How can external providers of assistance insure that aid meets the needs of the population?

Being involved in the Disaster Response in the Philippines right now, thankful for good articles on how to bridge the gap between relief and long-term development.

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Disaster Response Volunteer Guidelines

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/bmunson3/disaster-response-volunteer-guide&#8221; title=”Disaster Response Volunteer Guide” target=”_blank”>Disaster Response Volunteer Guide</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/bmunson3&#8243; target=”_blank”>Bob Munson</a></strong> </div>

Focus on Disaster Response Relilgious Care Volunteers in the Philippines. First version… changes likely.

Relief Team Guidance: Ventilation or Retraumatization??

I did this short post on our counseling center webpage. We are doing disaster response crisis counseling related to Typhoon recovery in the Philippines. We generally use the NOVA method (National Organization of Victim Assistance). We are pretty comfortable with it. Some prefer to use CISD, but we believe that CISD is more appropriate for hidden victims (aka recovery volunteers). However, there is a disagreement between PFA (Psychological First Aid) and NOVA. PFA is good, but NOVA is pretty easily teachable. Right now we have decided to stay with NOVA (mostly) but make some adjustments to reduce the risk of retraumatization.

Bukal Life Care

With the Disaster Response here in the Philippines, we have had to revisit an issue that has been with us since 2009. The issue is whether having a victim in a disaster relive the events is a freeing, ventilating event, or a retraumatization of the event. We use the NOVA method. One of the steps is Ventilation/Validation. In that, the counselor invites the individual or group to go through to describe their experience. There are other methods (CISM/CISD, PFA, OSFA) and this issue is an area where they diverge commonly.

Obviously, we are on a mission of healing so we don’t wish to further harm. There are people out there that are more experienced in this delicate issue. But talking to some and reviewing some literature leads us to recommend a middle road. Methods typically require some level of review of the events they have been through. This seems to…

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Why Do Good? Or Why Not?

We (me and my family… I am not talking about myself in first person plural) do a number of different ministries here in the Philippines. This includes church ministries of different sort, some church planting, and seminary teaching. But our biggest work has been more what is often called social ministry. This includes medical missions (more in the past than the present) and pastoral care and counseling. Recently, due to the typhoon and earthquake disasters in Philippines in the last few weeks, we have been pulled back into disaster response. This brings back a question that Evangelical Christians often wrestle with… Why do (social) good?  It might seem obvious why we should do good. Jesus did good and we are suppose to have Jesus as our example… so it shouldn’t be particularly difficult. 

William Wilberforce by Sir George Hayter - Fer...

William Wilberforce by Sir George Hayter – Ferens Art Gallery, Hull – Accession number: KINCM:2005.5020 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The difficulty seems to come when we pull in certain theological presuppositions. These presuppositions create different attitudes about social ministry. Ballard describes five common attitudes that Christians have regarding social ministry. 

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@page { margin: 2cm }
P { margin-bottomJerry Ballard, “Missions and Holistic Ministry.” In World Missions: The Asian Challenge: A Compendium of the Asia Mission Congress ’90, Held in Seoul, Korea August 27-31, 1990. 342-344.

The first is avoidance. It assumes that Christian ministry is to be “spiritual”. Evangelism and discipleship are the center of Christian ministry. Other work distracts from this.

The second is convenience. It also is focused on the spiritual, but accepts that doing social ministry is okay as time and resources allow. Those with this attitude will likely be more involved in social ministry than those with the first attitude, but it is not viewed as their “real” ministry.

A third attitude is focus on the social gospel. The view equates Christian ministry with social ministry. Proclamation of the gospel and spiritual conversion/transformation is not really valued.

A fourth attitude can be described as “ulterior motive”. It assumes that social ministry is valued to the extent that it positively affects spiritual ministry. This is sort of a variation on convenience. Spiritual ministry is again “real” ministry, but social ministry is no longer viewed simply as a nice thing to do (as long as it doesn’t distract. Rather, it is seen as a open door or lure to real/spiritual ministry.

The fifth attitude is wholism. It says that both social and spiritual ministries have inherent value. Christian ministry and mission should draw its inspiration from the life of Christ—who appeared to care for the whole person, both spiritually and socially.

Among Evangelical Christians, the last two attitudes are the most common. Personally, I believe that the Gospel of Christ is transformation on all levels of human and social condiition. As such, it should not be narrowly defined in terms of “soul” issues. So I believe that a wholistic view is most in line with the Bible. But it is true the the Bible does give priority to spiritiual concerns (generally, but not universally). All in all, however, Evangelical Christians do need to come to the point that they are comfortable with both spiritual type ministries (evangelism, church planting/growth, discipleship, and such) and social ministries.

 

Cults: Good, Bad, and Ugly

The term “Cult” gets used and abused quite a bit. Actually Wikipedia has a nice article on the term “Cult” and its many different usages. Starting from the perspective of orthodox/historical Christianity, I  would like to look at the word in terms of “Good”, “Bad”, and “Ugly” and then take a more “functionalist” look at the term “cultic”.Cult ChartIn the diagram above, the quadrants are based on whether a religious group is Orthodox or Heterodox (from a historical Christian perspective, that is) and whether it behaves in a “cultic” or “non-cultic” manner.

So what does cultic mean? Many Christians describe anything that “isn’t Christian” as being a cult. That becomes difficult in practice. Others often use “cult” to refer to “small unpopular religions.” This is also difficult in practice. Most all religions, good or bad start out small and unpopular.

I think that a lot of us have a certain thing in mind when we use the term cult or cultic. We are talking about groups that are heavily authoritarian, abusive, and tear down the individuality or selfhood of the individual.

The Watchmen Fellowship has these characteristics for abusive religious organizations (or groups that I would say are “cultic”) 

Authoritarian:  Unconditional obedience to the leadership.
Averse to Criticism: The person who dissents is a problem to fix– not the issue brought up.
Image Conscious: Protecting the reputation of the leaders or church is more important than truth or justice.
Perfectionistic: Individual worth is determined by performance. No compassion for weakness/failure.
Unbalanced:  Group distinguishes itself by  overemphasizing a minor theological point.

With this in mind, religious groups can be divided into the class four quardrants.

Quadrant #1:  The Good. (Not “cultic” and not heterodox)

The term “cult” traditionally meant a group of people who came together for worship. In some languages, cult (or cultos) does not have a negative connotation. So if a group is Orthodox (good theology) and not behaviiorally “cultic,” one could view this as a Good Cult, or a Healthy Church.

So for some people the term “cult” may be used here, but doesn’t identify something bad, but rather something good.

Quadrant #2:  The BAD. (“cultic” and heterodox)

I would like to suggest that the term “cult” can refer to groups that would ultimately be BAD. Many Christians refer to any group that is not orthodox as being a cult. This may not be useful. But it is reasonable to separate between groups with sound Christian theology and those that do not.

Quadrant #3: The BAD.  (not cultic, but still heterodox)

Heterodox groups could be described as being “Bad” cults. With this definition, however, some may have cultic traits as I have listed above, and some may not. Not all non-Christian religions (or heterodox religions with Christian roots) are cultic. Some others are cultic in their behavior/operation. Ultimately, both of these are “bad,” from an Orthodox Christian perspective The groups that are heterodox and cultic, are often what much of the broader population calls “cults” today. Ultimately, from a Christian perspective any group that has teaching that nullify or distort the Gospel  (even if they are not behaviorally “cultic” could be described as bad.

Quadrant 4: The UGLY. (“cultic” but not, strictly speaking, heterodox)

I would like to argue that cults at there worst are cultic in their behavior and orthodox in there essential theology. Why is that?

  • Orthodox Christian groups that behave in a cultic manner make Christians look bad. Christians (nominal or otherwise) do enough to make Christians… Christianity… Christ look bad.
  • Orthodox Christian groups that have cultic (authoritarian, abusive) behavior are somewhat mutant… we don’t know what to do with them. It is like Muslims with Jihadists— should they condemn them, accept them, or something else? What do we do with groups that embrace essential Christian truths but don’t act or function in a Christlike manner?

As Christians:

  • We need to be part of a Healthy church and promote such…. even if they are not our specific style.
  • We are right to oppose (lovingly, respectuflly, gently, and dialogically that is) falsehood, so we need to oppose Bad “cults”… other faiths…  be they cultic in behavior or not.
  • Our biggest challenge will be what to do with groups that a Christian doctrinally, but cultic behaviorally… cognitively Christian while not being Christlike. These are the ones that will be truly challenging. That is Why They are The Ugly.

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) Disaster Response

I am taking a bit of a break from blogging for now. We live in the Philippines and have been walloped by disaster. Strangely, the Philippines has been doing fairly well of late with good economics and the perception (at least) of less corruption. But then came three big disasters:

  • Kidnapping and village burnings in Zamboanga
    Philippine Flags
  • Major earthquake in Bohol
  • Typhoon Yolanda

We running a counseling training center (Bukal Life Care & Counseling Center, www.bukallife.org or www.bukallife.wordpress.com). We do chaplaincy training, chaplaincy work, and disaster response. Even before the typhoon came we were being asked to assist with the work in Zamboanga and Bohol. With Yolanda, things were are very busy.

We live in Baguio… a city in the Philippines that was not affected by any of these disasters. That is a blessing, but also an opportunity. One is not called upon by God to live lives of thankful complacency. It certainly may be understandable that people ask “Why would God allow such tragedies to happen?” A really good question, but another good question is “Why did God spare us from these tragedies?” The second question I believe is much easier to answer than the first. We are spared to share.

We are presently partnering with a number of groups in chaplaincy and training. Some of our team are prepping to leave for the destruction zone. Tonight my wife and I will be training a team that will leave two days from now.

The rest of the time we are emailing, texting, checking with support and with needs.

Blogging is good, and theological speculation is enriching. But sometimes one has to do something.