Who cares?

March 02, 2007

One of the hats I wear is Anglicare Council member. I'm thrilled about the upcoming conference we are organising on human need and a Christian philosophy of care—a joint effort between a number of organisations. The Anglicare Council has been thinking through the Christian rationale for care (feedback welcome when it goes online at the Anglicare site) and I've done some interesting reading around it.

I'm convinced that one under-examined reason for Christians being involved in care is so that others don't do it instead! This seemingly bizarre line of thought runs thus:
  • people are naturally attracted to those who care for them;

  • if those who care for them hold a particular worldview, that worldview is more likely to be accepted by the care recipient;

  • it is hard to challenge a worldview that someone has accepted because of the care shown to them by its adherents;

  • therefore, Christians should be involved in care so that many will be more readily disposed to accepting the Christian message and not be drawn to accept other worldviews instead.

Now before people jump up and down crying “Manipulation! Coercion! Entrapment!”, let me emphasise that there is no obligation on a care recipient to accept the Christian worldview (Christians care for all comers). Rather, I'm just stating the bald reality that doing good deeds for someone predisposes them to accept your worldview.

The 4th century pagan emperor Julian saw what was up: he ordered his leaders to found hospitals, charities and welfare services, because the Christians were doing it and attracting everyone to their ‘atheism’ (i.e. denial of the pantheon of gods)! More on this here .

Os Guinness writes here that “historians view the Christian practice of caring as a prime reason why an obscure, marginal movement on the fringe of the Roman Empire rose to dislodge classical paganism and became the dominant faith of Western civilization and the world's first universal religion” (p.125).

When you care for people they are likely to care about what you believe and say.

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