“Be awesome to each other, as I have been awesome to you.”
I’m paraphrasing – and I am no theologian or scripture scholar – but I think that is essentially the message in the 13th Chapter of the Book of John. It was a new commandment given by the most famous homeless guy of all time to the people that looked up to him and hung out with him.
I find it fascinating that there are so many Christians out there that can worship a homeless fellow on Sunday, and forget all other homeless people come Monday. I find it even more fascinating that some of those same Christians run “faith based” service organizations. But let’s be clear, they operate their ideological-interpretation-towards-Christianity-based-service organizations.
I am not anti-Christian. I am the same guy who used to be a Christian chaplain in a mental health facility. I have a rather large crucifix tattooed on one of my arms, and not for aesthetic reasons.
Perhaps you’ve heard about how God helps those that help themselves. I have heard this phrase from many Christian service organizations and Christian leaders in community discussions about homelessness. Can you please show me where that phrase exists in Christian scripture? Oh wait. It doesn’t.
Jesus, it is said, multiplied loaves and fishes so that all would have enough to meet their needs. I checked again. There is no mention of the bread or sea critters going only to those that repented, publicly declared love to him, were baptized, showed a bank statement demonstrating need, or were without fault.
There are teachings about caring for others. One of my faves is the Good Samaritan. The dude he helps out is of a different culture and faith. The Samaritan helps out anyways. The priest and Levite that passed by the Jewish man that had been beaten and robbed do not. The Samaritan doesn’t ask the hurt guy in obvious need to convert. The Samaritan gets the guy a room at the inn (that means, made sure he didn’t have to sleep outside). Took care of his wounds. Provided some aftercare. And he didn’t say, as far as I know, “Hey look now, guy…you have a maximum stay of 7 days and then after that you are on your own and can’t possibly need assistance from me or anyone else at any point in the future.” In fact he told the innkeeper, as the story goes, that if there is more expense incurred, he would pay for it.
The Teacher, so goes stuff written in the Book, also had the habit of hanging out with sex workers, adulterers and people with some badass ailments like leprosy. Provides lessons to others about this group too, eh? “Let those without sin cast the first stone” shut some shmarmy “judgy-judgersons” up pretty fast, didn’t it? “Don’t judge others unless you want to be judged” is another paraphrased goodie.
Got another doozie for you – love your neighbor as yourself.
Not “love your housed neighbor”.
Not “love only those folks that you think may not negatively influence your property values”.
Not “love your neighbor if they are Christian or profess a strong desire to be one”.
Not “if you are housed and the other person is not they can’t be considered a neighbor, so don’t worry about it”.
Not “love your sober neighbor”.
Not “love only those that have never had conflict with the law”.
Not “if your neighbor happens to be nuts then seriously pity them, but keep them homeless because you would only be setting them up for failure if you thought about putting a roof over their head like you’ve got”.
I’ll stop there with lovely love examples.
And yet there are some Christian missions that continue to reinforce a deserving and undeserving poor. There are some places that make you pray for your supper. Other joints make you meet with the chaplain or enroll in bible study if you are there for more than two days. Last month I was at a shelter that required everyone staying there to start the day with group prayer and devotion with the Chaplain (and they get government funding to help operate the shelter). Many Christian service organizations demand sobriety, even though there seems to be evidence that Jesus either drank (well, turned it into his blood, I guess) and/or supported others in drinking (“Wedding of Cana for a thousand please Alex”). I’ve even seen an entire city of Christian shelter providers that require people wanting to stay there have a criminal background check and prove they have no offences in order to spend the night there. The bible talks about visiting people in prison. I guess it forgot the part where people get out of prison sometimes and still want visitors. There are places that think the person has to be rehabilitated into a good Christian before they can be considered for housing. There are other Christian services I have encountered that think it is appropriate for a person to undertake community services to pay back the “debt” of having received goods or services before they can be considered for shelter.
Thankfully not all Christian organizations share those practices. But there are so many that do that it really makes me shake my head. I have to think better service can be offered that meets people where they are at in the way that Christ does so many times in the gospel.
Be awesome to each other. I have this feeling being awesome to others means housing them no matter what, but that’s just my interpretation of things. Be awesome to each other also means cutting out the judgment and the evangelization and getting onto the business of serving others based upon their needs, not your beliefs.
Otherwise, God grant me the serenity not to lose my shit.