ride for refugees religious aftermath

20Oct09

On October 3rd I rode in the 2009 Ride for Refugees which is a cycling event that is meant to raise awareness and money for refugees. There were many rides all over the world on the same day and this location we were at was sponsored by a local church which didn’t  bother me too much as I try to keep an open mind and just hoped that no one was going to try to “save” me while I was really there trying to help “save” refugees – you know in the sense they care about like having food, water, shelter and not to get shot at or raped – perhaps religion is on their mind, like “God, why is this happening to us??!!” and I’m like – hmmmm…good question because you certainly don’t deserve it! Sorry, I’m off on a tangent.

So we ride 30 miles in the cold, wind, and rain but it was a great experience. We were uncomfortable with the prayer before the ride so we just rode around them and were also uncomfortable with all the missionary booths that were set up inside the school and all the propaganda, I mean religious materials in the dining area where we ate afterwards but damn those people can cook so I felt that was worth putting up with it and it was for a good cause.

I only actually really got pissed off when our team received a thank you letter in the mail that also asked for suggestions and comments about the event.  The letter is now in recycling but it basically talked about glorifying god through the ride and the money raised and crap like that which is when I decided to email them and let them know how I was feeling. Below is my email to them and then below that is their response along with my comments about their response. Whew! Keep reading!

Email from me to them (names left out to protect the innocent or guilty):

I want to thank you for taking the time to put on a great event for a great cause. It wasn’t even the rain, cold, or tired muscles and lungs that bothered me for 30 miles but rather the tones of Christianity and religion that surrounded the church sponsoring the event. I believe the Ride for Refugees is meant to be non-secular and even though I know you are from a church organization I feel that it needs to be separated from the purpose of the event. I did not ride for the glorification of god or raise money for god to be glorified in its use – I raised money and rode to help others because I myself have the power of God inside me and my actions can change lives for better or worst. You have probably guessed that I am not a Christian and my point is that my religious beliefs or lack thereof have nothing to do with the Ride for Refugees. My only suggestion for next year to avoid excluding or offending people is to be Christ like in opening your church and giving your time because its a good thing to do….not to spread God’s word and I think in the end you will accomplish both without even trying.

Be the change you want to see in the world – Gandhi

(INTERMISSION – STILL WITH ME?)

Okay, the response I got from them a couple days later – note that I bolded the stuff they wrote that I thought was important or had a reaction to and my comments or what I think they were really saying are in red text in parenthesis.

RESPONSE FROM THEM:

We appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts on the Ride ( a nice friendly opening statement similar to my BS statement of the same type in my email to them) Your comments highlight a challenge for International Teams, which is a Christian organization. (if you check out the actual ride site which I linked to at the beginning of the post you will not find one word about it being a “Christian” type event. Nope you actually have to click on the International Teams logo on the main page to learn the truth – just seems sketchy like they weren’t really wanting to advertise that because it may be a turn off for some heathens) Even though it is a Christian organization, International Teams allows (yes, we make exceptions when it comes to taking money you raise for us) other organizations that assist refugees, including those that are secular organizations, (yes,we will even tolerate secular organizations for money) to partner with them in the Ride and to share in the proceeds raised by the Ride. For us and for most of the participants, the Ride has everything to do with assisting refugees (whether tutoring, being an advocate, providing food & clothing, or working in a displaced people camp)  but not just as an end in itself; rather, for the purpose of glorifying God. (Because all the great things that have to do with actually helping the refugees isn’t good enough – we have to glorify God along the way – even though if there really were a god we wouldn’t be having to do these silly events because god in his almightyness could just fix it and punish the people doing this to them but gee, why would he do that?!) This did not stop us as a leadership team, (sounds so impressive!) however, from assisting organizations for whom helping refugees is an end in itself or for whom their work has nothing to do with seeking God’s glory. (what a concept – just doing things because they are good by themselves…hmmmm) Our intention was to be both faithful (success!) to International Teams’ motive for helping refugees and to be welcoming (get you in our clutches) to those who desire to help refugees but may not share in that motive. (interesting word choice there – motive) Our intention was not to offend those who do not share our belief in God. (we just happen to be really good at it!) If you would like to discuss this further, (if you need help being saved) we would be willing to talk with you more. Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns. (really we mean it – we are only 10 converts away from the toaster oven!)

Enough said! Well I hope the money does get to the refugees without Christ being stuffed down their throats in exchange  – one could hope.

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