Eye Contact

Alley Jesus

I took a Soc course in college called “Deviance”.  It was one of the most fun classes I think college has to offer.  But without going into all the zany things I did and/or observed, I will point out that one key thing we learned was that in American culture (if not all cultures) making eye contact with others suggests social involvement.  Once it happens, there is a threshold that you cannot simply back out of, unless both parties just happen to attempt it at the same time.

This phenom is important as far as street-homeless ministry is concerned.  This is why so many bloggers describe either making eye contact or avoiding it when they describe chance encounters with homeless people.  Getting involved with the suffering of others is messy business that no one, not even me, would want to do casually.  If you are not purposeful about getting involved, then avoiding eye contact is key to getting through the day or even down the block.

But here’s the thing:  Our culture is doing this everywhere actually.  We aren’t just avoiding the homeless, we are avoiding each other too. Allow me to demonstrate…

Just yesterday, I took a crew of Fat Beggars prophets to the South Plains Mall where we roamed the marketplace seeking encounters with people celebrating Christmas – strangers of course, but Christmas shopping strangers with whom surely we had some important things in common.  However, we did not speak to anyone without establishing eye contact first.

Guess who made the most eye contact with us three prophets.

 

(Go ahead, guess…)

 

….

 

…waiting….

 

 

Okay, who did you guess?

Men?

No.

Women?

No.

White people?

No.

 

Far and away, the people who established the most eye contact with us were sales people.  And most of the conversations we broached started with their sales pitch.  When we explained that we were not there to purchase anything but rather to interject Christ back into Christmas, about half the sales people began looking past us, over our shoulder, and saying, “Yeah…. uh huh…  yeah…  that’s interesting….”  Meanwhile the nonverbal cues were telling us that without the opportunity to separate us from some cash, communication was pretty much done.

A few of them kept making sales pitches.  I mean every segue led right back to the lotion or perfume or the sunglasses etc.  These sales people were incorrigible.  I was happy to walk away from them.  They did not see me; they did not see Jesus; they saw only Mammon and kept conjuring him up for all they were worth.

A few of them seemed genuinely interested, and of course we invited them to join the conversation here on line!  Hopefully we can attract more local attention!  (It’s great getting people from all over the world to stop and read, join the conversation and all, but Fat Beggars aims to serve primarily Lubbock, Texas.  That is never far from our mind.)

We did manage to converse with a handful of customers too.  And those seemed most genuine of all, but still, those who engaged us were few, except for the sales folk, and most of them had limited interest.

Just down from the Victoria’s Secret store and the hair salon, I walked through the food court at lunch time where perhaps a thousand people were crowding in amid the smells of fried food and hairspray.  As I walked past, I smiled as warmly as I could, praying under my breath, and I slipped through the mob scene of a city that professes to be 85% Christian “with a church on every corner”.  It is true that most of them did not even notice me, but literally hundreds of them diverted their eyes from me, in what I recognized from my college training as “studied nonobservance” and “avoidance”.

Think about that.  A Christian man with a Christian message in a Christian crowd but we don’t connect.  In fact, I really won’t let those who didn’t notice off the hook here.  If 85% of them really are Christian, shouldn’t they be more intentional and counter-cultural too?

And in a culture where this phenom is so pervasive (I know my evidence is entirely anecdotal, but really… if you want to argue it, go do some research and come back with it, because honestly, I have the prima facie case sowed up here!), so yeah in a culture where this phenom is so pervasive, homeless people on the street hardly stand a chance!  And sadly MONEY, aka MAMMON, (AN IDOL!!! if ever there was one) turns out to be the medium, the tie that binds us together in whatever involvement we actually achieve rather than Jesus, His Spirit, or His Father.

We were strangers in a strange Merry Christmas land.  In fact, just wishing strangers a “Merry Christmas” as they walked by made us stand out as quite odd.

Just sayin’…

 

 

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8 comments

  1. T. F. Thompson · December 23

    Think about this wonderful thought for a moment. Aside from Jesus, man wasn’t permitted even to see God’s face. This all changed with JESUS! At this point, man was able to exchange eye contact with God’s son! Remember, the pupils are the windows to man’s soul and yes, that is exactly how we interact truly with people when it is one-on-one, person to person. This is when we become REAL. Exactly the reason people avoid eye contact. Many do not want to touch spirits. This is what i describe as walking dead people. Yes, many adults are either too busy or too reticent or hurt or afraid to be alive. They deny their feelings, the element of the common good and hide to the point where they are only creatures of habit who fail to feel; fail to care and thus, are walking dead people. Jesus came to give us life! And to me, this is the only way to be a Christian. It is to spread joy and happiness and to bring forth life the same as our savior, the Christ. It all begins with following HIM.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. John Lewis · December 23

    Merry Christmas brother! Yes, money. THE great All-American Idol!! Never really thought of it that way, it is the one tie that truly binds us together as Americans, isn’t it? It crosses race, gender, religion, everything. If you want attention for something, lead with a few dollar bills. If you want to clear a room, start asking for a few dollar bills…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Agent X · December 23

    T. F. and John,

    As usual, thanx for reading, thanx for responding!

    In an effort to share dialog, let me say that I am all over the image-of-God concept looming behind this post. Yes, I approached with sociology, but T.F. goes right where the real action is. No one can see God (in a fallen world), but the creation God made was designed so that God would be seen IN the human creatures.

    It is biblical to speak of this creature after the sin/fall as dead, though still walking. It is also biblical to speak of this creature as less than fully human. Without the Spirit of God, this creature is dead (Gen. 2:17) and/or beastly! (Dan. 7:15-17). The fact that we cannot see God in our world (esp our post-Enlightenment, Science-rational world) means that we “humans” are not really bearing his image! It might also suggest that our eyes are blind to the image within one another.

    This is the signal that our world is “fallen” as we call it. Creation is out of kilter! It is easy to relegate this language to the margins of fanciful religion or malarkey. I promise you that as the board of directors at Goldman Sachs or the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon sit down to discuss how to order the world, they don’t consider this kind of language useful to their deliberations. But what I find shocking is how so many churches don’t either. We Christian types in this culture decorate our coffee tables, pepper our speech, and maybe even get the tattoo too with this language, but we don’t really order our world this way either, and we are the ones with God’s ear on the prayer line! We need to see God in each other; we need, faithfully and humbly, to take the role as image bearer of God on the world stage! (This is hat Jesus does!)

    Of course taking that role on is so tremendous as to be crushing, but when Spirit empowered, it actually makes sense of the world and puts the world to rights. It puts it back in kilter! At the image of God, the mountains bow down, the valleys stand up, the crooked places straighten out… (Isa 40) just for starts! How’s that for world order??? But it means we see God where God is meant to be seen – say… among two or three gathered in his name (Matt 18:20)?

    This stuff is sooooooo fundamental! (and yet why don’t you hear the Fundamentalists preaching it???) as to make it hardly worthwhile to talk about sociology or anything else! Until this gets worked out at this level, EVERYTHING ELSE WE DO IS VANITY! (Eccl. 1:2) and pointless in the end.

    And then there is that money… That idol…. Mammon.

    Let me interject one little point that is food for thought and OTHER whole conversations, I think. Idolatry is pretty much a matter of worshipping the creation, or some creature, in place of The Creator. And except for the case of Mammon, God is The Creator of all the rest of creation. But money is the one thing fallen (hu)man has made! And money is a shape-shifter! It IS anything you want it to be! A new car, a house, a private jet, a baseball mitt, a G.I. Joe with a Kungfu grip! You name it, and money shifts into that shape! This creature is more crafty than all the others! Not even made by God – Go read Genesis 1 and 2 and notice that in 6 days of making stuff, God does not make a dime, not a solitary penny! You would be hard pressed to watch a credit card advertisement and think that money does not make the world go round, but it doesn’t. Not really.

    Anyway, money… it is the “life”-blood of the sub-human, beastly, walking dead creature that has replaced the humanity God created in Gen 1 & 2. Yes. money is the tie that binds and orders a fallen world for fallen and falling purposes. Instead of Christians being so quick to rationalize how rich Abraham was or David or a few other heroes of the faith, and instead of being so quick to point out that it is the LOVE of money that is the root of evil and not the money itself, I would ask that we quit LOVING it with all our excuses for ourselves and start LOVING God with it OR perhaps burning it as fast as we can.

    I do hope we have a dialog going here. Any and all are free to join the conversation. Agree or disagree, just do so respectfully, and your thoughts and opinions are welcome!

    Thanx

    Like

  4. Debi · December 29

    I have such mixed emotions about money. Should we save for retirement (or whatever) when so many are in need? I just returned from a rather extravagant vacation (for me) and wonder if it was wrong of me to want to spend that time with my family when I could have given so many needed gifts with the money. How to know what God desires of us?

    Liked by 1 person

    • T. F. Thompson · December 30

      If doing without were all that good, then we should wish it on everyone, but of course we don’t. I don’t God expects us to do it all- yet, yes he does expect us to do something. Think about it. If everyone did a little something, then there would be no need any longer.

      Like

  5. Agent X · December 29

    I hear ya. I have a lot of thoughts on such things, but no clear conclusion.

    Retirement… Yeah, Mrs. Agent X and I have an account that is growing a little… And there are sooooo many concerns, mostly related to how selfish it is. First off, are we supporting slavery in coffee farming or sweatshops in China? And really, even though our advisor assures us we are not, are we right to trust him? The research we do… is it enough? I gotta say, it is really easy to fool us if anyone wants to.

    Then there is the matter of whether its right at all, even if we determine the accounts are operating in some “fair” sense. There is a lot of money building up… and for what? So I can live in my fine home and eat fast food til I am 90? So I can drive a Chevy instead of a Yugo? So I can afford to pay for a lawn service when I am too old and fragile to cut the grass myself?

    Where is Jesus in ANY of that?

    On the other hand, shouldn’t I be investing in that Acts 2:44-45 church? Hows that for a Jesus-Retirement plan? Edward Jones and Associates ain’t offering it. Neither is my church! Got the guts to sell all and go in halves with me? Not sure I can talk my wife into it.

    I really think I am missing out by not giving it up. But this culture I am “at home” in is soooo toxic that I don’t know where to start.

    However, I sense rather strongly that spending money on celebration is not a waste. The Kingdom of God IS a party. Celebrate Jesus with all your money. And doing that with family at least once in your life surely isn’t a bad thing.

    If you were taking safari one month, and your private jet to the Hamptons the next etc, I would not say this. But getting away with loved ones once a year to the mountains and/or that big memorable once-in-a-lifetime vacation thingy… doesn’t strike me as the same kind of selfish (Necessarily), but then I am not sure I am prepared to defend it vigorously either though…

    Anyway, I hope you had a good time.

    Glad you are back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • T. F. Thompson · December 30

      I love your aspirations and passions, but think about this too: Jesus only hung around in his ministry for 3 years. John the Baptist also checked out early. No, I’m not encouraging death on anyone, but there are times when our missions are perhaps, small and short.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Debi · December 29

    So many questions. So few answers. I wish I could say that my vacation was a celebration of Jesus, but alas, it was not, and I am painfully aware of that now. Thank you for this topic, and even for the questions you have brought to my mind.

    Glad to be back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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