As this ALS ice bucket challenge continues to go viral, I am seeing more and more negative posts about it… most of which are from fellow Christians. This isn’t happening just a little. It seems every day there are a flood of anti-ALS bucket comments surfacing.
So in case you live in a cave, here’s the challenge. Cold water charity challenges have been around a couple of years but most variations contain a challenge to either dump cold water on yourself or donate to a charity, then challenge a friend to do the same. Most people tend to do both the challenge and donate. In July 2014 a variation of this surfaced around raising awareness of the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and encouraging donations to research for a cure. Golfer Chris Kennedy was the first to associate the challenge with ALS. ALS is a terminal debilitating and painful disease which has no cure. So now people all over the internet are dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, but not everyone is having fun.
To follow Jesus means to care for and love others. To heal the sick and to feed the poor. To break chains that bind. These were all part of Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4:18 and I believe that anything that takes a step in that direction is worthwhile because it is following in Jesus’ footsteps. So, why the outcry against a movement that is attempting to do some good concerning a horrible disease?
Here are just a few of the concerns which have been raised:
- It’s a waste of clean water when so many need clean water.
- Donations should be made in private according to Matthew 5.
- It’s a fad and no one will care about ALS in a couple of months.
- ALSA.org supports abortions through embryonic stem-cell research.
- The disease only affects a small percent of the population so we should donate to something more significant.
- People are doing it for all the wrong reasons. (fun or attention)
Perhaps we could extend more grace:
- Yes people are wasting a bucket of clean water. But the average American uses about 100 gallons of clean water per day. We defecate in clean water and flush it. We use gallons of water to bathe in. We play in it and we sprinkle it all over the yard. (Matthew 7:3-5)
- In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught to give in secret to prevent prideful boasting of your gift. However, this is a little different than just a charitable donation. Part of the purpose of the challenge is to raise awareness about this little known disease. You can’t raise awareness in secret. It’s not just about donating, but about getting others to so as well.
- Yes, it is a fad and will cease to be on peoples’ minds shortly. But at least for now people are coming together to help somebody. It’s better than never caring at all. We should rejoice that people are rallying around a good cause, even if it is for a short time.
- The use of aborted embryo stem cells is illegal, hence it’s not currently used. But ALSA is not the only organization you can give to in order to help research and awareness. I personally gave to Ed’s Story (www.edsstory.com), a project by Ed Dobson, a victim of ALS, to use his experience to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to those who suffer. There are also other ALS organizations, the Mayo Clinic, etc.
- So the disease isn’t killing millions of Americans each year. True, but the ones who do have it will die of it… painfully. That has to mean something to us. I do a little charitable work in Haiti. It is a small country. Although it is the poorest nation in our hemisphere, it still isn’t largely populated. It is nothing compared to nations like India where huge populations of people are in need. So should I stop working in that little country because they are so few in number? No, because someone there will benefit. We are not called to fix the world, we are called to help and have compassion on people.
- Too much fun!! How can we evaluate the motivations of thousands of people as all being wrong? Can giving not be fun too? Is it not appropriate to bring joy amid suffering?
And this leads me to the real point. When someone wants to serve someone else, even if it is through something as silly as dumping ice on their head, why do we feel the need to find a problem with it and tear it down? I often hear, “Why are you helping in Haiti? Aren’t there plenty of poor people here?”
“Why, Yes. Yes there are. And apparently you feel quite passionately about it. So let me know when you are ready to help and I’ll support you.”
It seems that too many of us are just too concerned with how others are helping. Maybe motivations are wrong in some cases. Maybe others could use the help more. We are all flawed in some way and should have plenty to worry about in our own work instead of with that of others.
While sitting in prison, Paul addressed something interesting about those who were doing good things (like preaching the Gospel) for the wrong reasons. He states:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice,
(Philippians 1:15-18 ESV)
The point being that good was accomplished even if there was some bad motivation. I pray good will come out of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to help people, regardless of the silly nature of it, regardless of how much clean water was spilled, and regardless of the motivations of the participants.
And if so, then yes I will rejoice.