We have all been witness to the global phenomenon of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (IBC). Celebrities, sports starts, average every day people have dumped buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the Yankee first baseman who was its most famous victim.
Say it’s silly if you want, but the ALS Association says that as of Sept. 3 they have “received $107.4 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations!”
The IBC has clearly worked and it is difficult to argue with success. We can argue about why the IBC was successful but not that it was, given that without it, they raised only $2.5 million last year.
Lucy Townsend at the BBC wrote on September 1,
There have been in excess of 2.4 million ice bucket-related videos posted on Facebook, and 28 million people have uploaded, commented on or liked ice bucket-related posts.
On image sharing website Instagram there have been 3.7 million videos uploaded with the hashtags #ALSicebucketchallenge and #icebucketchallenge. Justin Bieber’s has been the most popular – with about one million “likes”.
Townsend quotes actor Shannon Murray as pointing out that, “the bottom line is that people weren’t talking about MND two months ago, and now they are.”
It’s as simple as that.
Critics abound. Over at Al Jazeera, Belen Fernandez writes that,
Aside from reported challenge-induced concussions and the fact that “ice bucket challenge death” is now an autocomplete option on the Google search engine, there are other reasons to throw a bit of cold water on the project.
For starters, as has been widely noted, the staged deluge of water onto individual heads makes a mockery of the severe water shortages that plague much of the globe and cause all manner of human suffering.
Obviously, this is a mis-characterization of what is going on, as it is not an evasion of donating money but a means of getting people TO donate money (and the IBC participants themselves donate money), but this is the meme challenging the challenge meme. I personally find it less a waste than watering lawns and golf courses. A watered lawn never saved a life.
Fernandez further condemns the IBC as a “spectacle in which hordes of egos attain their moment in the spotlight by going under the bucket.” This seems overly cynical, but perhaps I am overly idealistic.
If those are the practical objections, then there are the religious objections: As Americans Against the Tea Party points out, the Religious Right opposes the ICB because the ALS Association supports stem cell research. Father Michael Duffy raises these objections, which he calls his “moral problem” over at Patheos. He says he can’t donate but will pray. Maybe that will work better than the prayers to stop the drought, or to lower the price of gas back to a dollar a gallon. I’m going to put my own money on medical science.
What are people really doing when they dump buckets of ice water over their heads? Simply raise awareness of ALS? Wasting water? Stroking egos? Or is it something more sinister?
While John Bare of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation hails the IBC “as a marker of something larger and something special occurring across the culture…peer-to-peer fundraising and activism,” Selena Owens at World Net Daily condemns it as a Satanic plot. Bare says that “the Ice Bucket Challenge is causing more than a shock to the system of the person doused. It may be sending a shock to the system of traditional fundraising.”
It is also, apparently, sending a shock to Republican Jesus. Money that could have come to him has gone somewhere else instead.
Writing at WND about the “darker side” of the IBC, Owens says she was already suspicious when she saw this video on Facebook.
In the video, Evangelist Anita Fuentes breaks down an assortment of cryptic and cultic messages hidden in the IBC. It’s worth watching to decide for yourself if evil influences and symbolism are embedded within the IBC, or if Fuentes – as well as myself – is looking for ghosts behind every bush and a conspiracy behind every popular fad.
In particular, Fuentes’ video depicts the world-renowned cultic queen of talk, Oprah Winfrey, taking the IBC. Winfrey precedes her dousing with the words, “In the name of ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge. …”[emphasis mine] Interesting choice of words.
Winfrey’s proclamation hit a nerve with me because Christians, myself included, routinely pray and make decrees “in the name of Jesus.” We specify whom we worship when we invoke prayer in Jesus’ name. However, because Oprah mistakenly believes the One True God is jealous of her, and the well-known fact that she denounces Jesus as the only way to God and basically considers herself to be a god, I found this statement to be very cultic in nature.
Fuentes also addresses the matter of pouring water over ones head and how that act directly correlates with water baptism and syncs the IBC with the sacred Christian deed of cleansing and purification, albeit, in a sacrilegious manner. She also delves into deep issues of rituals stemming from dark, cultic practices that encompass the IBC and which symbolically place America and Americans in a satanic ritual – with or without their knowledge.
Never mind that religions other than Christianity have used baptism, and that ritual ablution is common among Indo-European peoples. One of those cultures is my own Heathen culture, where the father would sprinkle water over the infant and name him. It was at that point, it was believed, that the child became a person and not an object. A child sprinkled could no longer be exposed and left to die and, if murdered, had to be avenged with full application of wergeld. Someone on the Religious RIght might argue that this is a mockery of Christian baptism but Pope Gregory III apparently did not think so when he mentioned Heathen baptism in a letter to Boniface. And, after all, this was the same Catholic Church that had been for centuries stealing Pagan rituals for its own uses.
Owens ignores anything that might expose her ignorance and goes on to ask and answer her own question,
Satanic ritual? Yes. Rituals abound in “Christian” America. Whenever spectators watch singers like Beyonce, JayZ, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and especially Nicki Minaj, they are indoctrinated and involved with blatantly satanic rituals that stem from the deep abyss of the occult. Some of these very same artists have taken the ALS IBC. Gaga doesn’t utter a word as she baptizes herself, arrayed in a sexy black leotard, sporting black lips, perched in an ornate black chair. Gaga doesn’t use a bucket; she instead uses a large silver bowl associated with pagan worship. Do you think she would take the IBC if it didn’t meet her pagan criteria? Not a chance.
The ALS IBC is ritualistic in nature. People are chosen to undergo a form of water baptism with cultic god Oprah leading the charge “in the name of ALS.” The Bible is clear: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Oprah is a god to millions of Americans, and those who follow her doctrine and antics have tossed Jesus off the throne of their hearts – perhaps not intentionally … or perhaps so. Yet by following her seemingly innocent IBC decree, knowingly or not, they have cast Jesus off symbolically.
After linking the IBC with Satan, Owens then goes on to bring up stem cell research and even accuses ALS of mishandling the funds, before closing with an admonishing to “follow Jesus, not the masses.”
Politifact has already doused cold water on the claims made by bloggers that 73 percent of the money raised goes to overhead and fundraising, as if Owens cares about pesky facts that poke holes in her Satanic fantasies. According to Politifact,
The blog post said that “over 73 percent of all donations raised (from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) are going to fundraising, overhead, executive salaries, and external donations.” Whether purposely or by incompetence, the anonymous blogger misreported the ALS Association’s figures. In reality, nearly 79 percent of the ALS Association’s expenditures were for purposes that advance its stated mission. Fundraising, overhead and executive salaries account for no more than 21 percent. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.
If people want to attack the IBC, they should do so on its merits. It may or may not be a waste of water, but it is also, as Bare writes, a new form of fundraising and activism that is an outgrowth of our social-media driven society. It not only raised awareness of a little known disease (and as a father of a child suffering from another little known disease, I can appreciate this) but it has raised millions of dollars to fight that disease, which is no small accomplishment.
Leave it to the Religious Right to attach their Satan to something they don’t like. A mockery of Jesus? Please. The Religious Right does all the mocking of Jesus that will ever be needed and then some.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.