What follows below is copied from the personal street journals of Agent X, as mentioned in recent posts.
Sunday, September 29, 2013, Lubbock
7:35 am Memorial Park at the corner of Broadway & Ave Q
The temperature outside just now is 47 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun has not yet arose on Lubbock, but the daylight has dawned. There is one last person wrapped up in blankets on the park bench sleeping, but the others have packed up and gone now. Still several walk by the intersection here where Tent City originated. I recognize some; others, I don’t.
I am thinking of worship this morning, and how [the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not it’s real name)] sits empty at this hour. I saw one figure asleep in blankets on the back stoop there – out of range of the security cameras. There are needs and opportunities to serve at this hour, but the church and the world around its building are all ordered in such a way as not to fill those needs or opportunities. Somehow that seems wise?
This neighborhood, sometimes referred to as “The Tech Ghetto,” is currently undergoing a massive 10 or 15 year revitalization project thanks mostly to the [here nameless] property developers. I cannot [accurately] estimate the amount of money invested here, though it surely exceeds hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet it also is the home of [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] and maybe three quarters of Lubbock’s street-homeless population. I call it “Cash meets Trash.”
I see no expense spared in the development project, but I do see most expense spared in the care for the poor. Shops and boutiques in the area place signs at their doors that say “No Public Restroom” and church buildings with steeples reaching 4 or 6 stories high have locked doors, security cameras, and no loitering policies. At night, the homeless are left to their own devices, and to my knowledge they have no legally sanctioned places in this area to lay their heads. To lay down in this area at night is to break the law (it appears to me).
To be fair, I am not saying that the churches offer no help. They do. There is clothing and food and showers and phone, mail, and other social services including life skills classes and recovery groups. These are not insignificant ministries at all. I want to be clear that I am in favor of all of that. I in no way wish to discourage it.
These ministries are important. They touch a lot of lives in very useful and helpful ways. A lot of street people benefit greatly from the aid and care they receive from these ministries. Most of these ministries center on [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church].
The staff at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] centers on two key individuals – but they are married to each other. They are full-time staffers and are paid by two different churches. Both are college educated and dedicated to careers serving the needy – one is Bible educated and the other trained as a social worker. Together they make a potent team.
As I reflect on all these observations, I see a couple of people at the center of an organization that ventures into the crushing mix of Cash-n-Trash. There is no doubt that the tasks they take on in that Clash of Cash-n-Trash are daunting.
The Cash side of the equation appears to hold the power and wisdom – appears to enjoy the party, appears to have mastered the domain. The Cash side enjoys the BLESSINGS we all want to enjoy (in general terms).
The Trash side of the equation appears to be weak and foolish – appears to be left out of the party, and appears to be rejected by the Master. The Trash side seems CURSED.
However, there is the matter of human dignity. It stubbornly refuses to just let people die and not care. And the staff at [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] has now reached out to the Trash side having remembered the human dignity from the Cash side. the [Premier Homeless Pseudo Church], then, stands in the middle of the Clash.
The thing is: as they stand there, they reveal some other dynamics at work. These caring individuals from the Cash side, bought by the Cash side, sent by the Cash side to do the work the Cash side otherwise does not want to deal with, finds that there are significant elements within the Trash side that resists the [efforts] of the Cash side. These ministers in the middle (having come from the Cash side and being paid to be there by the Cash side) are quick to point out that the Trash side not only sabotages the Cash side’s efforts, but sabotages its own Trash side.
It is commonly called “Addiction.”
These ministers in the middle of the Clash (but from the Cash and supported by the Cash) note and preach that when you empower Trash, it creates more sabotage for the Cash side and the Trash side. You just can’t throw Cash at Trash and expect it to become Cash. Therefore, these ministers seek to find ways to manage the addiction(s) that sabotage the efforts to turn Trash into Cash.
Now that is the part the ministers in the middle (from the Cash and paid by the Cash) openly reveal about the Clash. However, there are other elements revealed here too, but neither the Cash side nor the ministers in the middle (who are from the Cash side and paid by the Cash side) will openly reveal – and it is likely they cannot see them. And perhaps the biggest glaring oversight is all the dedication to the Cash.
Let’s face it: the Cash side of this neighborhood affords overwhelming party and BLESSING to those who master the domain (that is to the Cash). Between the fine homes, fine cars, sky box seats at the ball games, fine dining, fancy clothes, and beautiful women, it’s hard to imagine why anyone who enjoys such BLESSING would want to order the world any other way. For that matter, even the Trash side does not want the world ordered differently; they just want some of that BLESSING too.
Thus at root the Clash reveals, despite what the ministers in the middle (who come from the Cash side and are afforded by the Cash side) will tell you that there is a deep devotion to the Cash of which the Cash side is champion.
But here is where it begins to get treacherous. When the ministers in the middle (who come from the Cash and are paid in Cash by the Cash) speak from the Clash and report to the Cash that the problem with Trash is the Trash, then they are telling the Cash what it WANTS to hear. The Cash side is having a party with the music turned up loud enough that the cries of human dignity from the Trash side can barely be heard. But [still the Trash] stubbornly haunts the Cash side anyway. [So] when the Cash side sends an investment [of conscience salve] into the Clash and gets a report that the problem is in the care shown for the Trash, then the Cash gets legitimated in its own eyes.
There is an irony at work here. The ministers in the middle (who are from the Cash side and supported by the Cash) point the finger at the Cash and say the problem is there (with the Cash) [thus] letting the Cash off the hook at the same time! [All the while asking the Cash side for MORE of the Cash so they can continue “HELPING” the Trash in THIS way, and finding the conscience-burdened Cash side all too eager to send more Cash for THIS kind of “HELP”!]
It is a smoke screen. It is a self-deception. No one ever stands up and says, “Hey! Greed is a sin, and it is taking over the neighborhood!” Instead they say, “Don’t give your [Cash] to the poor; they will just waste it on [Trash]!” And the crazy part is that the ministers “in the middle” then put their own hand out to receive what ever alms might otherwise have been given to the poor.
In all of this, I see people speaking up for the Cash. No matter where one stands in this neighborhood or in the care for the poor, it seems all the concern is for the Cash. It seems that we must manage the Cash wisely. We must attend to the Cash carefully. We must not waste the precious Cash from whom all BLESSINGS flow!
And so, as I said, I am thinking about WORSHIP this fine Sunday morning as the church house sits empty but the streets and alleys are littered with the [rejects of humanity and the stains of human indignity]. And I am wondering what role WORSHIP plays in the Clash of Cash-n-Trash.
It seems to me that we are WORSHIPING alright, but it is not the WORSHIP of YHWH whose image is stamped on the poor as well as the rich. Rather it is the WORSHIP, the subtle and seductive WORTH-SHIP, of money, whose image is stamped on the rich and not the poor. And the ministers in the middle (who come from the Cash and are supported by the Cash and who give report to the Cash side that Cash should not be expended on the poor because it will be wasted) have demonstrated that they place value (and thus WORTH-SHIP) on the Cash itself [- perhaps without even realizing it].
[Yes, I am answering their report to the Cash – that report that says when well-meaning people from the Cash side who are troubled by the stubborn issue of human dignity, no matter how well-meaning, thus give Cash to the Trash, they then waste the precious Cash and in the process harm the Trash – yes, that report… and I am saying that to the degree that report assumes those “misguided” alms-givers are well-meaning, these ministers “in the middle” likewise may well be deluded about their idol worship. I do not claim they intentionally set out to harm the Kingdom of God with their worldly wisdom at all. But they are nonetheless doing the very harm they claim they sidestep.]
[Check this out:] The Bible knows nothing of addiction. A woman caught in the act of fornication is spared and told to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11) with no thought given to how she might be powerless over her sin. St Paul asks, “If you have died with Christ to the elements of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle; do not taste; do not touch’?” (Col. 3:20-21). Is Paul making a case we should indulge? No. But he clearly knows nothing of “addiction.”
The Bible, and Jesus especially, clearly says a lot about money and about the rich and the poor. And though wealth is never characterized as sinful, per se, time and time again the Scripture tempers regard for wealth (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22;25:35-55; Deut. 17:17; 24:10-22; Prov. 22:16; 29:20; Eccl. 2:4-11; Isa. 5:8; Luke 1:53; 6:24 (just to name a few places)). And the God of the Bible clearly joins himself to the poor in disturbing ways. It is quite arbitrary, actually, to favor the rich over the poor, and counter to God’s Word both in the number of times his Word addresses the issue(s) and in the potency with which he address it (them). And we have not even begun to discuss the way the church in Acts 2 and 4 alleviate the poverty among their ranks which hearkens us back to the rich man Jesus encounters in Mark 10.
And above all, YHWH is one God and Lord. True and almighty where all others are false and/or non-existent. And YHWH is jealous! And Mammon is a competitor for his WORSHIP.
Now this is something the Bible clearly repeatedly addresses in the most potent terms. And it actually goes to the heart of the Clash of Cash-n-Trash. We need to get our WORSHIP straightened out. We need to get ourselves knelt at the altar of YHWH and not of Mammon. I strongly expect that WORSHIP of YHWH in Spirit and Truth will involve prayer, song, Scripture reading and preaching, and will center on the messianic meal (the PARTY of Heaven!) and immersion in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene (Acts 2:38). But I also think it will involve Jubilee celebration that features the forgiving of debt(s) and other expressions of value and WORTH-SHIP of the image of God stamped like human dignity on the poor – and other ways of wasting Cash! [Wasting Mammon is not a problem for WORSHIP of YHWH.]
I expect that if we jettison all the psych-O-babel about addiction and take more seriously the matter of WORSHIP of YHWH, not abandoning any of the ministries already in place, but making them secondary to the WORSHIP all the same, that we will find the world will change. I also expect that we will find Jesus in the poor (Matt. 25:40) and that he may well be empowering all the resistance to the Cash (that pesky sabotage problem may actually be his own hand at work).
The prophets of long ago (especially, but in no way limited to Amos) championed the cause of the poor in the face of the rich. And where there is a problem between the rich and the poor (the Clash of Cash-n-Trash), the Bible consistently finds the problem in the Cash side’s greed and brings conviction there rather than blaming the poor, addiction, or the manner in which aid is rendered, (Ezek. 34:1-10; Pss. 10; 82; Amos 2:6; 4:1;5:11-12; 6:1-8; 8:4-10; Mic. 6:12; Luke 16:19-31).
The smoke screen has obscured our WORTH-SHIP of YHWH. He wants to see you part with your love of Cash on his behalf. It is a deep sacrifice, but it is consistent with his command. And the Master himself warns that it is actually easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the rule of God! (Mark 10:23). But if that rich man gets his WORTH-SHIP straightened out, forgives the debts owed him, then he too can be forgiven his debts as well (Matt. 6:14-15).
(We will be praying for our ministers. Their job is not easy. It may not be thankless, but not thanked enough. And it can be very discouraging when so much effort yields so few results. [Unless of course, they are distracted by all the wealth donated to their conscience salve programs!] Also, it can be hard to discern what is good, right, and proper [sometimes]. Thus the need to be taken to God in prayer, and that would be a good place to start.)