My Name is Khan – A Message to Christian Charities

I haven’t seen the new much hyped Bollywood movie ‘My Name is Khan’ which has famous Indian movie stars acting and directing in it. I just read reviews. The goal of movie’s Protagonist, Mr. Khan a gullible Muslim living in the US, is to somehow meet Prez Bush face to face and tell him, ‘My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist’. It appears that the film will have internatinal appeal as it attempts to show that one rotten apple in basket does not mean every other apple is rotten as well. Films of this kind tend to have a good and timely message.

But sometimes, flims of this kind are prone to over-stating their case by using misconstrued examples. They inadvertently tend to take a dig at a good cause by misconstruing or even misrepresenting it for a bad one. I think ‘My Name is Khan’ isn’t an exception. In this, I think it wrongly takes the US Christian Charities to task, especially in how it funds other Charities around the world.

Apparently, in the movie, there is a scene, where a ‘Christian-only’ Charity contribution is taken in the US for Somalian Christians and Mr. Khan gallantly volunteers to donate to the non-Christians in Somalia. I know quite a few US Christian charities that work with folks in Africa and India, but I have never heard of a ‘Christian-only’ Charity. It is true that Christian charities work with Churches in Africa. This is because the Chruch has the widest network and strong sense of community orientation and commitment that helps reach out to the common man in Africa. Even villages that do not have electricity will still have a Church. Places where the ‘Uncle Sams’ cannot reach, are reached-out to by the Church. To call this Church-modelled Charity giving as ‘Christian-only’ Charity, which excludes non-Christian beneficiaries is to competely misconstrue the logistics of how charities work in villages that has been neglected by every other institution of the world save the Church of Christ.

Before I delve further into what I really want to say, I think, I need to state something that the movie makers have conveniently chosen to not give credence to at all. Over the last few decades, it is the non-Christian Indian Social Service Organizations that have raised more charity money from the west than the Christian organizations. Funding to Indian Christian charity has reduced phenomenally over the past few decades. Only a few Christian institutions get funding from abroad. This fact not withstanding, during relief work after natural disasters, it is the Christian Charities that out-do the non-Christian ones. In fact, I was told sometime back that during natural disasters, the villagers hope that the relief work in their village is taken over by a Christian Charity rather than a non-Christian one because Christian Charities have least corruption and money really reaches the people in need.

My chief intent to write this is not to say what ‘My Name is Khan’ is wrong about in its depiction of Christian charity, but to state what, in spirit, it is partly right about and more importantly, what lesson Christians, especially Indian Christians, have to learn from this. I think the movie makers were, partly right in this portrayal in that it points out a glaring mistake of Indian Christian Charities. I think the impetus for the movie makers to take a dig at Christian charities is because Indian Christian Charities over the course of the ‘past few decades’ have become self-centered in as far they have become wealthy institutions in catering to Christians.

Let us rewind, go back to the times when our Christian institutions had humble origins and were more concerned about the society around then about the resources within. If we looked at the political arena of yesteryears, most Hindu leaders where people who were educated in Christian institutions and they had a positive opinion on Christian Charity institutions. Our Christian charities then, were existing for non-Christians, our Church Fathers and Mothers expended themselves in helping others as the Word of God calls for us to do. But that has changed over the last few decades. The problem with Indian Christian charity organisations and institutions of this day is that we have become wealthy and have become unable to handle our resources in that we are holding on to our resources too tightly. We have become a closed system.

We have drawn a circle around ourselves as ‘minorities’ and are ‘pooling’ our own resources to enjoy them ourselves. We think our institutions belong to us. We forget that the last person a Christian Charity organization belongs to is us. Our institutions belong to the Kingdom of God. We are just humble custodians who need to give an account for our institutions to the King.

Our institutions in many places, have forgotten the Christian principles of going the extra mile to embracing the marginalized and the oppressed and are instead fighting over which Christian institution has control over which mile of land. We have forgotten to live for others in a way that our Church Fathers did, such that others would see our work and glorify the God we worship.

The Christian organizations abroad that contribute to Indian charities often fail to realize that quite a number of Indian Christian charities do not wish to be a city on the top of a hill that is a beacon to the rest of the society, but want to be a cloistered castle in a lush green valley. Christian donors would need to do due deligence  that the money sent abroad is used to build the Kingdom of God and not the Empire of Christians.

No wonder Mr. Khan wants to donate money to the non-Christians in the third world.

Author: Emmanuel R Paulpeter

I am a writer, spiritual director, life coach and a Church Planter who love all things pop culture, theology and spirituality.

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