On the one hand, there is Whitney Tilson, a liberal retired hedge fund manager who supports gay rights and all the liberal causes near and dear to many residents of New York City.
On the other, there is Samaritan’s Purse, the healing arm of the ministry of the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has staunchly opposed gay marriage and defends conservative values.
When they met in Central Park near Tilson’s swanky Fifth Avenue digs, it would be normal — in a world where fault lines of faith divide people and identity politics rules the day — to expect sparks to fly.
Instead, friendship, partnership and respect blossomed, according to Religion News.
— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) April 21, 2020
“Their primary mission in life is not to go out and have hatred toward gays,” Tilson, who now writes an investment newsletter, said. “They believe what the Bible says, that homosexuality is a sin — yes. But it is not what drives them. What drives them is, ‘How can I do God’s work by healing people and saving lives?’”
Tilson had never heard of Samaritan’s Purse when its trucks arrived at Central Park on a mission to care for COVID-19 victims. When he learned the tents being erected would house patients Mount Sinai Hospital could not treat because it was full, he thought he might help out.
Four weeks later, Tilson, 53, cannot say enough in praise of Samaritan’s Purse.
“It’s an incredibly impressive organization,” he said. “I have no doubt they are delivering world-class critical care to my fellow New Yorkers stricken with COVID-19. Every single person I’ve met has been a genuinely nice person and very competent and good at their job.”
Official New York looked askance at the conservative Christian values espoused by Graham and demanded proof that the LGBTQ population and Muslims would not be discriminated against.
Franklin Graham has a long history of spewing anti-LGBTQ hate speech and I find it extremely troubling that he and his organization are involved in our relief efforts in any way. I will be monitoring this situation closely.
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/2cg6dHYHwA
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) April 1, 2020
Tilson had that battle as well. His family attends New York City’s Central Synagogue, although he is not Jewish. When he asked the synagogue to advertise for donations to help Samaritan’s Purse, which it did, there was pushback.
“The values harbored by this group and its founder just completely fly in the face of what Central stands for,” Nancy Gilman, a member of the synagogue, said, according to the Forward.
Tilson said there was something more important taking place.
“I’ll have the ideological discussions with them later. If they’re here saving my fellow New Yorkers’ lives, and not even asking to be paid for it, then I will absolutely help them do that,” he said.
In fact, Tilson said, he was being true to the synagogue’s ideals.
“Central Synagogue’s ideology is first and foremost serving New Yorkers and healing the sick,” he said. “That is by far the most important ideology of Central Synagogue, and this is entirely consistent with that.”
It’s nice to get some good press for a change! (There must be something odd going on in the cosmos when a non-religious guy like me is getting written up by Religion News Service – LOL!)https://t.co/o8UrvubO1d
— Whitney Tilson (@WhitneyTilson) April 21, 2020
Tilson has spent thousands of dollars on food for the men and women working at Samaritan’s Purse, as well as supplying equipment to help the project. He is also letting the volunteers use his address to receive mail and made bicycles available to visitors who might want to use their scarce time off to see something more of Central Park than the field hospital.
In the late hours of the night, our night shift staff at our New York City Emergency Field Hospital tirelessly cares for patients struggling to breathe. Take a walk through a night shift inside our hospital. https://t.co/nx2wkODsLW
— Samaritan’s Purse (@SamaritansPurse) April 18, 2020
“He’s a great human being,” Graham said. “He might disagree with me, and I might disagree with him, but that’s not going to stop us from working together to help people.”
Graham invited Tilson to visit the North Carolina headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse, an invitation Tilson plans to accept.
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