“Moral Horror” (Listening to Christine Pohl)

Moral Horror” is not a term I invented.  I don’t imagine I would have coined it in a hundred years of study.  But when I found it from the pen of Christine Pohl, in her book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, it just jumped off the page at me.  A respected Christian scholar from a respected seminary, published in an elite publishing company talking about the failure of hospitality as a “moral horror” seems to go far beyond validating the message of this blog.

Allow me to quote:

Because Christian hospitality reflects divine hospitality, when it fails it is especially devastating.  Claims to have run out of resources or to have “no more room” are particularly problematic when we reflect on the abundance of God’s household.  There is a certain moral horror associated with turning persons away; when refugees are excluded and left in danger, or when homeless persons are left outside on freezing nights, it is rarely morally sufficient to say that there was not enough room.

The wideness of God’s mercy and the generosity of God’s welcome must frame our thinking about limits and boundaries.  God’s kindness continually challenges us to consider our commitments.  Jesus and the stranger stand outside, asking our communities to enlarge their borders and to share their resources.  As we welcome the poor, the stranger, or the marginal person, they help us to remember that each of us is an alien and a stranger, welcome by God’s generous invitation.

Christine Pohl, Making Room, pages 129-130.


  1. blessedbethepoor · June 24, 2019

    I like this quote. I need to read this book. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 24, 2019

      Thanx for reading and responding!

      Yeah, I like this quote too. Definitely worth holding on to and sharing from time to time.

      A couple observations I did not put in the post, but your response seems to need me to share….

      First off, Pohl’s book is definitely worth the read. It is among the best books I have found on the topic, and explores angles none of the others have looked into, as I see it.

      However, for my money, Jipp has the best offering, and Pohl, though amazing on some pages is (in my view obviously) weak on others. More strong than weak, but the deeper I go into her book the more I find.

      Pohl concerns herself with learning from “hospitality communities” of our day as well as church history and the Bible. It is my observation that there is value in learning from such sources, but the Bible is supreme among these others, and I find that the further she goes into these lesser resources/sources the weaker her offerings – generally.

      Notice in the quote above she cites no Scriptures. Good theology based on texts both you and I know and could cite for her, but there are a number of places where she doesn’t even offer a biblical theology at all, but instead the “wisdom” of contemporary practitioners. And there are a few places where that wisdom does not jive so well with the Bible as I see it – OR AT LEAST the Bible would question that wisdom and maybe push through.

      Basically, there are a few places where it seems to me either fear or fatigue has the final word on some given incidents.

      In fact, she has a handful of pages that come very close to resonating with When Helping Hurts! Close, but not quite (I must add). She actually has a slightly different angle, but comes to a very similar position for a few pages, but then gets back into the Bible and the tune begins to change again. And then later she seems to vacillate.

      Hard words, coming from me, I know, but the good parts are definitely really good. When and where she sticks with the Bible, she is stellar. Even the church history stuff is really helpful and insightful. And I definitely recommend the book!

      Thanx again for responding!


  2. blessedbethepoor · June 24, 2019

    First, even some of the best books I have read on discipleship will have their strengths and weaknesses.

    Her idea on hospitality communities is important. You are correct when you say the Bible is supreme regarding hospitality communities.

    I want to say that from a western perspective we do not understand or do hospitality communities well. Mostly because we come with an individual perspective. Secondly, Christians in Indonesia actually fair much better in understanding Biblical perspectives of hospitality communities.



    • Agent X · June 24, 2019

      Yes, I find parts of Jipp to be weak as well, however Jipp has done work in Luke/Acts and John that blow my previous understanding off it’s hinges! He actually has shown hospitality to play structural roles in those works IN THE BIBLE. Other chapters do some of that kind of thing, but those two chapters really do serious business with the Bible itself. It only remains to determine whether his treatment of the text is fair to the text.

      However his application phase is a bit weak, and in my view this is how the better parts of Pohl compliment his work so much and vice versa. In fact, he got Pohl to write his foreword and credits her with much of his book – so there is a strong sense that they belong together.

      Of course my critique of any of these books is best done between people who have all read what they have to say already. Sharing in the critique of a book you have not read only goes so deep until you actually read it. You might appreciate my opinion in general and then base your decision to read it or not on my critique (this is why most of these books have forewords and endorsements on the back and all that).

      Pohl is smart, and given the limitations she has set for herself, I find her thoughts rather compelling, but then I keep thinking about the church as the hospitality community rather than some parachurch organization. A church is called to take up a cross and follow. A church is called to trust God and seek miracles. I could cite Hotel Rwanda – the true-story movie (I am sure there is poetic license in the portrayal) where this hotel manager (not the church) begins taking in refugees waaaaaaaaaay past the point of his resources. And he and his staff are preparing to die with their guests! That is just a Hollywood movie depiction of a real event which involved Christians, but not THE CHURCH per se, yet despite Hollywood’s failure to connect that story to the teachings of Jesus and the life of the church, it demonstrates a level of faith my church does not and never has. A level of faith, frankly, that I envy!

      But then I am going to a Hollywood movie now to teach it. And that is fine, to a point. And that point is that it demonstrates a faith I find in the Gospels and in the New Testament. And I can go there and show it too.

      Hotel Rwanda does a good job of putting in in a contemporary and close-to-home framework after a fashion, but actually, even there, we need to have the critique because the movie itself will not connect these dots for us.

      Anyway, in the end, I recommend the book alright, and recommend it quite strongly!

      However, once you get into it, I think you will find what I have found. And I am calling it the weakness bits. In fact there is a few pages there that sound very much like the WHH nonsense. (Actually, I think it is not the same, but so similar as to require delicate argument to demonstrate the difference, and all of which I believe is a moot point in her book. But it’s there. And any careful recommendation of her book on my blog should lay down the marker for that discussion as it really may come up again later.

      God bless you, and thanx again!

      I really enjoy having you here!



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