Monday, May 10, 2010

Let the church be the church

When senior citizens at a retirement center near Savannah, Georgia were told they could no longer have a communal prayer at mealtime they were, understandably, upset. So was their mayor and their families. After all, this generation has been praying before eating since they first learned, "God is great; God is good; Let us thank Him for our food." Some of them were praying for their daily bread when it was a lousy Army issued K-ration wolfed down in a French foxhole.

According to a WSBT news report, the company that provides their meals is contracted with the federal government to provide subsidized meals. Seniors are charged only 55 cents for food that costs the feds $6.00 per person. Consequently, the food service contractor has grown jittery about the separation of church and state, and has replaced the community voiced prayer with a moment of silence - much to the dismay of those breaking bread together.

My question: now what?

In particular, how will the churches of Port Wentworth, Georgia respond to this decision?

I they're like many churches I've read about, they'll meet in their basements and paint picket signs. They'll mobilize for action. They'll call folks of like sympathy and prepare to march on city hall. They'll write their elected officials. Within a day or two of the story hitting the wire, we'll be reading about Christian organizations across the country decrying this decision. It will be on Christian television. Political action committees with right-leaning Christian sympathies will send out mailers to their faithful coffer-fillers urging them to "give generously to continue the fight."

Not that any of that is bad, necessarily. It's just that it doesn't work.

But what if the eighteen churches of Port Wentworth would take a different approach entirely? What if they told Uncle Sam to keep his lunch money and, instead, began providing the meals themselves? What if they said, "You know, there was a time when the church fed widows. Had a whole committee of seven guys set up to oversee it. Called 'em deacons. Didn't charge the old ladies a dime, and nobody went hungry." What if that happened?

Frankly speaking (that is the name of the blog after all), it should never have come to this. Twenty centuries removed from the first church we've abdicated our responsibility to care for our senior citizens to the federal government. The federal government? Shame on us.

When I read about the church's very first "meals on wheels," I can't help but notice what happens next. Right after the amazing description of how the early church cared for it's senior citizens we read, "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Maybe if the twenty-first century church would follow the example of our first-century fathers and mothers we would see similar results.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

She was well dressed, if somewhat conservatively in her black knit top and matching black pants. She was pretty. Short hair, olive skin. Asian, I think. Her eyes were puffy and red, her cheeks flushed. She had been crying, or was just about to. She was walking from a residence toward her car and I thought, “She must be coming from a wake. Someone has passed and she put on her all black clothes and drove here to sit with the family.”

Then I noticed her clipboard. Who takes a clipboard to a funeral? It was the sort that a foreman carries, or a cop – metal, with a hinged lid that opens to a compartment about an inch-and-a-half deep.

I mulled it over a minute or two and then it came to me. She was a census worker.

I can only imagine the confrontation that led to her tear-swollen eyes. Did the doorbell wake up a sleeping third-shift worker? Did the insistent knocking prove one thing too many for a harried toddler-herding mother? Perhaps the person behind the door at 2710 David Street believes there was a shooter on the grassy knoll. A government plot to blow up the World Trade Centers. That the census is one more way for an overly intrusive government to maltreat its citizens. If so, a census worker of Asian decent would have fit all too neatly into his or her conspiracy addled brain.

All she wanted was a number. “How many people live in your home?”

But some people just don’t want to be counted.