Monday, October 31, 2011

You're Lucky To Be Poor Here

There's a line of reasoning circulating among conservatives used to discredit political progressives, social justice Christians, Occupy Wall Streeters, and their so called "socialist" agenda that is almost satanic in nature."You don't see babies with distended bellies in America so quit your whining!" they say. As if being poor, unemployed, homeless, and hungry in America is one of the benefits of American Exceptionalism. 
Let's begin with conceding the point so that we can move on to the satanic nature of the argument. Yes, you're better off being poor in America than being poor in Afghanistan or Somalia. Using that line of reasoning to do nothing however, is pure evil. And that is what the neo and theocons would have us do. If anything, doing nothing in a country like ours when we have the ability to change our situation is at least as reprehensible as those that do nothing in countries without our resources.
And do not forget, the same people making this argument are the ones in full-throated roar to wage war on those countries. It's as if bombing them into regime change is their way of helping those babies with distended bellies. The same people arguing that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme gleefully spend trillions on bombs and war machines, all the while demanding that food aid to the Third World is out of control and must be cut or stopped.
So yes, I'm grateful to live in America and not Bangladesh, but is it socialism to say we can do better?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The Occupy folks are taking some real hits from all sides. It's said they're little more than a bunch of punk anarchists and wanna be hippies, incoherent, lacking in focus and largely absent clearly stated goals. They couldn't organize a baby shower much less an effective national movement for change we're told. Pastors and senators alike condemn the protests, sniffing that they are nothing but a group of undisciplined, self-centered losers, better off with a job at McDonalds than a place of leadership dealing with our nation's woes.

Who knows? Maybe the critics are right, maybe they'll soon fade away and leave the real work to us adults. But what if the scoffers have got it all wrong, what if these Occupiers are harbingers of a coming eruption, not the eruption itself? Maybe the Occupiers, and yes the Tea Party, are just plumes of steam, much the way a volcano begins emitting steam and gasses, sometimes years before it erupts?

I began experiencing a feeling of anticipation, almost dread,  the other day as I visited the blog We Are The 99 Percent. View it here . I saw the faces of nearly a thousand people posed next to handwritten explanations of the troubles they're dealing with, and the sense of desperation and fear they're facing almost leaped off the page. And there's millions more like that out here in America. Virtually every social eruption in modern times began with enormous financial hardship, huge gaps in income between the rich and well off and those struggling to feed their families, and a ruling elite scoffing at the suffering around them.

So, is it the eruption we're witnessing or are the Occupiers and Tea Partiers merely signs of an eruption still to come? How we answer that question will have a lot to do with America's future. God Bless us all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's the Economy Pastor

“I need something to believe in,” he said. “It’s either that or just give up.”~Protester at  Occupy Wall Street

We are blowing the moment. We are preaching a version of Christ that cannot be found in the Bible to a people  that is crying out for the Christ that is present in the Gospels. What relevance is there in fulminating against gay marriage to a father struggling to feed his children? We are preaching against evolution while families wonder how to save their home from foreclosure. Our food pantries and benevolence funds are empty while pastors rant against gay soldiers putting their lives on the line for our country.

We are preaching to a dying church what the corpse wants to hear, while outside the sanctuary people who desperately need the Christ who was an advocate for the poor and the powerless can't figure out how the church they see at Value Voters conferences has any relevance to their immediate needs. So they turn elsewhere for comfort.

It's about the economy Pastor, do you want to pander to the dead souls in the pews or do you want to put more people in the pews. We have a Christ perfect for this moment in history, so preach that Christ. You know, the Christ that preferred whores to Pharisees, that despised the moneylenders and spoke in admiration of the Good Samaritan, the Christ who gave us the beatitudes. We have what "they" want to believe in. The homeless, the poor, the hungry, the widows and orphans, we have what they want at this moment in history.

Will we preach it to them? Do we have the will to minister to their material needs, believing that this expression of love will create a desire to know about a Christ that demands His followers help others unconditionally? Or would we rather just try to legislate Christian behavior, forgetting that Christ preached salvation not legislation? The moment is right here, right now. Will we blow it?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Class Envy?

In a recent post David Sessions of Patrol magazine made the observation of a subtle shift in phraseology in the ongoing debate between the social justice crowd and those that feel it's nothing but class warfare. Read It Here He pointed out that conservative Christians have begun calling it "Class Envy", changing it ever so subtly from a clash of economic arguments to an accusation of the sin of envy.

So just for yucks I looked up the definition of envy and here's what I found. Envy is "a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc." Is that what the four million people who sank into poverty last year are feeling? Or the 14 million unemployed? Do the homeless, the hungry, the young people burdened with unpayable student loans because there were no jobs when they graduated, or the middle aged who can't get medical insurance because of pre-existing conditions, are they simply covetous?

Because if that's true that makes the problems real easy to deal with, we simply tell the poor, the unemployed and uninsured, the young people that feel the American Dream that was there for their parents is no longer attainable, the elderly who often have to choose between eating and refilling their prescriptions, we tell them to shut their lousy, whiny mouths, quit sinning, and get a job. Problem solved, we don't have to take action, and we come away with a clean conscience, brilliant!!

But what if we said "This must not stand!"? What if we got up out of our pews and stood with the 99%, the Occupy Everything folks, maybe started an Occupy Jesus movement and took our faith back from corporate christianity and became relevant to the troubles around us instead of spending precious time and treasure lobbying against gay marriage? Would that stem the tide of young people leaving the church because we're not relevant? 

Is there anybody left in America who doesn't know where we stand on evolution or school prayer? Is it too much to ask the folks attending the Values Voters Summit to give it a rest and work on poverty? I wonder how many new believers we'd get by showing them we care that their children eat before bed versus urging them to support the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Thursday, October 6, 2011


 Numbers can be difficult to wrap our minds around. Take the number 4 million; it’s so large that we find it difficult to put it in perspective, how high would a stack of 4 million cheeseburgers be? Now try imagining a stack of 20 million cheeseburgers. See my point? What if instead of cheeseburgers we were talking about 4 million people plunged into poverty in the last year? Or 20 million unemployed or under-employed, or just plain discouraged into despair?
 When we’ve got 24 million people added to the ranks of people in poverty and unemployed, the numbers are simply too large to get a handle on. But each one of those 24 million people is in a life storm and they all have a story to tell. How long would it take to listen?
Not since the Great Depression have we seen numbers this stark, we all have friends or family members affected, we know their stories, but there is no way as individuals to grasp the enormity of human suffering out there, there are simply too many stories.~Excerpt From "Lessons From The Wheelbarrow"

There's a reason the church is deemed irrelevant by tens of millions of Americans. We're in an economic crisis of near historic proportions, more Americans live below the poverty line today than in anytime since the Great Depression. Millions of homes are in or near foreclosure, the percentage of Americans requiring food assistance stuns the imagination, at the current pace of job creation we'll not see a return to 5/6% unemployment for a decade if ever. And what are our so called religious leaders up in arms about? Gay marriage, evolution, and school prayer.

Could there be issues less important or relevant to the millions of Americans wondering how to feed, clothe, and shelter their families than gay marriage or creationism? Is it possible for the church to get farther from relevance to the immediate needs of their flocks or the people we're trying to reach for Christ than we are today? If a father asks "How do I feed my children?", "Vote against gay marriage, and for school prayer." is an answer unlikely to move him to Christ.

So it's no wonder that for millions of people in crisis, the church isn't relevant, in fact it's never even considered as being part of the solution because we're blindly focused on problems that have no bearing on hunger, unemployment, homelessness, and the gut wrenching despair that accompany those troubles. There is a season for every cause, and to the extent that the church focuses on problems that do not have relevance to the season we're in, we fail Jesus.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Speak Faith To Power

While I'm hardly a fan of the politicization of Christianity in the last 30 years, the recent secular outpouring against social injustice by the ragtag band of protesters called Occupy Wallstreet that seems to be mushrooming across this great land has really touched my heart. If the new blog, We Are The 99 Percent,  see here leaves you cold then you probably won't like what I'm thinking.

By now the sickening concentration of wealth in the hands of the top .01% of Americans is well known, almost yesterday's news. And where are our pastors and spiritual leaders while the percentage of their flocks in poverty is at historical highs? They're off ranting against gay marriage and Sharia law, fiddling while their flocks burn, to mangle an old saying.

Jesus would feel right at home with this band of broken Americans. They are the young people, burdened with student debt and no jobs, the middle aged, homes foreclosed and jobs sent overseas, the near elderly with no health insurance at precisely the time they need it the most. All this while the powerful are experiencing an explosion of personal and corporate wealth unheard of in our nations history.

Maybe it's time for those of us who've read the Sermon on the Mount to join hands with the 99 Percenters and speak faith to power, to let America know that Christ came for the weak and hungry, that this corporate christianity they see broadcast on TBN and sold out to the rich, is not what Jesus taught. I can't bring myself to urge political action in the name of Christ, I find that distasteful no matter what the cause, but millions have been turned off to Jesus by the Christian Right preaching an Ayn Rand kind of christian atheism and it's time we show the real face of Jesus to the hurting and the lost.

If we don't Satan will be glad to fill that role.