Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti earthquake donations and theology

1. Altruism vs. Exploitation

It's a tragedy of vast proportions, the earthquake in Haiti. Only a hedonistic, self-obsessed misanthrope could fail to be horrified at the loss of human life and the damage. To weep and mourn for the suffering of other sentient beings is a core human trait. Only a machine, something less than an animal, a rock or a computer, could not be emotionally devastated by this tragedy.

This is no time for celebrity grandstanding or political opportunism. To play the game of "Look how compassionate I am" or "Admire me for all the money I'm donating" is depraved and unseemly, a form of oppression.

But many con artists will try to exploit people by tricking them into donating money to an unaudited, unaccountable charity. Unscrupulous businessmen and women will claim that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of some item will be donated to Haitian relief efforts. Fake charities will arise, to rip off well-meaning donors.

Money donated to charities for a specific cause, like Haiti earthquake relief, may NOT necessarily be allocated to Haitians. Sometimes charities will choose to accept donations for one tragedy, but consider the donations to be to them, and they can do whatever they please with your money.

This is not a rare case. The Red Cross did this with 9-11 donations, they distributed the money to various offices and other causes that had nothing to do with 9-11.

So it's hard to know what to do when disaster strikes.

Pray, yes, if you're a praying type of person. Be sure to pray for the leaders, charities, and distribution workers, that they may safely, honestly, and successfully get the money to those who truly need and deserve it, not thugs or gangs or corrupt politicians in the disaster-stricken area.

Pray also, if you pray, that we may all become more tender-hearted, loving, caring about others, from wildlife and pets to our families and neighbors. Pray that we may become more aware of how precious life and material blessings are to us, poor sojourners in an often hostile and cold world.

Remember how living entities are suffering and dying all over the universe. Life is short. Use it well. Think about what others will say about you ("he/she always...") when you are dead. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Fight on the side of sincere, altruistic goodness. Fight against and expose and denounce those who take advantage of suffering and exploit the poor, the weak, and the downtrodden.

2. Theology of Disaster

Were the Haitians, as Pat Robertson implied, punished by this earthquake for a pact they made with the devil in 1791?

If you think so, then do you see all disasters as divine judgement? Who was being punished by the 9-11 terror attack? Katrina? Malaysian tsunami? Tornadoes that hit the Bible belt of the Southern USA?

Pat Robertson also said the Haiti earthquake "could be a blessing in disguise, allowing them to rebuild." This is the height of insensitivity and ignorance, an insult and a disgrace.

No. Disasters cannot automatically be attributed to divine retribution or karma or cosmic justice.

Jesus was 100% opposed to this idea. He stated his opinion in no uncertain terms.

Luke 13: 1-5

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem.

"Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee?" he asked. "Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you also will perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God.

And what about the 18 men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish."

Jesus pointed to the disasters as reminders that spiritual, karmic disaster dooms all of us who ignore the salvation offered by God and the self-improvement demanded by true discipleship.

Perhaps Pat Robertson should read his Bible more often, and come down from his lofty "holier than thou" pulpit. And start wearing his wedding ring, like a good married Christian man.

3. Do Some Research Before You Donate

Here are some links to great information about making wise, not stupid, donations to disaster relief organizations. Many scam websites are being set up to lure impulse donors, people who donate without investigating the organization appealing to them for funds.

Please read through this material before you send any money to anybody.

"The DOs and DON'Ts of Disaster Donations"

my post with lots of links: "How To Avoid Haiti Earthquake Donation Scams"

"Tracking Donations in Haiti Poses Another Daunting Task"

"ABC News on Haiti Earthquake Donation Frauds"

"Pat Robertson, Haiti, and the Devil"

"US State Department Report on Religious Freedoms: Haiti"


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