Operation Christmas Child: Why I can not support this ministry.

October 31, 2016

Over the past few days I have been asked if I support the Christmas Shoebox Campaign, if our church supports this ministry? The answer to the first part of that question is simple, no! I do not support Operation Christmas Child.  The answer to the second part of the question is a little more complex. I do not, and will not, dictate what our church chooses to support or not support. That decision is the responsibility of the church board. Traditionally we have not supported Operation Christmas Child, and the United Church as a National Body does not endorse this campaign, although some local congregations still do.

 The reasons why many people do not support Operation Christmas Child fall into three broad categories. I will expand upon each category later in this blog, but they are;

1) The type of World Relief or World Aid that Operation Christmas Child provides does not reflect best practices within the field of World Aid and relief. It is a model based upon charity and not justice.

2) Operation Christmas Child is thinly vailed Evangelism. Using gifts to open the door for Conversion to Christianity is not an ethnical practice.

3)The vision promoted by Samaritan Purse, and Franklin Graham the CEO, is not inclusive. It is exclusive and discriminatory. When you support Operation Christmas Child you support Franklin Graham’s ministry and further his vision of God’s exclusive love.  Something I am very opposed to.  

 

  1. The type of World Relief or World Aid that Operation Christmas Child provides does not reflect best practices within the field of World Aid and relief. It is a model based upon charity and not justice.

  • The contents of the boxes are often inappropriate, and do little to improve the long-term quality of life of the child receiving the box. The contents of the shoeboxes have little power to change lives as Operation Christmas Child claims. The contents of many shoeboxes are discarded shortly after they are opened, because they are inappropriate or the children have no idea what the item is, or how to use it.    

  •  “Buy it here ship it there” relief can have a negative impact on the economy of the receiving country/region/city.  An influx of imported free goods can destroy the local market economy. If the market economy is destroyed then people lose their source of income. Instead of helping you have made the situation worse.  Not a bad marketing strategy if your goal is to create a dependency upon your product or upon you. (sarcasm intended here)  

  • This model of Relief focuses on outside intervention to provide support and solutions rather than working with the local community to develop and provide real solutions. It is a “Do-for” rather than a “Partner-with” model. It is often disrespectful and ignorant of the gifts and wisdom of the people we desire to help. 

  • There are many organizations that offer programs that model a “Partner-with” approach. These programs partner with local initiatives to develop and implement real solutions that have a more positive effect upon people lives.  The United Church’s “Gifts with Vision” is one such program. Some examples of initiatives you can support are:  support the building of wells in Jordan to provide clean water ($100), providing a Safe-Haven for migrates in North India ($70), provide a month’s salary for a teacher in The Democratic Republic of Congo ($75), Provide a family in Jordan with a food parcel that will last six months (S150).  There are also many organizations that offer options to buy a chicken or goat for a family that will provide an ongoing source of food. My point is that there are many better alternatives to Operation Christmas Child.   

  • The money spent on shipping and organizing the Shoeboxes alone could have a major impact on the quality of life of those we desire to, if it were used in a smarter way. Samaritan Purse claims the cost of shipping each box is $7.  As of April 2015, over 124 million boxes have been delivered. So, $7 a box, 124 million boxes, that is 868 million dollars. That could have built a lot of wells, improve a lot of infrastructure, and provide many meals to those who were hungry, instead it was spent to ship boxes full of trinkets.  And these figures do not even include the cost of the trinkets!  It is estimated that 10 million boxes will be shipped this year.

  • We impose our cultural tradition of giving and receiving gifts at Christmas time, upon another culture. This also muddles or mixes the Christmas Story with Consumerism and Materialism. That is not what the Christmas Story is about.     

  • The real benefit of “Operation Christmas Child” seems to be in the good feelings felt by the givers. This article or blog in no way is meant to insult the good intentions of those who give. Most people who take part in “Operation Christmas Child” do so out of a genuine desire to help people. There are however better ways of giving.        

 

 

 

2)        Operation Christmas Child is thinly vailed Evangelism. Using gifts to open the door for Conversion to Christianity is not an ethnical practice.

  • The real purpose of “Operation Christmas” Child is to open the door for Evangelism.

  • Operation Christmas Child is a tool used to promote evangelism. Religious material is often included in the boxes and the children receiving the shoeboxes are enrolled in a 12-week Bible course called “The Greatest Journey”.  Those who complete the course are baptized and are then encouraged to become evangelists to their own families, friends, and communities. Many of these people are Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim. I can not begin to tell you how many cultural boundaries this crosses. This approach does not show respect for other cultures or other religions.  It reflects an understanding of God that is exclusive to Christianity. I reject this narrow understanding of God.

  • I do not believe you must be Christian to be saved. I believe there are many roads to God and it is up to God, how God choses to connect with others.  There are many ways to interpret scripture and what it means to follow Jesus and share his love. I believe my faith calls me to share love and work together with other to promote justice and peace for all. It is not about converting people to Christianity or convincing them to believe what I believe. It is about sharing love and working to better the lives of people in meaningful ways. It is not about manipulating people and preying upon the weakest members of society (children), and then using them as tools to convert other people to Christianity.  A true gift has no strings attached, “Operation Christmas Child” clearly does.

  • There is a huge marketing campaign behind “Operation Christmas Child”, and it is slick, and it pulls on your heart strings, and it is dangerous. It is dangerous because it is convincing millions of people that this is the way to share love.  In my opinion, this is not the way we are called to share love, it is a feel-good solution that does little to bring about meaningful change. It also promotes a world view that is not inclusive of all God’s children. Operation Christmas Child does not reflect Christian Love at its best. I believe Jesus calls us to be better than this.

 

 

 

3)        The vision promoted by Samaritan Purse, and Franklin Graham the CEO, is not inclusive. It is exclusive and discriminatory. When you support Operation Christmas Child you support Franklin Graham’s ministry and further his vision of God’s exclusive love.  

  • Franklin Graham has been criticized by humanitarians, non-Christians, Liberal Christians, conservative Christians, and even Evangelical Christians for many of the comments he has made in the main stream media and on social media. He has been accused of being; racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic.  He aggressively campaigns against inclusive marriage, and has been outspoken against the Muslim faith even calling for Muslims to be barred from entering the United States.  I could go on and on here but I will not.  I will say that I believe many of Graham’s comments to be hurtful and harmful. He sows seeds of discord and not peace. I respected Franklin Graham’s father Billy Graham, I disagreed with him theologically but I respected the man. I have little or no respect for the ministry of Franklin Graham.

  • Operation Christmas Child requires its volunteers and employees to sign a statement of faith which includes a traditional interpretation of marriage and a pro-life stance on abortion.  Volunteers have been asked to leave because they support same gender marriage or take a pro-choice position on abortion.  This is a discriminatory practice.

  • Even the programs offered by Samaritan Purse that are of a more holistic nature, are closely tied to Evangelism and Graham’s vision of God’s exclusive love.

  • As a minister in the United Church of Canada, a domination that affirms the value of all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or any other category we might impose upon God’s people, I in good conscience cannot support the ministries of Samaritan Purse.  

There you have it, some of the reasons why I do not support “Operation Christmas Child”. Many of you may not like what I wrote. That is ok.  At least now you know, you know what I believe and how I feel. I’ve shared my views. I’ve broken my silence. My silence was eating me alive, my integrity required me to speak the truth as I see it. You do not need to share my views.

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