Preying or Praying?

I’ve been seeing fundraisers from Teen Challenge in the city this week. They walk by your car when you are stopped at a red light, just like panhandlers, but they are younger, cleaner, and carry literature about their “proven cure for the drug epidemic.”
Anyone who is making an effort to help people with addiction is doing good work in my book. But I wonder about this fundamentalist Christian program. The founder says with pride that Teen Challenge is not like Alcoholics Anonymous, which encourages people to discover a higher power — but allows each individual to define that higher power. “We define who that higher power is,” he said. The group raised also more than a few eyebrows with statements about converting Jewish addicts to their religion as part of their “treatment.”
I think I’ll keep my quarters in the car’s ashtray….

5 Comments so far

  1. Dave Graham (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2004 @ 6:09 am

    As someone who constantly deals with drug addicted, emotionally damaged teenage boys (and as someone who has seen what Teen Challenge can do), I take a significant amount of umbrage at what you say in your post. The basis of any social aid organization should be to help. Period. I work for a private, secular agency as a therapist, case manager, etc. I find that the notion of “God” (or a high power) is oftentimes extremely helpful in helping kids focus beyond present circumstances and to view their lives in somewhat of a more wholistic thing. I don’t force my religion on them but neither do I let them escape one of the basic philosophical quests in life. Another issue I have is that Teen Challenge is not a mandated therapy regimen. DSS cannot just “place” someone in TC’s care without going through governmental structures, processes, etc. So, enrollment (from what I can remember) is completely voluntary. So’s AA, by the way. In regards to your queries: can you point to a time when Teen Challenge has NOT helped? Sure, since statistics always clarifies that x number will not successfully assimilate or achieve “treated” status, there will be fallout. However, given the results of the program, you’d be hard pressed to find fault with it. I find it quite ironic that you’re taking a hardline approach to it just because it mentions the word “Christian” somewhere in its credo. They may be Christian but they sure as hell help out in ways that no other organization can or will. (just witness the Salvation Army) Just to assume that you’re fair in your application: if another organization, with similar goals and purposes, came along that was avowedly “secular” (i.e. non-religious), would you give THEM money? Or, are you just faulting Teen Challenge because they are “Christian” (unashamedly) and have, as part of their program, religious undertones? Food for thought.

  2. Cassford (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2004 @ 6:58 am

    Are you taking umbrage with my comments or the comments of the Teen Challenge people? If the former, then I guess I wasn’t clear. The third sentence of my eight-senence post I stated “Anyone who is making an effort to help people with addiction is doing good work in my book.” So, I’m all for helping. Helping is helpful.
    My concern with TC is not that it just “mentions Christian somewhere in it’s credo.” That’s silly. My problem is that they are using an at-risk population to prosletize. They want government money (and my money) to cure addiction by converting addicts to fundamentalist Christianity. I say that they should help without trying to convert people. There should not be a quid pro quo.
    By the same token: if an atheist (I’m assuming that this is what you meant by “secular” or “nonreligious”) organization had as it’s vision curing addiction by turning religious people away from their faith toward atheism, I would have the very same issue as I have with “Teen Challenge.”
    Your statement that they are doing work that nobody else can or will do is hyperbolic, by the way. There are many, many other organizations doing this kind of work without converting people to or awat from a particular religious worldview as part of the treatment.
    Since you know the difficulty of addiction recovery, you might find their success rates suspect. I looked into it. 2 out of 3 addicts drops out of their program — so their “success” rate is for people who “complete” the program (see Religion & Ethics.

  3. PJC87 (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2004 @ 9:31 am

    David: Hate to interrupt the conversation, but brother Ron (in his continuous quest for family heritage info) did another search on-line and came up with our last name in this Blog, thereby, finding you. Would love to hear from you sometime and catch up. E-mail me at

  4. Cassford (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2004 @ 11:09 am

    DG, I’m not saying that is *all* they want to do. And I doubt that most people who are suspicious of them are saying that. What I am saying is that they want to help people who are addicts by converting them to fundamentalist Christianity. I do not like that. You can like that. I don’t. BTW, atheism is not a fancy version of agnosticism (it even has fewer syllables!) — atheists believe that there is no God or deity, agnostics are not committed to the existence of God or the nonexistence of God. They just don’t know one way or the other.
    Bottom line for me is — I don’t want their peanut butter in my chocolate. There is a long history of conversion via “helping” in this country. 4 out of 5 cynics find forcing anyone to attend church services in order to get treatment to be more about conversion and less about helping addicts.

  5. Cheryl from North Reading (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2005 @ 3:56 pm

    Dingle berry….bringing an addict to Christ IS how they get cured! Who cares what a person believes if it cures them of killing themselves and/or someone else. You are throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.