"The tyranny of positive thinking is definitely not what is required from Christian do gooders in this age of economic austerity. Compulsory funding, grant stalking and donation dependence are all things of the past. It's time we learnt to stand on our own two feet..."
So proclaimed radical media investor Duncan Williams at the recent UPLOAD: Standing Together conference held in Central London.
Mammon and God have never been easy bedfellows and in the provocative talk by Williams which followed, entitled simply, "Money, money, money!", there were sure to be a few ruffled feathers amongst a flock of Christians all too used to receiving donations and charity for their good works and public service.
Williams stormed in with the suggestion that; "Go to any beauty contest and what do you hear the contestants proclaim?... That they want to help the poor, educated underprivileged children and work toward world peace... So what? We all want to do that!" he snapped. "The real skill is in being able realistically actualise and FUND that vision."
"Creating worthy projects and charities that do not have a self funding dimension in this age is simply contributing to the problem. All too often you unwittingly or otherwise are designing a debt machine which is not a public service at all, whose primary function is leak a salary to a small clique of, so called, 'charity' workers or employees."
By this point a stunned silence had broken out. Then suddenly questions were being fielded thick and fast. Even event co-ordinator Andrew Graystone felt compelled to remind the speaker that donations, service and giving freely were cornerstones of the Christian faith.
Undeterred in making his point, Williams insisted that; "The genius of someone like Bob Geldof is that he saw a problem and had provided a workable answer. Creating an offshoot of good works in the process. Good causes that do not have a sound and sensible business plan in order to successfully raise their funding source are redundant and ultimately damaging."
One voice spoke up at the back. A fitting comment considering the location; "What about the BBC? That is a public service that has successfully found a way of providing funding for itself..."
Another moment of uncomfortable quiet. At a time of multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-everything media, the justification of a compulsory licence fee is being seriously questioned.
Andrew Graystone himself had been employed by BBC religion for over a decade.
Duncan Williams is known to advocate the introduction of commercial funding and pay per view faith channels.
Perhaps this debate would be better held at another time and in another place? Hallowed ground and within earshot, criticism of BBC funding is still regarded as a sacred cow.
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