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Why you should NOT donate to Notre Dame

The haunting photos Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames have been circulating around the internet since the fire started on Monday. Many wealthy peopled have banded together to start donations to restore the historic French monument. Donations have been pouring in quickly and have now–three days since the fire began–exceeded $700 million.

Still, there has been an outcry of people stating that these donations should be going elsewhere. Those who are grieving the 850-year-old cathedral as an important piece of history are astounded and many are offended by this. After all, it seems like a triumph of the human spirit, people from around the world banding together to save something with significant historical and cultural value to the French people.

Some of the naysayers cite crimes by the Catholic and Christian churches throughout darkest chapters of their history, such as the destruction of non-Christian monuments of equal significance to Notre Dame. And the complete erasure of cultures, like the forced assimilation of Native American children at abusive Catholic schools. There are people who even go as far as to say that this is a sort of poetic justice after centuries of such crimes against others.

The most common response, though, is to point out other crisis situations that have not received such support. This rings especially true for issues that deeply hurt people rather than cause a bit of sadness about an old building. For example, people in Flint could all have safe drinking water for a very small fraction of the donations to Notre Dame. There is also a horrifying famine in Yemen that few people seem to know or care about, and millions of other examples of widespread human suffering around the world.

While the French cathedral has high historic value, it is, at the end of the day, just a building. As the common saying goes, What would Jesus do?

Referencing the same Bible that the builders and subsequent followers of Notre Dame, Jesus would probably prefer donations to the needy rather than a building:

Proverbs 19:17 says the following about helping people, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward them for what they have done. ”

Matthew 6:19-21 has a direct quote from Jesus: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So, rather than restoring a treasure on earth, like a cathedral, perhaps we would be better suited looking after people, who have souls–unlike a building with insurance.

While nobody can tell you what to do with your money, please keep in mind the big picture when you decide who or what deserves your donation. From a moral standpoint, it is better to give to a good cause than to hoard excess wealth for yourself–this especially applies to the extremely wealthy.

What do you think on the matter? Is Notre Dame restoration worth it, or would these donations be better used elsewhere?

I am a writer, actor, translator, and social activist.

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