COLUMN By HEMANT MEHTA
Adapted from "The Friendly Atheist."
Mar. 03, 2010
One question that atheists often get asked is, "Why don't you support Christian missionaries who help so many people in poverty-stricken countries?"
It's certainly wonderful that they have the ability and generosity to do the good work–I wish atheists had more of both–but there's a reason we don't like the way some churches do it.
Case in point: Pastor Frank Amedia of Touch Heaven Ministries, who has been distributing food in Haiti:
We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I'm not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn't want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.
To paraphrase, we want to help them…but only if they convert to Christianity.
Amedia has been receiving some well-deserved criticism for this cold-hearted remark. How has he responded?
I responded to a direct question from [AP reporter] Paisley [Dodds] which asked: "What would I do if I knew the person in need was a voodoo worshipper?" I responded that we would help them, but that everything we do is for the Glory of God and that we are committed to share our hearts. She then expanded her question to ask "Would I continue to help them knowing they were still practicing Voodoo?" I responded that I would show them our love by helping them and that I would hope to become their friend, and then as their friend, that our compassion and love might be the difference to lead them to Christ. She then asked "How long would we continue to supply them?" To that I answered that "I am not sure we could continue to support them in the long term because we would not want to perpetuate that process. We equate [voodoo] with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel."
So…he takes none of it back.
If I were a Christian public relations expert (and I fully claim to be one), here's what I would tell other Christians in Amedia's position to say:
We will continue giving food to Haitians who need it because that's what our faith commands us to do. I would love it if, through our actions, those who received the food thought about why our faith compels us to act this way, but even if they don't change their minds, we will still help our fellow brothers and sisters.
That is much more difficult position for atheists to attack.
Amedia represents the side of Christianity that drives people away from the church. Good. Let him keep talking; let him keep digging that hole for himself.
Those who give aid to victims of a tragedy with no expectations in return are far more generous than Christians like Amedia who want something in exchange for it. People like him are despicable.
Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and also is an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the "eBay Atheist." Hemant's blog can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com, and his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, (WaterBrook Press) is now in bookstores everywhere. He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.