(ONCE UPON A) POINT IN TIME

What if…?

What if the “Point In Time” (aka) “PIT” count of homeless individuals was used, not so much to actually HELP the homeless, but as a way of generating money? Would this qualify as a case study in When Helping Hurts? I wish someone would pose that question to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, authors of the bestselling “Christian” book by that title.

What if the PIT is just part of a fairytale rich and powerful Americans tell themselves to justify their greed and that rich and powerful American “Christians” believe blindly since it provides conscience salve for their guilt and shame?

Sound far fetched?

I reckon it does. But that has nothing to do with how ridiculous the theory is and everything to do with the skewing of facts in a very carefully constructed arrangement of smoke -n- mirrors. Let’s talk about it.

As I began considering this post, I initially had a very different idea in mind. I wanted to question the actual numbers estimated of homeless people in Lubbock, Texas this year. I saw a news item in the local TV news reports ostensibly discussing the “fact” that our homeless population is shrinking over the last 2 – 3 years, according to statistics developed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development using their PIT count.

According to the PIT, in 2018 Lubbock had a homeless population numbering at 333 which has steadily decreased to 283 in 2020. Questioning the accuracy of this trend is the point of the news item I watched which I will link here:

It turns out that Chris Moore, Executive Director of Grace Campus (formerly known as “Tent City”), doesn’t believe in the accuracy of the count. He is now on record with this concern. It is his experience that the service he provides has been flooded with “a lot more” people in need this year AND his observation that there are many “new faces all over town.”

Other experts in the field are relying on the PIT numbers, such as Erica Hitt, Director of Social Work at the Salvation Army – who also was interviewed for this news item. Thus, experts in the field disagree with each other about the PIT numbers.

This is important because… SO DO I. I have been disagreeing with the numbers provided by the PIT for the last five years at least (as long as I have been aware of PIT). The problem is that I am not an expert. I am not in a position of trusted authority. I am a keen observer, but, if you read this blog, it is entirely understandable if you see me as “biased.” (I don’t see myself as the slightest bit dishonest, but I am not in the business of promoting the status quo, but rather of critiquing it. There are power-players in this town serving the homeless who have found my rebuttal of their “Christian” service to be intolerable, thus they have sanctioned and rejected me.

I have not only been a keen observer, I have been a street minister. I have spent exorbitant amounts of time and money ministering to the street homeless of Lubbock. (To be fair, I have not spent time on the streets in the last two years, so my experience(s) are becoming somewhat dated.) I personally know at least 100 people with some measure of intimacy. My prayer list has 100 names on it! Yet, I see people all over town, like Chris Moore claims, that are new or that I don’t know. Sometimes I find them in sizable groupings!

It was my estimate five years ago that we had about 500 homeless people in Lubbock living primarily on the streets. It was my estimate that the population of homeless was growing, not decreasing. While I was not in a position to substantiate my findings, I reserved my criticism of the PIT and handled it very carefully. I see no real use in taking my anecdotal experience up against a carefully crafted and executed PIT with the backing of the US Dept. of HUD behind it.

But today, I have another expert in the field questioning it. That alone makes this information worthy of a post on the Fat Beggars School of Prophets blog. I am no longer alone in estimating the count to be skewed and telling the wrong story about Lubbock. I am not just some kook, some nut, nor am I alone in this opinion.

But, this post and this ministry is not really about ME either. If I were a terribly significant person, I would share my name and build a reputation for myself. But I aim to mute my part in all this.

On the contrary, as I look at the news item and consider posting about the false narrative, I begin thinking about what drives this phenom. It’s not actually a settled matter. The PIT count is accepted by most of the experts in the field. We have me (who doesn’t rate) and one other expert questioning the PIT, but that is not enough to call it false or to paint a picture of nefarious conspiracies. I know that, but it is enough to raise questions and put the PIT under the light of inquiry.

It is right there, at that point, that I decided to look up the PIT on the web and verify its legitimacy. That leads me to a website which explains it in basic terms, which I will now link here:

The the basic nuts -n- bolts explanation of the PIT here. It all sounds very good, very important, and useful. The people engaging in the annual (or biannual) count gather data which surely does help law makers in congress and local authorities understand better many of the complex facets of homelessness and its causes thus “enabling” wise and “effective” strategies for addressing the problem.

What can possibly be wrong with that?

Well, it occurs to me that Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (among others) have made quite a name for themselves in the last decade (and more) by “caring” about exactly these kinds of matters and critiquing the response(s) of governments, churches, and charitable organizations in effort to make their work more “effective.” In fact, Corbett, Fikkert, and friends have advanced their personal careers (if not built them from the ground up) on this exact endeavor. They present themselves as experts, write bestselling books, hold seminars and teach classes on “effective” charity and “economic development.” And they have done quite well for themselves to say the least.

Have they ended poverty and homelessness?

No. Not at all.

Are they making a positive impact?

Well, the PIT numbers in Lubbock, Texas in recent years might well be used to support the idea that they do. If you trust the PIT, Lubbock’s numbers are going down. As Erica Hitt of the Salvation Army puts it, “It means we are actually getting somewhere you know the fight that we are fighting here is looking better and better.” Hitt speaks specifically for the local Salvation Army, but her remarks represent, I believe, the sentiments of other organizations too – in fact a conglomeration of organizations.

While the Salvation Army has been with us for many generations, long before the PIT and long before many (if not most) of the other charitable organizations of Lubbock), decreasing numbers of homeless in a PIT count, though they should be something to celebrate in their own rite, also stand to legitimate current strategies AND THOSE WHO IMPLEMENT THEM. Hidden in those words are a lot of paychecks and career advancements.

That is a whole OTHER untold story.

Already, I am thinking of the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church of Lubbock (not its real name), of which I used to be a dedicated member before they kicked me out, and I am considering just how deeply indoctrinated that organization is/was with the influence of Corbett, Fikkert, and friends. At root, the philosophy advanced and embraced by Corbett, Fikkert, and friends by the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church is that giving money to the poor as a gift of grace expecting nothing in return actually causes harm. The term “enabling” gets trotted out right fast. But the other side of that same coin, the part that never quite gets connected for the viewing public, is that Premier (and practically ALL of the other charitable organizations of Lubbock with them too) hold their own organizational hand out seeking the gift of free money to “enable” their programs and services.

Ironic, I know. I have pointed this out a few times before.

Here’s something else ironic: Corbett, Fikkert, and friends (others like them) are quick to point out that if you give money to a bum on the corner, he is likely to spend it on drugs or booze. If you give money to a liberal government (taxes), it will get wasted. However, they never quite make the same critique about giving money to them, their organizations, or even to rich people for that matter. (I posted a year ago about “complimentary coffee and looked at the broader implications of this “enabling” idea if you actually consider the OTHER edge of this double-edged phenom.) Here is a link, in case you are interested:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2019/09/18/complimentary-coffee/

Yeah, the year I got kicked out of Premier, the organization secured a $20,000 grant by winning a popularity contest here in Lubbock among charitable organizations. They became media savvy and peddled their “effectiveness” to one of the most politically and financially conservative cities in America raising money to help the homeless. That might seem almost ironic since conservatives tend to get a bad rap about caring for the poor, but if there is a fine line you can take demonstrating compassion to the poor without giving them money, then plenty of conservatives will come out of the woodwork to give you money to “enable” your program.

The next year, Premier secured grants making it a million dollar operation. Lots of expansion, name change, new building projects, new staff, new vehicles, new office space and a promise to end homelessness in ten years. That promise will require a metric by which to verify progress.

If homelessness wasn’t a business before that, it is now. It is quite a cash cow! Homelessness is the gravy train! If you want to do “Christian” ministry for the poor in Lubbock, Texas, why not build a career, an addition on your home, your paycheck in the process and all that goes with it?

You need only convince the public that you have the “effective” strategy to end poverty – one that has enough horse sense NOT to give money to the poor themselves! That would be liberal and harmful and “enabling,” and we sure wouldn’t want that!

The only thing is… if this is a true and accurate picture of homelessness in Lubbock then it will work us out of a job eventually.

Did I say that was the ONLY thing?

Okay… not exactly.

There really is a lot more to it than that.

A lot.

But some of the more obvious is that we need a metric to show our progress. And who is in charge of the PIT locally?

I will let you guess.

Does that mean someone is being dishonest?

That I cannot say. I think it is possible. But I am not in a position to do more than speculate on that. However, even bias can skew things, and that doesn’t have to be evil intent.

But I have done enough to show organizational power getting a bit heady with unchecked and unreasonable influence. If we allow Corbett, Fikkert, and friends to build a pity industry and make the case they do, we really must look at both edges of the double-edged sword.

But you know what?

Here at Fat Beggars School of Prophets, the agenda is not actually some liberal, Socialist, or Democrat effort to keep conservatives honest or embarrass them or put them to ruin. Even to the extent some of that is involved, that is never actually the point. These are the rules secular politics tries to live and kill by, but this is God’s world, and he made it with entirely other agendas and ideas in mind. I would be stopping short if I didn’t call Christians back to those things.

Caring for the poor is right at the heart of Jesus’s mission and message. His inaugural campaign address in Luke 4 demonstrates most powerfully that he has come to declare, to proclaim, the Year of the Lord’s Favor – Jubilee. He didn’t come with some anti-enabling agenda of “effective” poverty alleviation. You can search the Bible from top to bottom, and you won’t find a word of that anywhere in it. Such terms are completely foreign to the Bible.

In fact, Jubilee is surely not “effective” at poverty relief in any conventional sense. Jubilee is about forgiveness of debts. Corbett, Fikkert, and friends quite purposefully lay out an agenda of using debt and debt collection as a means of straightening out the poor and teaching the poor to become disciplined about their use of finances as a means of “effective” poverty alleviation and as a strict alternative to “enabling.” And that is diametrically in opposition to Bible text! (Deut. 23:19 for instance).

No. Jubilee is all about returning lost wealth to the poor, cancelling debts, and in the process, putting a leash on greed. It doesn’t make the poor rich or more disciplined, but it does put limits on the greed of the rich and powerful and puts a stop to the OTHER blade in the double-edge sword of “enabling.” It turns out that the endless accumulation of wealth has a negative impact on vulnerable poor people and on God’s will and glory. Jubilee, the world as God intends it, has no space for such fat cats.

Go look at the link I provide above defining the Point In Time count. Notice who and how it benefits by design! It would SEEM that collecting all this data would provide caregivers the tools they need to end homelessness, and in theory it does. But in practice, it “enables” the rich and powerful make a buck off the homeless! Only the Jubilee is a real alternative to this fallen world.

This, then, is church business. This is Gospel business. This is the world God created, and the way he “enables” and “empowers” it to work according to his will and glory.

The PIT count, on its best day and working as intended (assuming that is in reality even possible), tells a false narrative of secular salvation – or worse of Salvation by Mammon.

I already know from first-hand experience that Lubbock, Texas resists the witness of the Spirit of God on this and resists my witness to these things. But we have another “expert” in the field baring witness to it now too. He is a name you can trust. Don’t trust me; don’t trust the Holy Spirit. No. Trust one of the players in the game who is finding the false narrative of the PIT to be intolerable.

PIT is a fairytale come untrue.

THE “HONOR SYSTEM” HAS NO HONOR

Yeah. I watched the debacle – ahem – debate. The very first thing I noticed was the bare faces in the audience. This after hearing repeatedly that in the whole debate hall only 3 faces would be bare of a COVID mask.

Today, the president has COVID, and we learn that the dignitaries not wearing their masks had chosen not to honor the agreements before hand that masks would be worn.

The word “honor system” gets kicked around a lot in the media tonight.

The “fake news” – I’m sure.

(Hey… all you who believe COVID is a conspiracy theory/hoax… How’s that theory working out right about now?)

I keep thinking of Lt. Kendrick’s testimony. You know the one. Yes, it was overshadowed by Col. Jessup’s, but his was pretty chilling too.

Lt. Kendrick testifies, “PFC William Santiago is dead, and that is a tragedy. But he is dead because he had no code. He is dead because he had no honor, and God was watching.”

Yeah. Tonight our president is in the hospital fighting a deadly illness and half the congress and reporters sent to cover these story makers are worried about their exposure to this threat.

Thanx y’all. You give your money, your respect, your time, and your attention to these people, but that bum you refuse on the corner would have this much honor.

Your “honor system” has no honor.

3 MEN & A BABY??? HA! TRY 4 BABIES & A MAN!

Asking for your prayers today… especially tomorrow (and the next day).

Life here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners clicks along to a different beat than most places, I reckon.  As regular readers here already know, we obtained (great word for it, huh?) a newborn in just the last few days.  This puts us at 4 little ones still in diapers.

Tomorrow will be the first day in which I am tasked with managing all 4 alone.  No teammate and no back up.

Mrs. Agent X will be gone, and it will be MY TURN to juggle them.

They made a hit movie about 3 men and 1 baby many years ago.  I will be living the sequel tomorrow.  (Wonder if they will get Tom Selleck to play me!  Too old, but he has experience with this, right?)  You might not hear from me for a few days.  Just dunno yet how this is going to play out.

For some perspective…

We are very blessed in this home.  Blessed far beyond what we deserve in material riches.  Blessed even with dignity AND style.  Sometimes I walk my neighborhood and look at front doors and just imagine life behind them.  Almost all of them seem so “with it” and have their “act together.”  Not the rich neighborhood in town, no.  But not failing at all either.  Just a hop, skip, and a jump over from one of the very well-to-do areas too.  A lot of fine homes here and nice cars.  Homes lived in by the owners, mostly.  And so, we are blessed beyond measure and have the appearances of more than we really are here.

We are also blessed to be able to provide for little people born into this world with nothing but a drug addiction.  We are blessed to find serendipity and joy in the work, in the little people.  They are treasures in and of themselves.  We are always having FUN.  Fun in the pain.  So, we are blessed in many ways.

But challenged too.

Okay, well… so… anyway – I am hoping a few friends will read this and pray.  I’m gonna try to get some rest and focus on good humor.  Oh… and brush up on all the excuses I can think of for why stuff ain’t done – right.  If you can think of some good ones, maybe leave them in the comments.  🙂

 

Thanx

A HOUSE DIVIDED CANNOT STAND

This just in…

The winner of last night’s presidential debate by a landslide:  CHINA!

Oh… wait…

Make that: CHINA and RUSSIA!

Oh … wait…

(sorry about this folx… the telegraph keeps clattering away on this…)

 

Okay, It is official now.

The winner of last night’s presidential debate by a landslide is…

EL DIABLO himself!

 

Consider this a call to CHRISTIANS: Pray.  Pray for our nation – pray for the enemies within!  Come with a healing word and a healing touch to someone with whom you disagree politically.  Do it TODAY.

 

Please.

 

Otherwise, the DEVIL wins.

 

Thanx for reading here.

 

Now please go vote I mean, pray!

“HIS” COUNTRY

I grew up hearing people use phrases like “his country” in what seemed a slightly awkward way.  For the longest time, I thought this was something spiritual, something religious in nature.

“He fought for his country.”

“He served his country.”

“He died for his country.”

If you swim in this kind of language from youth up, never quite questioning it, then it’s possible to think this is one of those English language idioms.  The phrase is always used so reverently, as if it is sacred.  Does the “his” in this idea refer to God?

But then one day the phrase was used for “her,” it gave cause for a double take.

 

Ohhhhh!  So the phrase means this person was devoted to their own country.

 

Well that sounds almost seditious then.  Why not fight, serve, give your life for THIS country?  What about OUR country?  Wouldn’t that would be a bit less lonely?

No.  We use this sacred sounding language to subtly tear ourselves and our country apart.  THIS country, OUR country, is not God’s, it’s his or hers.  You might even have one of your own too.

 

Maybe that is why I could watch a presidential disaster – ahem – debate like I saw last night and clearly see the one who presented himself as the most responsible, reliable, and ready for this important job and think the choice is so obvious!  This guy won and the other is terribly unfit and will only bring destruction with him.  But then when I stop and listen, really listen, almost half the nation thinks those exact same things about THE OTHER guy.

 

Wow!

 

I watched that exchange, and I just think OUR nation needs Jesus.  (I never heard that name appealed to by either of these condidates.  (Yeah, you read me right.)  And we need him to cast out the demons!

 

Are you Christian?

Are you American?

If you are currently carrying a cross and following Jesus, as a disciple (one of the defining marks of discipleship, btw), then please pray for the losers in this election.  Pray they find comfort in the winners and not scorn, not gloating, not glib celebration, not contempt.

I don’t even care which condidate gets the most votes, “winning” is not possible like this.  “Winning” is another word that needs challenged in this mess.

I wonder now if by “HIS” we don’t just mean “Legion,” and I would hate for this country to be his.

Birthday of the gods vs. Christmas

Wow! September is almost over, and I forgot August Caesar’s birthday again this year. I bet you did too. That, actually, is a great way to celebrate it – or to begin celebrating Christmas. Let me show you what I mean. Please read my reblogged post.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

(The following is copied from a previous post on this blog.  However, today is Augustus Caesar’s birthday (bet you forgot), and so is a good time to copy/paste and start thinking about Christmas.  Please meditate AND ENJOY the world under Lord Jesus rather than Lord Caesar this year!)

Check out this quote from Caesar. Let it bounce sparks off your Christian imagination. If you have not studied Roman (and/or early Christian) history, this will likely be new for you.

An ancient inscription unearthed by archaeology:

The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease…

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Archangels and local prophets

Look into the Stranger’s eyes and see if you don’t find Jesus. Or go read Steven’s post today and look at the Stranger through his eyes, and then tell me who you see.

Thoughts from the Catholic Cave

Today is the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael the archangels. My post today isn’t directly about the archangels, but I would like to take the moment to encourage devotion to St. Michael. I’ve written about the Chaplet of St. Michael, a devotion I’ve absorbed into my prayer life and have found beneficial. The rise of hatred, fear, and extremism in our society is evidence of the Devil’s increased activities among us, including within our churches. It would behoove us to draw close to our intercessors and guardians among the heavenly host, and cultivate devotion to Our Lady and the Divine Mercy.

In Hebrews 13:2 the Scripture says, “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Earlier this year before COVID-19 became a big thing for us, I had an experience that made me think of this verse. I was floating the idea of…

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CHRISTIAN MONEY

(I probably should write a whole series of posts with this title.  I think I won’t, but even from this humble blog, the observations skipped are more than those analyzed.)

I want to consider money for a moment in two different categories: 1) Money, in God’s hands and 2) Money, in our hands.

Have you ever considered a downwardly mobile lifestyle?

To be honest, I never had consciously considered the notion until I read Walsh and Keesmaat’s book Colossians Remixed.  I gave away two or three copies of that book over the years, and so I don’t currently possess one or else I would quote and cite them.  As it is, I will just mention that until I read their book, I never consciously considered downward mobility as a purposeful lifestyle option.

I think that is the way of greed in our world and in the modern church.  It is so thoroughly accepted as good (except maybe for the most hardcore expressions of it) that it gets a pass – even more so that porn.  (Oh yeah.  Ever stand there in the checkout line eyeing the “swimsuit” issue with the hot vixen “wearing” a painted on swimsuit?  Yeah, as a red-blooded, American male who just happens to be Christian, I content myself with the notion that looking at that, pondering it very carefully, as I am apt to do, is not looking at porn at all.  But I would find something wrong with a hardcore porn magazine on that rack.)

Yeah, I grew up thinking it was only natural and right, really, as an American especially, to make money and “get ahead.”  My grandparents had created a much better financial situation for themselves than their parents, my parents had exceeded my grandparents, and it only seemed natural that I would exceed my parents too.  I even anticipated my kids would exceed me.  This wasn’t greed.  This was just “God bless America.”

I just didn’t ever question it.

Then I read Walsh and Keesmaat.

Then not only did I question just how “natural” and “God blessed” all this was, but I began to see greed in it.  This seemed to be “the American way,” but it surely didn’t seem to be the “The Way” of Scripture, of Jesus, of God and God’s will.  It wasn’t panning out like this for the rest of God’s creation.

 

This brings me to a good place at which to transition into that first category I mention above:  Money, in God’s hands.  

My analysis here is in no way exhaustive.  I don’t even know if I am picking the best representative bits of Bible to analyze this stuff with, but I figure on the blog… we need to start somewhere.  This is as good as any… to get the discussion started.

So… the rest of God’s creation.

Well, that has me thinking about when God created it.  I don’t think we modern people of faith give enough, or even any, thought to the fact that in six days of creation, God does not create a single dime.  No dollars, no dimes, no pennies.  No Denarii.  No money.

The very earliest currencies that human cultures used were largely based on salt.  I am guessing it was just straight up bartering before that.  I am not an expert historian, but the studies I have done in the past give me this general idea.  Point being, God didn’t make this stuff we call cash, and therefore money does not, in fact, make the world go round – contrary to popular wisdom, I think.

Fallen humans invented this stuff.  Fallen humans stockpile it.  And if you really, REALLY, really think about it, greed is about fear.  There won’t be enough to go around and/or the haves won’t share it with me.

There is more to it, but when reduced down to its bare essence, greed is about fearing the need.

God, of course, will supply the need.  (Matthew 6:19-34 anyone?)  This, of course, is not a direct attack on wealth itself, per se, but you have to be nuts to not see how greed and wealth go together like a hand in a glove.  They are like smoke and fire – almost.  The instances of wealth without greed are exceptional.  But of course the converse is true; you don’t actually have to be wealthy to be greedy.  But we seriously need to stop excusing our greed willy-nilly based merely on the fact that there is a distinction between wealth and greed.  We have been driving big rig trucks and freight trains through the eye of a needle for all we are worth doing that, and yet just common sense (when sobered up) a bit, makes this quite plain to see.

However, most people of the modern world have little or no appreciation for the fact that from the earliest times, money – coinage – also carried “images” on it.  We still do this today also.  But in ancient times, money was the only place you would likely see an “image” except among the super wealthy or in pagan temples.  And, of course, graven images are prohibited with God.

Already, I can sense my American readers driving trucks and trains through the eye of this needle too.  Graven images are not the same thing as greed, but in the ancient world they went together hand in hand, and we may as well see them that way now too.  This likely plays a role as at least one important feature in the exchange Jesus has in the temple when his interlocuters attempt to trap him in a statement about paying tax to Caesar or not.

Go look up that story and refresh yourself, if you need to (Mark 12:13-17).  Notice that Jesus isn’t carrying this blasphemous currency around in his pocket, and so as the Pharisees and Herodians attempt to lay out their little trap, he forces them to produce one of these coins.  (Apparently, they have some of it in their pockets, and so as Jesus ascertains one from them in front of the crowds, they are already getting caught in their own trap.)  And immediately, Jesus turns the question/discussion around to that “image” imprinted on the coin.

Oh, yes.  There are other dimensions to this than just “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  These idiots are losing at least two arguments with their little trap, if not more.  But that is all the more I need to bring up for our purposes here.

Jesus, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), is talking about the “image” on the coinage AND demonstrating that he doesn’t have any of that filthy lucre in his pockets.  Jesus who is God incarnate doesn’t keep the stuff on hand.  It’s also worth giving passing mention to the fact that one chapter before these Pharisees and Herodians lay their trap, Jesus cleared out the temple by turning tables of the money-changers.  It seems Jesus just doesn’t have the same soft spot for money as we modern Americans do.

So, God never made this blasphemous stuff to begin with, and Jesus, God’s perfect representation on earth, doesn’t have any, criticizes it at existential levels, and encourages his disciples to trust God rather than wealth anyway.

The only place I can think of in the Old Testament where God seems to be collecting wealth is with the tithe (Deut. 14).  God makes provision for those traveling long distances to convert their assets into cash in order to make traveling more manageable.  The cash there is a concession of sorts.  But I have Tony Campolo to thank for drawing my eye to the rest of that chapter where we notice how this massive pile of wealth is disposed of.

Yes, one tenth of the gross national product of Israel is brought in sacrificial tithe to God, and every three years it is used to throw a giant party where the guests of honor are the widows, orphans, and sojourners (the poor, basically), thus it in no way gets invested for grand and greedy, capitalist schemes.  No. It all goes up in party flames shared with the poor and needy.

That is a quick breeze through Money, in God’s hands.

 

Let us now turn to Money, in our hands.

At this point, I must take care not to suggest that having money in your hand or in your pocket is somehow inherently wrong.  Based on what I have said thus far, it seems like the proverbial dominoes are stacked up to fall in that direction, alright, but stacked up to fall and falling are not exactly the same thing.  I don’t want to start driving trucks and trains through this narrow gap, but I cannot join what I don’t find joined by God either.  I notice that, if no where else, at least St. Paul raises a collection among the churches.  I presume, until someone produces credible research demonstrating otherwise, that such money was good, right, and holy – if sanctified first.

Actually, I expect that as the psalmist and prophets of old describe the nations bringing tribute to Zion (Ps 68; Isa. 60; Zech. 14 for instance), St. Paul’s collection fulfills such future hopes of the Old Testament.  If this is the case, then it appears we have money placed in God’s hands alright, but it is in that willing, worshipful tribute of the whole world offering her treasures to the Creator.

This is money in God’s hands, so to speak, filtered through the Christians.  And I did entitle this post, “CHRISTIAN MONEY.”

(I’m sorry, but I just gotta say it:)

WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET???

(Okay.  That was fun.  Now back to the serious post.)

Yes, the Christians, as we find them in Jerusalem according to Acts 2 and 4, are selling their wealth off, giving the money to the church, and the church is redistributing the wealth in such a way that no one has need.  (Yes, this is godly communism (as opposed to godless communism), and it’s in the Bible!  It’s in the church!)

I can’t help but think of that passage in Mark 10 where the rich man asked Jesus how he might inherit eternal life, and after some discussion, was directed to sell all he owned, give it to the poor, count his treasures in heaven, and come follow Jesus.  It appears that meal Jesus shares with Zacchaeus leads to a very similar place (Luke 19), because after they eat together, Zac says he will give half of his wealth to the poor and pay restitution for his greedy sins on the order of four times what he took!  (That would leave Zac wiped out!)

You see, I didn’t give much thought to downward mobility over the course of my American life because I haven’t really considered these things very carefully – certainly not without a lot of American style distraction.

Hmmm…

Yes, in Luke 4, Jesus announces that his whole mission is about launching the long awaited, never fully realized Jubilee!  In his kingdom, all boats rise together when all knees bow together.  There is no need for greed in that abundant life.  It’s not even an addendum we gladly overlook as part of our American experience as Christians.

No.  Your upward mobility was always meant to serve God.  Is it your money?  Or his?  If it isn’t sanctified and made holy for him, then it is obscuring your image as an image bearer.  That filthy lucre in your pocket is deforming the image of God in you, and taking away from the abundant life God has for all of his creation.

I am thinking us modern, American Christians need to rethink Christian money.  When we do, we will have some devastating questions, I think, for Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert, Robert Lupton, and Dave Ramsey – among others.

Let’s talk…

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT AMERICA AND . . . GOD?

Did you ever see that bumper sticker with the stars and stripes and phrase “God bless America” on it?  What do you think about the pledge of allegiance to a flag?  Is that okay with God?  Did you ask God?  Do you think as long as it includes the phrase “one nation under God” that it’s okay with God?  What do you think about America killing her enemies?  What do you think about America rebelling against the king of England with a Tea Party?  How does that sit with God?

Do you have a Bible verse for any of this?  Or just the bumper sticker?

Yeah.  I been thinking on these things a bit.  Just sitting here cogitating.  I do that a lot.  I think about a lot of things.  Different things on different days.  And what I think is of little consequence.  I mean, I once had a car driving down my street and past my house, and suddenly the driver slammed on the breaks and came to a screeching stop.  The driver got out and frantically ran up to my door and began ringing the doorbell over and over and banging on the door until I got there to answer it.  And just when I did, a whole chartered bus of philosophers from some university in Indiana pulled up and everyone piled out and came up to my  door, and just then some sky divers began landing in my yard and all these people were here to ask what I was thinking about.

But then it occurred to me that the whole thing was just a stupid fantasy of mine. 

 

In fact, I rarely get more than a dozen people to visit my blog each day, and I am almost always offering my thoughts to the world free of charge!  So, if that observation tells you anything, rest assured, it’s lost on me.

Thus, with just a pinch of humility, I ask my nosey questions.  I invite you to think about these things with me.  You certainly don’t have to think the same way I do.  There isn’t a law about that, and if there was, we’d be sure to break it.

But seriously.  I have church friends and family who believe that the USA is a “Christian nation” and that our laws are based on “God’s law” and … you know… stuff like that.  And, well, this being an election year and everything, it seems like a good time to ponder this stuff.

I can see how the description “Christian nation” MIGHT apply in SOME respects, alright, but I can also see how that PROBABLY is just some wishful thinking or even a kneejerk reaction in the real mix of things.  We most definitely are not specifically Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu.  So, almost by process of elimination, and in some very loose sense, you might speak of America as a “Christian nation” and get away with it like that.  But there is nothing specifically and inherently or even uniquely “Christian” about our nation by which to specify us as such.  Certainly, there are no Bible passages that proclaim it, and actually with the founding fathers very purposeful insistence on a “separation of church  and state,” as an argument, the idea just falls flat.

 

Best left to the bumper sticker mentality that doesn’t face too much real scrutiny then.

 

What of the Bible?  It does talk about God and his purposes for his creation.  We get a LOT about that stuff.  But the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for these things – biblically speaking.  In fact, the Constitution limits God, something the Bible makes no space in creation for creatures to do.  I mean, when you get right down to it, the Constitution comes very near blasphemy, don’t you think?

Wow!

Some bumper sticker.

Our nation is about to go to the voter’s booth and choose a leader.  By far, most of my church friends and family believe that one of these candidates for “leader of the free world” represents God’s will.  And my friends and family overwhelmingly are NOT referring to the one who endorses abortion rights.  No.  They mean the one who claims when he meets a woman he feels attracted to, he just “grabs them by the pussy,” and that it’s okay with them when you are famous.

I wonder… Do you know that the Bible no where speaks out against abortion per se?  Oh, I don’t mean to give abortion a pass by pointing this out, not one bit, but I don’t think what the Bible says really matters to my friends and family.  If it did, I don’t think they would be so eager to endorse the pussy grabber either.

In fact, this is not really the most important election ever.  (They said that about the last one and the one before that too.  So, if we are honest about it, that is the talk of someone drunk on the spirit of the age, I think.)

No.  God, the supreme leader of the free world and, actually, of just THE WORLD, created this world in which we put this kind of culture to bear on it all, and when he first made it, he put naked, vulnerable image bearers in charge of it and made them male and female.  (This stuff is actually in the Bible.)  When he made the world, practically each day of creation, he paused to pass judgement on it all and said it was “GOOD” each time!

Today, so many of us Americans think under the current pussy-grabbing leadership either things are just so bad we need to change leaders OR we think the pussy-grabber-in-chief will “make America great again.”  Either way, things aren’t going so hot at the moment, but get this election settled the right way, and it will all be good again.

But neither candidate is even aiming at the “GOOD” world of Genesis 1 and 2 (from the Bible) at all – much less the new heavens and new earth we find at the end of Revelation.

Of course, if I just leave it there, then I am not being quite fair about it.  After all, some bad things happened in Genesis 3 which has left God’s world not as “GOOD” as it once was.  And even God himself had to bring SALVATION to this world in order to get it back to being “GOOD” again in time for the next Judgment.

It’s a long story to be sure, but it all culminates and climaxes with Jesus getting crowned King of the Jews at Golgotha, the edge of town at Jerusalem, and he takes that crown, the same dominion and rule given to Adam and Eve at the start of creation, in naked vulnerability all over again.  (Seriously.  It’s in the Bible!  The Bible actually talks about this stuff!  If you want to find God’s will for his creation, you can’t do better than to look into the Bible to find it.)

And so when I look around at America and how it’s going and all that, to say something like “God bless America” seems very naïve at best and extremely out of kilter to say the least.  But that is just a bumper sticker. 

Is pledging allegiance to a flag even biblical at all?  Got a verse?

How about rebelling against the king?  How does that jive with being subject to the governing authorities in  Romans 13?  It’s one thing for an American governing official to whip that passage out on American subjects today, but if we started this nation with a Tea Party in Boston Harbor and an enemy-killing fight, then by what authority does that governing official quote from Romans 13?  Likewise, appealing to our founding fathers is like appealing AWAY FROM God and Jesus who would tell us to love our enemies and pray for them.

Hmmm…

You know?  The more you really think critically about this stuff, the more clear it becomes.  America doesn’t really care about God much.  That bit about “one nation under God” – well that’s just lip service and smoke -n- mirrors…. huh?  That makes liars of us, huh?  We get all fervent about putting those words in there, but we have really no ambition or desire for that in reality.  Not in the slightest.

Wow!

And my mom and dad were afraid if I ran off and joined a rock band when I was a kid that I would grow up and finally one day realize what a sham that whole lifestyle really is.  It promised so much, but delivers so little – and in fact just delivers me right to hell.  And the whole time, they were sending me to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades where the first thing I learned each day was to pledge allegiance to that flag.  If that pledge were honest, it would have said, “a splintered nation with God as an afterthought” instead of “one nation under God.”

Someone please explain to me how we didn’t all get took in with that!

Or… better yet…

Someone please explain to me how we might ever repent and make this right!

MY FIGHT IS WITH YOUR FLESH AND BLOOD, NOT THE POWERS AND PRINCIPALITIES OF THIS AGE (I am splitting your hairs)

Do I sound like a heretic?

I reckon I do.  If you read St. Paul, you know that what he says about us (Christians) is almost diametrically the opposite of my title in this post.  I betting that one or two of my readers, which might make up maybe 150% of my readership, does read Paul and does find my title troubling.  I bet you are itching right now to leave me a comment directing me to read Ephesians 6:12.

Yes.  I am familiar.

So what could I possibly be doing with this post?  Am I just blatantly wrong and I just don’t care?  Do I claim St. Paul is wrong?  How dare I???

 

No.  None of that.

But I just might be trying to have it BOTH ways, and I bet you will argue that with me too.

 

Here’s the thing:

There is a lot of context and meaning surrounding a given text of Scripture, and we do well to set the bits we pull out to analyze in those settings.  Otherwise, we can just lift them out and do whatever we want with them.  In that case, we can make the Bible say just about anything we want it to, and unless we adhere to some kind of very careful rules for reading and preaching, we almost certainly will.

But maybe we hear it wrong too.  I mean, maybe it echoes through the halls of time and we only make sense of it in our own context(s), and I think that happens too.

What I am describing now is really just a thin variation off the first observation.  We might make the Bible say whatever we want it to, but we might hear it how ever we want also.

My fight is not actually with flesh and blood.  If it were, I would go get a handgun or an assault rifle and start killing.  I am not doing that. 

If my fight were actually against flesh and blood, I might resort to mere insults and character assassinations.  But I am not doing that either.

I am, however, arguing with YOU about the idols to which YOU give your allegiance.  And that does, actually cut kinda deep.  Right where you live.

I am learning, I hope, from reading Lee Camp’s latest book, to speak my prophetic voice INSIDE.  I tend to critique conservatives a lot, but I also claim to be one.  I find my fellow conservatives to be right on some issues and deadly wrong on some others.  But I speak as a critic from within.  I am a white, middle-class American man.  I hold to many – maybe most – of the values that seem to go with that.  I certainly have reaped the blessings that have gone with that.

But Camp has me getting my focus a bit cleared up here.  I am not actually critiquing the larger world of conservatism, I am critiquing those taking the Name of Jesus and attaching it to conservatism.  What do I have to say to those outside the church who are either liberal or conservative, except primarily “WELCOME sinner!”?  But to those who already bear that name and who behave, talk like, and advocate for those principalities and powers of the conservative persuasion, I hold forth critique.

I would, in theory, have about as much critique for those Christians beholding to liberal powers.  But of course, I don’t know very many of them.  I live among the “conservative” kind – of which I believe I am one.

WE are getting it wrong on a number of fronts that is taking Jesus’s good Name in vain.  Everywhere WE advocate fear, hate, suspicion, advantage, over against the poor, the vulnerable, the needy, we are getting it wrong.  WE are getting it wrong.

 

This is my very loud INSIDE voice!

 

To be honest, in the final analysis, I believe I am honoring St. Paul’s words in Ephesians.  I just think that if you are hearing me, it SOUNDS like I am not.  I think it sounds like I am attacking you with mere insults and maybe threats.  But I am not.  No more than Jesus or Elijah.  And I have never drawn a weapon against flesh and blood.  I have not doubled up a fist to swing it at a nose since at least the seventh grade.  That is NOT what I am doing or advocating, but in the hostile atmosphere in which I speak, I think you see me that way.  And if you don’t, it is because you are not listening.

Yes.  If I connect conviction to your allegiances which you swear to idols, then I expect it will cut you to the quick.  I expect you will feel some anxiety and pain.  But, if I do it well, it is not actually me doing it, and it is not your flesh and blood that actually suffer from it, but rather God making real and tangible changes in your life.

You really might find it hard to distinguish between your own flesh and blood and your allegiance to your idols.