Encountering the Blind
This morning I was out about town briefly with my dad, and I pointed out the small grove of trees and bushes amid which is located a homeless crash-spot on the corner of the South Loop and Slide Road (one of the busiest intersections in town). We did not see any evidence of homeless squatting as we drove by, and Dad expressed doubt that anyone could hide there without being easily seen. I would have concurred with his assessment, I am sure, except that I have experienced the shock of finding two people and a shopping buggy ensconced in just that exact spot on a previous occasion. It was like pulling a rabbit out of a magician’s hat! The fact of the matter is… we don’t want to see them there.
Can we really just be blind like that – culturally speaking? Can you have cultural blinders that actually affect physical vision – or at least disrupt brain activity to the point of rendering your eyes blind?
Yes, I believe it happens.
I recall my first two years in street ministry, which focused almost entirely on 65th Drive and all the drugs, prostitution, burglary, and occasional gunfire of that troubled street. (Yes, we stopped a murder with a worship service there one night which you can read about here: https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-vandelia-i-love-vignette-4/). In those days, I had not reached out to the homeless of Lubbock at all. Like so many, I was unaware we even had a problem then. (To be sure, the problem has grown exponentially in the decade since, and was comparatively small at that time.) But I became allied with a street minister, the late Reverend Rodney, who specialized in homeless ministry, and I remember saying to him, “You have a gift for even seeing these people, for I might be looking right at them and not realize it.” He said that was correct, but offered that with God’s help, that would change.
This post should most likely resonate with my Sociology friends. The phenom I write of here might be termed “Studied Non-observance” or something of that nature. (The Psych term for it would probably be “denial”.) I failed to obtain a Minor in Soc when I was in school, but I came close and took a lot of Soc courses. I recall running my own unofficial social experiment on the campus of our small Christian university (a little more that 4,000 student body). I dressed up in black and khaki with work gloves and stood outside the doors of the Bible building and the Admin building fidgeting with the outdoor trash barrels – as if I were custodial staff. I observed that many of my close friends, classmates and professors, walked right past me (within arm’s length) and did not recognize or greet me in that condition. However, when dressed normally, I could stand there looking like I was throwing away trash and the same people would greet me naturally.
This actually became of interest to me even before I went to college. I worked for General Motors in their R&D as a test driver on the Desert Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona in those days. I met and made friends with a custodian there who opened my eyes to this kind of ministry, and you can read about that here: https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/bud-the-invisible-man-and-a-prophets-call-from-god-part-i/
So, to be honest and forthright, I went into college with this stuff on my mind already. But all of this to say, we are the blind. I have seen the blind man, and he is us.
Healing the Blind
Jesus heals the blind, and that aspect is one foundational feature of his ministry (Matt. 11:5; Luke 7:22). So, what happens when his church is blind?
Well, I am certain that if we are talking about a physical ailment, that will require a miraculous touch from the master, but if we are blind because our culture dictates it, then perhaps our preachers have dropped the ball (to mix a metaphor).
So often the church follows the culture rather than critiquing, subverting, and leading it. This is to our shame. Nearly all of the little religio/political cartoons I have offered on this blog deal with exactly this issue.
In fact, one of the main things I hope this blog will do is open the eyes of the church to view the world as it actually is, and then to view Jesus for who he really is, and then to imagine our role in being his hands and feet in it!
I just heard through a family member today, that Amazon is opening a warehouse for the homeless (though as of yet, I have not seen the story (perhaps a reader here will find it and shoot me the link)). And I am deeply concerned that Amazon’s wonderful work (at least I hope it is) will get all the credit that the Body of Christ should be getting. But of course that will only happen if we are actually doing that work ourselves, and doing it with/in the love of God. And that won’t happen if we don’t see the poor.
May God open the eyes of our heart! We want to see Jesus.