am praying that she finds out the truth.”

As one might imagine, this was met with the full gamut of potential responses, from those in complete agreement with the sentiment, to those who felt he was shaming someone publicly, to those who thought they were being condemned for ever having gone to Planned Parenthood for any reason.

Every now and then I like to break down posts and comments.   Today, I’m going to do that.

My commentary:     This may be, broadly speaking, a sort of shaming.   No names were provided, but there were some details that could be identifying in nature.   There is an acknowledgment that the person may be ignorant of the truths about what Planned Parenthood engages in.    I don’t think the post is out of bounds, as it is right and appropriate to rebuke people engaging in sinful activity, as long as it is done with charity.   I do think, though, that the reference to the Parish should have been left off.   It immediately identifies the person as local.   Had he left it at just someone who he knew had been confirmed, and had gone on mission trips then in the minds of readers it could be just about anybody.

The first back and  forth was as follows:  

Responder 1:  I’m saddened that you would put it out on face book rather than talking to her personally.

Poster: I am more saddened that she would post a picture first without talking to me so that she was well informed.

Responder 1:  But you are the adult here.

Poster: She is an “adult” as well, and “adults” should know that planned parenthood’s main revenue is from abortions.   Period.   Too bad so many people are misinformed when it comes to that.

Responder 1: I guess I’m not OK with shaming on Facebook.   A private conversation with some give and take seems more logical.   As for the adult part, well I guess the older adult should set the example.

Poster:  No give and take on that subject – abortion is the murdering of a child – it only is a choice of life or death – and I do set the example of standing up for life.

My commentary:   I can actually see points on both sides here.   I actually agree that the preferred initial approach would at least have been to ask the person in question whether or not she was aware of Planned Parenthood’s activities.    Perhaps even ask outright if she supported abortion rights (in private) to see where she stands.    And as I mentioned, even if one chooses to use this as an example for public consumption, care should be taken to use it as a teaching example, while minimizing the risk of revealing who the “sinner” is.    Also, saying there can be “no give and take” on any subject I think is wrong-headed.   One can know with certainty that they stand for what is good and true and still have a give and take with respect to a discussion.    Give and take does not imply compromise – it can imply trying to have a reasonable discussion so you can gain trust and figure out exactly where they are.    To should someone down will do no good.   I don’t think “give and take” means what he thinks it means.

Having said that, it’s a ridiculous assertion that it is completely out of bounds to make a public statement about something that someone else willingly posted in a public manner, and it’s all the more ridiculous to say that you need to treat another adult with kid gloves just because you’re an older adult.

Responder 2: How is that shaming someone?   He stated facts without naming her.    And if she believes PP is such a great organization, why would she be ashamed at all?

My commentary:   Generally agree, with caveats as already stated.   Though, I will say that it would be possible for someone to still feel good about their own support of PP while feeling a little offended by being called out by a member of the clergy, essentially, as a supporter of murder.   It may be true, but there may have been a more charitable way to go about it.

The next responder’s comment will be necessarily broken up into multiple parts.

Responder 3: As a young adult, my mom took me to Planned Parenthood to receive regular health screenings.   Does this mean I am damned for life?

This doesn’t make any sense at all, which tells me it’s an entirely emotional response.   As for the source of the emotion (either guilt, or simply an inability to accept that just because an entity does some “good” it cannot erase the evil nature of it).   For one thing, nobody anywhere said anything about being damned.   And the phrase “damned for life” makes no sense at all.   You are not damned for life if you’re damned.   You are damned for all eternity.   Which means ALL of us should be doing everything we can do to make sure we’re right with God!   Eternity’s a long time.   Finally, just because you went to PP at some point to get assistance, depending on what it is you did there, there may be nothing morally wrong with it.   If you got some check-up or general health screening, especially if you were ignorant of the other things they do, then there’s not a problem.

Unfortunately, this is why many turn from organized religion because we all judge versus support our own.

She may be right that we all tend to judge.   But the “thou shall not judge” thing is also misapplied.   The entire context of Scripture makes it clear that we should judge what people are doing from the perspective of discernment, correction, and aiding in another’s salvation.   It is not an act of love to allow one to persist in sin.  It is an act of love to correct it.   However, on the flip side, many people do not convey that correction in a charitable way.   And flipping around again, many will be corrected charitably and will see it as an act of hate because they feel they should just be “accepted.”    We “support our own” in the faith by trying to get them to heaven.    When we see error, it can be a tricky balancing act to try and figure out how to go about correcting that error, for that person’s own good.    It is not an error of organized religion that we sometimes fail to act in charity.   It is a failure of people, in general.   But those who persist in sin after receiving correction cannot be “supported” with respect to accommodating that sin.   Yes, we still need to love them, but that doesn’t mean what they think it means, often enough.

Knowing God does not judge, the message that is being forced onto us from our church leaders is disappointing.

Um…   God doesn’t judge?    Then who does?    Is there no hell?    This is the epitome of relativism.   Only are we not to judge anything anybody does as right or wrong, but God doesn’t even do it, apparently.   This is dangerous thinking.

I miss the days of feeling welcomed to church versus hearing how horrible we are because we may not attend every week, don’t dress appropriately or may support Planned Parenthood for many of their other services that help millions of people.

My commentary:   Oh, where to begin.   First, I would be curious to know exactly how this person was made to feel like she is a horrible person.   It is possible that an uncharitable approach occurred, in which case that is problematic.   But I have an inkling – maybe more – that this person heard a perfectly charitable reminder about the importance of weekly Mass attendance, the importance of modesty in dress, and felt personally offended because she was unwilling to look inward and consider what was said with humility.    Now, I don’t know her and can’t know that for certain, but what I do know is that there are many people out there who react that way even if she is not one of them.

The other irksome argument about the good the argument about pointing out the good things about Planned Parenthood is the willingness to just turn a blind eye towards the evil that they do for the sake of the good.   Not to mention, many people put contraceptive services in the “good” column.   They aren’t.

But more to the point, at the heart of all these protests in favor of Planned Parenthood is whether or not there should be federal funding for it.   So, if you feel that strongly about PP, then write them a check or use their services, or volunteer for them.   But don’t ask me to fund an organization that doers evil things.

 

Anyway, there’s actually more, and I could go on.   Maybe I’ll continue this with another post if I feel like there’s enough worth talking about.

 

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I Don’t Listen Enough

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It is a good and right thing to form opinions and to express them.   It is even better if those opinions are formed, with the best of your ability, in alignment with a well-formed conscience, with a mind towards God, with a mind towards Catholic teaching, and of course Sacred Scripture.

But we are human, and we all have our own life experience.   I wrote a couple days ago about how we all have a unique set of life experiences that help make us who we are.

Because of this, our opinions can gravitate to areas in response to specific circumstances and experiences.   Two people can fundamentally agree on the morality of a particular act, while still fundamentally differing on ancillary things in association with that act.   Whether you feel empathy and compassion for someone engaged in a behavior or whether you think people need to be punished for it will likely be due to past experiences that have led you to this point of view.   That, along with natural differences in temperament and personality contribute as well.

I reflect on my own weaknesses in this area.   I have very strong convictions and opinions on the rightness and wrongness of many things.   That is unwavering.    However, I think we often equate a pastoral attitude, empathy, and compassion with compromise on principle.

In my own experience, I sat on the board of a Pregnancy Center for six years.   The entire Board of Directors were very strongly Pro-Life and felt abortion was absolutely wrong.   But it would have been counterproductive and harmful if the folks working in the office – and the Board supporting them – had viewed the visitors with a judgmental heart.   There are times and places for the politics and the arguments, but not here.   This was a place to welcome them, to listen to them, to try and understand their situation, and only then could we try to steer them away from considering an abortion.   We needed to address the person, the situation, the experiences.   If we simply addressed the issue they would walk out and never come back, and probably tell everyone else they knew about their experience.

But in our personal, daily lives, how often do we forget this?   Shouldn’t all our interactions start with that approach?    Sure, they probably should.

But I’m horrible at it.   Because it requires that a person actually listen, and also care.

I am going to try and improve.   I think a simple way of doing that is to try and get in the habit of asking a question along the lines of “So, what has led you to look at things this way?”   And then shut up until they are done.

We’ll see how it goes.

Copy and Paste if you…

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…love Jesus.

…are really a true friend.

…hate cancer.

…don’t want toddlers to die.

 

As part of the Facebook generation, I’m really not entirely sure why I stay part of the Facebook generation.   I find that, more often than not, I am simply annoyed by what other people post.    The list is not short.   My liberal friends tell me I shouldn’t vote for Trump because he’s a horrible person, and then in a mind-boggling act of hypocrisy are planning on voting from Clinton.   One of my nephews is quoting gnostic gospels and arguing with someone about a pyramid in Bosnia or something.   Another nephew is gay and proudly proclaiming how “love won” because of the Supreme Court decision.   And then came the “solidarity” profile pictures that made my head want to explode.   And then the Traditionalist Catholics can’t help but tell me Pope Francis is an apostate.  And don’t get me started about requests to play games, or being poked or prodded or whatever it is that Facebook does.

But one of the more annoying things is when someone posts something on my timeline that says “I want to see how many of my friends are REAL friends.    No sharing allowed.   You must copy and paste this.”    This is the same approach as all those e-mails we’ve all gotten that try to guilt you into sending an e-mail along by saying something like “many of you will be too ashamed of Jesus to forward this and will delete it.   Those who really love Jesus will forward.”    Yeah – that’s it.   If I don’t forward an e-mail to all my friends I’ll burn in hell for all eternity because, obviously, it’s because I’m ashamed of Jesus.   Never mind that I don’t forward ANY e-mail because I actually don’t want to spam other people with a bunch of crap they don’t want to see, nor do I want to put someone through the same guilt trip I’m supposed to be going through.

I have a standard rule:   I do not copy and paste any message if I am specifically asked to do so.   If I want to copy and paste something I feel like copying and pasting (that’s never actually happened yet, but theoretically it could) then I will.    But don’t tell me to.   And this stand regardless of how nice and good and heart-wrenching your message is.   Babies are dying in Somalia?    I get it.   That sucks.   I may even look into charities that I can contribute to who are trying to do something about it.   I may even share an article about it (as long as I wasn’t told to), but I will not copy and paste.   Because if I do it for just ONE thing, then the precedent has been set, and suddenly I’m pitted against causes and people.

You think I’m your friend?   But you’ll only be sure if I copy and paste a post?    Get real.

And I love Jesus.   I’m not afraid to say it.   But if you try to guilt me into copying and pasting something that everyone will then know that a copied and pasted under pressure and duress, why is that in any way salvific?    And how am I evangelizing?    I LOVE JESUS!   NOW, IF YOU DON’T POST THIS YOU DON’T, AND I’LL KNOW I’M BETTER THAN YOU!   YAY ME!

And if I don’t copy and paste a post to raise awareness for sex trafficking, breast cancer, depression, yoga, or my left shoe then go ahead and think what you want about me if it makes you feel better.

So, the question is, am I being unreasonable?   As a Catholic, a Christian, and just a person trying to be a good overall human being am I taking a stand where I shouldn’t?   Or am I truly shying away from sharing the love of Jesus or helping mankind or just making a friend feel good?   Is my stand on principle actually innately unprincipled?

I don’t think so, and for now I’ll stick with my current modus operandi.  But I’m willing to listen to counter-arguments.

 

 

 

Some Almsgiving Options During Lent – and Beyond

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 24, 2008.

Since it’s Lent, and I have yet to give a good Lenten post, what better day to take care of that than a Sunday? Last year, I put together this post on some of the actual practices during Holy Week. I also addressed our plan for giving to charities here. Giving alms is one of the key Lenten practices, but it is an important part of the Christian life at all times. And while that post discussed a strategy to both challenge your giving levels, but in such a way that you can accommodate it, it did not discuss the charities and/or causes we donate to.

To be a good steward is to give prayerfully, and not recklessly. Supporting a cause that, for example, supports embryonic stem-cell research is not consistent with Catholic teaching. Thus, this giving would actually further an intrinsically evil act. As such, it is not simply the act of giving that counts, but to whom and what you are giving.

This post is certainly not meant to imply that there are not a myriad worthy causes. But this post is to provide a list, links, and information we support (where applicable). Our resources only go so far, so we do not support every single worthy organization that we come across, but I have also included the ones that are on our list of next in line to receive support, should finances allow.

First and foremost, we support our home Parish. I encourage everyone to do the same. If not Catholic, then the church you attend. But this really should be the “first fruits,” because it directly supports the mission of the Church where you are – and where God has placed you for a reason. There are a few circumstances where people are not satisfied with how their parish operates, or perhaps a new priest brings a more liberal theology, etc. In these cases, I still am a supporter of staying a member of the Parish, in order to help bring about change in the right direction. But if you feel giving needs to be re-directed, then give what you would have otherwise given to some other faithful parish or worthy cause. Better yet, though, if you can earmark your funds towards a project in your Parish that you do support, that may be an option as well.

Secondly, we support our Diocese’s Annual Appeal, as well as its We Belong to Christ Capital Campaign. It is very important to us to humble ourselves and trust our Bishop in obedience when he says we need to support this. Read the rest of this entry

Charity, Giving, to Whom to say “yes,” and how to say “No.”

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 22, 2007.

I don’t have a billion dollars to give to the Bill Gates Foundation (or anywhere else), but I do consider myself a steward of the resources I am blessed to have received.  Giving is one of those issues that people seem loathe to discuss too much.  For one thing, nobody cares to listen to someone brag about how much he gives to such and such a cause, and most people are uncomfortable sharing that anyway.

You can probably talk to 100 different people and get 100 different views on giving money to charity.  Most people, whether they are Christian, another faith tradition, or no religion at all, have a desire to support causes important to them at some level.  Our giving in many ways reflects what is important to us.

I will not talk about dollar amounts, and I will state up-front that I am not implying our strategy would work for everyone.  But the following is how my wife and I have approached our charitable giving.

The first thing is to realize that we have a large family, a stay-at-home mom, and we homeschool.  This is not to make excuses for reducing our giving, but it is necessary to understand when looking at the budget that you simply must feed these kids (on most days, anyway) and purchase materials for school, and so on and so forth.  We also must give them shelter, preferably heated, and in most situations they actually wear clothes.  Now, everyone needs to be intellectually honest about their situation.  Shelter can mean anything from simple to extravagant, as can clothing, cars, and even food.   If you are using your 5000 square foot house with two new Lexus vehicles that you use to drive to a fancy restaurant every night as your excuse for why you cannot afford to give more to charity, then you’re not really sticking to the spirit of things.  But I’m not casting stones, either.  We live in America, and truth be told we all have a certain amount of luxury in our lives that, in the end, we probably could have eschewed in order to give a little bit more.

So, our overall stretch goal was initially established like this:  A few years ago, we put a budget together and determined what we could afford to give to charity.  But under the theory of “it should hurt a little,” we added to that.  In other words, we managed to find some things we could sacrifice in lieu of giving.  Don’t get me wrong here;  we’re not heroes.  We still dine out occasionally and have a nice TV and can afford a few luxuries.   We just cut those down from where we really wanted to be to more where we should be.  Some people suggest 10% of gross as the percentage everyone should give, based on the Bible (tithing).  We have not achieved that, but we’d like to get there.  But quite honestly, just like so many things in the Bible, I don’t think the actual number is near as important as what’s in your heart, and the spirit in which you are giving back.  For some, the stretch goal may be 2%, and for others it may be 25%.   What we have done since that first year is increase our giving over the previous year by no less than 10%.  Since my income (unfortunately) doesn’t increase in a typical year by more than 10%, then our giving as a percentage of gross continues to increase.  In most cases, I simply adjust my previous giving levels to my selected organizations by 10 or more percent, but I occasionally add a new organization or replace an existing one.  Each year we need to adjust to the higher giving level, so there is an element of sacrifice, but at the same time it is manageable.

The other element of all this is where the money goes.  In another post, I’ll actually discuss some charities that are important to us, but there are important systematic aspects to our approach: 

(1) Before the year even starts, we determine how much money will go to all the different charities.  We start by looking at what we gave last year to each organization and increasing it by 10 or more percent, but will occasionally change the mix a little bit.  This sets your goal for the year, not just in total, but by charity.  You can also then get an idea how much you should give each month to match your income flow.  It is also important to have a slush amount set aside for random things that arise throughout the year, so you can donate to Aunt Betty’s pet cause when she knocks on your door.

(2) As much as possible, with your larger or monthly donations, go with automatic withdrawal from checking, or auto charge to credit card.   I say this because it eliminates all temptation to skip a month.  This is my way of telling God that these are the “first fruits” of my labor.  I used to give what was left over, and it’s amazing how little can be left over when you approach your giving that way.

(3) When you get a call from a charity that sounds really good, tell them that you already budgeted for the year and they are not on part of the budget.  They may try to get “just $15” out of you.  Well, it’s up to you at that point, but I always stick to my budget, and using the budget as a reason  is a valid and truthful response that has worked for me and released me of a guilty conscience.  That said, if you think you may be interested in future contributions to that organization, ask them to send you information about them, or to be directed to a web site.  Then the next year, budget for them in advance.  But do not feel guilty about saying no, because you will know that you have already prayerfully thought about how you can best allocate your resources. 

(4) Record the date and amount of all your donations on a single sheet of paper, and keep it handy, along with your budgeted numbers.  This is good reference for taxes (but you must have and keep actual receipts this year for all cash donations) and it is also great for when you get a call from a charity that you donate to.  I may make a once-a-year donation in March to Charity X, and in September they may call me again.  It really helps the conversation if I tell them “I contributed $Y in March, and I only donate once a year.  I’ll be happy to contribute again next year.”  They almost never push me any further when I have that response.   Alternatively, if I get a call from a budgeted charity and have not yet donated, I can tell them that I will donate, when I will donate (if I can’t manage it now) and exactly how much.

So, that is our overall strategy.  It stretches us, but at the same time is manageable.  It keeps us on budget, and we know whom to say yes to and whom to say no to.  When you donate to a few places, it seems like as time goes on, every other piece of mail you get is some kind of solicitation from them as well as other groups, many of which are very good and consistent with your values.  You simply can’t give to everyone, though!  I keep the most recent solicitation for any group I contribute to so I have it handy when I am ready, on my schedule, to send a donation.  I throw away most of the others that are not in my budget.  Occasionally, I keep information on a new one for consideration in next year’s budget.  This gives me time to think about and look into the organization.   But at some point, you need to boil it down to a number that you can manage, at contribution levels that are worthwhile.

So there you have it!  A boring post, perhaps, but hopefully a fitting one as Lent is underway and people are trying to figure out this “giving alms” thing.