After being criticized for its Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift project being an “anti-Muslim proselytizing” and “anti-gay” ministry, Samaritan’s Purse offered a gracious, yet candid and unapologetic response.
In a column published Thursday titled, “This Christmas, beware evangelical Christians bearing gifts,” the author rose concern over those who participate in Operation Christian Child, insinuating that the ministry is disposed toward combatting Islam and homosexuality.
“Most people packing up shoeboxes don’t know they are used for anti-Muslim proselytizing, [o]r that they are backing a pro-Trump, anti-gay message,” The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee asserted in the United Kingdom-based publication. “Some may be from churches sharing that evangelical brand – but I would guess most parents and children haven’t a clue what they are supporting.”
She also attacked Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham – also the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) – for his biblical stance on Islam and the LGBT agenda.
“The man who runs the Samaritan’s Purse … is the strongly anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage Rev. Franklin Graham,” Toynbee added.
Good answer …
In response to the accusation by the leftist British columnist, Samaritan’s Purse re-emphasized the main focus of its Christian ministry geared to bless children throughout the world – regardless of their beliefs.
“Operation Christmas Child is aimed specifically to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus," Samaritan’s Purse emailed The Christian Post (CP) in response to the anti-Christian op-ed.
An explanation of exactly what the evangelical humanitarian aid outreach does for afflicted and destitute children was then given.
"Our purpose is to show God's love in a tangible way to children in need around the world,” Samaritan’s Purse stressed. “We do this by distributing millions of shoebox gifts to children who are affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine to let them know that they are not forgotten."
The ministry then impressed that it has never masqueraded Operation Christmas Child as a secular program.
"No matter where we go, we don't hide the fact that we are Christians,” the group stressed to CP. “As our name illustrates, we are upfront about who we are."
The North Carolina-based organization led by the late Billy Graham’s son went on to point out that it has always unconditionally distributed tangible and spiritual blessings each Christmas to children in need from every background.
"Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of religious affiliation and with no strings attached,” Samaritan’s Purse added. “Our method is demonstrated in love, and we hope that our acts of compassion are an example of our faith."
Attacking the gift-giver
The Guardian’s Toynbee started her op-ed attack by making Operation Christmas Child out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – calling it a misleading “scheme.”
“All over the country, Operation Christmas Child is up and running again,” Toynbee wrote. “The scheme urges people to pack up a shoebox with toys, pens, notebooks and treats for a poor child. Schools often join in because children love doing it: there is something romantic and mysterious about sending a secret collection of gifts to an unknown child in a faraway land.”
She went on to list off some British companies that have been eager to participate in the gift-giving project, mentioning the excitement some shared about not knowing where the shoebox gifts will end up – and in whose hands.
“Maybe if people did know, they might hesitate,” Toynbee suggested, implying that many would not participate if they knew the project was Christian-based and reached out to children from countries with different beliefs. “Albania? That’s the clue – a mainly Muslim country, the kind of place where most of these shoeboxes are destined. The sort of countries that, indeed, as in the awful song, do not know it’s Christmastime at all.”
She proceeded to portray Samaritan’s Purse as a Trojan Horse geared to maliciously trick children and parents into converting to Christianity, making the Christian gifts packed along with toys and hygiene items appear as tactically planted covert weapons to win unsuspecting families to Christ.
“Many good-hearted packers of shoeboxes know little of the organization behind this scheme – it’s run by Samaritan’s Purse, fundamentalist American evangelical Christian missionaries,” Toynbee warned. “After the boxes are dispatched, they are then delivered along with a missionary book of [B]ible stories, The Greatest Gift, with ‘the 12 Bible lessons offered by many of the churches distributing shoeboxes,’ according to the Samaritan’s Purse website. ‘157 million children in over 160 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child.’”
The leftist columnist then shared a testimony that she used as evidence proving her claim that the gifts win families over to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
“A story from its website tells how a shoebox converted a Muslim family to Christianity: ‘Angella received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox filled with presents last year at this time. Since then she’s led her Muslim family to Christ,” Toynbee informed.
Attacking Graham’s beliefs
The leftist Toynbee then drew issue with Graham for his connection to conservativism in the United States, pointing out that he was a speaker at former President George W. Bush’s inauguration, as well as at President Donald Trump’s – and she let it be known that she does not like the fact that the preacher was not a fan of former President Barack Obama and his pro-Muslim foreign policy enabling Islamic terrorists to wage jihad across the globe.
“In an interview with Newsmax, Graham claimed that Obama had ‘allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to become part of the U.S. government and influence administration decisions,’” the humanist writer noted.
She was also not cozy with the world-renowned evangelist’s biblical stance on human sexuality and his desire to have a president who champions religious freedom to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.
“Strongly anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage, Graham defended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘gay propaganda’ law, praising him for ‘protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda,” Toynbee added. “He told The Washington Post that God had intervened to cause Trump’s election: ‘I could sense going across the country that God was going to do something this year, and I believe that at this election, God showed up.’”
The British liberal then quoted one of Graham’s posts on social media that expressed his support of Trump’s tough-on-immigration stance to keep Islamic terrorism from infiltrating the U.S.
“We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad,” Graham posted on his Facebook page. “We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized – and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.”
The reasoning behind Toynbee’s attack was then divulged, as she proclaimed her leadership in a British anti-Christian group, as well as her desire to deter people from blessing children through Operation Christmas Child.
“Humanists UK – of which I am vice-president – has drafted a template letter that people can sign informing schools and others, urging them to reconsider their support, and offering alternative suggestions,” she shared.
Toynbee then spread her atheistic message through a quote from Humanists U.K. Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson.
“Those who donate to the scheme are well-intentioned and want to make an altruistic contribution, but donors in the U.K. should be aware of the nature of Operation Christmas Child’s activities and instead find a reputable and inclusive charity that has no ulterior motives and only has children’s best interests at heart,” Thompson proclaimed.
The British columnist ended by criticizing Operation Christmas Child and urging readers to not participate in the program.
“No one wants to be the Grinch: filling shoeboxes is a feelgood act of generosity, but sending stacks of boxes with Christian missionary messages to Muslim countries is unlikely to ease interfaith tensions – nor is it an economical or ecological way to give: as ever, boring old money to good charities goes further,” Toynbee concluded. “I note, also in the Luton News, one Lewsey residents’ association is calling for people to fill shoeboxes to be distributed by their local food bank – a far better idea than what one critic called ‘gift-wrapped Islamophobia.’”
Not the first time
Last year, Operation Christmas Child received opposition from north of the border in left-leaning Canada, where schools had a problem with the leadership of Samaritan’s Purse backing conservative biblical stances on social issues.
“In December 2017, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) in Canada ended its participation in Operation Christmas Child over complaints against the evangelical group's stance on same-sex marriage.
NLESD Director of Education Tony Stack particularly had a problem with Samaritan’s Purse not backing the LGBT agenda.
"For example, a child with two moms or two dads, unfortunately, has been put in the position of choosing between fitting in and partaking with other classmates in an activity, or supporting an organization opposed to the very existence of that very child's family unit," Stack stated at the time, according to CP.
He was particularly at issue with the Christian organization amending its statement of faith the previous year in 2016 so that it would be clear about its biblical stance concerning LGBT issues.
"[H]uman sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, [and a marriage by biblical definition is between] a genetic male and genetic female," Samaritan’s Purse’s updated statement of faith reads.
Samaritan's Purse Canada Spokesperson Jeff Adams expressed the intention behind the change, which was to emphasize that his organization was only stressing that its stance – affirming God’s take on human sexuality in the Bible – does not conform to the world’s increasing acceptance of LGBT behavior.
"We included these specifics NOT because our views on these issues had changed, but simply because the world's views on these has changed to the point where we felt the need to again remind our volunteers that our organization accepts the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God," Adams assured at the time, according to CP.
Earlier opposition in Canada
Nearly two decades ago, Operation Christian Child was also criticized for proselytizing by Canadians.
“Parents in the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta, want the Samaritan's Purse program, Operation Christmas Child, banned from public schools, reports the CBC,” Christianity Today reported in November 2002. “The program – which is in 1,100 Canadian schools and thousands of other sites in the U.S., U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, and Finland -- asks students to pack a shoebox full of gifts for kids in developing countries, but some parents say it's all just a ploy for proselytizing.”
Rita Sirignano – a parent of a Canadian student – contended that participating in Operation Christmas Child was essentially turning her child into an evangelist, claiming that the program pressures children into conversation.
"They're not just flying into a country and dropping boxes to whatever little child is standing there wanting this box," Sirignano argued, according to Christianity Today. "If I wanted my child to be proselytizing … I would send him to a Christian school."
Samaritan’s Purse Spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht provided assurance that Sirignano did not have her facts straight.
"In countries that we have been given permission to do so, we do tell these children we are Christians and that we are compelled by the love of God to do this, and we want to bless these children," Giesbrecht asserted.