(See Part 2)
If the counter.org story is right, It sounds like the Watchtower was one of the few organizations meeting the USDA Farmers-to-Families program requirements. The story charges that outfits accepted the food boxes but were unwilling to take on the costs of distribution. Instead, they had food distributions in their parking lots—you had to fetch the food quickly before it rotted, and run through a gauntlet of prayer services or ‘soul-salvations’ in the process. Some never intended to comply with program requirements, charges the story. Not so here.
The plan was called "truck-to-trunk." The companies were supposed to take their food boxes directly to local food bank distribution points and drop the boxes into the trunks of waiting cars.” Witnesses did better than that. They delivered it directly to homes. What if someone doesn’t have a “waiting car?” Really poor people do not.
However, the Witness organization does something that will also get thecounter.org people going. They operate with Galatians 6:10 in mind: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” Recipients of their aid will fall on the “poor spectrum.” Since Witnesses are in aggregate the faith with the lowest average income—and when aid is sent to the neediest of them with the proviso that if they think someone needs it more they can take it there—that is all but guaranteed. But what of those who aren’t keen on God? Are they as likely to be on the Witnesses’s radar as those who aren’t? Probably not.
Frankly, I don’t see what’s so horrendous about even the “abuses” the article attributes to some church groups. Even if I find those abuses distasteful, still food is distributed to anyone who comes to fetch it. The counter.org article just reflects jealousy, in my view, that people of faith will do more to solve ills than do secular people, who are more apt to address it through massive agencies and then spend the rest of their lives on lawyers prosecuting the abuses and corruption that inevitably occurs. If people of faith want to call attention to what implants the generous spirit within them, why should the humanists not be able to live with that? They just don’t like God. Sometimes I think they would rather let people starve than to see them exposed to religion. Must we bend over backwards to see that no humanist is offended by mention of God?
However, this post begins with the proviso: “If the counter.org story is right.” I am willing to entertain that it is not. The counter.org is a humanist organization, and as such I can readily believe it would pass over without comment any faith-based organization doing the work, by its definition, “properly”—keeping their mouths shut about God. Even the Watchtower, with its firm stand on God’s kingdom as the ultimate answer, will say things of the greater world like: “True, some good has been accomplished, but....” However, the counter.org article highlights nothing but what it thinks is bad. So maybe there are some faith groups who are helping fix the world’s broken distribution system without mention of God, activity that would meet the conditions of thecounter.org.
Still, can we all agree that since Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise .01% of the world’s population, what they do or do not do will not make a difference to the world’s self-repair efforts? If they did nothing but offer flowers to passerby on street corners, they would not spoil the world’s efforts to save itself.
In my lifetime I have seen “taking care of one’s own” go from being a laudable trait to a cult-like offense bordering on criminal. Let us rip Galatians 6:10 out of our Bibles, for it is selfish to actually do it: “let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”
Let us entertain the critics for a just moment and speculate that Jehovah’s Witnesses really are selfish for operating with this verse in mind. Isn’t it the fault of God, who says here that Christians should begin aid with their own? What really can be the beef over this? Aren’t faith-based organizations the ideal distribution channels? And humanists will not be left out of the equation, for if there is anything to their leaving God by the curb, surely they will be able to devise something at least equal, if not better.
Witnesses don’t know how to fix the world’s broken system. People without Bible principles tend not to get along. We don’t know how to help them succeed in the absence of Bible principles, and that is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily a Bible teaching organization. They follow the ‘teach a man to fish’ model, so you will not have to keep giving them fish till the end of time, because we see repeatedly how that model breaks down under stress—and all it has to do is break down once for calamity to ensue. What Witnesses can do is set an example for others to follow—religious or secular—in “caring for their own.” That way, if every one does, and especially when they go the extra mile as do the Witnesses, everyone’s needs will be cared for. There will be no poor unattended.
Anyone can apply for this program. All you have to do is be willing to work for others and have your act together sufficiently enough to package and distribute. If Witnesses take the government up on their generous program, truly an instance—they are not all that common, of when government does things right—why would anyone object to it? Anyone is invited. Grumbling over this reflects exactly the same jealousy that has been manifested at the JW disaster relief program,* on the basis that it doesn’t attempt to restore everybody, but operates with Galatians 6:10 in mind.
Now, I personally have no issue with those who operate otherwise. When I pass a soup kitchen I do not mutter bad things about it. I say good things about it. I say that they are focusing on a specific good thing that we are not, and so how can you criticize that? I do not. I may observe that it is a stopgap measure, but that certainly does not make it unpraiseworthy.
There is in my neck of the woods such an agency called the House of Mercy. It is run by a nun, or maybe a former-nun. I have nothing but praise for it. She shakes down whoever she must to procure supplies and help those who are truly down and out with feeding and lodging. Recently she was worried that a gigundous shipment of canned goods that she has come to rely upon, supplied by the Latter Day Saints church in Salt Lake City, might not come this year. And then it did. Will one praise the Mormons? I will in this instance. It is a very good deed they do. (Besides, I have a thing for Mormons.) However they are also the most political of faiths—the most consistently Republican as rated by the same Pew organization that ranks the Witnesses as the most apolitical, they have a lot of beliefs that take time to get ones head around, and there are those who will deride them as a cult almost to the extent they will deride JWs as one.
I don’t have a problem with someone trying to make this world’s broken distribution system work. However, I will not go so far as to hurl stones at the people who have invented an entirely new channel that does work. The Watchtower has published an apt illustration of parents who hire a babysitter to care for their children, and on returning home, they find the children not cared for, as the babysitter is busy painting the house. Even though the house needed painting, they are not happy. Tending to the children was the assigned task. If the babysitter wants to paint the house AND care for the children, that works fine, but that good work cannot be done INSTEAD of caring for the children.
I personally had mixed feelings when I heard this illustration because I had been saying something very similar for a long time and I thought maybe they had stolen it from me. Of course, they are welcome to it, and indeed, it is an obvious enough comparison that it might well occur simultaneously to different people. It actually improved upon mine because mine didn’t involve people. Mine involved hiring a contractor to reroof the house and later find that he has painted it instead. Theirs involves people, which is better, but it is also worse, because hiring a babysitter is always associated with caring for the kids physically. The parents do not hope for the babysitter to care for them spiritually, and usually are relieved to find that he/she hasn’t made that attempt.
The JW organization puts emphasis on caring for ones spiritually, so that in applying Bible principles they will correspond to the man who has learned how to fish. Of course, giving a man a fish also has a place, and as stated, I am not one to criticize it. But if you only give them fish you make them dependent upon yourself for life, and the first time you fall down on “your” job, they blame you for it. Better teach them Bible principles that will enable them to fish, and the best foundation for Bible principles to stick is to fortify them with accurate knowledge about God.
And if I feared that the organization has stolen my illustration, it is not so bad as a recent speaker who related how at another Hall he had laid a $20 bill on the speaker stand along with his outline because he meant to use it as an illustration of how counterfeit is so hard to distinguish from real, and that the fact that there is much counterfeit money does not prove that there is no such thing as real money. However, the chairman, upon spotting the bill, removed it to Lost and Found, so that when the speaker took the stand, he could not use his analogy. “He literally stole my illustration,” he told us.
The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, an ebook I wrote three years ago:
At the home of Victor Vomodog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”
But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?
So do it yourself, Victor! Organize your own new chums! Or send your money to some mega-agency where they think Bible education is for fools. Be content to see monies frittered away on salaries, hotels, travel, retirement, health care benefits, and God knows what else! Be content to see much of what remains squandered! It’s the best you can do—embrace it! Or at least shut up about the one organization that has its act together.
The obvious solution, when it comes to disaster relief, is for others to do as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with them now, Victor? Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be veritable gifts to freedom and humankind. Surely they can see human suffering. Why don’t they step up to the plate themselves?
They can’t. They are vested in a selfish model that runs a selfish world. Let them become Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from the Bible education overseen by the Governing Body, Plato’s and Sider’s dream brought to life. But if they stay where they are, they must look to their own organization or lack thereof. There’s no excuse that they should not be able to copy Witnesses. They have far more resources to draw upon. We’re not big enough to do everyone for free, and we don’t know how to run a for-pay model; we’ve no experience in that. Instead, other groups must learn how to put love into action, as we did long ago.
C’mon, Victor! If all the world needs is to ‘come together,’ then see to it! We don’t know how to do that. People without Bible education tend not to get along. You make them do it! You don’t want to, or can’t, do large-scale relief, yet you want to shoot down those who do! What a liar!