Tuesday, August 14, 2012

That Big Ol' Table with All the Homeless and the Homosexuals

Stuff Christian Culture Likes’ Stephanie Drury argued, “You’d never see this many Christians lined up to help at a homeless shelter or food bank. And that’s something Jesus actually said to do.” And then it was added to a meme and went viral. It was a good question – and perhaps fair, though limited. In my experience, Christians tend to line up to do some work of charity – on occasion. Still, every Thanksgiving is more often than once, I guess.  That doesn’t mean that the entire enterprise is not above questioning. But we’ll get to that shortly.

The other night, my friend and fellow progressive Christian blogger Marching On and On turned those “God” quotes on their ear a bit. I reproduced on my Facebook page as a status update.

Dear Christian Right, while you were showing America how much you "love" me by stuffing your fat faces with chicken-fried-hate, half the world was dying of starvation.
- Jesus

There were other imaginary comments (‘cuz you know Jesus didn’t really say that, right?). Others that targeted NASA and self-reflection.

‎”Dear Science, while you spent $2.5 Billion on sending a camera to Mars, we were dying of starvation.
 - Half the World
"Dear Heath, while you are using your fat fingers to type out smart-Alec 'hard stances' on your extravagant smart phone, half the world is dying of starvation.
 – Jesus

If you’re like me, you’re tired of the CfA kerfuffle. But I think there are a lot of applicable points to make from the controversy – from this one-sided culture war*

I’ve got three critical points I’ll raise here, though. Well, two for today; the final point is gonna be stretched out for a moment or two later.

First, oftentimes conservative Christians and other members of the Religious Right -wait for it - are among the first responders in times of crises. They also tend to be generous in terms of giving. We can and probably should ask what they’re giving to, whether it’s effective or not, for what purpose, etc. But I think liberals and lefties tend to downplay this fact. We shouldn’t, because it needs to be acknowledged and taken into account for what it is. In a sense, it should also be commended; in other senses, not so much. But this fact is hardly to be condemned or mocked. They may not line around the block every single day to feed the poor, but they do line up to, for instance, serve soup kitchens or help stock the food pantry or help build houses. In my own experience at least, they do this often.

But that brings us to the second point: Often, Christians – whether conservative or liberal – tend to do things for the poor, rather than with. A soup kitchen is valuable for satiating the physically hungry on that day - at that moment. And serving at a soup kitchen also serves to satiate consciences of the spiritually hungry - those who are performing the service feel better about ourselves for a moment. Those of us who realize that there is something drastically wrong with the world, that somebody should do something about that, we want to and desire to find a release for that tension. We eat - they don't. There's a widening and friction-filled tension there and doing an act of service for those we deem the less fortunate helps to alleviate that tension.

'Dinner Table' photo (c) 2008, Zolotkey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

This is an approach that effectively says that the better-off are actually better than those they serve. Can the homeless not share in the giving as well? Or are they not good enough?

Rather this: Can we all be welcome and eat at the same table, everybody bringing and giving and sharing and taking and creating and taking pleasure at what we have brought together? Can we accept the gifts of the homeless and the queer and the middle class and the single mother?

*I say it’s a one-sided Cultural War because when one party is being attacked by another, that’s what it is – a one-sided war. Conservative Evangelicals and their Religious Right co-horts tend to buy into the concept of culture wars. The way it is framed, it looks like a two sided issue and that “both sides” (whatever that means) are equally invested in that. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree Jasdye. Many Christians are very generous. I gave ten per cent of all my income to the church, and looked for other opportunities to be generous when I was a church member. I invited people on the brink of homelessness into my home for a season. I shared what I could spare with anyone who asked. I have always been generous.

    I wish I could have back all the money I gave to the church on some days. On others days, I remember how much the message of Christ (however garbled it often is in church) has meant to me and how the organized religion IS the means by which this message came to me. I am so conflicted.

    I don't go to church anymore because I don't think the church follows Jesus anymore, but has written its own script and then rubber-stamped the Lord's name on it. I honestly wish they would lose their tax exempt status, and that people would abandon organized religion in droves, that the whole thing would shrivel up and blow away.

    That is not because I don't love Jesus or care for the Bible or the faith traditions. It's because I believe the organization co-opts the faith of those like me and manipulates it for their own personal wealth and political power. The sons of Eli are in positions of religious authority all across the land. The truly faithful have to separate themselves, in order to keep from being likewise corrupted.


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