It happens every time. A church opens its parking lot for a homeless community, and neighbors complain. They throw out hysterical accusations that their homes will be broken into, women will be stalked, children kidnapped and safety will plummet.
Inevitably a good, concerned fellow Christian who lives in the neighborhood will appeal to the church not to inflict such fear and trauma on their neighbors. It’s the Christians that make me crazy. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking and their stupidity depressing. One wonders if they have a clue about the hymns they sing, the prayers they pray, the sermons they hear, the Bible they read, or even the acts of mercy and grace that others in the congregation perform every day. Such heartless, spiritually dysfunctional churchgoers cause me to lament the possibility that religion can be anything other than a self-justifying excuse to feel superior to others.
So for those dull and dimwitted children of God, I have composed five good reasons to avoid the homeless at all costs.
First, it is spiritually good to oppose all homeless encampments because if you allow one in your neighborhood you will quickly discover that most of your non-Christian neighbors are more courageous, generous and compassionate than you are.
Second, it is good to make wild accusations against the homeless because otherwise you might actually have a conversation with someone who changes your opinion.
Third, if you dare to visit the encampment you might discover that Jesus lives in a tent. Crucifying those you claim to love causes internal torment and is not good for one’s image of self-righteousness.
Fourth, picking on others in their moment of need, rather than confronting those who have created the need, is much easier. It also wins you friends that like to pick on others, and together you can form a partnership and feel momentarily powerful.
And fifth, you should avoid the homeless because in their poverty you might see reflected your own impoverishment. Sure you might have a house but you might discover that it is empty most of the time. You might have money but discover that it can’t secure you against all your massive fears.
You might have nice clothes and good looks, only to discover ugly warts growing all around your shrinking heart. It is dangerous to be around homeless folks because each one of them carries the image of your own self crying out, “Can I be loved?”
I wish every complainer would take a week out of their life and live in a homeless encampment. I suspect if they did they would be reborn.
Rev. Rich Lang is the district superintendent of the King County United Methodist Church, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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