Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Poverty Of Our Church

"Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate, I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just...." Fredrick Douglas Independence Day 1841
As I read Proverbs 28 today I continued to reflect on the same issue that has troubled me for a week now. I continued to wonder what power God's people at Cardinal Drive and everywhere would bear if our focus shifted away from the "influence" of our church in our community, to the impact of our ministry to the Kingdom. As members of our church continue to support slavery, and the exploitation of the poor through their consumerism, the blood of those poor, the sweat of the impoverished and the tears of the exploited testifies against us to God.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
One of our elders asked my opinion of the lack of involvement present in our church body. Our church at Cardinal Drive, and the other churches I have observed around me, suffer from apathy and disengagement because there is no joy in the pursuit of carnal kingdoms under the auspice of spirituality. The curses that fill our churches, and fill the lives of our church members, can be seen as a consequence to our lifestyle pursuits. The fact that the "Bible [is] disregarded and trampled upon." is as much true now as when Fredrick Douglas spoke on domestic slavery, though better disguised through buzz words like "globalization".

However, our callous blindness to those suffering in poverty is not just a global ignorance but an unwillingness to deal with our domestic neighbors that suffer from the darkness of poverty, both fiscal and emotional. This issue is a deep spiritual sickness in our culture. Philosopher John Berger famously noted that as a people we have realigned our priorities to further marginalize those suffering in poverty.

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied, but written off as trash."
Even the "enemy of God" Charles Darwin, in his journal "The voyage of the Beagle," understood the defiance to our creator that is present when we ignore poverty as he wrote, " If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."

As God's people we have become so entrenched in lifestyle choices that compel us to blindness toward the poor. Christ's compassion was deeply attuned to the suffering of the impoverished, both fiscally and emotionally, he encountered. Until we deal with the root self obsession that is an infection present in our churches, we can not correctly address the symptomatic apathy and disengagement that troubles our leadership and plagues our membership. Our spiritual impoverishment, to be cursed for this blindness, is a far more grave gallows for our future.

I personally must continue to be more transformed by the example of my contemporary heroes and friends, the Fitzjerrells, the Nowells and the Browns, to choose the wealth that comes from being a blessing to the poor.

Meant To Live

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you... I think. What i have been thinking about lately is that sometimes we serve the poor and it gives us just enough satisfaction and confidence and makes us feel better about ourselves enough that we feel like we have actually accomplished sthing. I wish we (human beings in general) would stop serving people and getting all excited about all the good that we have done for people who aren't as fortunate as we are. In many ways the poor (financially) are way better off than we are. We aren't on some higher plane stooping down to serve them. But it feels like that is how most people see it. I have struggled with this in prison ministry many times. I feel like I HELP these people. And I do... but I am no better than they are. God looks at us in the same way. Also, my constant struggle is finding a way to be in service without neglecting the basic care of my children because God expects me to lead and teach and serve them as well. And I want for them to see a mother who LOVES as God does. And at the same time I want to have the time to be with them. I do not want to always be running from one good thing to the next. It is a constant struggle for balance.