Silence II

So I have to consider that I am at times hard on myself, while at other times way too easy. But in either case my last post about silence might have been a bit modernistic. It was as though to say that reading, listening to music, and participating in other daily routines are not in themselves spiritual possibilities, even sacraments – depending on what they are and why they are done.

And so I found a picture of winter and silence. I read a book. I listened to Dylan. I rode my Bike. I typed a blog. I sipped a cup of tea. I sat quickly and thought about the world at Christmas time. I spent some time with friends.

It really easy to find God in “that thing over there!” It is as though I say to myself “That one thing I cannot do and so I am excused from the kind of life that requires obedience, don’t you know. So Leave me alone with these expectations.”

Avoidance can be a really good excuse when it comes to spirituality. And so can the “lack of time” that so many of us seem to experience. But then after thinking about this more we have to come to grips with the reality that life only seems to perpetuate this lack of space for God. If this is so we have to main goals for a life of the Spirit.1. We need to make space for those activities that only can be done within the community of faith, or can only be done with God in the stillness of a quiet room. 

2. We also need to get creative and figure out how we can make those everyday things – things that are meaningful. How we can make art out of something mundane – art not just for art’s sake (though this is meaningful also) but for the sake of finding the creator through doing activties of participatory worship, sacrmental living, etc. Thus we have the “church of art” below.
Flickr Photo

The church has for a long time lacked creativity, I must say that Quakers have even further to go before they catch up with the already-far-behind Protestants. To attack one’s own spiritual life because it doesn’t fit into certain molds of piety is not the way to go about finding in roads to God.

Rather we need to be schooled again in creativity – we need to find God in the novels, the movies, indie and folk music (all other types are must be void), the riding to and fro, the listening, and the silence.

There is a balance of both. We have gone too far to the one side. It is either “do it this way or don’t do it at all.” This is no longer a fight to be battled in the postmodern world, which blends all worlds together, in hopes of finding something meaningful in the process. The journey becomes important, the doing, not so much the goal. The “purpose”is only second to the “life” that is apparent. Life, love, discoveries, courage, creativity, and longsuffering become important virtues for today’s humanity.

And so this is where we are at, the middle of two crossroads searching for a discovery of God.

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Silence Would Be Better

Today has been one of those days where there is so much to be said, all of it sitting on the tip of my tongue and yet none of it able to fall forth on the page. I’ve had such a hard time thinking lately, like things are cloudy, and then moments happen where everything gets real dark and you realize there is only one thing that can be done.
Silence.
It is hard to find space to be silent. Even when I ride the train home, or to work, a perfect time to be silent I am often anxious to break out the newest book I am reading (East of Eden currently) or pop in the ol’ earbuds and listen to some tunes.
When I am home, silence is most fleeting.
It is so easy to be distracted by everything, and this is why the spiritual life – or life flowing from the Spirit – is so difficult to grasp. The culture around us tells us to do everything but be quiet, it offers us so much clutter, so much information, so many images and sounds, I feel like a child going into the video game isle at the local tech shop. “Just give me anything, I don’t even care. But don’t let me leave this store with nothing.”
And this is my biggest fear with silence, that it will all come up empty.
I wonder how busy people ever make time to just sit and listen to the Spirit of Christ. And what happens when we do?
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Who Goes There? or Knowing the Betrayer…

The pedophilia – recently we got into a discussion about sexual harassment, pedophilia, etc in our church threaded discussion email. A friend brought up the point that our lovely Mennonite church doesn’t have much put in place to protect children from suspected pedophiles.
Here is the first problem – we have a special name to separate these kinds of people, as though to take them from the place of humanity and place them somewhere far beneath such a high status for someone who does such crimes. I feel this tension, and agree that there may be, at least in our human eyes, no worst sin than such an act. I can’t imagine what brings people to come to the point where they strip the innocence of powerless individuals.
We must tread carefully on such subjects, for those who are victims forever struggle to regain a self-identity apart from the violating act – and many of those who are victims lay outside our own empathetically solidarity.
But we must move away from using dehumanizing terms for one another – terms that tie us to devilish deeds, terrorists, pedophiles, kidnappers, murders, etc. It is when we use these terms that we distinguish us from the other and once we have made those who we fear “the other” than we can dismiss them as human – they become non-redeemable, persons barely human and to be feared.
Fear – something that the world is full of, is ultimately existence apart from trust. For Christians fear is life outside belief in God. It is the practice of a-theism. Much of the way Christ’s disciples live today is evidenced by fear. Two noteable examples are “white flight” and the large amounts of credit that many Christians live under. Why is credit an example? My fear that what I have is not enough, my fear that the prayer of simple livelihood “give us enough bread for today” in the one prayer we are to pray constantly as Christians (the Lord’s Prayer) drives me to retort, “yes but, I need this, I need that. Jesus surely didn’t intend all things in this prayer.” But fear continues – a church struck with fear is a church on the defensive and a church that is bound to dehumanize those who test its own faith. The betrayer, the terrorist, the pedophile all challenge our trust in God.
We want to believe that if we do all the right things, say all the right prayers, and have the best theology then we will be protected – isn’t this why people who believe that Christians can bare arms say that what Jesus meant by loving neighbors obviously means we as Christ followers can use violent force against those who harm our neighbors? But then the question arises, who is whose neighbor? Isn’t both the victim and the victimizer our neighbor? Isn’t both Judas and the centurion soldier our neighbor? Isn’t Christ call to love neighbors, a call to love the Samaritan, those who are dehumanized out of fear?
So then the church wants to demand a screening process for anyone who wants to work with children; background checks for all. The background check is the “modern” solution to the church’s problem of fear of “the other.” Now I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of screening, please don’t get me wrong. I am against the notion that the church should resort to screening as the way out of fear. I am against the notion that screening provides the real answer to the real problem.
The real problem is located within how well the church sees itself as a community of Jesus’ followers. The answer is located in whether we place all of our ethics in the life and resurrection of Jesus, or only the ones that make the most sense to us. This is why simplicity, peace in times of war, and living among the poor are so easily dismissed – because we are only willing to place some of our ethics in Jesus, both the liberal and conservative Christians are baffled by this. Liberals see Jesus as useless – an old metaphor outdated for today’s issues, while the conservatives are so busy defending what not to believe, and who to not be like that Jesus becomes too radical for them.
Jesus is the divine trickster, he continues to subvert all that we do and believe, we only pretend to really understand. Better than understanding, we should act, the way Jesus acted. What astonishes me is that Jesus did not background check on his disciples. Unless we want to pose the possibility that his prayers prior to his picking the disciples was a background check – but this of course is to make parody of the Scriptures. In fact Judas was an answer to Jesus’ prayer in discerning who would be his disciples, so was Peter, so was Thomas, so was Mary Magdalene, and let us not forget about the “beloved” disciple (who though more highly of himself than he ought!). Jesus choose people who were messed up – hoping that by his relationship, his friendship, his solidarity with them that they may become “more human” not less.
Imagine if Jesus could have done a background check on Judas, only to find that Judas had a track record of letting his friends down, buckling under pressure and even stealing from time to time! Would Jesus have not called him? Would he have left him on the side of the road? What about Peter, what if Jesus found out, before calling him, that Peter was a violent man, a man who would try to overturn Jesus’ own non-coercive ways of bringing in his kingdom. Would Jesus have passed on ol’ Peter? I highly doubt it. But what of us? What if we begin using background checks as our primary passageway into service and discipleship into the church, what do we do with the thief? The traitor? The terrorist? The pedophile? Will our ethics be rooted in Jesus or modern day procedures prompted by fear?
What if the church – started to believe in Christ – I mean really trust that both the broken and the not-so broken are to be apart of the church? What if we took the offensive, and began meeting with each other to really get to know one another, to ask real questions, to tell real truths? What if before a parent dropped a child off in a room to be watched by a stranger, that parent spent time getting to know the babysitter? What if the church really discipled, had real almost difficult membership criteria – like commitment to a community for more than a year, regular service in the community, christ-likeness in what he or she does? What would happen then? How about if we welcomed those who we “bad” those who were “the other” and we prayed constantly the confession that we are all prone to sickness and sin – the prayer “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” What if we made the community of Christ, a painfully open community, painfully honest, and painfully committed to one another?
Well…a few things would happen. A) People would leave, this idea doesn’t sound to good to many Americans. Of course we might remember that Jesus was not a real successful evangelist either — the Gospels record many people hearing his words and leaving because they were “too hard.” B) Some people would get hurt, feel judged by others, and then leave because the community was “too hard.” C) Some people would harm others, I mean really harm them, sexually, physically, emotionally. The difference is – the church would not be shocked by something like this – because this church knows that it is not ever exempt from the ills of the world or one another. One the other hand, it would have the ethics, the Jesus theology, the personal and communal resources to deal with and overcome such atrocities.
Finally this last point, C, is where I conclude. Whether we do background checks or not, whether we really know people well or not at all, the church is not exempt from evil. No matter how much we try and hide, no matter how much we try to only have the perfect people in the community, we are a people who must continually pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive the debts of others. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” And this is it, there is no hard fast solution to these problems, no scan-tron sheet, or standardized test that will fix the world’s problems – if we are to follow Christ we are going to have to get our hands dirty.
-a final note- we can only hope to help heal the victim or/and the victimizer if we are first willing to hear the truth from these people – that is we must be willing to hear their own pains and struggles, and then we must be willing to be committed to their healing. Sometimes the healing requires harsh words, boundaries, closed doors, but often times healing first comes from the forgiveness and love of another…

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The Temptation to Stand for Nothing

“the temptation to stand for nothing”

America is full of uber-evangelical-legalistic-rightwinged Christians that I along with my many post-evangelical colleagues have tried to forge a “third way” so to speak. What I mean is that I can be a ‘Christian’ (I am using the term loosely here) that is either a)an evangelical that is influenced by fundamentalism (which in my book equal to legalistic and judgmental) or an evangelical that is more nominal in approach – they aren’t judgmental and ‘focus on grace’ but all that really means is they don’t want to be bothered. The second option is b) I can be a liberal that is either influenced by schleiermacher (sp?) type, expressivist Christianity where what feels right is reliable or the liberal type that is more fundamentalist (they wouldn’t use this category) and pushes experience to its bitter end – i.e. there is no overarching metanarrative (no general guidelines for all people) and is extremely individualistic to the point off accepting a Unitarian universalist or ‘new age’ type spirituality where everything goes. Basically this crude paradigm worked (that is it was accepted as the way it should be) until the last 30-40 years. Some Christians have been scandalized by these two options a) its my way or the highway or b) everything goes.

this third way is nothing other than trying to figure out how to follow and embody Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t condone sinners nor did he condemn them, he lived with them, loved them and tried to show them another way, a better way, THE way. This is a scandalizing thought, to both conservatives and liberals. but think back the only people that were ever condemned where in parables, so as to make principles to live by. secondly we all know Jesus didn’t have a great relationship with the pharisees, but what was it that he didn’t like about them; they either fit nicely into the ‘people who condemn (their support of Jesus’ own death)’ category or they fit into the ‘people who condone (think of Jesus’ being bought off by Judas).’ Therefore it seems to me that Jesus tried to live inbetween both categories. But there is one catch – he was often times mistaken and totally misunderstood. he was regarded as a heretic, a zealot, one who had no morals and was full of demons, people just didn’t get him.

this is the trouble we run into today – it is the temptation to appear as though we stand for nothing because we don’t regularly judge and condem, in our silence we are seen as condoning. But this the way of the savior, this is the way of the crucified Lord, he held these things in tension, and only he can help us to understand how we can do the same. So it is not that I stand for nothing, or that I define the only way to heaven (as our fundamentalist friends like to think). It is the case that I stand for more than you know, and given time you will find out, you may not like what I stand for or how what I think the grand metanarrative of the Story of God interacting in the world means for you and me, and this is why I have waited, and lived out what I believe as opposed to forcing it upon you, because it is not theology or belief that will win you over, but love, after all it says that “Love Conquers all” and I believe that in this way Christ has conquered the world, both sin and death – your sins and mine.

On the City – Reflections on the Poor and Skid Row

I must say that these conversations as of late have been very stimulating, all this talk about living and not living in places of perceived danger and felt danger.  I have some last words to say before I head out on a two-week hiatus in a couple days.

I am not trying to con-vice anyone and especially Shane of my position for I know that if I were to seek to do that I would be trying to convince someone to Wess’ truth not God’s.  However, I do not see myself as one who is misled by the Spirit and thus I feel it necessary to exegete my view further, with a greater depth and clarity so that there may be peace and understanding of how I see (and how I ultimately feel the Spirit has led me to see) these things discussed.

First to my friend (and I mean that with the utmost sincerity) Shane, In one of your recent posts you said, “it seems like some Christians want to frown upon my wife and I for moving out of a not so nice neighborhood (which I’m just going to call the ghetto) because too many Christians are moving out.” I must respond in an offer of peace, that I would much rather you think of my comments as first coming from friend and then coming from a Christian.  The reason for the splitting of these hairs are that often to say a “Christian thinks this or that about me” equates “He or she is judging me.”  I have added comments first as a friend who feels that I have room to make comments in a constructive way and further, and in the hopes to create dialog that will be beneficial to all for I know that as we seek to have clear and fair dialogue with one another the Spirit is able to teach us all.  This was a basic premise that underlined our Monday Night Bible study back in the day, we believed that everyone had a right to speak, that is those who are of faith in Christ, because we all have the spirit of God within us.  So take this as a peace offering.

Secondly, I think as people of faith we ought to be intentional about becoming more aware of those who are underprivileged, oppressed or just down and out.  This is why the word “Ghetto” makes my spine tingle, and why the connotations with that word are even worse.  What we I think we mean (and I mean we because I am guilty of it too) when we say Ghetto is something more discriminatory, and often classist or racist.    What I mean is that Ghetto has a very negative and hurtful connotation, hurtful to God who is the God of the oppressed (and Ghettos are often times homes of the oppressed – this is a basic historical point).  The Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, and Psalms such as 130, and 136 tell us that God intentionally seeks justice for the poor.  If this is true then we ought to as Christians as God, how can we be active in helping him in his pursuit.

Notice I said “His pursuit” this is because to minister to and with those who are poor and unlovely (and often times dangerous) is not our pursuit as human beings, it is not the thing that we choose naturally, that is why it is so hard to find social workers who have worked in the field for a long time (and if you can – ask them is they still enjoy their job).  Working with the unloved is the business of the church. No one argues this point; it is just how we interpret the unloved that makes this tricky.

Who are the unloved?  I think there are many in every race and class that are unloved.  I think that we ought to have the church serving all peoples, and loving all.  But the problem comes when everyone wants to love, serve and live in specific suburban areas.  That is to say, there are too many people being called to the Suburbs (if that is what it is) and not enough being called to the city.  Is God unaware of the needs in places like skid row in downtown LA where 20,000 people are homeless every night (In America)?  And Skid row is just blocks wide and a not many deep.  There are not many churches down there, and the ones that are really need help surviving because there are little resources.  But In Pasadena where the city seeks to be a “Utopia” (this is literally what council members have said they want that suburb to be) there are churches (and wealthy ones at that) all over the place.  Some of the largest and most influential churches in the country are here.  So I ask who are the Unloved? And what are we doing to put our lives on the line to love them.

Isn’t this what Jesus did?  He said if you seek to save your life you will lose it, but if you seek to lose your life you will save it.  Did he also actually live this way?  Shane brought up a good point about the times when Christ fled when his life was in danger.  Christ did flee, but it tells us three things about Christ: 1) he had a certain appointment with death that could not be interrupted or maligned for his appointment would change the course of history (my death certainly is not anywhere close to this category); 2) If Christ fled from danger more than once that assumes that he continued to go back to dangerous areas; 3) and/or Christ was not in dangerous places because poor people and unloved people are not dangerous to him, rather danger came to find him – that is those who sought to kill him watched for opportunities to do such, such as the chief priests, Pharisees and Herod  (Mark 2).

There are so many accounts of Christ working with those that would by today’s standards fall into one of our negative labeling categories that we ought to begin to re-evaluate what it is that underlies those categories.  Is it Americanism? Is it the Church having fallen victim to wanting to grow in numbers and material goods?  Is it our fear of loss and pain? Our search for safety? These latter two are not wrong, they are true for all humanity, but they must be fit into Christ’s upside-down values instead of the other way around.  Those upside-down values are the things like the Beatitudes where the mourners are happy and the poor and feed – where Christ tells people to love their enemies instead of killing them, and if need be lay down your life for others, where he tells people to lose their lives instead of trying to save them, and where the last keep on truckin.  This is the Christ who calls for a reversal of “White-Flight.”

I agree with my brother who stated that it is funny for one to say that Christians are leaving the city, when in reality most people want to flee to the suburbs.  The clarification is that it is mainly the whites who are the ones leaving, this is an actual statistical fact and in the anthropology and sociology books you will find the exact term “White-Flight” to explain the phenomena that rules much of white Americans and that includes the church.  Why are they running…fear. 

But the God of Upside-down values says, “Fear not for I am with you,“ and Ephesians 1 talks of the triumphant power we have in Christ, Paul talks in Gal. that “I no longer live, But Christ in me“ (meaning he has forfeited all of his “rights“ to God, and in Phil. he say “to live is Christ and to die is gain (drawing a paradox of equal value between life and death).“  Finally we know that James Jesus’ brother told his audience that “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” Who are the orphaned and widowed in our day, the powerless, the hopeless, the unloved and rejected?

Finally I think that we should as Christians at least at Prayerfully “what is my part in helping to serve the poor and unwanted.”  Because this mindset is a much more active response to the problem than noticing it and wanting to do something about it, but yet making no move.  This Our fault in downtown Canton, we loved living on 8th street, and knew a couple of people that lived on our street but neither of us were pro-active in being Christ to our neighbors and that is where we messed up.  Because all God asks us to do is to be His people to those around us – to pro-actively love and serve whoever may come across our paths.

I guess I think often about Luke 4:18-19 and what Jesus said he came to do, it was his inaugural speech for his ministry, here are the things that were on his agenda that is pretty powerful and I want to have that same Christ-centered agenda because it was good enough for him.  Secondly Matthew 11:4-6 Kind of tells what Jesus had accomplished that far into his ministry, which were the things he said he was gonna do “…the good news is preached to the poor…” they had to be preached to because many of them had never heard before, because they were not welcome in the synagogues etc. 

“These are my thoughts that cloud up my mind, and take over my heart in passion.”

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Fourth of July in Skid Row

I found, at least for myself, one of the best places to spend a fourth of July Church service at – an African-American Church located in the middle of the hopeless and Notorious Skid Row of Los Angeles. Emily and I went to Central City Community Church of the Nazarene (CCCN) this Sunday and experienced a side of church (and patriotism) that was good for the soul and challenged a white-man’s pride.

I spent this past week with my Urban Mission Models class meeting at CCCN and was intrigued by their “grassroots” approach to the hopelessness within Skid Row. I decided to call it hopelessness as opposed to poverty or homelessness because that is exactly what it is; Skid Row is comprised of Human Souls that have lost all hope. This Church seeks to have small groups of people that it ministers to; attempting to build transforming relationships with each person they come across. This leads them to shutting their doors on some people, but it also means that they are able to be more deeply involved with those they are ministering among. Their style of ministry got my attention and so my wife and I went to visit.

We found this church with its doors wide open, people flowing in and out of the doors, some sitting outside against the walls, showing that the location of this church is very important to their ministry. The predominately black church, was filled with many people, some of other colors, some wearing dress clothes, suits, some wearing jeans and head bands; it was truly a band of misfits which reminded me of Gideon’s army.

There were two significant things I walked away with yesterday: the first was that it is important to hear counter-narratives of our country and Christian faith and the second is that building community must be an intentional act within the church for any community to take place.

First the pastor, Jeff Thomas, gave a powerful message on “Dependent Independence,” the main point of his message revolved around the theme that America within the Declaration of Independence wanted freedom from its oppressor, England, while at the same time oppressed those that maintain the economy of the country – those enslaved by those writing against oppression. This was much more my kind of Fourth of July service, no USA worship, no uncritical talk of the sheer amazingness of America; rather it was great to hear another side to the “the truth.” I was glad to hear, “the other side of the story.” The story not often talked about in those ways, especially not most white churches today.

I can’t help but think of the deaths of the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans when it comes to America’s Independence, but this is not a popular view-point, and many people push it off as – can’t we move past that yet? I thought about this also, but then I realized something, the African American churches continue to talk about this because the white churches have not collectively owned up to this or talked about it. When one group (or person) tries to persuade the mass population that group or person, often must tug hard the other direction in hopes of raising awareness, this is one reason why I think the black church continues to rehash these issues.

Secondly, history must be retold in hopes of preventing repeats and learning from past failures. Unfortunately America is in the business of oppression, our economy is fueled by sweatshop labors in and outside this country, it is powered by service oriented governmental jobs that create needs in order to create jobs (one example of this is the compartmentalization of much of the educational system – there are many more specialists in the field than every before yet the quality of education continues to drop), and it is powered by resources that we must take from other countries. Bush’s war on terrorism, motivated for a control over the middle east’s oil resources is yet another form of America oppressing others. I realize that some will not agree with this view, some will argue for humanitarian reasons that Hussein had to be removed – I don’t doubt that there was awful cruelties taking place in that country, but what we have done over the last year with our bombs, and warfare machines has created much more destruction and brought the end to many more lives than what Hussein was doing. If we were motivated to rescue the people from his tyranny, why was the war sold as a quest to end terrorism, and why has it turned out to be all about gaining control of Iraq’s oil resources?

These questions need to be asked, leaders need to be questioned, and I think the fourth of July is a perfect time to talk about “what is freedom?” and “how are we freeing or oppressing others? In our country and in the world?” The white evangelical church has for the most part turned a blind eye to the injustices in this country and world, they are not listening to the voices of the oppressed. The cries of the poor, urban and black churches continue to seep forth from the walls of injustice, calling those in power, those educated, those who have turned a blind eye to look up and notice – that our country is not yet “land of the free,” it calls forth hoping to find a prophetic voice from which it can speak.

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Inner Change Journal #4

Journal #4
July 1, 2004

Today, I began to have that camp feeling arriving with everyone around 9:15, groggy, people feeling more comfortable, and more personal with one another.  Today was a day to think about getting personal with the city.  Two things stand out – our talks about the shift from parish ministry to commuter church and our chat with Willie from innerChange.

While at CCCN we talked about the church’s shift from being a parish style ministry to a commuter or demographic style church (that is a church where people drive from any length away and feel no desire to be apart of the actual neighborhood of the church).  There were some who stated that the commuter style of church is now acceptable and in some ways unavoidable whereas other said that some combination of both is the best.  I understand that to have a church only made up of the community may be somewhat exclusive and thus we should never deny others the participation of being apart of our faith communities but I do see something wrong with passively accepting commuter style churches.

I think at the core values of the church, there should be a commitment to being a community church.  If we as a church work within our community, invite those through means of relationships, and serve within our community a church will most likely tend to be made up of those people within a given area, we will be a parish style church.  If we drive hours away from our home to work, focus on relationships outside our community, neglect service to our neighbors or focus solely on serving through foreign missions or ministries that are outside our community we will become a commuter church.  I believe there is experiential and Biblical evidence for this.  First the Christ did ministry where he could walk, now granted there were no cars, but the Scriptures are clear about his focused ministry to certain locations.  It wasn’t until the missionary efforts of the Apostles that the focus began to spread out.

Secondly, the reason why I believe that Christ’s model of doing ministry within a neighborhood or easily accessed place is because as we live in a community we know the story, character and trials of that community.  We become close to or personally involved with the stories of those we interact with.  A church that knows its surroundings is better equipped to not only serve it but first of all to love it.  If I serve in a place where I can walk to or a place that I see regularly it is more regularly in mind my, more readily available in my prayers and more often on my heart.  If I drive into a church from a long way out I see nothing of those things happening in the surrounding community, it is easier to shut out the concerns of the neighbors and thus it is more likely that I will have little to no concern in proclaiming the Kingdom of God to that place.  This point of being personally involved is further clarified with what I learned from Willie today.

Willie, a one time Skid Row resident, now rents a room in a hotel and has a job.  Willie was the first person we talked to this week that has actually been homeless, so his insight was in many ways the most valuable we have received.  The main theme that I heard out of his story was, that the church needs to get personally involved in the lives of the poor.  He (and Norma another lady who had a similar story of working out of poverty) spoke against those who believe that programs and projects serve to help the poor.  He said that many Christians think that by going to Skid Row and feeding the poor once a month they are doing the will of God, or that through some social service project Christ’s will is being done.  Willie explained from his own experience that all this does is objectify the poor; it makes them a project, a recipient of someone’s heavy conscience.  The person becomes nothing more than a “good deed.” The poor do not need more programs, nor do they need more salvation messages preached to them.

One person in the class said that the ultimate goal of God is to have his word spread to everyone, to a Quaker this is faulty thinking, God has already informed everyone of himself, what we as Christians are called to do is proclaim his Kingdom come – this is done through serving others, advocating justice for others, sacramental living as well as teaching and sharing about the knowledge of Christ.  I think this is where Evangelicals get lost, instead of viewing God salvation as working through various modes of obedient living, they cut out everything and go straight to preaching a message of salvation and repentance, as if to say, “forget about every facet of your life and just believe!”  We are hole beings, influenced by environment, economy, education, race, physical needs, emotional needs, etc – and the Christ calls us to serve each of these areas not simply ignore them and focus solely on an altar call.  It reminds me of the way the slaveholders treated their slaves, when they preached a salvation message to the slaves but did nothing to better any other part of their existence as if they were completely separate things.  What real people need is real transforming relationships.

Willie said that what the poor need is not another Bible thumping preach, many know the Bible better than us in Seminary, many have accept Christ 50 or 60 times, what they need is a friend.  Someone who loves them, some who seeks to be a positive and affirming voice to them who have suffered immense pains throughout life and who have lost all hope in this world.  Willie said that the way he got off the streets, was not through some church program but through real people who meet with him on the streets, who desired to get to know him and who spoke life back into his soul to help him get on the right track.  Now he is off the streets, following Christ and helping love others who are where he was.  A church that is parish oriented has more opportunity to come face-to-face with real hurting people, people who need loved and given hope.  Until the church comes face-to-face with the poor, there will be no personal investment and only programs and projects that will continue to do what they have always done, change little and perpetuate the disease of homelessness and poverty.

See earlier posts from this set