Tag Archives: helping

Lack of Focus

Or, perhaps, the title of this post should be “The Wrong Focus.”

Some of the most fervent people pursue their missions from entirely the wrong standpoint, and so it is with many conservative, fundamentalist Christians, because they aren’t really as focused on the fundamentals as their descriptor would suggest.

See, my problem with the “fundies” isn’t so much that they want to promote biblical ideals and Bible-based behavior as it is that they put at the top of their agenda subjects on which Jesus didn’t really focus and/or that are only hinted at vaguely in the Bible…while also putting at the bottom of their priority list those things on which Jesus spoke most clearly and directly.

So, on the one hand, they’ll pick out a Bible passage about ancient punishments for hitting a pregnant woman in the belly and killing her unborn child, along with God’s words in the Book of Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” and say, “See! God hates abortion! Let’s go have a huge campaign against women controlling their own bodies and hijack freedom of choice and science while ignoring more pertinent issues that affect more people.”

Never mind that causing the death of a woman’s fetus in an act of violence or irresponsibility was a crime because it assumed the woman wanted to give birth and you took that away from her (i.e. took the life that she had charge of). Also never mind that the quote from Jeremiah is about foreknowledge and foreplanning on God’s part, not about when life begins. Never mind that Jesus never once mentioned anything about fetuses, and his words are the ones Christians should focus on most.

And then, on the other hand, with poverty rising, kids and adults going without food, healthcare becoming increasingly inaccessible and the rich hoarding more and more of the money just because they can (even though they don’t need that much), you’ll see fundies cringe at any notion that even hints at socialism or talks about fairness and sharing, even though Jesus spent huge gobs of his time talking about economic fairness and taking care of the less fortunate.

Not to mention the fact the early Christian church essentially practiced communism, or something very close to it.

But they’ll ignore that and point to his parable of the talents and claim Jesus was a free market capitalist even though the parable is talking about spiritual growth and responsibility, not wealth creation.

Shaking my damn head…

Getting It From Behind in Missionary Position

I have a friend…no, really, it’s a friend. It’s not me.

I wouldn’t have the patience to do what she does, so it’s really not my situation I’m venting about.

Anyway, she runs a small not-for-profit agency that serves as a community center in an impoverished and crime-ridden area. Her board of directors cannot be motivated to do anything that would actually grow the organization (which is seeing much fewer church donations and grant funding, but a lot more utilization of services), nor to respect her abilities (though several board members speak highly of the male head of another community-based organization and praise him for his actions, while rejecting most of the suggestions of my female friend, even though hers are comparable, and she’s managed to run an organization on a shoestring with a sedate board while his board busts their asses to make sure he can actually afford to hire people).

What it always comes back to, every time that she tries to convince them to bring more business people onto the board (people with financial connections who can help bring in funds and other support), or to urge them to plan fundraisers (instead of relying on ever-diminishing grant and foundation funding), or she tries to push for actual staffing (since she’s the only person who’s a paid employee, and underpaid by far, at that)…well…

…well, they pull out their Bibles.

Metaphorically, that is.

She mentions that they need to focus less on bringing more Christians onto the board, and they remind her that the organization was originally founded as a church (which it failed at, given that there are plenty of under-attended churches in the area already, and people are more concerned about daily survival). Doesn’t matter that, as she points out, the YMCA and Salvation Army have a Christian foundation, but reach out well beyond that base.

She mentions that they need to raise funds by having events, and they suggest she reach out to more churches. Never mind that the churches that once supported the organization have reduced their donations year after year as needs have gone up.

She mentions that they need staff to work with the increasing number of people who come to the organization, so that she can focus on administrative duties, and they suggest getting more volunteers. Never mind that volunteers are often unreliable in terms of attendance and many who come to the center are kids, and want to have stable adult figures, not a rotating door mentality. Also, never mind that when she gets volunteers from local colleges that need service learning credits, their semester is almost over by the time she has them adequately trained, which means constant wasting of time on very time-limited resources. They suggest she ask more churches for volunteers. These would be the same churches that haven’t been giving any other support, of course, for years…and they want to send older people who complain about the lack of air conditioning and the plethora of kids and don’t come back. Great idea, huh?

My point is, they always come back to the argument that what this center really needs to be is what it was founded as shortly after the church idea fell apart: to be a Christian mission.

So they want more Bible study and proselytizing, even though what is needed is a safe place for people (the at-risk kids, mostly) to gather and a place for them to get food and possibly connections to other services, like parenting classes, job training, financial education, and the like.

They are so fixated on being a Christian mission program that they have totally lost sight of their Christian mission.

That is to say: Jesus taught about reaching out to the sick and the needy and to letting God shine through our actions.

My friend has a board that is so hell-bent on looking Christian that they’ve completely forgotten that we are largely to spread the Gospel and being beacons to bring people to Christ by acting like Christians. That is, following in the example of Jesus.

They aren’t a mission. Instead, they have a mission. One that had been delivered into their laps and which they ignore to hold to a gameplan that probably never applied and certainly doesn’t anymore.

An entire board of Christians has turned away from a crying need in the community. A calling, really. And why? So that they won’t lose their Christian roots.

How blind is that?

Drive-by Scripture, Acts 4:31-37

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), old a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 4, verses 31-37, New International Version)

I would like every Christian fundamentalist who goes on and on about the evils of social service programs, the peril of socialized medicine and the like to read the above passage and then kindly, shut the hell up.

I find it incredibly annoying how many Christians will say, “But that’s not the government doing that in the Bible. It was Christians. I’m all for Christians and churches giving out help, but not the government with my taxes!”

And yet, two things are so abudantly clear.

First, churches are generally unable, and often unwilling, to help at the kind of levels needed to ensure that families have healthcare and other basic necessities when they can’t afford them (and who can these days?). Individual Christians, too, often the very ones who spout the rhetoric I just exemplified above, also don’t provide the necessary levels of support to do these things.

Second, these are often the very same Christians who have no problem with our tax dollars being spent to wage war on nations for no particularly good reason, and to occupy them for years after the original conflict has ended. These are often also the people who call upon government to craft laws in line with the Bible.

Because, you know, government should enforce God’s will when it’s punitive or to rein in our behaviors, but Heaven forbid that it should get involved with the more important Christian principles of mercy, love, comfort and help.

Two-fer Tuesday: Blindness by Miz Pink

It won’t be much a surprise to anybody I guess that Deke and I neitehr one of us will be talking about “real” blindness today. Though it is an important issue to be sure.

I wanted to talk about the way we sometimes fail to see the positives in life.

Its really easy I know. Sometimes those positives are buried under a whole heaping mess of crap. And it’s at those times that people who aren’t chrisitian (or spiritual in general) look at faith based folks and say that we’re trying to hard to find God’s grace and justify bad things and write off suffering as Gods will.

Suffering isn’t God’s will, not really. I don’t know exactly what happened to separate God and people aside from the story of the Garden of Eden and I have plenty of reasons to doubt that story happened like its told to us. But somehow somewhere for some reason we DID break with God (I don’t believe he broke with us) and created a spiritual rift between heaven and earth.

Suffering on this planet is typically the work of people. We hurt people directly or we refuse to help them.

But there are times when suffering is a way to reveal God’s glory or when it provides a chance for us to show God’s love through our own actions to help.

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (Gospel of  John chapter 9, verses 1-3, New International Version)

God didn’t punish that blind man. Jesus says that right out. But did God make him blind? Just so Jesus could heal him? Probably not. Jesus didn’t say that God did it to make a poin. He said that it “happened” for reason. God works in little ways throughout the world and in our lives. People wonder why miracles don’t happen or why God doesn’t seem to intervene but he does. But he does so in small ways.

We aren’t chess pieces for him to move. But we are each of us a catalyst or an ingredient in something bigger. A  pinch here a pinch there, an addition here or deletion there…God doesn’t MAKE us do stuff. But he does try to make sure people are around where they are needed. He will not force us to do the right thing, but he gives us opportunities to do his work on Earth for the betterment of all.

If we could just open our eyes.

Two-fer Tuesday: Faces by Deacon Blue

Faces in the crowd.

They’re easy to miss, aren’t they?

One person among a mass of folks. We see the multitude, but we miss the particular human.

Or do we? Have we missed that person, or intentionally averted our eyes?

Think about it. If you see someone sexy in a crowd, you often pick him or her out of the masses, don’t you, and you keep watching a while, right? If there is someone who annoys you or amuses you, you focus on that person well enough, and probably keep watching the person so that you can riff on him or her with your friends.

But what about the person who looks like they really need help? Maybe someone who’s standing by a dead car in a busy parking lot, and you don’t bother to take a few minutes to use the jumper cables in your trunk to help. Maybe someone who clearly is in need of food or shelter, and you won’t spare a measly couple bucks in your wallet to help. Or someone at work who could clearly use a friendly ear at lunchtime, but you decide to leave your lunch in the fridge and go out rather than lend that ear.

I’ve done that myself. That’s why I picked the examples I did. And it shames me how many times I’ve done all three of those things. And how many other faces in the crowd have I ignored? I don’t have the courage to count them all.

(Image from University of British Columbia Web site)