Yesterday's Associated Press report on Christian-Voodooist tensions in Haiti was shocking enough. One group interrupted another's religious service (there are of course differences in perspective on who "started it") and eventually Christians in Cite Soleil destroyed the Voodooists' religious objects. "Some threw rocks while others urinated on Voodoo symbols," Paisley Dodds reported. "When police left, the crowd destroyed the altars and Voodoo offerings of food and rum."
But later in the story, the comments from Frank Amedia of Touch Heaven Ministries were perhaps more surprising: "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."
A Christian aid organization demanding conversions in exchange for food is a rare thing in the 21st century. It's bad theology, bad missiology, and impractical ("rice Christians" tend to be nominal at best). So it's rare to see such a stark suggestion that non-converts could be "cut off" from aid.
But late yesterday Amedia said his comments weren't so stark after all. On his organization's Touch Haiti Now site, he wrote:
Let me be clear that we have not and do not judge the need of someone we can help by the measure of their faith. Not once have we qualified a single person prior to giving them what we had, nor is this a program standard for our assistance during the crisis mode of this mission. … We do visit and qualify the organization or "camp" that is requesting assistance to do our best to assure that the supplies actually make it to those who are in need, and are not pilfered or re sold.
What was not included in this AP report was the essential body of my comments. I explained that our commission as ministers of the Gospel is to have compassion on whomever we can, to respond to their need with what we have. I responded to a direct question from Paisley 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."
Let there be no doubt that the love of God is our driving force, and He loves everyone. … That is why we have indiscriminately worked so hard, day and night, to help out urgently during this crisis mode for Haiti.
Amedia's comments were apparently sparked not just by the Associated Press report but by responses to it. He concluded his post by saying, "To those of who you have written hate mail to me, please know that I do love you and forgive you and I can only hope that your judgments were premised on a lack of understanding of the full story. To the few who were wise to call and discuss this with me, I thank you that we were able to reason together and count you as my friends."
Amedia's "full story" still suggests there's a cut-off point of sorts for aiding non-Christians. Thoughts? Does aid to Voodooists help Voodoo? Would you keep helping someone if they remained hostile to the gospel? If you aided someone for years and years and they never became a Christian, would you consider your efforts wasted?