Thoughts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and my Preemptive Refusal of the Next Challenge

I wrestled with whether to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. As one friend told me, it felt a lot like one of those ridiculous emails or Facebook posts that told me to share this with the threat that if I didn't, I didn't love Jesus. And I don't like feeling pressured to do anything.

Then I wondered about ALS and embryonic stem cell research. Others, as I have seen by their Facebook posts, wondered about ALS and their ethical treatment of animals. There may be even more issues. These are good issues to wrestle with, and we shouldn't support an organization that we feel violates issues that we care deeply about. For those who objected on issues of conscience, I salute you. I am a big fan of not violating one's conscience and celebrating the right we have to do that.

Just to share from my brief investigation on ALS on embryonic stem cell research, the embryonic stem cell research that they do is done from a grant that came in specifically for that study. They only have one study relating to embryonic stem cell research that is done from a batch of embryonic stem cells created years ago. I abhor it, yet I realize that none of the money that I donated or money from the people that I also encouraged to donate would be used for that research. So I felt, on that issue, I could donate and have a clear conscience. Others may disagree. Again, honor your conscience.

I also worry, as one of doctor friends has pointed out, that this is just a temporary band-aid over a larger wound. We have cut medical research in this nation, and this behavior is destructive for having a better future. Charity efforts like this fail to drum up the money that just transferring 1/20th of our military budget over to medical research would create. Through government initiatives, a lot more money can be invested in medical research than having everyone pour water on their heads in order to raise money for a cause.

But this is the last time that I will be joining in on an event like this. I just have an uneasy feeling left in me. I'm posting this now, so that when the next time happens - and it will happen because of the success of this one - I will just share this post. I am not against the organization doing the next attempt at fundraising through a viral marketing scheme. I am just against the peer pressure tactics that are apparently acceptable in marketing.

I have two main issues that I think are the source of my unease.

First, I hate being public about what I am giving money toward. I don't want people to see the money I give. I understand this may come across as hypocritical because I have to do some very public giving as a pastor in order to get people to donate to the cause that I want to help with. But I'm not Bill Gates with the ability to just cut a check to help whatever issue I have laid upon my heart. I have to mobilize others to join in with me so that we can do something together that we would not be able to do individually. Because of this, others get to join in on the loving actions that otherwise would not even be accomplished.

Second, I deliberately, regularly, and conscientiously give of my finances. As many people out there, we give a double digit percentage of our income away to others. This is part of our budget. And this feels awkward to admit publicly because we don't do it to receive any acclaim from any people. I share it here to show that it can be done, to encourage others to do it, and to show that I am not a selfish person when I refuse participating in the next marketing challenge. We try to live a lifestyle of giving. We spend many conversations considering where and how we want to give. And these sort of things use peer pressure and impulsiveness to increase giving. I'm just not comfortable with that.

The only thing that I hope happens as a result of this (besides finding a cure) is that we create a culture of giving in our society. I would like to encourage others to give regularly. Give away a double digit percentage of your income every week. Give generously to your church, causes you care about, and people you know who have needs. The thing I worry about in the ALS ice bucket challenge is that it may make people feel like they are super generous when they are not really all that generous. Many people who are refusing to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge are more generous and loving with their money than those who have participated.