After 5 years of work, I am now cleared to find work in a church setting. This was in response to 3 things. First, their commitment to social justice, caring beyond themselves not just about individual people, but about the whys and hows that these individuals end up needing help. Second, they value education. They aren’t afraid to learn truth, no matter what it might be. They recognize that if something is true, then it is from God and don’t let their theology dictate what God should be like. Third, the church I have been a part of really cared about me. They poured time, money, food, help, and training into me to make me what I am.
I have gone before committee after committee, telling them what I believe. I have done the same with professors, pastors, and even those who don’t profess any belief, just to make sure what I was saying was coherent. And all agree that the theology I have now is more true to the scriptures and less manipulative than the one I had before. And because of my former life, manipulating the scriptures, manipulating people, telling stories that I knew would make young people cry at camp, just so they would be mold-able when I gave the alter call— I refuse to be silent when I see it happening with others. Especially from those who are the leaders of huge megachurches (it should be noted that just because a church is big, does not mean that God is blessing them)— those guys should know better. No, I won’t stand down when they use the name of Christ to do ridiculous things, giving all churches a bad name in the process. On the contrary, I will yell from the rooftops when the church does something inappropriate, because if the church doesn’t judge themselves, then the outside world will do it, and we have already seen the disastrous results of this very thing in our world today. The church has become the butt of jokes at best and at worst, implicated in the harm of little children and the cause of wars.
When the great church planter Paul of Tarsus, upon learning the truth about his faith, went before the committee of his day, he told them what he believed They validated his message, but, in Paul’s own words, “They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.”
But now many of your megachurches, who venerate Paul above all else, are leaving behind the teaching that clearly motivated Paul in the first place. Just as Paul stood up to Peter himself when he felt Peter had stepped off-mission, I will do the same. I confront you in the name of the poor who both Jesus and Paul fought for. You talk so much about how the church should take care of the poor, and yet so very few of you actually do it. Sure, the volume that you give might be great, but consider the amount you give next to your available resources. Truth be told, your budgets average $5 million per year. You employ an average of 50 staff, and half of your budget goes to pay them salaries that are far greater than those of the average person in your community. So it is easy to see why you would hesitate to speak up against a system that is working so well for you, but not for those at the bottom. Your feeble attempts to “outreach” to the poor by planning day trips to the soup kitchen (how well attended are these vs. your rockin’ services) and your claims that by bringing more people in, there are more resources to serve the poor are pathetic.
Don’t you remember what James, the brother of Jesus said? “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?”
If you won’t listen to me, listen to James. It is not enough to do things FOR the poor. With all of your resources, where is the church OF the poor? You shouldn’t care so much about how your bottom line will be affected. Care instead about the poor and the suffering.
Most of us have never been so poor that we have to get food from the charity of others; yet we know that our spiritual wealth is tied with out material wealth. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, and so we know that by following a homeless, jobless man can lead to great riches in God’s community. But what if, in our desire to do greater and greater things for Christ, we ourselves have been found guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees? Do you really expect the world to believe that the homeless, jobless, revolutionary, politically active Jesus is the poster-boy for your well-to-do, clean shaven, safe, top 2% of the wealthiest, sanitized, don’t rock the boat, non-controversial status-quo? Hell no! If we stand for the very things that Christ taught against, then we are the bad guys here. You were supposed to have died to all of those previous things, so that you might live for God. We have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us. The life we now live in our body, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
God won’t stop caring and fighting for those less fortunate. However, if you continue to ally yourself with those who are only looking out for the bottom line, then your faith is suspect from point A to Z.