Christians: Stop Obsessing Over Child Labor. (Just Care for the Poor.)

So, here’s the story:

A well-known charity organization recently announced they were putting children from third-world countries in factories to work.  Obviously, this caused a stir–and many Christians decided to stop funding the charity-organization. The donors were upset that their support money was being associated with child labor, so they decided to send a message to the organization’s leaders.  (We don’t support sweat shops!)

So, what’s the problem? Child labor is wrong. Period.  (Right?) Why are people angry that Christian donors stopped funding this charity?

Well, critics argue: If too many people withdraw support from the charity, then kids will go hungry.

Interesting perspective, huh?

Ultimately, the charity decided to go back to their former policy, dropping the child-employment program. Most of their donors returned, and the charity-organization is continuing its good work as usual. (At least, the key players are happy, even though the charity’s reputation took a hit.)

But, still, some bloggers are criticizing the DONORS for withholding their donations while the charity fixed its mistake. “That’s like treating poor people as chess pieces in your silly moral dispute,” the critics say. Christians shouldn’t make side-issues out of things like child labor, when the real concern is: “Are poor families being fed?”

For example, in her article How Evangelicals won a Culture War and Lost a Generation, Rachel Held Evans argues that Christians spend too much time fighting political battles over right/wrong–and it gets in the way of helping poor people.

Ms. Evans knows EXACTLY what donors should have done in this situation–they should have continued sending money to World Vision (so the poor people could be fed), even if World Vision’s leadership made a really bad cultural decision.

From her article:  “[Christians have] a disproportionate focus… [which] prioritizes the culture war…over and against the important work of caring for the poor.”

You may think something seems weird…mostly because child-labor isn’t just a silly “culture war.” It’s plain wrong. (Right?) Obviously the Christian donors were right to stop supporting a business that was putting kids in factories. Maybe you think Ms. Evans is a bit out-of-line for thinking one concern is more important than another…and maybe we should help the poor AND monitor the company’s business practices at the same time?

But let me clear things up: The World Vision story doesn’t really involve the promotion of child labor. World Vision made a company-wide decision to support homosexual staff members, and this upset many of their donors.

The original quote of Rachel Held Evans’ reads: “[Christians have] a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that…prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.”

Ah….well that makes more sense, doesn’t it?

How sneaky of me to rewrite the scenario and make it sound like the charity was actually condoning something wrong, when World Vision’s leadership only got tangled in a harmless, personal-preference issue like homosexuality.

Everybody knows child labor is BAD (you might call it “sinful”), but homosexuality isn’t a problem. At the very least, it’s none of our business. Christians need to leave the gay thing alone for awhile so they can spend more time concentrating on truly “important work” (as defined by Millennials, of course).

When a donor honestly objects to sending children to factories, the decision is obvious: stop supporting that charity! When a donor honestly objects to charity’s shady book-keeping or a series of top-level affairs or some other scandal, the it get’s more complicated: there will be ethical arguments, and people with good intentions may truly struggle to decide what to do with their money and their consciences.

But when a donor is uncomfortable with open-and-proud homosexuality in an organization, then he should just shut up and pay up, for the sake of the poor people!

I know it sounds like I’m implying Ms. Evans (and critics like her) are hypocritical. Yet I’m only dishing out what she served first. The article above says any donors who claimed they couldn’t support unbiblical lifestyles were lying or being hypocritical unless they became equally outraged over World Vision’s divorced staff members.

But, I propose for your consideration that, if World Vision released an “official policy change” stating: “People can get married and divorced as many times as they want, or they can live with their boyfriend/girlfriend, or they can watch pornography on their own time…it is none of our business, as long as they are committed to our mission of feeding the poor,” then Christians would raise their eyebrows to that, too.

And then they would object verbally.

And then they would take their support money to an organization with better moral values.


Let me wrap this up:

Not everything is black-and-white. (Isn’t that the liberal mantra?)  Sometimes even two people with the exact same foundation of belief will honestly be torn about how to do the most good with their time and money.  Who are you to say I’ve made the wrong choice with mine–after I’ve researched, wrestled, and written my check…or decided to withhold it?

The only reason Rachel Evans is comfortable siding against Christian donors in this case is because SHE PERSONALLY DOESN’T FEEL CONVICTED ABOUT SUPPORTING HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR.

If we were talking about child labor, Ms. Evans would disassociate with World Vision just as fast as the next person, regardless of the “good” things the charity may accomplish simultaneously (like feeding poor families).

If we want to get technical, the Bible has more to say about the sinfulness of gay-sex than it does about employing children. I could make a much stronger argument against supporting homosexuality than against the support of certain child-labor situations.

But my point is: deciding which charities to support is complicated.  And, if we all agree that we should have a say in how organizations spend our money–we should hold them to certain standards–don’t stick up your nose when you find out what my standards are and then play the “FEED THE KIDS” card.

And just one more thing:  Evangelicals haven’t “won” the culture war here. I’d argue no one has. Perhaps you’ve heard there are no winners when families fight? Totally applicable in this case.

No matter what World Vision decides about homosexual staff members, they will upset somebody: either those “obsessing” about how fine and normal homosexuality is, or those “obsessing” about how selfish and soul-damaging it is.   Lose-lose.

If only everyone could stop obsessing about what’s right/wrong in the first place, and just feed the poor…  (Right?)

10 thoughts on “Christians: Stop Obsessing Over Child Labor. (Just Care for the Poor.)

  1. Rose

    Would you agree that homosexuality does not directly hurt others, while child labor does? I realize you will likely argue that homosexuality indirectly hurts others by creating an immoral society, but you must acknowledge that some acts are more directly harmful than others. Would you also agree that homosexuality does not directly relate to the mission of the organization (ie money is spent on feeding people, not on encouraging or discouraging the life choices of staff)? As far as misusing funds/corruption, that directly affects the primary mission of the organization. Divorce and porn are equally as removed as homosexuality.

    Perhaps more importantly, while a declaration supporting divorce and porn would be newsworthy, it would be equally newsworthy to have policies banning staff members from watching porn or getting divorced to begin with. So your context is a little questionable.

    Also, how far should an employer should go into the lives of its employees? I mean, if these morals are so important to enforce and stand by, an organization could spend all its money and time verifying the morals of staff members by constantly looking into their personal lives – private detectives, mandated email/social media checks, etc. But of course that would be ridiculous because it’s beyond the mission of the organization, and nothing would get done.


    1. bethagrace

      I don’t know that a policy against porn or divorce would really be newsworthy. World Vision is a ministry, so they have a little more right than a normal employer to be in tune with the spiritual health of their employees. If I started having an affair, I’m pretty sure I’d get the boot.

      Also, the field and the home office have a symbiotic relationship, so what one does affects the other. If a doctrinal view is accepted in one place, it’s quite likely that that will feed into the other place. Given that World Vision has a spiritual component to their ministry, it’s reasonable to want that spiritual component to reflect your beliefs.

      All that said, it perhaps would have been better for people to call into World Vision and lay out their plans to cancel their sponsorships and tell them why. Give them a chance to change their minds so they don’t have to go through all the craziness of re-assigning children after the fact.


      1. Rose

        Okay, Beth Grace, let me know when you find a large, international organization of 26k employees that fires staff for having an affair (that doesn’t violate policies about bosses sleeping with subordinates, etc.), watching porn in their home, or getting a divorce. It would *definitely* be newsworthy because no major organizations do that kind of thing without press attention. I am not a lawyer, but I do believe you that they have the *right* to do that.

        Here’s an example of organization making the news for firing someone for getting a divorce:


    2. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I was going to say something similar to Bethany: anytime an organization depends on donors to keep the doors open, their situation is complicated. I don’t think there’s a “line” somewhere that an outside observer can draw. It’s up to the business-owners to NEGOTIATE WITH THE MONEY-SUPPLIERs–and, in this case, World Vision made a serious error in reading the values of the people working with them.

      They should have left well-enough alone rather than trying to make some big “progressive” move without consulting their sponsors. When you’re going to announce a major change of values, you better be sure the other half of your partnership agrees.

      In this case, we’re not talking about an organization that went spying on staffers and conducts regular investigations into their sin. We’re talking about a blanket, company-wide announcement that their staff’s sexual behavior doesn’t matter either way. Big difference.

      Now, the two of us could reach different conclusions about which company-wide standards are important and which aren’t: homosexuality vs. child labor. But I alluded to my opinion in the original post. I truly believe there are more situations it *might* be okay to put a child to work than to condone open homosexuality. Only one of those is definitely a sin.

      If we’re talking about the difference between possible physical “harm” and definite spiritual “harm,” I think the latter is more important. Personally, I immediately would stop funding a charity that erected a pillar of “tolerance” for sin–but I might continue supporting a clever, out-of-the-box attempt to get healthy jobs for kids in other cultures (sans the sweatshops).

      I just don’t want Rachel Held Evans sticking her nose in–claiming to be somehow a better Christian based on when/why she writes HER checks.

      Thanks for reading, guys!


  2. Rose

    It’s hilarious that you feel so much disdain for “Rachel Held Evans sticking her nose in–claiming to be somehow a better Christian based on when/why she writes HER checks” given that the entire premise of your post is that you believe that you are in fact the “better” Christian. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    Also, I thought your point was that it’s about right versus wrong, not money. What if the majority of contributors wanted the organization to burn sinners at the stake? Surely financial support is not a good moral compass.

    I was exaggerating about the policing of staff to make a point about when the Holier Than Thou approach to controlling the lives of employees will go too far to be practical. For example, I wonder how much Hobby Lobby will spend defending its right to fire employees for getting divorced (see link in my response to Beth Grace). Of course, HL makes lots of money, so they have enough to throw around on law suits, but a non-profit like World Vision doesn’t have the same financial leg up. And if you consider yourself a personal crusader for Right and Wrong in the way you seem to, where do you draw the line?


    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      My post is about BOTH money AND right/wrong. People support businesses that are doing things “right.” But, if we find out they’re doing something ugly, we stop sending money–regardless of whether that business does some good things, too.

      Your example makes my point: if World Vision did something everybody agrees is wrong (like burning sinners), then sponsors would stop sending them money… and Rachel Held Evans wouldn’t write a blog post about how sad it is that all these kids are losing sponsors, “just because” we Christians want to win a dumb culture war about whether it’s right/wrong to burn people. The ONLY reason she believes donors were wrong to pull their funding this time is because she personally has no problem with open, sexual sin in a business.

      As a personal crusader for Right and Wrong, I draw my line where the Bible does. Where the Bible is hazy (like whether to support a business with questionable standards for staff), then it’s up to the conscience of the person holding the checkbook…


      1. bethagrace

        Also to be added to this is that the Daily Currant is a satire site. And the fact that World Vision is a ministry. Not that long ago, they had a legal battle about whether or not they were able to discriminate according to faith in their hiring practices. The judge ruled in their favor. If they’re allowed to discriminate according to whether or not a person claims a certain faith, shouldn’t they be allowed discriminate according to what they perceive as the sincerity of that faith?

        It should be noted, too, that it wasn’t just people withdrawing support for their kids. I know of at least one person who quit her job. She returned after WV switched their stance, but she was willing to take a personal hit for her convictions.


      2. Rose

        You say she “personally” but that only means her interpretation of the Bible, which I realize you disagree with (and you disagree with the concept that the Bible is interpreted because you think that your interpretation is the “literal” “Right” one). But that’s why this is so ironic: You’re offended someone else claimed to be correct in their beliefs about what it means to be a Christian. Thus my comment about the pot and the kettle.

        Thanks for clarifying that when the Bible is “hazy” on topics it means that the marketplace should become the moral compass. But what people see as “hazy” in the Bible varies… and again we’re back at this idea of subjectivity and interpretation versus you being Right.


  3. mrsmcmommy Post author

    I just realized I didn’t clearly answer the very first question Rose asked me: would I agree that some bad decisions made by companies are worse than others? Yes, I would. But already it’s obvious that we disagree about WHICH decisions are worse–and why.

    I read the comment about subjectivity twice and I couldn’t nail down the point. But, I’m the one who brought up (in the original post) that “not everything is black and white.” There are places the Bible speaks very clearly, for example: that sex between two people of the same gender is wrong, and sex between unmarried people is wrong, and sex between people and animals is wrong. But, still, Bible-believers may disagree about whether or not to do business with somebody that allows wrong sexual behavior.

    All of us have lines that we’re not willing to cross, and that’s why Ms. Evan’s argument isn’t fair. Unless she’s willing to make the same statement about dog-fighting and toxic-waste spills and affairs between bosses and interns, etc. etc. (“Stop worrying about cultural arguments and just feed the poor”) then SHE’S actually the hypocrite–not the donors following their consciences that she chastised.

    I don’t have a problem with people making statements about right/wrong or should/shouldn’t, as long as the statement is logical and the person actually lives it. I’m calling Rachel Held Evans hypocritical (as well as those who think like her) because she says Christians should support World Vision despite the “cultural war” going on, but she would stop sending money, too, if the right culture war came up…

    Bethany: Thanks for the background info. It’s a shame World Vision made such a dumb move and put all those people in a difficult spot in the first place. But, it’s nice to know so many people are willing to act if/when they believe God wants it.


  4. Pingback: “Gay Isn’t Contagious,” but I’m Still Nervous | Cultures at War

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