The Theology of Child Abandonment

Yeah yeah, I know, I’ve already written lots about the backlash to World Vision’s recent announcement they would hire legally-married gay Christians. I promise I’ll move on soon – or at least I’ll try to – but I wanted to hit on something else that I got thinking about. It’s this question: what theology would it take to see holding children hostage as an acceptable – even necessary – option?

The Power-Over Kingdom

First of all, we’d have to have an assumption that the way that God wants us to operate is essentially the same as the way that the world typically operates: by flexing power over those who are weaker. Caesar used manipulation and violence to get his way. Christians should, too. Of course, the Christians point out, it is different because they are right… which is the same thing that Caesar would have said, or that Muslims would say, or Jews would say, or secularists would say… Anyway, this is a pretty strong requirement to see the tactics used as in any way acceptable. While Jesus told us to use our power to serve others, they were content to use their power to get their way no matter who got hurt. Unfortunately this theology has dominated the Church for 1700 years and is mercifully losing its foothold only in recent years. In more recent years, it is has been amplified by similar problematic theologies.

This World Is Not My Home

A second theology that would allow these kinds of actions are variants of dispensationalism that reduce this world to essentially irrelevant other than it being when we have to decide which side we want to be on. There really isn’t much point in us fighting evil with good, or for that matter, not really much point in not committing evil ourselves… as long as it isn’t the kinds of evil that automatically condemn you to Hell, like being gay or voting Democrat (exact list varying by group).

Thy Kingdom Stay In Heaven

The corollary of that, then, is that all that matters is going to Heaven when we die. Being a part of “thy Kingdom come, on Earth as in Heaven” is irrelevant and pushed back to some future age. We can ignore all of the stuff that Jesus says, that Paul says, that virtually every other biblical author says, because that is all about this world which doesn’t actually matter. God is going to just wipe out the bad stuff and whisk us off to Heaven anyway.

Salvation by Doctrine

If all that matters is going to Heaven when we die, we better figure out how we make sure we get there. The answer for most modernists: get your doctrine straight and reach some level of intellectual confidence, often confused with faith, in those doctrines as absolutely true. Exactly which doctrines make the list varies by group, but thousands unequivocally stated this time around that heteronormativity is one of those requirements.

Therefore, Doctrine > Love

Put those all together and it is clear to see why certain rather-arbitrary doctrines are more important than love. Going to Heaven when I die is all that matters and I know I get there by being intellectually confident enough the right things. Would I risk showing any “doubt” (even the slightest chance I might be wrong) by supporting an organisation with incorrect doctrine in order to help children in this world that doesn’t matter anyway? Of course not!

It’s not even just for my own salvation. Many argued that World Vision’s work was made completely void because of the change. If those kids are getting the Gospel of correct doctrine, including the evils of being gay, things like food, shelter, and clothing don’t really matter even if they are “nice” as one commenter I saw called these basic elements of survival. The reverse is also true, meaning that all of those very practical concerns are meaningless if right doctrine is not enforced as part of the package. After all, wouldn’t you rather lose the world but gain your soul, they might mistakenly misquote to the children they have now led to death.

Seriously, if you put all of those faulty assumptions together, it is really, really easy to rationalize the kinds of actions like we witnessed surrounding World Vision. You can forget the Great Commandment to love, and pretty much every other commandment that is summed up in that command. Just make sure you aren’t showing any signs of doubt that what your favourite theologian of choice tells you is true.

Bad theology quite literally kills children (among many other terrible things). This is why good theology matters.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Kristen Rosser

    This is excellent. I would add that in addition to correct doctrine, there’s an emphasis on correct behavior, which means “Don’t do anything we consider heinous sin– by which we mean those sins we ourselves aren’t likely to commit .”

    • Thank you for that. It’s true that it often isn’t entirely salvation by doctrine. It is usually salvation by doctrine and avoiding a certain list of behaviours, mostly around sex. As you say, other behaviours – including ones much more commonly condemned in Scripture like greed and judgementalism – are completely ok, though.