Charity

Charitable giving has long been regarded by most Christians as an essential component of their faith. It is central to the romanticised idea of Jesus that to follow him requires acts of charity. Pauline Christianity of course largely ignores such matters: it is driven by the idea that it is what a person believes that is key to salvation, not what he does. And what is the point of focusing on earthly needs when eternity beckons? But the Anglican and Catholic Churches largely espouse a watered down version of this in which actions are more important than beliefs. Christian charities of all kinds abound and it would be churlish to ignore the good they often do. However, I personally cannot ignore the fact that alongside the charitable acts comes a concomitant missionary element. I pointed this out last year in relation to one particularly nasty religious outfit – but to a greater or lesser extent it is a fact that Christian charities hand out earthly assistance alongside spiritual propaganda. Which element of this duality takes precedence varies both with the charity concerned, and with the individual charity worker. Perhaps if religious charities were clearer on these issues it might help. I am, for example, happy to donate as a cultural act for the upkeep of a Cathedral that I visit; but there is always a lingering suspicion that my money will go to support an awful bible thumping bigot offering specious spiritual comfort to some poor, starving child in Africa. Even if the money is ring-fenced for the steeple repair budget, it just relieves the pressure on other Church funds freeing them up for religious activity of some sort. I am not sure where the dividing line lies between missionaries that hand out charity and charity workers that hand out missionary tracts – but to be safe, I prefer to give my donations to secular charities.

Except now I see in the media that Oxfam is under investigation for sexual abuse including hiring prostitutes (possibly even children) in developing countries. And according to one source at least this is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’; apparently, the charity/aid sector is rife with abuse. But Oxfam has been becoming unsupportable for some time on other grounds; here is Steven Glover of the Mail Online:

Somehow, a once well-meaning and politically neutral organisation has turned itself into a Corbynista anti-capitalist pressure group which recently tweeted on its official feed: ‘We have an extreme form of capitalism that only works for those at the top.’ God knows capitalism has its failings. But it remains the case that this allegedly wicked economic system has lifted billions of people out of poverty — many more than all the aid charities in the world combined. . . . According to the World Bank, in 1990 1.9 billion people (or 37.1 per cent of the global population at the time) lived on less than $1.90 a day, compared to 702 million (9.6 per cent) in 2015. This unprecedentedly rapid change is not the result of aid. No, it is chiefly the consequence of the adoption of the kind of capitalism which Oxfam erroneously claims works only for ‘those at the top’.

I have long wondered who are the chief beneficiaries of charity – its ostensible objects, or the pious, self-abnegating Jellybys who make their living dispensing it, while hobnobbing with so-called celebrities, who assuage their guilt at amassing unearned fortunes by pontificating to the rest of us about poverty while swanning around in private yachts and planes. I am just sick and tired of do-gooders looking down their moral noses at those of us who just get on with our lives, paying our taxes and trying not to do harm while they make a career out of sanctimonious naivety at best and, as we now discover, self-interested corruption at worst.