Saturday, January 30, 2010

Solar-Powered Bibles: Misguided Donations To Haiti or Spiritual Shysters?

Stop The Disaster Relief!
Haiti Is Saved!
With Solar-Powered Bibles!?!

I'm not making this stuff up! Our thanks to Dr. Valerie Tarico for letting us know about this latest humanitarian miracle!

From Huffington Post:

Solar Powered Bibles for Haiti:
Why Some Christians Feel Compelled to Exploit Disaster

Physicist Steven Weinberg once said, "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
For solar powered Bibles or church-building to win out over food and medicine requires a religion that values conversion over compassion. But when we see this phenomenon at its worst, it is because someone in the thrall of a viral ideology has figured out some reverse alchemy that turns the precious gold of empathy into the lead of opportunism.
Dr. Tarico must have read my article about Pat Robertson and "God's Ambulance Chasers." Now I have a bona fide reference to turn to when arguing about some Christians' compassion. Even mainstream Christians are having a rough time over the "donations".

From Gizmodo

They claim that “the Proclaimer is self-powered and can play the Bible in the jungle, desert or… even on the moon!” I’m sure that it would be more helpful there than in Haiti. Because, in Haiti, a solar-powered Bible will be as helpful as the Genesis according to Eddie Izzard.

With the exception of some brave local affiliates and The Young Turks this situation has not gotten much coverage. I wonder why. Does the media think it's too lightweight? Or that any coverage would be insulting to Christians overall?

Perhaps it hasn't been covered because it would be an insult to Haitians. When the tsunami devastated southeast Asia years ago, Jerry Falwell dared to send 600,000 scriptural tracts and the response was a cold "thanks, but no thanks" by populations that were mostly Hindus and Muslims.

The maker and marketer of "The Proclaimer," Faith Comes By Hearing insists that relief groups are clamoring for it. The website shows a mass of people reaching for something being given out, but you can rest assured that it isn't an audio bible or that they're even near one.

Faith Comes By Hearing, an international Audio Bible group, is working with Convoy of Hope to provide spiritual relief in Haiti.

Unfortunately, Convoy of Hope would rather have the cash:


Many agencies try to motivate donors with the mathematics of the situation. Jeff Nene, a spokesman for Convoy of Hope, a Springfield, Mo., agency that feeds 11,000 children a day in Haiti, urges cash donations that allow his group to buy in bulk from large suppliers and retailers.

“When people give $1, it translates into $7 in the field,” he said. “If they spend $5 for bottled water, that’s nice and it makes them feel good, but probably it costs us more than $5 to send it. If they give us $5, we can get $35 worth of water.”
Sending 600 "Proclaimers" to Haiti costs $92,000. I guess Faith Comes By Hearing wasn't motivated enough by the mathematics to just send cash.

Linked to the story of audio Bibles is another possible insult to the people of Haiti: Mars Hill Church ("The Cussing Pastor" Mark Driscoll). The goal of this Seattle megachurch and its crew is not to provide direct aid to the people of Haiti, but to help rebuild the churches as fast as possible. To some, this may be admirable, but to the people who are suffering for lack of food, water and medical treatment, rebuilding ministries and churches may be the furthest things from their minds. Just a guess.


I remember one week ago when George Bush told us to watch out for "shysters" when making donations to Haitian relief.While he certainly didn't mean people to steer clear of faith-based donations to Haiti, his comment could include "misguided" donations. We all have ideas as to what human beings need in situations like Haiti's, but I think that 99% of Americans will say that there's an order to the list: #1. Medical treatment and supplies. #2. Food. #3. Adequate shelter. Substituting any of these with Bibles, places of worship or ministers is not humane. AFTER these first three have been taken care of, yes, BUT NOT BEFORE.

Transporting, feeding, sheltering volunteers from ministries also takes money.

Update: The reaction to the donation (and the request for money to supply 3000 more - rough estimate: $460,000 or enough to feed 3200 people for one month) has been rather violent in tone, with some people sounding off on both sides:

- Maybe they can turn them into hotplates...

- Haitians aren't atheists like one outspoken DR poster. They have lost everything, including their Bibles.

- The inhuman wretches of this "church" should be marooned on an island with nothing but a pint of rum, one of their precious "proclaimers," and a pistol with one shot. The rum and pistol, in case you were curious, demonstrate that I am capable of more compassion than they could ever muster.

A good source to find out exactly what is needed is
Good Intentions Are Not Enough.

There were supposed to be three videos accompanying this article, but I pulled on out at the last minute. It's a very sacrilegious take on the donation of solar-powered bibles featuring Hitler. It will probably be pulled from YouTube before long, if Faith Comes By Hearing has anything to say about it.

The first is a clip from The Young Turks which, in my opinion, is a "fair and balanced" attempt to look at the donation. The second is a gruesome look at the devastation citing a verse from the New Testament about the End Times as prophesied by Christ. It may help you decide whether or not the solar-powered Bibles are actually needed.

Just a thought.