ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Complications of Philanthropy and Witch Hunting.

I was recently “challenged” to the ALS ice bucket challenge. The person who issued said challenge is near and dear to my heart, so I politely ignored the message on Facebook and contacted the person directly. In my own elitist self righteousness, I told said dear friend that I wouldn’t go near any trending anything with a ten foot pole. She laughed and proceeded to say that that was the reason that I was challenged, and said that she would buy me a beer if I went through with it. I proceeded to make some outrageous statement about how I was tired of watching people dump ice on their heads. Free beer isn’t worth getting me to dump a bucket of ice on my head in front of a camera. I even said that I would buy a beer for everyone I know if it meant that I would never have to see another video of someone dumping ice on their head again. Sorry folks, I have already seen more videos. There will not be a free beer coming your way from that challenge.

I have no need to tell you why ALS is a great organization to give to. There is no reason to list the exact astronomical numbers of money that they have raised, and there is certainly is no good reason not to give to ALS. I have read posts of how people are not giving to the organization because the CEO makes over a quarter of a million dollars a year. What that guy makes is his business, and should have no bearing on the way that you give. Charitynavigator.org gives a solid breakdown of how charities handle their money and donations. ALS association checks out. I have read that they do some stem cell research that creates a moral/ethical dilemma for some people. If you have done your research, and find that you can’t get on board for the moral complications of the scientific process, no problem. Good for you for doing the research.

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This is the last time I cared about a bucket of ice being dumped. After the games played in the NFL this weekend, it looks like it will be a long time before I care about a bucket of ice that isn’t keeping beer cold.

I will admit that my negativity toward the ice bucket challenge was based more on my distaste for things that are popular. In my own self-righteous elitism, doing what everyone else is doing is almost always an infringement on my personal identity. I work hard to observe pop culture while doing as little participating as possible. After I was “challenged” I came across a meme that seemed to resonate with my feelings toward the viral phenomenon that is the ice bucket challenge. It was the smug Dos Equis guy and it said, “I don’t always give to charity, but when I do there is no ice bucket involved and I don’t tell everyone about it.” It just made sense to me. Who I give to, and when I give, is none of your business. Who you give to and when you give is none of my business either. The trend bothered me first, but there was always something else that I needed to search through.

Some people have said that it is a cultic ritual that is emulating a satanic baptism. Apparently Oprah is leading the charge for Satan.  I knew that the ALS IBC (as it is referred to around the internet) was something weird and dark, but I had no idea. Also that article is not an onion spoof article. There is a video that is 43 minutes long of a lady explaining her position on the inherent satanism of the ALS IBC (Doesn’t it sound darker and scarier as the acronym?). I tried to watch the whole thing, but just knew I had something more important to do with my life. Even though I really wanted to believe that the ALS IBC was an Oprah-lead cult rooted in Satanism, I just couldn’t buy in.

I then asked myself, “What would Jesus think about the ALS Ice bucket challenge?” Immediately after asking myself, I asked Google. Lucky for me, Google delivered, as always.

At some point during the video Jesus started to feel strangely like Santa. The costume totally had me fooled until the beard got wet. (In case you didn’t know Santa and Satan are spelled with the same letters. Maybe we should be looking for Satan in this ALS IBC. My witch hunt is back on, or perhaps just postponed until Christmas)

Jesus certainly talks about the way you should help those in need. It says very specifically in the sermon on the mount, “When you give to charity, do so in a way that it can be documented and published. Dump ice onto your head or make some other comparable public spectacle, but first call out three or four of your friends that you think need to share in your sacrificial and theatrical giving.”

If you guessed that Jesus didn’t actually say that, you got me. Way to go Bible scholar. I paraphrased more than a little bit to make a point. What Jesus really said about giving to those in need was very different. Shortly after calling a couple of things blessed Jesus said,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

That can sound a lot more like hellfire and brimstone than necessary. There is certainly no condemnation for anyone who has donated. The point I would like to get around to is what is at the heart of the donor? Jesus calls for giving that is not seeking self glory. I don’t think that Jesus is hanging out keeping tabs on who is doing the challenge and not. What matters most is where the heart is in the process.

Give joyfully. Give generously. Give frequently. But please shut up about it.

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3 thoughts on “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Complications of Philanthropy and Witch Hunting.

  1. That heart thing… why can’t we just have a nice and easily objectively judged rubric by which to determine if people are wrong or not? I have to admit, I’m in the same boat with you Travis, concerning my own pride against those who engage in the popular. I am glad that ALS is getting some good publicity out of it and getting more donations toward research. I also hope that Christians who take part in the IBC have a humble heart.

  2. Pretty much sums up my response to the ALS thing, as well. I couldn’t put words to it, but it’s definitely the whole ‘public challenge’ aspect that (in addition to trend-resistant elitism) has put a bad taste in my mouth about it. (P.S. Your tags are hilarious.)

  3. Good stuff.

    I got “nominated” last week to be “arrested” in October on behalf of a charity. It sounded like fun, the lady on the phone was really nice, and the person that nominated me is a friend and someone I care about, not to mention that raising money to defeat a bad disease is just generally a good idea, so I agreed to do it. Still, I’m torn. I apparently have to raise “bail,” by asking other people I know and care about to publically donate to the charity. Blech. I’ve done that before, in different form, but also for really good things; it’s always blech, though.

    My “jail,” however, is apparently a local restaurant – a favorite of mine with a wild selection of great beers. Maybe I’ll just not make bail and do time. 10-15, maybe. Or a life sentence, if they’ll have me.

    I also have to nominate others to join me.

    /Crosses Travis off the list

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