The Rants of Issachar

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sarah Palin, Samaritan's Purse, Private Planes & Christian Charity

Parts of the blog world are still obsessed with Sarah Palin in a way that I find quite annoying. If I was hoping she'd fade into obscurity after the last US election I was doomed to disappointment. So it's a bit disconcerting that my first blog post in over a year begins with Sarah Palin. Still, I found it interesting that she was apparently flown a private plane to an (apparently) much touted dinner with Billy & Franklin Graham.

Now I find the crass partisanship that pervades the "Official Christian" culture of the United States irritating on a good day and somewhat short of blasphemous on a bad day, but I'd like to leave that issue aside for now. (With thanks to Ezra Levant for giving me the idea for the term.)

The question I want to ask is this: Why does Samaritan's Purse have a private aircraft in the United States?

I sent this to the informal e-mail group I'm in and I got some interesting information back. One of the group actually looked up the Samaritan's Purse financial statements from last year and found out the entries for "Ministry and missionary aircraft" on pages 46 & 47. (Isn't the internet great? Could we have had a discussion like this 20 years ago?) Assuming that that entry includes the aircraft flying Ms. Palin to dinner one might ask"How does flying a polarizing political candidate to a dinner constitute "Ministry?".

But again, I don't want to focus on the politics, but on the question of why Samaritan's Purse owns this plane in the first place. I don't know about anyone else, but the term "ministry and missionary aircraft" conjures up images of missionaries flying into corners of faraway countries unreachable by other means. Alternately I might think about them flying into areas of countries without commercial flights available and paved runways. (You know, like you see in this picture on their website.) I certainly don't think about flying around in the middle of the United States.

So why does a Christian charity dedicated to "providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world", spend money donated to that cause on a private plane to fly around a country that just might have the best system of commercial flights in the entire world?

Not for any justifiable reason that I can think of.

There's a growing feeling among some people that Christianity is the religion of convenience for the rich and powerful and only gives hypocritical lip service to helping the poor. Of course that's absolutely ridiculous, but when organizations like Samaritan's Purse, (which do good work otherwise), spend money on flying around the US in private planes instead of flying lugguage class like most people it feeds this false perception. The false theology of the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" is growing, and much of "official Christian" culture feeds this false and thoroughly anti-Christian belief that wealth is next to godliness.

I'm sure that this isn't the image that Franklin Graham wants people to have of Samaritan's Purse, but the ease of money is more that a little corrupting. If he and other Samaritan's Purse leaders were to fly coach, they would surely spend a lot more time in airports. They could well be late to at least a few speaking engagements because someone tried to bring a bottle of water onto the plane. More worryingly, donations could even drop because the big stars of the organization might not be able to go to as many meet and greets to drive up pledges.

But they wouldn't be giving off the impression of being the people who get rich from peddling religion which I think is ultimately more dangerous to their mission to help the oppressed.

:: posted by Issachar, 7:13 PM | Permalink | 11 comments | Links to this post