Friday, April 14, 2006

Will you hear my confession and accept my apology?

This morning, I read a challenging chapter about "confession of sin" in a challenging book called Blue Like Jazz. The author of the book took part in a most unusual form of confession on his college campus in which the Christians on campus confessed their sins and the sins of the millions before them who have sinned against others in thought, word, and deed to those who were not followers of Christ. They confessed and apologized for the Crusades, the Inquisition, missionary journeys that included the murder of those who refused to convert, and every other time that the name of Jesus has been used as justification for slaughter. They confessed and apologized for how "Christians" have neglected the poor, the hungry, the needy, and the downcast. They apologized for television evangelists who sell Jesus but don't seem to be living as He would live. They apologized for not visiting the imprisoned, standing up for those who are abused, and not loving the unloved as Christ did and as Christ would have us do. Those brief hours of confession changed that campus' perception of those who follow Christ.

I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for how little I have cared for those who are truly in need. Sure, I rail against one cause or another every now and then. I'll march against a few things here and there, but I haven't made it my life's mission to live out my relationship with Christ in a missional and intentional way that will make a lasting change in anyone's life. Especially the poor and those on minimum wage. I really want to change in that area; I want to make my life more about serving than being served, more about speaking up, writing about, and living in such a way as to affect the lives of those in need, those whom Christ called "the least of these."

Many months ago, I read and blogged about a book called Nickel and Dimed which was written by Barbara Ehrenreich who tried to live on minimum wage for a three or four month period in various cities across our country. Intense book. Not long after I read it, I suggested it as a book for the book club I was a part of at the time. We read it. We discussed it. Intense discussion.

The topic of living on minimum wage, of living below the poverty line brings up a lot of emotion for those of us who don't have to live solely on minimum wage. We blather on about the laziness of people who refuse to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We wag our fingers at those who drop out of high school or get pregnant during their teenage years or otherwise doom themselves to fates that are less than the best that they could have imagined. We pontificate about how hard we worked to get where we are and preach against giving a free ride to anyone else when we never got one. Perhaps some of that is true and ought to be taken seriously. But, for God's sake, what are we doing about it?

We walk around with WWJD on bracelets, bumper stickers, and keychains. I'm sorry to say that I don't think many of us actually do what Jesus would do. After all, He fed thousands. He hung out with prostitutes, liars, adulterers, lepers, and cheats. He touched them, talked to them, ate with them, and never, ever turned one away. I'm not aware of any passage in the Gospels where Jesus, during His ministry on earth, ever condemned a lost soul, turned His back on someone in need, or advocated any public, private, or personal policy that rejected the downtrodden, the sick, or the imprisoned. I have read lots of passages about His compassion, His desire to gather the lost ones under His wings, and His urgency in getting from one place to another so that He could preach, heal, and feed the sick, the hungry, and the outcast. I know that I haven't walked the talk, or lived what I say I believe. Not nearly enough, anyway.

What would it mean to the poor, the homeless, the hungry in this nation and all around our world, if we who claim to be followers of Christ cared for the poor as much as we care for our pets? Is there a way to make sure on a daily basis that they are fed, have a safe place to sleep, and aren't abused but rather are loved and affirmed by someone? What if we cared as much about the safety and welfare of the children attending this nation's dismal, run-down, unsafe schools as we do about the dogs and cats that live in dismal, run-down, and unsafe homes? What would that look like? What would that involve? Do we dare imagine what that would be like? Do I?

I could/should sponsor more than the two children I sponsor now.
I could/should volunteer at a homeless shelter.
I could/should buy groceries for people I know who are in need and deliver them.
I could/should take the list I recently recieved, buy the needed items, and deliver them to the home that is seeking to meet the needs of unwed, pregnant women.
I should go through my closet, my dresser, and those of my children in order to give of our excess to those who have nothing.
My mother recently returned from a week in Mississippi where she ministered to those who remain homeless after the ravages of Katrina. What should I do in response to that ongoing tragedy?

I must admit that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all. There are so many tragedies, so many needs, so much disease, despair, and destruction. I feel so small, so inadequate, and so desperate to protect myself and my children from all harm and danger. I can't fix it all. I can't change it all. However, the question remains: What am I going to do? I can certainly do something.

For starters, I'm going to watch today's Oprah show about the plight of people who live on minimum wage and carefully consider the reality of those who cook and serve the french fries at McDonald's but cannot afford to eat there, those who display and sell the low cost t-shirts at WalMart but cannot afford to shop there, and those who clean our homes, wash the dishes we use at restaurants, and mow our lawns, but can never imagine living the lives we lead.

I almost NEVER advise or suggest that people watch television, but today I am. Because this episode is so relevant to what I've been reading, thinking about, and being disturbed about over the past year or so, I know that I will tune in, and I suggest that those who can, do the same.

After the show, I will decide when to go to the supermarket to buy toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, and trash bags for the young women awaiting their newborn babies. Such a simple act with such a profound impact. After that, I don't know what I will do, but I've gotta do something.

Any suggestions?

1 comment:

Lori said...

Wow Gail, you hit a nerve, I've been convicted over and over again by the same things. The lesson I learned over the past 4 years since I've been working in a 3 world country is that I don't point fingers anymore. What's really sad is you don't have to go to a third world country to see poverty. Can't wait to see you in June. IN HIM,LORI PS I read Blue Like Jazz and I have mixed feeling about it. The penquin chapter is hysterical and brings home alot.