The Upstate Atheists of Spartanburg, South Carolina have a lot of experience doing volunteer work with people across the religious spectrum, including Habitat for Humanity and the March of Dimes. Their philosophy is that volunteering together can not only help the community but build bridges between believers and non-believers at the same time.
Then there are some folks who are convinced that winning the spiritual war is more important than working together to help people. A few days ago Eve Brannon of the Upstate Atheists was informed by a local soup kitchen that they weren’t allowed to volunteer explicitly because of their lack of belief. This was even after the director of the kitchen was given repeated assurances that there would be no way for anyone to identify the volunteers as atheists. Nope. They did not want to be party to sin.
Lou Landrum, executive director of the Soup Kitchen, told the Herald-Journal she would resign from her job before she let atheists volunteer and be a “disservice to this community.”
I don’t see what difference a person’s religion makes in any measurable capacity to a homeless person in desperate need of a hot meal. Or, for that matter, to a kitchen that needs volunteers. Again, though, I’m seeing this from a practical standpoint, not a spiritual one. These people wanted to help make a difference, and were rejected on principle. I’m sure some hungry family completely understands.
“This is a ministry to serve God” she said. “We stand on the principles of God. Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don’t know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don’t give any money. I wouldn’t want their money.”
You should. Good Lord, woman, I never asked this question before now to anyone, but what the hell would Jesus do? Here’s a hint: Luke 10:25–37. The moral for you is that you need to spend some time to reflect on who your “neighbors” truly are in the fight against poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
“They can set up across the street from the Soup Kitchen. They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street,” Landrum said.
Hemant Mehta brought my attention to their mission statement, which included this gem:
[We believe that] Every human being should be treated with dignity and respect, therefore we treat all people that eat at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen as our guests and everyone is welcome at our table.
… except atheists. She’s far from the first to make grand statements about treating everyone with equal love and compassion, only to drop those principles without a moment’s hesitation when dealing with those people.
The bottom line is that this lady has fallen off her rocker, turned volunteer work into some pointless “spiritual war”, and clearly doesn’t represent the norm when it comes to Christian charities and their willingness to cooperate with non-believers for a common goal. Honestly, I found the few paragraphs about their success stories far more encouraging than the one case of it going sour.
For their part, the group is planning on setting up a small booth across the street from the soup kitchen and giving out care packages of their own.
The 300 packages contain socks, gloves, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap, rain ponchos, snacks, shaving razors, antiseptic wipes, deodorants, tissues and gum.
“I hope we can provide a package for everyone who needs one,” said Eve Brannon, president of Upstate Atheists, a group started in 2011 that includes about 200 members. “Whatever we have left, we will donate to a homeless shelter in the Upstate.”
You know … real goods to provide practical help to people in need. No word yet on whether they contain atheist literature or a set of instructions on how to summon your familiar … but I’m sure they’re in there.