Thursday, April 11, 2013

Self-Reliance Versus Charity

For the past few months, I've been working as a freelance writer for a food storage company. It's been a completely different experience for me - I've always found emergency preparedness and food storage boring before. Now, I actually find it quite interesting.

Frequently, I run into resources that are affiliated with the Church. The books I read are mainly written by authors living in Utah, website I come across are made by members, etc. I don't think you could be a prepper or survivalist without being aware of the Church's involvement with emergency preparedness.

It really shows this attitude that members of the Church have. Because the Church has constantly pushed emergency preparedness, members develop a deep appreciation for self-reliance. And I can understand that - I think it'd be awesome to grow my own food, be prepared for any type of emergency, have parts of my house run on solar power, grown-up stuff like that. Those are goals I want to achieve, for the sake of saving money, being environmentally friendly, convenience, and as activities that will make me feel good about myself. As soon as my husband and I are in the phase of home-ownership, that is.

You can also see how the self-reliance attitude enters in to all parts of members' lives. I always marvel at how many Latter-day Saints can be so conservative in their political beliefs when it seems like liberalism falls more in line with the charity of Jesus Christ. Of course, socially, stances on abortion and gay marriage are similar between LDS doctrine and conservatism. But I'm thinking more like socialized healthcare - aren't we supposed to be taking care of our neighbors without judgement? Of course, that is a different issue I don't want to get into now.

I just believe that the attitude of self-reliance and the attitude of constant charity clash. Members are so proud of self-reliance that they stop being charitable indiscriminately. A problem arrises when self-reliance becomes so important to members that they reject receiving or giving outside help in any areas of their lives. They start to decide that one group or person does not deserve their help or charity because they are homeless, they are immigrants, they have made poor life decisions, or they wear pajamas and eat McDonald's all of the time.

The attitude of self-reliance should not be one that interferes with Jesus's ultimate commandment, which is to love one another. When Christ says in Matthew 6:3
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
I have always interpreted that to mean that you must give indiscriminately. I grew up hearing the excuses of why you should not give to homeless beggars or panhandlers because they'll use the money for drugs or booze, or because they should be trying to find a job instead of wasting their time begging. I've heard that you should try to buy them a sandwich instead of giving pocket change (which isn't terrible, and probably is the option that most people feel comfortable with, including myself). But Jesus never said "only give to the people who you know will use it the way you want them to use it." He never had caveats. In fact, He's a big proponent of not judging anyone, remember? He only said give!

So to me, self-reliance means that you must have yourself and your family fully taken care of before you can fully give indiscriminately. Self-reliance means not making yourself someone in need of charity while you are trying to give charity yourself. It does not mean holding out or judging others.  

And, absolutely, self-reliance is not more important than charity.

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