Calling the Bluff (…The Newspaper in the Other Hand…)
If we take the analysis from Lesson #6 as being our Bible in one hand, then how do we go about joining it to the proverbial newspaper in the other?
Jesus and Misfits
I want to say something here about you, The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church, as a group – as an assembly. You are exactly the kind of people who relate to Jesus most favorably. Jesus has a clear track record: When he shows up at the place of worship, he throws tables around and drives out the money changers with a whip! (John 2:15). He is not really welcome in most places of worship – not when the tables get turned!
This is not so with you. Jesus comes among you and says, “Let’s party!” And you say, “Okay, what do you have to eat?” Forget for a moment all that tame crap the church normally tries to get you to believe about Jesus so that you can be managed and manipulated into “appropriate” behavior! If you are a misfit, there is a good possibility that you are the Jesus-kind.
One of the main reasons why I am willing to drive past a dozen or more places of worship to join you each Sunday is because I expect Jesus is really welcome here in ways and to a degree that he is not welcome in other places of worship. I also find it richly prophetic that this assembly calls themselves “The [nameless for publication] Church.”
However, I find it deeply ironic that The House of God is full of homeless people. I suspect there is much to explore prophetically in that observation alone. I really want to see how this group learns to discern a word from God on that exact issue.
I hinted before that some of our prophecy will be directed to the assembly itself, and some of it will be directed to others outside – maybe even the community at large. There will be distinctions there for us to explore, but in the meantime, I call a place around which people sleep under blankets in the freezing cold a place of shame, pain, and despair. That is the image of this Church in this community.
Basically, this is the part of the prophecy where we look at the newspaper a minute. This is the part where we “bridge the gap” between the analysis we made of Scripture in the last lesson and find how it joins to our world. God’s word is for us and to us, AND through us it is a word to our community.
Going for the Throat
I think Lubbock, Texas actually prides itself as a “Christian” community. (Yes, I said pride – and yes that is a problem.) Let me explain.
Before I bring a word of conviction to our community, though, let me also say that Lubbock is a blessed city. This is a wonderful community made up mostly of wonderful people. People of Lubbock tend to hold to strong morals, conservative values, and create an environment that favors family, personal responsibility, and hope for the future. Saying that is a huge commendation for this community.
Exposing Inconsistent Image Bearing
But it is not all so rosy either though, and there are a number of tragic ironies and paradoxes within those very statements. Perhaps the chief among them is the statistics on STD’s which shows the ugly erosion in the facade. This observation has bearing on the issue of homelessness, in a round-about way, because it is indicative of broken homes which are one major manifestation of homelessness and a leading factor in putting people out on the streets.
Allow me to take this in a slightly different direction briefly, and recall my personal experience here for instructive purposes. I have shared a concern for people living on the streets since I was in high school in the 1980’s. But like a lot of Americans, if not most, my concern was passive at best. I saw stories on TV or in magazines that made me feel bad, but I was not really moved to action.
After I finished Bible studies in the university, at the turn of the millennium, I became involved with prison ministry and then “after care” ministry. Later we moved out to the streets to confront the spirits of drug abuse and prostitution. But I did not become involved with “homeless ministry” until I saw the local news media promote an all-night prayer vigil at the library downtown about nine years ago.
I went to the vigil with some friends and attempted to stay through the night. It got cold and damp, and I became miserable and angry. I looked into the windows of the library where, under the security lights, I could see books on shelves kept warm and dry. I wondered in amazement at the warped values of our society that allowed people to sleep out in the cold just inches away from inanimate objects being kept safe and dry.
That image has always stayed with me: People sleeping in blankets on concrete next to those windows reveal what is truly valued in our community. Would this please the God who lovingly created the whole world? Is this what he had in mind? Is this a “Christian” community or not?
Lubbock is a fine city, but Lubbock is not all she claims. Someone is lying. Someone needs to be confronted about it. We need some sweeping changes!
I note that the United States Constitution expressly calls for the “separation church and state” (as Thomas Jefferson phrased it) which amounts to the same thing as evicting God officially from our culture (or relegating him to the margins and away from the areas of power). This is always the strategy of empire (in various forms and expressions to be sure). And it always renders God’s chosen people either homeless or makes them slaves in the brickyards.
Consider this: The U. S. Constitution separates church and state, but that does not mean that communities under that constitution have to do that. Lubbock is a fine example of a town where a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist is extremely unlikely to be elected mayor – or any major political post. The weight of that godless constitution is felt in countless ways, but not like that! Not in this town!
No, we consider ourselves a “Christian” community, and we go to great pains to paint a picture of our town with those brush strokes. But that kind of “Christianity” appears to avoid suffering and attempts to cover over it with pride. There is something false about that image. This bears an inconsistent image for the creation – one that can never bring God’s order to the world. Bluffing cannot do that.
Back to the Bible (Briefly)
The prophets of God in the Bible set out to confront that kind of nonsense all the time. Sometimes they prophesy against foreign rulers and often times against their own people. They call the bluff on these kinds of claims – even going so far as to tell Israel (on God’s behalf), “You are not my children – not my people!” (Hos. 1:9).
Now Back to the Newspaper
That homeless prayer vigil and the image I saw there are part of my experience and shape the thoughts and feelings that generated. I got involved. As I did so, I found a number of wonderful ministries in this community that reach out in sacrificial ways to ease the suffering. I have found that despite the ironies and flaws in this community, there is plenty to eat. This is a huge blessing! We might even say it is foundational to all relief efforts.
But then the library evicted those on its steps. I am not without sympathy for the problems that caused that to happen. When the TV news reports told of feces on the sidewalk, it was obvious that things were out of hand.
But then where were the arms of Jesus? In a tent? Apparently so. But I kept thinking we were a “Christian” community – YOU KNOW – like Jesus who gave up his own life to save others. I thought about how God designed the human heart to be The House of God, but then wound up living (supposedly) in a tent. Later he lived (supposedly) in a temple – God kept in a box! Lubbock seemed to prefer the tent! Why?
So, I went to tent city to experience that (as a weekend warrior of sorts), and I filmed the birth of a neighborhood struggling to exist on the fringe of Lubbock, Texas. While there I noticed that Lubbock (this “Christian” community) found the ways and means to expand two football arenas, build a major new freeway, and a multi-million-dollar, animal shelter while tent city cleaned itself up in the aftermath of a “haboob”. I am not convinced that images Christian values.
So, there is Agent X’s look-see into the newspaper on the other hand. The question is: How does a group of homeless prophets from The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church bring the imaginative word of God to the place of shame, pain, and despair in this community and bear the image of God there?