I really don’t have time to follow any social media religiously, generally glancing at a page and perhaps scrolling down an inch or two when I have a moment. I tend to glance at headlines, often pre-selected for me by a non-human intelligence, I expect. Nextdoor dot com occasionally has a story that looks important to read, because it’s local. Recently a poster from Bethlehem noted meeting a homeless person and was asking virtual neighbors where to turn for help (for the homeless person). The answers weren’t surprising but reminded me of something I recently heard elsewhere—this is where churches still have a chance to shine. While I’m tired of all the doctrinal and theological nonsense that arises from those who didn’t pay close enough attention in seminary, I do lament the plight of our churches.
Society has been too Republican for too long to care for those who can’t make it in an uber-capitalist environment. Those with mental illnesses turned out when Reagan-era “reforms” “improved” our system for handling them. Those who, through no fault of their own, can’t hold down a job. Those who just happened to end up on the wrong side of a wave and find that a new wave breaks over them before they can properly take a fresh breath. As the most affluent nation in the world, each homeless person is a reminder of the terrible price we pay for living within a system that rewards greed far above anything else. Churches do have their problems—I’ve experienced many of them firsthand—but they often feel an obligation to take care of the sick, the homeless, the elderly. Those not of value to a capitalist system because they don’t “contribute.”
When I commuted to Manhattan my bus arrived early. I often saw the many homeless sleeping on the street as I made my way across Midtown. Many days I wished I had an extra peanut butter sandwich with me so that I could give them something. Anything. Churches that aren’t caught up bickering about whose genitals belong where, or whether females are equal to males, often turn their sights to those who need help. These churches are supported by the donations of members (for which said members can claim a tax break). These are members who care for those they’ve never met, simply because they are human and in need. Churches themselves are now facing difficult times and, unless they support Republican causes, can be assured they won’t receive a government bail out. Compassion may be a dying species.