Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Hypothetical Thanks to the CSO Scholarships

Tonight I was asked to speak at the next CSO banquet. I wasn't really told the nature of what I was supposed to say, probably something about how thankful I am for the scholarship donors. You know, something to make them want to continue giving money and, even better, to give more money. I declined the invitation, because I will be out of town to attend a conference.

At first, I joyfully declined, because I tend to avoid those banquets like the plague. If someone is doing something good with their money, why do we have to spend even more money on some fancy-schmancy banquet? It seems counterintuitive to me, to be extravagant with money in celebration of those who are giving their money, to encourage luxury instead of frugality for the kingdom's sake, for peoples' sake, and for God's sake. After reflecting on the CSO, I regretted my inability to speak. I day dreamed about what I might say if I could speak about anything in front of the CSO ...

Thanks Pedro, for seeking me out for this opportunity. I am so excited to thank the donors here for their support. Sure, most of you do not know who I am. In fact, I am going to venture none of you know who I am. Maybe you know my name from the program, but until a few seconds ago, you couldn't even match the name with the face. Some of you might not want to match my face with my name in the program, since I have a piece of metal sticking in my eyebrow and a few pieces of wood in my ear. You have really taken a step of faith in donating to the CSO, putting faith that your financial generosity will help people do God's work, even if you do not agree with everything that goes on.

Nobody will ever agree with everything, but you believe in the idea of a "Christian Service Organization." You believe your money is going to something organized, not just a group of people who handle your money willy-nilly. You believe this organization promotes Christian service, or Christians and service, or Christians who serve, or Christians being served. Really, language is a bit ambiguous and I, for one, am not sure what this organization is all about, except that it is one of the financial reasons I am getting a seminary education.

To what does "Christian" apply in CSO? It isn't the service, because I am not really required to serve any one. I suppose the organization expects me to "serve" at a church. And the church will have church services. And church services serve Christians. But I don't think the CSO gives money to Christians who will, in turn, serve the Christians who gave the money in the first place. If so, the CSO wouldn't be terribly Christian and the donors wouldn't require much faith, at least, no more faith than it takes to go to a restaurant and pay your server to serve you food.

I don't think the "Christian" applies to the donors, either. I suppose most of you are Christians. Perhaps all of you are. But, the CSO likely has no application process to judge the Christianity of anyone with open wallet. What organization does?

"Christian" cannot modify the organization, either. The word "Christian" doesn't make a good adjective for non-humans. Only humans can make the choice to follow Christ.

So, I suppose the word "Christian" must refer to the recipients, the recipients who have some hazy connection to a service organization. The Christians are served by the organization and the donors, thankfully receiving funds to help them achieve an education, something for which everyone should have access. How sad it is to know that education is only available to those who can find ways to afford it. I am especially saddened to know how much biblical and theological education costs. We as Christians have cut off access to so many parts of the Bible by asking for so much money for classes and books. It is disgusting, really. Instead of turning God's house into a den of robbers, we have taken a book of God's words and turned them into a source for profits.

The "S" of CSO must refer to serving the cleansing of God's words like Jesus cleansed the temple. I truly think the CSO is a great start to making education, especially biblical and theological education available to so many. But the CSO has a ways to go. Sure, it is doing a great thing, but the organization also seems to support luxury. Think about the food you ate, the table cloths, the dress code. Just because a students receives CSO money does not mean they can afford nice clothes. Just because a student receives CSO money does not mean they won't think about the people around the world who could benefit from just one half of what I ate here tonight.

Look at me. I'm about as privileged as it gets as a white male. I wouldn't be at Gardner-Webb without the CSO and other generous donors. But as the CSO reminds us, this organization is about Christians and service. I am very thankful to all of you donors, but I hope we can all give a little more thought to the CSO, what it means, what it could mean, and, most importantly, what it can become in our lives as we not only are affiliated with the CSO, but also with a CS-movement.

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