Affirming the Humanity in the Midst of the World Vision Backlash

Update: On Wednesday, after I wrote this, World Vision reversed their decision. I am angry and confused – as I’m sure many of you are – but I still firmly believe in affirming the humanity.


When I read on Monday that the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision would no longer discriminate against employees in monogamous, legal same-sex marriages, I said “good for them” and then traipsed to the kitchen for some Honey Nut Cheerios.

That I didn’t for one second consider the fact that this might ignite a colossal, raging backlash shows just how out of the loop I am in evangelical circles.

I ate my cereal, read a few books to my daughter, and thought once or twice about the progress Christians are making in the way of treating people with dignity. But I didn’t celebrate either, because in 2014, I just don’t think that saying you’ll no longer turn away gay people who want to serve poor children is really that big of a step.

But apparently, in some circles, it is.

I came back to Twitter a few hours later and got sick to my stomach at what I saw. It broke my heart to hear of so many Christians pulling financial support for children in third world countries to make some kind of moral statement.


Ten years ago, I would be one of the ones denouncing World Vision for watering down the Gospel. I would have taken my righteous indignation to Myspace. Never mind that they were providing education to impoverished villages. I would have boycotted in the name of Truth.

Five years ago, I would have been conflicted about World Vision’s decision. I probably would have kept quiet on the issue, neither affirming their choice nor speaking out against it. But I would have sat complicit through my pastor’s diatribe about a certain organization’s moral decay, hanging my head low and wishing the Truth wasn’t so mean.

My fellow Jesus misfits, if you are angry and discouraged this week, please remember that people can change.


“WV is compromising to join the world church. True Christ followers will be hated and called bigots, it is written in the Bible and again proven here.”


“I want to briefly state that the bible nowhere supports gay marriages. I do not pity the gays. I pity those who call themselves christians and move away from the bibical instructions and requirements for christian marriage. I would also like to state that gays should not be called christians.”

“Unity with what, darkness? When we are commanded to “come out from among them and be SEPARATE”? For what purpose, to serve the poor? When we are called to serve Christ who is our purpose; and assured “the poor will be with you always”?”

“I am appealing to bible christians to stand up against slackness and go back to the thus saith the Lord. We have a work to do to covert gays to God who is the founder of christian marriage (male and female)”

“I am under the impression there is no such thing as a “gay” Christian. That’s what I read in my bible. Christians are NOT practitioners of homosexuality. They are forgiven of it and should go and sin no more.”

“Where does WV get off violating the basics of Christianity?”

“These are nothing less than the slippery movements of Satan…”

“I just found out that the little girl my daughter and husband have been funding for years is out of World Vision. I told her what’s going on and she said they’ll be looking elsewhere now. What breaks my heart even more is all the children who will suffer from the sin of this company! The Bible has a word about the sins of others.”


These are all actual, unedited comments on the Christianity Today story announcing World Vision’s new policy.

Take a deep breath. Let it out.

Behind each one of these comments, and the hundreds of thousands more on the Web (many by prominent evangelical leaders), is a human. And though my anger, I am affirming their humanity.

Some of these people spew this kind of language because it’s all they’ve known.

Some do it out of fear.

Some are brainwashed or controlled.

Some might have shame over their secret same-sex attractions.

Some truly believe they are being Jesus’ mouthpieces.

Some have been abused.

I affirm their humanity because it gives me hope. Unlike static caricatures, humans are fluid, always adapting, growing, learning, and revising.

Tomorrow, one of these commenter’s children could come out of the closet and he may have to painfully rethink his beliefs.

Next week, one of these commenters could have a spiritual breakdown from a lifetime of carrying judgment on her shoulders.

A year from now, one of these commenters could soften their stance after he sees the plight of the person he was always taught was “disgusting”.

A decade from now, some of these commenters might be cringing at themselves for the things they said today.

Maybe. Or maybe not. But in the meantime, what do we do?

We acknowledge the darkness. We speak out against it. We pick up a World Vision child who may get dropped this week by someone who thinks gay people don’t have any business feeding impoverished children.

But we stop short of writing off all Christians who are at a different point of their journey. We affirm their humanity – sometimes through clinched teeth – because it’s our only hope that the world can get better.

Please. Because 10 years ago, I was one of them.

I wrote this piece for the “Spirit of the Poor” linkup. This month’s prompt is “Affirming the Humanity.” Stop by, read the other pieces and maybe contribute one yourself.

affirmingthehumanity sotp-month-3




  1. Emily on March 26, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for this reminder. I think you isolated what our response must be in these situations–where we affirm even the humanity that frustrates us. We extend grace because we’ve received it.

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 26, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Thanks, Emily. It’s a reminder for myself, really.

  2. Susan Schiller on March 26, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Carly, you bring us the perspective of how much time it takes for our beliefs to come around to thee ways of the Kingdom, once we’ve been heavily indoctrinated by the church system of the 20th and 21st centuries. I, too, would have reacted in righteous indignation which really I was being a bigot. It’s taken me many years to come around, and I’m still a toddler. I appreciate your call to action here – that our voices and actions are needed – thanks 🙂

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 26, 2014 at 10:26 am

      Thanks for this, Susan. Yes I’m still a baby too. How unfair it would be for me to expect everyone else to come around in the exact timing I did. Thanks again.

  3. Emily Heitzman on March 26, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Wow, Carly. This is powerful. Though we cannot keep silent about this, we must still affirm the humanity in those who are speaking out on the other side of this “issue,” even if it’s with “clinched teeth.” And thank you for such an important reminder to so many of us about the places where we once came from. Who knows where we would be now if others in our lives in those places didn’t affirm our own humanity and have hope and faith that we will one day grow and grieve our past words and actions.

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 26, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Yes! Somebody affirmed MY humanity along the way… There is hope.

  4. Ari on March 26, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Thank you. As wrong as I think World Vision is, and as vile as I think Fred Phelps was, we have GOT to stop ex-communicating one another and remember that G-d loves us equally. We are not more loved or better people than those we consider ignorant and bigoted. World Vision and Fred Phelps are two examples in which the some of the “progressives” can prove to be as equally hate-filled as those with whom they disagree. We must do what WE know is right, and pray for G-d’s mercy upon all, especially for those with whom we disagree. Thank you for affirming the humanity of all.

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 27, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Thank you Ari, I appreciate that we can disagree and still respect each other.

  5. Holli Carey Long on March 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Wow. Thank you for writing this. I am so frustrated….but I find your piece so hopeful.

    • Carly Gelsinger on March 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Holli. I am so frustrated and I wish I could snatch you away so we could vent over croissants. Does that sound creepy?

  6. lthompson513 on March 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    “We affirm their humanity – sometimes through clinched teeth – because it’s our only hope that the world can get better.” Beautiful.

  7. Karissa Knox Sorrell on March 27, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Great piece! Ten years ago, I was one of them, too.

  8. Esther Emery on March 27, 2014 at 10:39 am

    To give hope and have hope in yourself…this is just the best reason ever to do anything! I love this about my journeys in and out of social justice activism. (I’m always falling out and fall back in.) When I am trying to be a good person or earn praise I just get so, so tired. But when I seek hope and and true knowledge of grace as the fact that any of us can change at any time? That’s when I feel energized and able.

  9. on March 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Carly, Thank you so much for your personal perspective and history. I am generally removed from hearing the backlash, but I know how much energy can get used in dealing with such issues. My church accepted gays about 35 years ago, but the denomination didn’t. About 12 years ago a group of lesbian parents got fed up with our church always fighting the denomination that they left the church so their children wouldn’t grow up thinking they were “controversial.” It takes time for people to be changed, but there is so much pain in the mean time. Thanks for your sharing.

  10. Caiobhe on April 1, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Thanks for this. We all get things right, get things wrong, change our views, stick with our views, and shouting at each other or excluding another from relationship with our creator God ( even in our own minds) is never the right response. Hard though 🙂

  11. Kendra on April 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    I just now came across this, but I can so relate. I changed my views on gay marriage, politically, a few years ago and then slowly came around on homosexuality itself as well. I think part of why I got so upset with evangelicals last month was because I heard things I would have said less than a decade ago, stuff that breaks my heart now. What we can’t forget amidst the debates is that we’re all people on a journey and that there’s hope that hearts will change; thanks for reminding me.

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