Homeless “Ministry” In The News (and not)

I saw two local news items on the TV this morning over coffee that caught my attention.  One is our city’s preparedness to care for the street homeless as the weather is now turning cold and wet.  The statement is made that IF the temperatures plunge below freezing, THEN there will be an emergency shelter open to all comers, AND one group will offer rides to the shelter.  However, for those cold and wet nights when it is not sufficiently freezing to trigger this policy, one of the groups is offering sleeping bags rated for cold weather (with an order of 65 of them placed with a retailer).

No mention is made of the church’s responsibility in this at all.  The Love of Christ in Lubbock, Texas will be handled by the network of 501c3 organizations which will express that love in “emergency shelter” on “freezing nights” and “sleeping bags” for other occasions.  The church of Lubbock can rest assured that the homeless (“the least of these”) are well cared for and Jesus is honored, and thus there is no reason for the church to worry it’s pretty little head.

The other news item that caught my attention was a remembrance piece about the “Haboob” of 2011.  It turns out that yesterday marked the 7th anniversary for that remarkable event.  Most of us remember it well; no doubt it was a high impact event, though no where near as remarkable as the tornado that ripped through Lubbock May 11, 1970.

Like everyone living in Lubbock on October 17, 2011, I have vivid memory of the Haboob too.  But unlike the newscast which brought it all back for our consideration, I recall what it did to Tent City!  I was not on the premises at the time of the Haboob, but when I got there that night, local TV newscasters were covering the story.  The freak storm devastated the tents and wiped out everything some people owned.

What the news did not tell at that time was that Tent City policy in those days stated that to stay on the premises, a resident hand to provide their own tent.  Homeless people with no money to refurbish their loss were kicked out that night.  But I watched one man from among the ranks of homeless (and I filmed it too) as he attempted to repair tents by using broken bits and pieces (the scraps) of the wasted tents.  Out of about 20 tents too badly damaged to continue use, he patched together about 5 – all with no tools!

I watched this man desperately and feverishly labor at this task for hours, trying to help his brothers and sisters, as many as he could, to salvage their belongings and continue their stay in Tent City.  But what I did not see, and I am so sad to report (unlike any of the newscasters then or now) is that no church in this town showed up with replacement tents (which were running as low as $30 at Walmart at the time), no tools to share, and no prayers or help to give.

Little guy – 1 / Church – 0

I hate to sound ungrateful for the crumbs that fall from Lubbock’s Table.  There definitely are crumbs there and they do help!

But I thought this was a “Christian” town.  And when I look at Jesus of the Gospels getting mobbed by poor, broken people at every turn AND the tremendous gift of healing, feeding, and celebrating of those multitudes he demonstrates, I find crumbs of Lubbock’s Table to be a thin parody of the Love of God, AND I find the 501c3 organizations of this town Hurting When Helping by creating a smokescreen for the church to hide behind.

BTW, 65 sleeping bags has the potential to help 65 destitute people to survive a cold night (Thanx so much!), but what about the hundreds of others needing one?  And is that what Jesus would give?  Or would he lay down his whole life to love a lost flock of sheep?

Think about it.

Advertisements

Mark 3 1-6 My allegorical Reiteration (Fat school of Beggars goes to Bat)

An internet echo bounces back to the Fat Beggars blog. It is worth your time, if you read here, to check it out…

Hard Times Ministries

And then Agent X and His followers went to church; yet the powers-to-be were there to test him.

Is it lawful to assist a homeless man on the sabbath?” they asked Agent X.

The question here is NOT the sabbath. The question is the value, the worth of God’s Children on any day.”

And so they wished to boot out Agent X and all his men as he and his followers defiled the desires and wishes of the church.

And then again, Jesus was struggling on the streets of Lubbock with no one to champion His cause. Jesus concluded that all had forsaken Him and His people for the churches cursed His existence. Among the harsh cold streets and whispering of the wind: God’s voice could be heard for the forbearance of His Holy Spirit. In that day even those who walked among the righteous shuttered to think…

View original post 42 more words

“Bring In Those Pets and Plants…”

Down here in West Texas, we don’t experience a monolithic Winter cold all season long.  Oh, it gets cold alright.  Not as cold as Denver, Cheyenne, or Missoula, but cold enough to harm or kill anyone stranded outside after a cold front blows through.  Thus our Winter consists of “cold snaps”.  Freezing weather that frequently gives way to relative warmth several times a month.

This means that our weather forecasters tend to use catch phrases to “remind” us of the fact that since another freeze is on the way, there are certain precautions local people need to take that they might forget.  Things like “Drip your faucets”; “Turn off the automatic sprinkler system”; AND “Don’t forget to bring in your pets and plants”.  It turns out such forgetfulness can be deadly.

Sadly, no one reminds the church to bring in the people.

Okay, that’s not true.  Jesus does (Matt. 25:31-46).

So why do we blow this off?

I spend a lot of energy on this blog dealing with the reasons why.

Actually, I say it is basic contempt for the poor, a demon deeply rooted in American culture.  But the church puts up quite a smokescreen to hide behind, and addressing it involves more complicated answers.  Chief among the smokescreen issues is a little book called When Helping Hurts.  This book (and especially those endorsing it) goes to extraordinary lengths to both justify contempt for the poor and promote it in the church.

Meanwhile, our community faces its first true cold snap of the season tonight.  The forecasters will remind us to bring in our pets and plants, but our churches will hold seminars teaching us to not help the poor who suffer the Winter cold through the night, and to fear that the help we might have offered would actually hurt these freezing people instead.

“I Don’t Care Where You Go, But You Can’t Stay Here”

The words above are an exact quote that I heard first hand come from the mouth of the Executive “Shepherd” at Lubbock’s Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) as he addressed a group of more than a dozen homeless members of his own flock on the front lawn of his church building on a freezing, cold, Winter night just a couple of months before I got kicked out of that church.  “I don’t care where you go, but you can’t stay here”.  Shepherd words if I ever heard them.

Can you see what I have a problem with here?

Yeah.  I point out stuff like this, and it gets me kicked out too.  And this garbage passes for “church” in Lubbock, Texas every Winter.

Breaking The First Two Rules of Fight Club

Breaking the first two rules of Fight Club is more fun than obeying the other ones.  If it’s your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.

But the assignment given out at Project Mayhem is that you must start a fight with a complete stranger – and lose it.

Hmmm…

Finding Jesus in Fight Club seems a stretch.  I mean if you have the stomach for such intense vulgarity, then you MIGHT actually look at this Messiah portrayed crucified before your very eyes.  (Sounds almost biblical.)  (No.  Wait.  It is.)

Losing?

Well, isn’t that pretty much the picture you get of anyone hanging on a Roman cross???  No doubt Caesar thought so.  It is exactly what he intended and exactly the way he orders his world.

And I can’t help but recall how James Hetfield and friends pounded the idea into my brain that I follow the God that failed.  The God St. Paul portrayed before the eyes of the Galatians crucified.

…but “losing”???

Pick a fight with a complete stranger and lose it.

Hmmm…

Except this portrayal of Christ crucified before my eyes is God’s deeply ironic victory; is it not?

Doesn’t the same St. Paul tell the Colossians that on the cross this Messiah disarmed the rulers and authorities, put them to shame, and triumphed over them?  What a strange weapon???  What a strange victory???

Pick a fight?  Yes.

Lose it?  Yes.

…but no…

Not if you LOVE the one you pick the fight with.  For then the fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities and rulers, the principalities and powers, the demons and dark forces that push us around and make us believe that we must order the world in fear and hate.

Pick the fight, and lose in one sense – fail in one sense, but win in the sense that really counts.

This is God’s world.  He made it and ordered it a certain way.  A way in which the vulnerable, naked, even naïve (but trusting) humanity bears his image and calls all of creation to bend the knee to the one whose image we bear.  Yes.  You were made to walk on water, to stop the sun in the sky, to throw mountains into the sea.  That is the world you were made to live in and for which you were equipped with naked, vulnerable trust.  And at one level, when you pick and lose this fight, you win this life.

Why would you want to win at that that other level where your prize is the order you dreamed up and now must defend against all comers?  And whatever sad world order you dreamed up, I bet it didn’t involve walking on water or mountain moving sex.

Think about it.

The Sign Says “OPEN”

I live in a very well established, white, middle-class neighborhood.  (I have shared this before.)  I estimate that about 90% of the houses here are occupied by their owners, not renters.  The properties are well-kept for the most part.  Though this is not a high-end neighborhood, by a long stretch, it fits very comfortably in “the American Dream”, I think.

I like to take leisurely walks, jogs, and/or bike rides around my neighborhood.  This area is pleasing to the eye; its virtually a garden in which my neighbors and I live and make our homes.

Each property is unique.  No two are alike with enough difference between them that no one would ever confuse one for another.  AND YET they are not all that different either.  There is a strong, though unofficial, sense of homogeneity.

I wonder, sometimes, what makes my home stand out.  How would a stranger know that the “welcome” mat at my house really means what it says?  Though the visual difference is quite subtle, one of the key distinctions between my house and virtually all of my neighbors is that I have no home security placards on my fence or in my flower bed.  Like all my neighbors, I have a “welcome” mat, but no subtle cue for you to keep your distance coincides with it.

As I have noted before, I find the pairing of those things to be ironic.  One sign signals you are wanted while the other signals to keep out.  It’s all the look of welcome with none of the burden – and thus not authentic.

(Reminds me of church!)

But there is this one house about five blocks from me where it is obvious that the lady decorates her yard, flower bed, and porch with a slightly off-beat sense of décor.  Her house sits on a corner lot, and there is a door facing each street.  The thing that I find remarkable about this place is that one door has a “welcome” mat, but the other bears a sign that says “Open”.

Open.

I like that.  A sign on the door that says “open” is odd, but it takes “welcome” to the next level.  Don’t you think?  It gives cause for pause at least.  This isn’t a place of business; it’s someone’s home.  They are not taking money from patrons; they welcome people.  Or so I think.

One of these days I will knock on that door and see if it is really open.  I hope it is.  I notice a huge Texas-size smoker and grill out by the back fence, and if that place is really open, I bet the food is worth the stop.  I just wonder if the couple who lives there is named Abe n Sarah…  (Gen. 18 anyone?)

“Like Talking To A Wall”

Church leaders refuse to listen.  What is going on here?  Is this the church of the Bible?  Is this the Body of Christ?  Does Jesus hear my prayers?  So why can’t my church hear from me?

I am both Catholic AND Protestant.  And right now, this very moment, my church is behaving very badly and turning a deaf ear to those it victimizes.

The Catholic Church is in the news, making headlines around the world with sex abuse scandals.  The Vatican is hosting a meeting of bishops from around the world today, but the hottest issue the church faces is not on the agenda, and the sex abuse victims claim that talking to the church is “like talking to a wall”.

Hmmm…

That’s my church!  I am a certified member of that “Body of Christ”!

Meanwhile, I also am a member of the Churches of Christ.  And in Lubbock, Texas, the Churches of Christ take a lead role in serving and helping the homeless.  I joined these efforts years ago.  During my time serving, about a decade now, this ministry has grown to more than a million dollar budget, a network of ministries and support staffing, and partnerships between churches, businesses, governing agencies, and private funding organizations.  And also during that time, I have been kicked out of this network when protesting the practice of throwing the poor out of our church-house doors to freeze to death in the winter cold.

Yes.  Kicked out.

At first we were taking the poor in – on a very limited basis.  I was one who volunteered to help.  But suddenly, and arbitrarily, “leadership” stopped this practice.  The ministry I was offering was blocked by powerful people in powerful positions of “leadership”.  My ministry was walled off by the church.

I called to verify.  I made appointments to talk to leaders who blew me off.

Then I traded emails and text messages that did not yield even an inch.  (I literally was told, “It’s a leadership decision, and you just have to accept it”.)

I became a founding member of a group of homeless prophets, and suddenly I was summoned to a series of meetings.  These meetings were civil, but fruitless.  Again, there was no reasonable explanation and no compromise.  “Leadership” did not yield one inch.  I was still walled off from the ministry I formerly shared with my church.

I held a communion service with the other prophets under the security camera at the church and ceremonially knocked on the locked door quoting Revelation 3:20.

Soon after that, I was banned.

In subsequent years I have joined church classes (other congregations) and confronted this practice with other leaders in the network.

And I am shunned.

Meanwhile, in the last three years, two homeless people on the streets of Lubbock have frozen to death.

And leadership tells me I can “scream at the top of my voice, but [I] will not be heard”.  My “voice has no volume”.  Talking to me is a “waste of time”.

Talking to my church is “like talking to a wall”.  That is what I hear on the CBS Morning news.  See the link for more:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vatican-youth-meeting-clergy-abuse-left-off-agenda-today-2018-10-03/

I am a member of two churches.  One rapes children and the other throws the poor out to the cold of night to freeze to death.  And talking to the church is “like talking to a wall”.

Really?

This is truly a sad day.

If I belonged to some secret organization, a clique from school, or a gang, this would at least make sense, and I would leave such a group outright.  In fact, such groups should be disbanded.

But I am talking about church here!  And there is a terrible phenom at work here that victimizes the powerless and stonewalls the voices of confrontation.

Addressing these things is “like talking to a wall”.

Truly a sad day.