I am angry, really angry. I know that anger most often is based in a selfish motive, and so I have examined this extreme emotion that I am carrying, and it doesn’t seem to be selfish. In fact, I think that it may rightly be called “righteous indignation.”
I have been silent thus far regarding my thoughts on the Chick-fil-A “demonstration” that occurred this last week. There were many others, much wiser than I, who were making their opinions heard—some that said it better than I ever could. But this weekend the issues became incredibly personal for me, and as I said—I am angry.
Last Wednesday, while Churchians were spending an extra estimated $8 million on chicken, in order to “take a stand” against homosexual marriage—to make sure that the world knows that they are against such a thing (as though gay people don’t know that Churchians don’t approve of them)—an old man in our community died for lack of an air conditioner in his home. When taken to the hospital his temperature was 113 degrees!
This is the irony upon which I have been meditating for a few days.
I grieve for my gay and lesbian friends who have just been told (again) that they are not welcome in church. (This is the message that they heard.) But I am also angry at the mis-prioritization of issues in the Church today. Homosexual marriage? Really? This is what we are to be spending our time, energy, and MONEY on?
I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence.
The Pharisees were the greatest at missing the point—i.e. confronting Jesus about how the disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate, just after they had fed 5000 people!!
The issues of poverty are overwhelming and complicated. There is no easy fix. If someone were to donate an air conditioner for us to give to a family in Valley Brook, that family would be coming to us next month to ask for help paying their electric bill. The answer is not simply throwing some money in the direction of the poor. Generations of poverty have created a cultural worldview that requires years, perhaps even a lifetime to adjust.
System-wide changes must be made. While I hear Churchians fighting against socialized medicine, I daily watch the poor in our community go without healthcare. I mean kidney disease, because a woman couldn’t afford to see a doctor and get simple antibiotics for a bladder infection. 50 seizures a day, because a young man can’t afford his medication. A man getting himself totally drunk so that he can pull his own infected tooth with a pair of child’s scissors!
While I hear Churchians supporting and promoting billions of dollars being spent on American military, as though Jesus never said, “Love your enemies,” we are daily picking up the pieces of broken veterans who cannot sleep due to their nightmares, and cannot control their outbursts of angry violence at the simplest offense, and cannot overcome their addictions that are fueled by the terrors they experienced.
While I hear Churchians talking about how “the poor are poor because they make poor choices,” I daily watch single mothers working at the drudgery of minimum wage jobs that just cannot pay the bills, and daily facing the temptation to dance (and more) in the strip clubs on our street, because they can make more there to provide for their children. (Calculate: $7.25/hour, 36 hours a week (since 40 would require the employer to provide benefits), 4 weeks a month: $1044. Subtract taxes. Now think of the expenses of life. It is just NOT POSSIBLE to survive on minimum wage.)
We—and yes, I mean we (I understand that I am a part of the Body of Christ)—are messed up. A dysfunctional family at best. Criminal at worst.
And so, we spend $8 million “taking a stand” about “Family Values,” while Larry (our brother) dies from heat stroke.
Another case of Pharisees missing the point . . . perhaps “taking God’s name in vain” is not so much about using his name to curse, as it is about calling ourselves by His name and then not acting like Him. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” 1 John 2:6. Think about the life and ministry of Jesus!
The Bible is very clear (for those who claim to follow it), rather than gorging on chicken sandwiches (how many went away from Chick-fil-A overfull?—something the Bible calls sin by the way), God calls us to a fast—a particular kind of fast that makes his priorities clear. Rather than “pointing the finger,” he asks us to care for the poor.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? THEN your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “IF you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:6-11
For those of you who have endured my rant all the way down to this point, I propose a fast. Let’s do the kind of “demonstration” that Jesus did. Maybe he will multiply our five loaves and two fish. How ‘bout this week we “Christ-ians” buy some groceries and give to our local Food Bank. The article below verifies what we have been experiencing at our Joe’s Food Pantry—the need has more than doubled! Let’s do another public demonstration of what we “stand for,” and let’s make it, as Jesus said, “Good News for the Poor.”
(By the way, $8 million will feed 2.6 million people for a week through your local Food Bank!)