While some have been busy complaining about the work Samaritan’s Purse is doing to help fight the coronavirus in New York City, the faith-based humanitarian organization has found one unlikely ally.
Whitney Tilson, who is not religious and had not even heard of the leader of Samaritan’s Purse, the Rev. Franklin Graham, said he and his wife, Susan, learned about the charity when they saw volunteers erecting tents for its 68-bed field hospital in Central Park several weeks ago.
After learning more about the Christian organization, Tilson started volunteering his time, according to the Religion News Service.
And he hasn’t stopped since.
The 53-year-old Tilson, a retired hedge fund manager by trade who now pens a newsletter on investment, told RNS he finds Samaritan’s Purse to be an “incredibly impressive organization … 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,” he said.
Tilson’s praise for the North Carolina-based aid group comes as some on the left have criticized the charity for adhering to mainstream Christian teaching, particularly on issues like marriage. The NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson even said he’d prefer if Samaritan’s Purse wasn’t helping at all.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told those worried about the group’s view on marriage he would send staffers to “monitor” their work in Central Park and one political commentator wrote a column about the Christian organization’s “history of bigotry.”
Tilson and his wife, who is Jewish, have been members of Central Synagogue for more than two decades. When Tilson posted a notice on the synagogue’s website, requesting donations, some congregants were angry.
“The values harbored by this group and its founder just completely fly in the face of what Central stands for,” one congregant told The Forward.
As of Friday, Samaritan’s Purse had seen more than 140 patients.
As for Tilson, though, he doesn’t seem to mind disagreeing with Graham and company on issues like LGBTQ relationships. Rather than worrying about those differences of opinion, Tilson said he’s “supporting a hospital that is saving people’s lives.”
“I’m not endorsing the ideology of the founder of the organization,” he added.
The improbable supporter went on to explain: “Their primary mission in life is not to go out and have hatred toward gays. 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?’”
Graham, who has invited Tilson to visit the organization’s headquarters in North Carolina, described the volunteer as “a great human being.”
“He might disagree with me, and I might disagree with him,” the evangelist said, “but that’s not going to stop us from working together to help people.”