Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Who Decides Who Is Expendable?

Earlier this week in Portland, Jack Collins, a homeless man going through a mental health crisis, was shot four times by Officer Jason Walters. Jack bled to death. An Oregon public radio show, Think Out Loud discussed the issue, wondering about police force. My response is this:

The problem I see is not with a policeman in a particular situation, but how police are trained in general. They are trained to offer security, both for "citizens" and themselves. But they are also trained to fire on any threats, or "bad guys". I am simplifying a great deal here, but I have seen a number of police at work in different situations with the homeless. The homeless are not treated as citizens. As a pastor whose congregation is homeless, I have had a police officer tell me, "We don't care about these people, we just want to make sure that you and your staff are safe."

Thus, some people are expendable. Police officers aren't, because they "contribute." But the homeless and the mentally ill are. So if it comes down to an officer dealing with fear or with killing a homeless man, there is no option. The homeless man is expendable and there is a slight risk to the officer, therefore the homeless man must be shot four times.

They need to train officers to not fear such situations, but to be ready for them. They need to be trained to treat all people with respect, even if they don't understand what they are doing. They need to be trained to be flexible.

I could have gotten the knife off of that man without anyone being hurt, in all probability. The officer perhaps couldn't have, certainly not with him shouting at him. The only difference is our training and experience. If the officer had different training, perhaps another citizen could still be alive.

Healthcare Bill

I'm not a big one for politics. In my opinion, it's all a bunch of compromise or bull****. I will say this, though. If this healthcare bill gets passed and through the gauntlet of legislation, then every street person will have health insurance by 2014. Every one.

This will mean a lot as many folks are not gaining health care because they don't have money to pay for it, and they don't want to be in debt. It's a good thing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Atheism and Homelessness

Some reflections on Facebook of a cart pushed by a homeless man with a sign that says, "There is no God."

"When I initially saw this, my first thought was what the.... Then my thought was what was it that brought this man to this place. Then realized, he needed to experience love, especially the love of God that at times seems so void to many." -Mike Furches

"Indeed he does need to experience love, God's love. As does everyone who has concluded that there is no God. God's word does say "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" One can be a rich fool or a poor fool. Everyone experiences trials and hardships in life, to which one can react with bitterness and blame God or deny his existence, or by recognizing their dependence on God and crying out to him for help. Some people's hardships and sorrows are more visible to others, but all have them. A poor homeless person who denies God is as lost as a rich, apparently comfortable one, and neither has any more of an excuse in God's eyes than the other. Both are headed to Hell. But God doesn't want anyone to be lost that way. As He says in Ezekiel 33:11, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!" Someone who is a declared enemy of God, IMO is far more likely to be turned than someone who is complacent and believes he is "just as good as anyone else." As a former atheist, I'm an example. Understanding why someone feels bitter toward God can help you to connect with someone to help guide them to God, but it doesn't give them an excuse. It also smacks of condescension to imply that it does, and that they can't help it." -John Culp

To say that someone has a reason for their irrationality is not to excuse it, but to give us an opportunity to get to know the person rather than reject them outright. On the other hand, to call someone a fool or hell bound separates us from this person, where we no longer see them as human and it gives US an excuse to ignore them. Even as a man has no excuse before God for denying Him, we who claim to believe in God have no excuse before God for ignoring and not loving His enemies, even as He does. -Steve Kimes

"Okay so I wanted to weigh in on this one because I feel I kinda need to. I was homeless once and if someone approached me with my negative mindset towards God at that moment and quoted what John said, I would've turned even FURTHER away from God then I already was. John I know what God's word says, but He also speaks about His lovingkindness and compassion. Homeless people do NOT need to be condemned for things like this. What they need is someone to come alongside them and be the hands and feet of Jesus THEN share the Gospel with them. Let he who has committed no wrongs cast the first stone. We don't stone people with rocks so much anymore, but we DO stone them with our judgemental attitudes." -Jenny Baker

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Up the Revolution!

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Destruction of the World Corporate Structure

Injustice reigns in the earth. Capitalism is corrupt, only granting freedom to the wealthy, while the poor get ground in the dust. The 200 wealthiest people in the world, all heads of corporations, control 40% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 20% of the world live on 1% of the world’s wealth. The 40 wealthiest Western nations have 85% of the world’s wealth.
Perhaps such disparity in the world today wouldn’t be so bad if the governments and corporations of the world were concerned with justice in the world and providing equity for the poor. Instead, the wealthy of the world use their economic power as the whip on the backs of the oppressed.

The developing countries of the world are required to pay a huge amount of interest on loans, and so unable to pay back the loans, and thus their people starve. On the other hand, the United States has a trillion-dollar debt that they can refuse to pay, if they want. The corporations of the West use Chinese labor to do the menial tasks that the workers of the West find demeaning or that don’t pay enough. Then the Chinese oppress their people, telling them where to work, how to worship, where to live and how many children to have. The world corporations are creating oppression as well in Vietnam, Mexico, Haiti, Bangladesh, Singapore, and multitudes of other developing nations. And all this, while not discouraging them to cease the oppression of ethnic, religious and political minorities.

The governments of the West, especially the United States, are controlled by the corporations, who gain benefits in how much taxes they pay, what tariffs are to be imposed on imports and which developing nations are to be given benefits and which governments are to be destroyed by the U.S. military. And even the nations that receive benefits, they receive it with a price tag that requires them to act in the benefit of the West. Colonization may be dead, but the North American and European nations are controlling the world economically through the UN, the WTO and through their diplomatic carrots and sticks.

In the twenty-first century, economic power is absolute power. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The poor are crying out in opposition to the world corporate structure. Protests are happening all over the world. The world press is decrying the controls of the West- although the American press never acknowledges a peep of the worldwide outcry.

What will happen? Will the poor rise up and overthrow their oppressors? Will there be unification among the workers who will overcome the wealth and power of the corporations? Will a great class war happen that will change the economic structure of the world and set all people free economically? Will there be real change in humanity that will provide justice for everyone?

Give me a break.

Let’s look at this historically. Those who were truly poor have never been successful in rising up against their oppressors. From the rise of the Lombards in the 1400s to the Peasants’ War in the early 1500s to the Rebellion of John Brown in the mid 1800s to the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda in the late 1900s, when the truly poor violently rise up against their oppressors, it only ends in tragedy and in the oppressors having an example of why they need to oppress.
Violence and resistance can create an economic change, such as the French Revolution, the Labor Parties, the Communist Revolutions of Russia and China. But the economic benefits are limited to a particular class of people, usually the middle class. Thus, the poor are not assisted at all, but only those who had enough power to enact change themselves.

This is not real change. It is just trading one set of oppressors for another. And this is a summary of the history of the world, for the last 10,000 years.

There is, however, another way for real change to occur. There is a way for the world corporate system to be destroyed and to be replaced by justice. But it requires much more than most people are willing to give. It does not require power, but humility. Not control, but persecution and death.

We need to recognize that the only force that will change things in the world for good is God. God alone has the power and authority to change the world permanently. God alone has the compassion and desire to help the poor, the lowest of the low (Check it out in the Bible- Exodus 22:21-27). God alone, of all the powers that have ever existed, has dedicated himself to helping those who are truly in need (Psalm 146:3-9). And he has promised that any governmental, corporate or religious power that oppressed the poor, he will destroy (Psalm 82:1-8; Revelation 18:1-24).

However, God requires the poor to do one most important thing- to cry out to him for help. The poor must recognize his authority over them and then cry out to him (Exodus 22:23; II Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 18:6-17; Psalm 34:17; Psalm 107). They must turn from the evil things they do- from oppressing their neighbor and do good to all, and then God will listen to them (Micah 3:4; Hosea 8:2-3; Ezekiel 18:27). And those who are poor must ask God persistently for God’s deliverance from oppression and he will give it (Luke 18:2-8). Such humility is required from God to gain freedom from oppression (Luke 18:10-14).

And this way of life needs to be given to others who are poor. Many need to be shown and taught this way of life in order for the oppression of the world corporate structure to be destroyed. If a single person cries out against an oppressor, then that one will be delivered from the one oppressor. If a multitude of poor, all around the world, cry out against the world corporate structure, then the whole world will be changed. This means that we need a multitude of people dedicated to God and to cry out to him for justice to change the world.
But even the humility and the training of others is not enough. We need to prove the oppression. We need to show that oppression really is occurring- for no power overthrows another without proof. This means that we need to put ourselves in the front lines of oppression. We need to show God and the world that the world corporate structure is willing to sacrifice and kill others, but not itself.

How do we do this? Through non-violent, public outcry against oppression. Through standing in front of the violent and haters of the poor, and telling them to stop or they will be destroyed by God. Through praying for God’s justice in their presence.

And then letting them oppress us.

When they want to arrest us, we let them. When they want to punish us, we let them. When they want to hit us, we let them and we do not hit back. Instead, we make a public spectacle of their oppression. We give them an opportunity to show how evil they really are.

And they will be destroyed. By God. By someone God appoints. But the world will change.
Some say, How can you know this? This has never happened before! It can never succeed!

Wrong. It has succeeded. And the poor have been released by this very method. Martin Luther King Jr. used this method against those oppressing the black communities, even allowing himself to be martyred. Gandhi used this method, systematically destroying the power of the British. The Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century used this method- thousands dying for the Truth- and changed the face of Christianity. The Waldensians used this method, and caused there to be a resurgence of concern for the poor, including the powerful Franciscan movement. And all of these successful movements were sourced from one person- Jesus.

Jesus himself came to assist the poor. He brought them freedom and stood against the oppressive authorities that used their power for injustice. But rather than begin a violent revolution, he suffered and was executed as a rebel. And it was because of this that a movement sprang up among the poor that changed the ethical outlook of the world- Christianity. And through Jesus the Jewish government was destroyed and the Roman government was changed forever. And while Christianity has been used for many evils throughout the centuries, the teaching and life of Jesus has been used as an example of the most positive world changers that has existed.

Jesus’ method of world change is just as outlined above-
Do no evil, but do good to the needy according to God’s love (Mark 1:15; Matthew 7:12);
Cry out to God for justice (Luke 18:1-8);
Declare to the oppressors the judgment they will face from God (Matthew 10:7, 28)
Allow them to oppress you to display their evil (Matthew 5:38-48)
Teach the poor the message of freedom from oppression through the way of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20)
And justice will prevail through the power of God! (Matthew 10:24-27)

The world system will be changed! but only through the way of Jesus.

Fashion Concern

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