Back in October, when the Pope was in the UK, he was upset about the aggressive secularisation of society. One of the most convincing arguments for the perils of secularisation I heard at that time was that the clergy (Christian in the given case, but of all denominations really) are the last, best hope for the downtrodden, drug addicted, unemployed, debt-ridden, impoverished or criminal elements of society and that secularisation would make it difficult or impossible for these groups to get support for their work. Unfortunately, this may well be true, but I would argue that this is something that the state should do. Charities are a lifeline to dozens of people of faith, without a doubt, and if your faith (or personality or tax-evasion scheme) moves you to help the less fortunate, that’s something that should be celebrated, but the insidious proselytising of some of the faith-based charities turns my stomach.
My mother-in-law (to be) often receives mailings for Christian charities, so they are the only ones I can comment on, but I’m sure there are equally dubious ones of all denominations (not to mention the secular clothing bags that keep getting pushed through my door, but at least that’s ‘only’ a financial swindle). The pamphlet that caught my eye and prompted me to write this blog post was for a group called Christians Against Poverty and featured the tearful tale of a young family with a disabled son who were in terribly dire straights; no bank would touch them, they had unplugged their phone to stop collection agencies calling them, they broke away from their family and friends for shame of their situation and they couldn’t afford the fees to declare bankruptcy. Along comes CAP, who dealt with their creditors, set up a bank account for them and generally sorted all their problems out. The charity even takes their clients on an all-expenses paid holiday every year. What lovely people!
I’m not being sarcastic here, I would heartily support any organisation of any faith or none that works to give people with no where else to turn a bit of hope and a chance to start again, and takes them all on holiday so the kids don’t feel isolated among their peers.
All they asked in return was for the family to come to church to see what Jesus is all about.
That’s where it get awkward for me. CAP boasts that six clients a week convert to Christianity, directly through their intervention. I don’t think for a minute that I’d support even a Pagan initiative that did the same thing. Why is it necessary to tie up religion and good deeds? I understand that some religions encourage followers to ‘spread the word’, but it is a person’s decision how they pursue that mission, and the conversion part of CAP’s SOP seems like preying on people at their most vulnerable.
It is partly because of how annoyed this tactic made me that I’ve finally decided to stop putting off supporting a charity (I’ve wanted to do it for ages, and come February I won’t really have any reasonable excuses). I’m going to spend this next month (December) looking at charities and figuring out who I want to help and how. I’m not sure how we’ll be doing on the finances once we finally complete the move, so any firm decisions will be necessarily put off until we’re settled and have a better idea of monthly out-goings, but I should have evenings and the odd Saturday to give (hoping to get anywhere in sensible time on the Sunday buses is optimistic at best). I don’t know who I’ll end up supporting, but I know it won’t be Christians Against Poverty.