How Not to Help Children

A mark's guide

Quote# 83450

It is past time to admit a very hard truth: America’s poverty problem is also a depravity problem[...]

For many, many years I spent time “in the trenches” reaching out to at-risk youth. At first I was the stereotypical naive idealist. ”All they need is love and a chance,” I thought. Working in mentoring programs, I spent untold hours playing catch, going to little league games, going to parks, and just hanging out with at-risk kids as part of a variety of programs. Seeing ragged clothes, I’d buy new clothes. Hearing that a mother couldn’t pay the light bill, I’d kick in and help. I spent night after night sleeping in homeless shelters, cooking dinners in the evening, pancake breakfasts in the morning, and fixing snack lunches for hard days on the streets.

I can’t remember when I first realized that I was accomplishing nothing of substance. A few car break-ins taught me that some guys saw me as an easy mark. A few pot purchases with the “gas bill money” taught me that others saw me as an ATM. Admonitions to “stay in school” had little appeal compared to drug-fueled orgies for kids as young as fifteen years old. I tried. God knows I tried. But it was all for naught.

Only one thing really worked. The Cross. There are kids today that Nancy and I worked with who are doing well, who are happily married, and who are pillars of their community. What made the difference for them? The Cross. It wasn’t about my words. It wasn’t about my effort. (After all, I tried just as hard or harder with other kids — who are now in prison or “baby-daddies” or both.) The kids who made it heard the Gospel, repented of sin, and were transformed through the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.

It’s trendy now for churches to put less emphasis on the Gospel and more emphasis on service. I’ve even heard Christians almost brag that their outreach efforts don’t include any proselytizing at all. This is tragic. Billions of dollars of “service” won’t change hearts and lives. We know that now. In fact, those very billions may very well numb the human heart to the gravity of its sin.

So, yes, let’s do “more,” but let’s make sure that “more” is aimed at the real source of American poverty — our depravity.

David French, patheos 42 Comments [8/28/2011 5:02:19 AM]
Fundie Index: 54

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Hey, I was at risk and I never found these so called drug fueled orgies. In fact I even had a mentor at one point, we didn't play catch, he didn't pay my bills, he showed me interesting things, taught me how to build things, and generally left me with an actual interest in the world around me. Catch doesn't do that.

It also wasn't the only thing in my life trying to drive me forward, but it did give me a base of interest to start off of. It always helps when kids actually care.

That said my English is still crap, so if I screwed up the apostrophe above tell me and I'll fix it.

8/28/2011 5:02:01 AM


Distind: Your apostrophes are fine. Good job.

David French: In your little reality, god is the savior of the world and his holy spirit keeps people off drugs, married and responsible. In the real world it's actually more harmful than good and god doesn't exist. Jesus isn't coming back because he was never here to begin with and the holy spirit doesn't have an EMP signature.

8/28/2011 5:09:15 AM


I'm betting this is a pack of lies for Jesus, Kinda a chick track in a few paragraphs. The very assumption that those who find Jesus are free from the vices of society and find success and contenrment is a Christian fairy tale continually preached in sheer ignorance of reality.

8/28/2011 5:16:11 AM


Treating the kids like a charity case probably didn't help you in the first place. You're supposed to express interest where *they* express interest and urge them to go for their strong points. Not throw them a pity party.

I'm willing to bet most of the ones you threw your bibles at still think you're a nut.

8/28/2011 6:10:14 AM

Raised by Horses

Tell the kids to straighten up or else they'll go to hell? Yeah, that'll really help.

8/28/2011 6:10:26 AM

Bill O'R'lyeh

I call "bullshit."

8/28/2011 6:59:56 AM


I bet there are just as many who were helped through your first method, as through the cross. I also bet that there are just as many in jail who have heard the Gospel.

Actually, you don't need a Holy Spirit to give a person a second chance. Just say "today is the first day of the rest of your life". See, no gods, no spirits, just a bit of trust that they can do better.

If you started trying with fifteen-year-olds, you had already lost quite a few. You need to start long before they learn the hard way that nobody gives a damn about them.

8/28/2011 7:19:40 AM

Doubting Thomas

Only the kids who accepted Jesus turned out OK, huh? What's that I smell? Oh yeah, it's bullshit.

If lack of religion leads to poverty, how do you explain Bill Gates?

8/28/2011 8:34:53 AM


"All they need is love and a chance, I thought. Working in mentoring programs, I spent untold hours playing catch, going to little league games, going to parks, and just hanging out with at-risk kids as part of a variety of programs."

Well, there's your problem, Sparky. They don't need a goody two-shoes pal, they need parenting. Didn't you ever see Bowling for Columbine?

8/28/2011 8:46:46 AM

Ken being lazy

You took the easy way out (Not that I blame you: I work with poor kids, too and it is hard). Religion appeals to people in desperate situations. If it gives them moral guidance and access to good counseling, it's not much of a problem, but if you're turning them into hateful fundies, it is.

8/28/2011 8:52:16 AM


Assuming that you really did do all this mentoring and philanthropy, you seem to have confused a few bad apples with every single deprived child, and just said "Oh screw it". I don't think Jesus would approve of you chucking in the towel at the first sign of adversity. I also think that Jesus might have done something a little more constructive in this situation than simply chanting dogma.

8/28/2011 9:01:25 AM

Steven Mading

This is classic selection bias. In the non-religous case, any people he successfully helped get back on their feet are people he'd no longer see anymore. He only sees the ones who don't leave the shelters. But in the case of religious conversion, he still sees them again afterward because church is now a social activity with them that is not dependent on them being in a shelter for him to continue having contact with them after they get back on their feet.

This is the same sort of cynicism that starts getting police officers hardened over time - they get selection bias because they deal with criminals a LOT more often than a typical normal member of society does, and so they start building up a negative view of humanity.

8/28/2011 9:21:41 AM


I think the most telling part of this quote is that you were quickly perceived as a mark and an ATM. This is a natural consequence of talking at kids and not really listening to what they have to say.

8/28/2011 9:33:03 AM


Let me tell you something. You are completely incompetent at this shit.

8/28/2011 9:37:02 AM


Almost four decades ago, when I began working at a juvie psychiatric ward in Miamisfj, tdhedfjk ksfghjead counselor, whose last name was MacDonald (though he was probably not the author of the Mac Donald Triad theory) told me: It took fifteen years to screw these kids up. Don't think you can straighten them out overnight.

Well, "these kids" came from families that were anything from well- fixed to filthy rich. A lot of them had military officers with very good CHAMPUS coverage; others had families too wealthy to need it. One man ruined his fifteen-year- old son by isolating him on a private yacht and supplying him with an endless string of hookers and drugs; this boy had to be sent on, first to Jackson, then to the state hospital, as curelessly deranged and hypersexual. Two very pretty girls had been adopted on the black market by childless parents, refused by legitimate agencies, who needed coffee table ornaments. When the little dollies began to act out, they got the "bad seed" spiel and placement in endless foster homes. By the time we got them, they had been involved in runaways, gang rapes (as victims), prostitution, and in one case, a VD induced miscarriage. I could go on about the abuses suffered by the children of the rich, who could afford to bury their mistakes with us. Let us just say poverty and depravity are not one and the same.

8/28/2011 9:50:38 AM


Clearly this man's troubles were because Daddy didn't beat him enough and not because rich people destroyed the economy.

8/28/2011 9:54:17 AM


There are an awful lot of dirt-poor Christians for you to explain.

8/28/2011 10:37:14 AM


First of all, strike the word "American" out of Frenchy's comments. It's the same everywhere.

While there is some truth in the part before the Cross comes in, this guy sounds like one of those "once every fourth weekend for an afternoon" free-time volunteers. I think he's grossly over-exaggerating his experience. "Untold hours" probably means "ten times" each, "night after night" probably means "once".

Real full-time youth social workers don't do the stuff he's talking about; that's left over for the bleeding heart do-gooders. As mentioned above by others, the real work is done in hands-on activities such as vocational training outreaches and others, and they can be very effective.

Playing catch, going to little league games, and "just hanging out" isn't worth shit. The only thing that's good for is to relieve a middle income suburban bad conscience. No wonder the kids refused him their respect and took advantage of him.

He might as well go to Darfur and hand out bandaids.

Baptist preachers love to begin their sermons by totally over-exaggerating an anti-thesis which is then resolved further along by some flavor if faith in Jesus.

That's what this here is. Rinse, repeat.

8/28/2011 11:31:54 AM


Where were those drug-fueled orgies when I was fifteen?! :D

8/28/2011 12:00:55 PM


If you're going in there with that attitude: "People are sinful and depraved" then don't be surprised when you start to see confirmation of that.
"Our depravity" as "the real source of American poverty" seems to suggest that if only no-one in America was depraved, everyone would be wealthy or at least prosperous. That is delusion of the highest order. People like this never seem able to grasp that the system requires poverty in order to function properly. Also, if "depravity" or sin is inherent to man, then, according to this person's thinking, poverty must also be. So his pose as someone who wants to help is revealed for what it is; someone who merely wants to gather souls for Christ, which means, in practice, to bring people under some sort of authoritarian control.

8/28/2011 12:31:37 PM


if "depravity" or sin is inherent to man, then, according to this person's thinking, poverty must also be.

I'm pretty sure sin being inherent to man is the entire point of the Book of Genesis (and indeed fundamental to Christianity).

As the Rev Russell Conwell of Philadelphia famously preached "There is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings."

Believe that and you'll believe anything, Conwell must be most appropriately named preacher in history...

8/28/2011 1:02:52 PM



seriously, it's a miracle they didn't do more than that to you

8/28/2011 1:05:52 PM

Old Viking

Please send more information on drug-fueled orgies.

8/28/2011 2:07:33 PM


[All they need is love and a chance, I thought. Working in mentoring programs, I spent untold hours playing catch, going to little league games, going to parks, and just hanging out with at-risk kids as part of a variety of programs.]

If you want to help these kids, then you should help the parents too. You can go to as many ball games and school lunches you want, but if their parents are still careless, abusive, or on drugs, then you did nothing.

8/28/2011 3:17:40 PM

Dr. Shrinker

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and posts by David French.

8/28/2011 4:06:32 PM

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