I was nominated for and participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was fun though my wife was a little too enthusiastic when putting the ice in the bucket. Later this week I’ll be donating some of our money towards research that contributes to the fight against ALS. On the whole I see the Ice Bucket Challenge as a net positive in the world. It’s ridiculous, but it’s mostly good. There are, however, a few things that make me uncomfortable about this cultural phenomenon. I’m probably being a contrarian but hey, what’s a blog without a little contrarianism, right?
First, I have heard that some of the major ALS groups fund embryonic stem cell research. Being pro-life, I see this as the destruction of life. The ends don’t justify the means. For that reason I won’t be donating money blindly. I will still contribute specifically to ALS research, but I will be looking for a way to do so that doesn’t also harm human lives.
Second, the ice bucket challenge is based more on peer pressure and guilt than on compassion. The premise is that if you’re nominated, you have to do it and you have to nominate other people. If you’re not nominated, you don’t do it (with the exception of one of my friends). This utilitarian approach works in our society – but as it pertains to the purposes of the heart – it’s a less than ideal reason to support a cause. Why did I do the ice bucket challenge? Honestly the three biggest reasons were (1) to encourage the friend who nominated me, (2) to join in the fun, and (3) to try to convince a former professor to make good on his mock-twitter-promise of doing the challenge while doing the macarena (sp?). None of these are “bad” reasons, per se, but they’re not the best reason to give, and they’re not sustainable.
Third, the ice bucket challenge encourages people to put their “righteousness” on display. The process is all about publicity – publicity for the cause, yes, but also self-publicity. I felt a bit like a Pharisee posting that video online.
Fourth, this meme:
This is why I am also sending an additional contribution to Compassion International.
Fifth – really a culmination of the first four – the ice bucket might lead some to a self-congratulatory attitude. I’m not saying this doesn’t support a good cause but let’s not give ourselves too much credit here. It’s a fun, ridiculous, cultural phenomenon. That’s about it.
I only nominated one person in my video and even that nomination was mostly a joke. I meant to say in the video the additional line: “I nominate anyone whose conscience leads them to give to this or any other cause.” If you want to give, give. Give to a cause that you feel good about and that you want to give to regardless of whether someone tells you to dump water on your head. Give from your heart and then don’t make a show of it. Give in secret and your Father will reward you in secret. I got my reward for my challenge which basically amounted to a handful of Facebook “likes.” True generosity which the Lord accepts as pure is that which is done from the right motives and that which is done without the trumpet blast of the Facebook post. If you do the ice bucket challenge, that’s fine. It’s not wrong, just see it for what it really is – dumping ice cold water on your head for the amusement of your friends.