The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Last night I tagged along with a church group doing a homeless ministry. Even during my post-Christian time, I respect this church for the moderate views of the pastor and the exorbitant amount of the budget that goes to service projects (upwards of 80%). They have Wednesday and Saturday night ministry in which they pack a couple of vans full of clothes, blankets, batteries, propane, other supplies and hot food and they set out to visit four ‘homeless camps’ in the inner-city. At each camp, they distribute the food and supplies and spend forty-five minutes or so mingling with the homeless.

It’s a great ministry. They pray to wrap up each camp, but speaking as an outsider, I was impressed that the time was not spent trying to preach or convert the homeless. They passed out the food and they brought them dignity by talking to them. One of the men I met, named Tom, was incredibly wise. He somehow has kept up on the 2008 presidential campaign, and so we were able to stand there in the freezing cold and have a conversation about our pet issues and favorite candidates. In the end, I had received an entirely new perspective on things and he had found an audience for his often unheard opinions. I think it was good for the both of us.

So ten points to these Christians for being able to meet genuine needs in their community.

But the night was not all positive. I traveled to this ministry (an hour away) with three people from my college. On the way there, they discussed Chrysalis (a cult if you ask me, a United Methodist retreat-like thing for young Christians) and were what I would term “super spiritual,” which was awkward enough for me, since two of the three in the car apparently do not know I am not a Christian. However, during the conversation, one of the students mentioned visiting an area of the city known for being artsy and as the “gay district.” “Why would you go to gayville? Thats gross,” declared another student, who happened to be the most spiritual proponent of Chrysalis. It never fails to shock me how Christians in one breath can praise the love of their so-called God, and in another curse people who are supposedly loved by that God.

And so lets subtract five points from these Christians for their behavior.

But the conversation continued. Turning their attention away from the heathen outsiders, they then decided to attack the character, motivations and abilities of various leaders on campus. Each of our freshman dorms have “Spiritual Life Assistants” that function as a partner to the Resident Assistants, but focus on the emotional and spiritual needs of the students. The three students in the car with me attacked one SLA in particular, for what I would consider to be erroneous and peripheral issues to his job and his character. It didn’t stop with that SLA though, it led naturally into one of his friends, and then one of her friends, and another leader, and this leader. So much for the unity of Christians.

I’m taking another three points away. So the homeless ministers can keep a total of two points for the good that they did.

What gets me is how compartmentalized they are willing to be. It’s fine to give food to the homeless and talk about spirituality and feel holy, but then they are so willing in the next breath to cut down entire people groups.

As a non-Christian, I enjoy serving the homeless, and I still attempt to keep my gossip to a minimum–even though I am under no divine mandate to do so.

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