Review: When You Buy a Goat from a Charity, You May Not Actually Give a Goat

Charity Christmas catalogs are here and many want you to give an animal for a needy family. World Vision and Gospel for Asia are two catalogs which arrived recently. I wouldn’t give a nickel to GFA but if I gave to national charities, I would consider World Vision (with this caution – almost all of my donating is local). Since the Christmas giving season is underway, I thought a little review from two years ago might be helpful. Here I reprint a post about animal giving to World Vision from 2014.
Reprinted from December 5, 2014:
Pop quiz, gentle readers.
When you donate money to buy a goat from the World Vision catalog, who gets that goat?
Answer in the comments section; base your answer on the screen capture of this online page from the World Vision website.
If you provide any more information about this appeal, please provide your source.
More to come this afternoon…
I asked World Vision for an answer to this question. Amy Parodi, spokeswoman for the organization, told me:

When people purchase a goat from the World Vision gift catalog, their donation goes into a pool of money designated to purchase livestock and related agricultural projects, including goats.  Those animals are then distributed to families participating in World Vision animal husbandry programs in a variety of countries around the world.
We use the slightly broader categories because it’s nearly impossible to encourage the exact number of donations to match the exact need for specific animals in our programs, but it’s still critical that we honor our donors’ intentions with their gifts.
The “related agricultural projects” I mentioned above are efforts that help families care for the animals they’ve been given.  Providing watering sources, farming assistance, famine relief and other essentials help families truly benefit from their livestock.
If people want to give to a general fund, the World Vision catalog has an item called “Where Most Needed.”  These donations are placed into programs – in any country and within any sector of World Vision’s work – that are partially funded and need more resources to be fully operational.

I appreciate this answer. The one on the website is less clear than this.

We promise to honor your generosity and use your donation in the most effective way possible. The needs shown in this catalog reflect World Vision projects at the time of writing and the suggested donation amounts are based on periodic surveys of the countries we serve. Each item is representative of the gift category in which it appears and donations will be used to provide assistance where it is needed most within that category or to address a similar need.

The multiplying effect from grants and donated goods may change throughout the year on identical or similar offers due to variations in the start and end dates of donor grants and our programs. calls an approach like this a donor illusion. Although I might not go that far, I can understand how some could be disillusioned when they thought they were buying an animal for a family. Many people I have spoken with believe that is what the promotion promises and that the fine print should be a bigger part of the promotion.
I am not saying the money goes into questionable places. I believe it is necessary to support the efforts with education and training. I do wonder how many animals are requested versus how many are purchased. And I wonder how much the Christmas push to purchase an animal raises as compared to how much is spent to purchase animals.  However, I do know that some people get animals and that much of the money does go into assisting needy people.
So if you thought you were buying an animal for a needy child/family, now you know some of the rest of the story.
Additional information:
You can also give nativity animals according to the print catalog. While I understand the explanation given by Ms. Parodi, I wonder if it is pushing it to ask, “What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than to share those same animals so that families can prosper?”
Also read More Facts about Buying Animals from World Vision

Voting for an Independent Candidate Is an Acceptable Option

Recently, several big name Christian leaders have made a case that a vote for a third party/independent candidate is a waste of a Christian’s vote and will only serve to elect Hillary Clinton. Dire warnings and shaming accompany these appeals.
Here are several reasons I disagree and believe that voting for an independent or minor party candidate is a good option.*

  1. No one owns or is entitled to my vote and support. If the GOP and Democrat parties put up unqualified and unfit candidates, I am not obligated to support one of them. In this instance, for different reasons, I believe Clinton and Trump are equally unacceptable.
  2. There is no biblical mandate to support one party or another in a two party system. The two party system is not divinely inspired.
  3. Party loyalty was considered a problem by some of our key founding fathers. In his 1796 farewell address, Washington warned about party spirit. He said, “There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”
  4. A viable third or even fourth major party would be a benefit to the nation and allow representation for important viewpoints now stifled by the two-party system.
  5. At some point, an independent party must gain votes from citizens to gain viability. An independent movement will not grow unless citizens cast a ballot for independent candidates running for office. This election featuring two of the most unpopular candidates in history is a good opportunity for citizens to exercise their right to declare a pox on both houses.
  6. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t support either Clinton or Trump, now is the time to declare independence from the two-party stranglehold on what is possible.
  7. I don’t believe a sufficient case has been made by evangelical Trump supporters that Clinton will destroy the country. While I think the Republic will survive Trump, I think his weaknesses may actually be more dangerous to our safety than Clinton’s. Having said that, I believe both candidates bring unacceptable qualities to the table.
  8. My position has nothing to do with “moral preening” or “fig leaves” or some other self-righteous way to dismiss reasoning which results in support for an independent candidate.

From my point of view, voting third party/independent is the long run option. We must start somewhere and now seems like as good a time as any. In any case, no advocate for holding one’s nose and voting for Trump has been able to provide a biblical basis for staying with the status quo. That is because there isn’t such a basis. The Bible doesn’t address a republic such as ours and only endorses the selection of moral and upright people as rulers. If anything, the Bible promotes the selection of upright people for leadership. Other than independent candidates, there is no real option to exercise that value this year.
Some (e.g., Wayne Grudem, Eric Metaxas) have suggested that pragmatic voting is how we should proceed. They believe God (and in Metaxas’ case Bonhoeffer) would get behind Trump because the consequences will be better in a Trump administration. This position requires an omniscience which no human possesses. No one knows what the consequences of each selection will be and it is presumptuous to assert that one does know. Since these pragmatists don’t have a direct line to God, we cannot accept their warnings and guilt trips as inspired revelation.
If you think Donald Trump has made a good case for himself, vote for him. If you think Hillary Clinton has made a good case for herself, vote for her. However, if you believe neither candidate is acceptable, then find someone you support and vote for that person with thanksgiving that you have the right to do so.
*Full disclosure – I favor independent candidate Evan McMullin.

Donald Trump's Campaign Manager Whipping Up Hysteria Over Voting Machines (UPDATED)

This tweet from Kellyanne Conway is highly irresponsible and may serve to gum up the works at polls around the country.
Here is what she tweeted (by the way Eric Metaxas retweeted this – see below).

Trump partisans on social media are going absolutely insane over the report of one woman in TX who said her vote for the Republican ticket was changed to a vote for Clinton. With the Trump campaign fueling the fire, Trump fans are insisting on paper ballots because now they are whipping up distrust of voting machines (allegedly linked to George Soros).
According an Amarillo news report, there has been only one report of an irregularity — the woman who reported it on Facebook. Election officials at the polling location in Randall County — most of whom are Republican — report that the machine test out fine and votes aren’t being changed.

Concerns first appear to have come to light from a Randall County woman who posted on Facebook, “I voted a straight Republican ticket and as I scrolled to submit my ballot I noticed that the Republican Straight ticket was highlighted, however, the clinton/kaine box was also highlighted! I tried to go back and change and could not get it to work. I asked for help from one of the workers and she couldn’t get it to go back either. It took a second election person to get the machine to where I could correct the vote to a straight ticket. Be careful and double-check your selections before you cast your vote! Don’t hesitate to ask for help. I had to have help to get mine changed.”
Randall County Elections Administrator Shannon Lackey said what likely happened was that the machines allow for crossover votes, where a voter can select a straight-ticket ballot, but are still permitted to change their vote in individual elections for candidates of other parties.
Lackey went on to say that this is the sixth election that the machines have been used in Randall County.
“All of our machines are state- and federal-
certified,” Lackey said. “Other states use them, and they are used in many other counties in Texas. We can prove it (a machine) hasn’t been tampered with. We do extensive testing; the machine can’t change votes. It wasn’t anything on purpose from either side, but we are glad to clear the air on the issue.”
Huntley confirmed Tuesday there no issues with equipment on the first day of early voting.

I can imagine now that worried Trump voters will demand paper ballots or take longer to vote, thus lengthening wait times at the polls. At the least, now the more conspiracy minded of the Trump clan will have yet another campaign-endorsed reason to question a Trump defeat.
Calling the election results into question without evidence is staggeringly irresponsible and I call on Trump supporters among my evangelical tribe to stop it. Please check things out before you pass along misinformation.
Metaxas retweet voting booth
Fox News is linking the interest in this story to machines allegedly owned by a George Soros owned company.

According to this Business Insider report, the voting machine maker isn’t owned by Soros and they won’t be used in this year’s election (check out Smartmatic’s website on these topics).
Actor James Woods is spreading the insanity:

Faculty and Freedom of Expression at Liberty University

Two articles are out today (Atlantic and Politico Magazine) featuring the petition launched at Liberty University to protest Jerry Falwell, Jr’s vocal support for Donald Trump. I posted that letter when it came out.
The student protest doesn’t represent a majority of LU students it seems, but their bravery is having an impact.
Politico Magazine’s article seems more pointedly focused on the anxiety felt by Liberty faculty about speaking on the record. No Liberty faculty would go on the record for either publication. Brandon Ambrosino, writing for Politico featured many comments from faculty about their job concerns if they spoke their mind.
Ambrosino also highlighted the case of Mark DeMoss who was asked to step down from a committee of the Liberty board of directors over his critical comments about Falwell’s Trump endorsement made in the Washington Post.  DeMoss later resigned altogether from the board. Ambrosino cited my blog post on that event.

Evangelical blogger Warren Throckmorton, who regularly writes about Christian higher education, offered a similar thought. “I wonder why it is acceptable to the Liberty board for Jerry Falwell to endorse a candidate as an individual not speaking for the university, but it is not fine for a board member [Mark DeMoss] to express an opinion as an individual not speaking for the university.”

The Atlantic article by Emma Green provides an in depth look at the student body at Liberty. She described the protest effort but also interviewed students who support Trump. Although stated differently than Ambrosino, I think both articles paint a picture that those faculty opposed to Trump or who speak in favor of center-left positions on various matters are right to fear for their jobs. I don’t say that due to the absence of tenure or the fact that all employees serve at the pleasure of the administration. It is also the behavior of the president and board of directors that matters. If Mark DeMoss can be marginalized at Liberty over an expression of his viewpoint, then who is safe?

Eric Metaxas Illustrates What Evangelicals Need to Correct

As the Donald Trump saga nears the end, it will be good to reflect on what can be learned. One thing I hope for is a backlash against false or misleading information being used by evangelicals to make their political points.
Case in point:

Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for years. However, after so many people have been repeatedly misled by so called thought leaders, I hope more evangelicals wake up to the need for simple fact checking.
On this story, Michelle Goldberg contacted the source.

So I called him. Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

That’s it. That’s all I could find to support the story. Even if this “John” had some connection to the Clinton campaign, it doesn’t mean Mrs. Clinton put him up to it. In any case, this hearsay is not sufficient evidence to go with a news report or even an advocacy piece (as Judicial Watch did).
Metaxas should be ashamed to spread around unsubstantiated reports in this manner and then indict the media over it. We do have a free press and Michelle Goldberg did her job. Apparently, Metaxas didn’t check it out or only believes those who report what he already believes.
To be taken seriously, evangelical leaders must become more skeptical and better fact checkers.
Update: Let’s not forget that Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor.