Solving Community Challenges Together

How much value should community members place on living in a united way?  Should we seek to identify community challenges and solve them together, and at what cost?  Is it ever right to make modest compromises on certain levels for the greater good?

Recent objections by some progressives at Purdue have brought these questions into clearer focus.  They have asked whether Purdue should participate in the annual United Way campaign if some of the organizations involved–especially the Boy Scouts–have different discrimination policies than Purdue.  The present issue may become moot if the Boy Scouts change their policy this summer but the same basic question is sure to raise its head again.

Some conservatives have responded by accusing our progressive neighbors of bullying the Boy Scouts and trying to impose their views on others.  Really?  Aren’t we conservatives often guilty of the same thing?

Our church chose to become a pacesetter in the annual United Way Campaign a couple of years ago. Many of our members already participated through contributions at their individual workplaces but we decided to expand those efforts.  So now we conduct a campaign drive among our 170 employees and also encourage our members whose employers are not part of the drive to give to our church’s efforts.  The results have been modest compared to our other community ministries but we believed it was important to make a statement about our desire to live united as often as possible.

The most frequently asked question I have received about this decision is why we, as a pro-life church, would support the United Way which in turn supports Planned Parenthood.  Apparently those posing the question are unaware that Planned Parenthood is not even one of our local United Way agencies.  But some purists would argue that because some United Ways support Planned Parenthood in other communities, it would be wrong to participate in our local fund drive.

Such objections from both sides make me scratch my head.  Perhaps we all need to ask whether the United Way fund drive is really the best place to attempt to affect social change.  Does a person have to agree with every last thing that every last agency believes or does before participating in the community-wide effort?  If that is the case, you can always find a reason not to give.

What gets lost in the never-ending culture war is the significant hardship of the people in our town who desperately need the crucial services that these various agencies provide.

  What gets lost in the never-ending culture war is the significant hardship of the people in our town who desperately need the crucial services that these various agencies provide.  At-risk children in need of a mentor, fire victims in need of immediate relief, senior citizens in need of utility assistance — the list goes on and on.  Do we really want the most vulnerable people around us to continue to suffer while we engage in yet another social argument?

Perhaps the better solution from all sides of the equation is to place a much higher value on solving community problems together.  That means we might have to hold hands with someone who thinks a bit differently than we do on certain topics.  Is that really such a calamity?  After all, for most of us, apparently God thought one of us was just about enough.  Communities need lots of different people working together to address neighborhood challenges.

One last thing for those still wound up about this issue.  You might want to check your 401K retirement account.  It is highly likely you will find companies involved in all sorts of questionable practices and beliefs.  Why are we so willing to look the other way when we are the ones making money for ourselves but we quickly seek reasons to withhold giving when it involves the problems of others?  The Bible has a word for such attitudes and behavior–it starts with a capital “H”.

Let’s fuss at one-another about social issues on the editorial page.  But when it comes to helping those in need around us, let’s live and work as often as possible in a united way.

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.