On March 24, World Vision announced that the U.S. branch of the popular humanitarian organization would no longer discriminate against employees in same-sex marriages.
It was a decision that surprised many but one that made sense, given the organization’s ecumenical nature.
But on March 26, World Vision President Richard Stearns reversed the decision, stating, “our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake.”
Supporters helped the aid group “see that with more clarity,” Stearns added, “and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.”
So what happened within those 48 hours to cause such a sudden reversal?
The Evangelical Machine kicked into gear.
Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the decision pointed to “disaster,” and the Assemblies of God denomination encouraged its members to pull their financial support from the organization.
Evangelicals took to Twitter and Facebook to threaten to stop sending money to their sponsored children unless World Vision reversed course.
Within a day of the initial announcement, more than 2,000 children sponsored by World Vision lost their financial support. And with more and more individuals, churches and organizations threatening to do the same, the charity stood to lose millions of dollars in aid that would otherwise reach the poor, sick, hungry and displaced people World Vision serves.
So World Vision reversed course.
Stearns told The New York Times that some people, satisfied with the reversal, have called World Vision headquarters to ask, “Can I have my child back?” as though needy children are expendable bargaining chips in the culture war against gay and lesbian people.
Many of us who grew up evangelical watched with horror as these events unfolded.
As a longtime supporter of World Vision, I encouraged readers of my blog to pick up some of the dropped sponsorships after the initial decision. I then felt betrayed when World Vision backtracked, though I urged my readers not to play the same game but to keep supporting their sponsored children, who are of course at no fault in any of this.
But most of all, the situation put into stark, unsettling relief just how misaligned evangelical priorities have become.
When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gays and lesbians helping to provide that aid, something is wrong.
The rest of the piece is similarly worth reading. Voices like Rachel Held Evans’ are important not just in Christian communities, but also the larger secular world. It is important to remember that for as loud as bigoted Christian groups can be, they do not speak for all Christians.