Criminalizing the homeless: A man named Harry

homeless-feet

Last Wednesday I met a man named Harry (pseudonym), sitting on Queen Street with no money. He didn’t bash me with the Bible, harass me with a petition, or eyeball me to donate towards a cause I don’t believe in. Actually, he never said a word to draw my attention.

Offering my hand towards his own I introduced myself and sat down beside his cup of coins. “How’s your week been bro?” So starts a conversation that neither myself nor he expected to receive on a cold Auckland morning.

45 minutes with a total stranger that I will forever remember as Harry.

The new by-law that essentially criminalizes beggars is a disgrace to democracy let alone what it means to live in society. Time, money, a listening ear, an attentive heart, and the will to see the humanity of another; we have forgotten what it means to encounter someone’s needs other than our own. I’m all for giving to charity, but you can go your whole life giving to charity and never see poverty humanized, incarnated, fleshed out, and needing help in the NOW. The new by-law has fundamentally killed the spirit of the Samaritan, just to justify the ignorance of the priest and the neglect of the Levite.

“People walk past…but they don’t see me… If someone just gave me a chance…” – Words that I will never forget.

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Bob McKoskrie and hetero-phobia: The fear of people different from yourself

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It is incredibly sad that even though today is a historic moment in New Zealand’s social history, there are still trolls trolling about ready to pounce on the fun and dampen the party. ‘Hetero-phobia’ can be described as the fear of something or someone different, and as Bob McKoskrie has shown yet again – trolls be trolling (http://bobmccoskrie.com/?p=9066).

McKoskrie’s creativity seems to be limited to stale boundaries of hyper-fundamentalism, in which apparently he holds the universal truth of the definition of marriage, in which he has and still does vehemently defend. The use of the Bible as an authoritative weapon of mass distraction obviously does more harm than good. Why, why, why do fundamental evangelicals continue to paint a violent, judgemental, racist, condemning and bigot of a Jesus? As the popular maxim goes, ‘what would Jesus do?’ It is obvious that the actions of the fundamental right differ extremely from the ethos of Jesus the liberator of the oppressed and healer of the broken. This reminds me of the passage in scripture when Jesus gave up his last breath and cried out “it is finished!” In which the curtain in the temple was torn in two, and the division that kept people from encountering God freely was done away with.

It seems to me that whether it has been slavery, colonization, segregation, apartheid, and now same-sex marriage – the Church has always been the one justifying the dehumanizing of ‘the other.’ One could say that throughout history, the Church has metaphorically taken the torn curtain and repaired it to once again separate people from fully encountering their humanity.

I beg of the so-called ‘defenders of THE definition of marriage’ – everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when it is discriminating against others then serious analysis needs to be considered. I’m no pastor or theologian but I think it’s pretty straight forward that Jesus’ message hung on two paradigms in which it seems dominant Church culture has neglected: LOVE God, and LOVE people. Difference is wonderful and should be celebrated.

Doubt saved my faith

a-new-kind-of-christianity

Last week I was ready to give up on the story of Jesus, a story that is dominated by an individualist, environmentally negligent, hell evasive, and dualistic worldview. I began doubting and questioning my faith and whether the good news was actually ‘good’ let alone relevant to society. So I started reading this book – ‘a new kind of Christianity’ – and it pretty much ‘saved’ me from the contempt I had for the gospel according to mainstream evangelicalism, replacing it with a realization that the good news of Jesus’ kingdom is far more authentic and holistic than the lines that Church norms conform it to reside within. This existential epiphany was then solidified twice today in both a morning and night service at an emergent Church aptly named ‘the edge’. Indeed tonight I feel renewed and hungry to live out my love for the Jesus of the kingdom of God; a kingdom in which social justice, the environment, economic equity,  and a faith of doubting (wondering) is intimately important to the God of all creation.

The reason why the Church doesn’t give two hoots about social responsibility

OCCUPY JESUS P

Mainstream evangelicalism (dominant church culture) is embedded with a dualistic philosophy that denies the relevance of social justice now. This platonic theology relegates the earth to a sinking ship in which the only solution is to rush every individual onto the life raft of Jesus. As the world/matter and heaven/spirit are platonically opposing, ‘saving souls’ takes precedence over social responsibility. In a way one could term conversion as the only ‘social responsibility’ of the Church. Indeed if what really “matters is the soul, then thinking about the way socio-economic, material structures and institutions shape people is hardly important” (Sider, 2012, p. 3).

Socio-political concerns are labelled as irrelevant in a dying world, in which the only thing that matters is escaping “this world and its problems by going to heaven after death” (McLaren, 2007, p. 21). This dualism cements the Church’s main goal; which is the salvation of every soul through personal conversion (being born-again). Sider (2012) indicates how this perspective encourages personal conversion over social transformation – accordingly social problems would apparently disappear “if everyone were converted to personal faith in Christ” (Sider, 2012, p. 2).

Social responsibility should be crucially important to mainstream evangelicalism as it was a key message of Jesus’ ministry. The individualistic philosophy of dualism has silhouetted the socially inept gospel of evangelical culture. The gospel has ceased to create transformation and liberation, and has instead become a spiritual message of societal distraction (p. 29), in which the only things that matter is individual souls going to heaven and the accumulation of personal blessings in the meantime. Mainstream evangelicalism denies the relevance of social responsibility, even though societal concern and transformation is at the heart of the kingdom of God.

Works Cited

McLaren, B. (2007). Everything must change: When the world’s biggest problems and Jesus’ good news collide. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Sider, R. (2012). Evangelical advocacy: a response to global poverty. Evangelicals and structural injustice, 1-5.

 

 

 

Occupy Jesus: “Go forth, sell drugs and disciple others to do so too”

OCCUPY JESUS P

What practical use is Jesus in a world of high inequality and growing deprivation? How does an outdated book (and a message of heaven and hell) offer significant aid to those in poverty (economically, culturally, politically, medically or spiritually)? It seems that the only ‘remedy’ the Church offers is a 30 second prayer (of conversion) which enables individual post-mortem travel arrangements to Utopia. Is waiting for heaven the best answer evangelical philosophy has for the world’s crises? Possibly I’m just being overzealous, or maybe the Jesus I thought was a liberator is actually more of a symbol of spiritual narcotics.

Hear me out, I’m in no way denouncing my faith in Jesus, but what I am saying is that the ‘Jesus’ propagated throughout dominant Church culture seems to contradict the very essence of a Messiah (liberating king). I’d have to agree with Karl Marx in saying that “Christianity is the opium of the masses.” One could say that there is a strong drug trade (the ‘Great Commission’ Matt 28:16-20) of spiritual opium (Jesus) pushed by dealers/users (believers) to those who need an out from the worries of reality (non-believers). Once someone is hooked (saved), they become engrossed in a routine (church) of finding the ultimate high to take them to a happier mental state (heaven). I maybe tinkering on the edge of extremity, but I believe Jesus died for a greater cause than getting people selfishly engrossed in a process of denial and escapism from the world of reality.

It’s time the church and wider society enter into a conversation as to what Jesus was really preaching about 2000 years ago.

 

Occupy Jesus: Re-framing the ‘good news’

OCCUPY JESUS P 

“A gospel of hell-evasion provides a cheap, convenient, and fast alternative to the kingdom of God.” [1]

In his book, ‘Everything must change’, Brian McLaren describes the failure of dominant Church culture in being an ambassador of a loving God. Evidently the Church has exclusively focused on dealing with ‘spiritual needs’ while neglecting social problems; seemingly obsessed with individual post-mortem destinations. Seriously, is it just me or is the threat of hell the basis for Church membership?

Is there anything in the Bible about social justice and equitable global economics or is it just a random old book used by religious fanatics and middle class conservatives to further violence, global poverty and environmental destruction? There is. Indeed one could say that Jesus was a political activist and social revolutionary more than a spiritual guide to a foreign kingdom of utopian ecstasy.

Starting off his ministry, Jesus declared in his local synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

It’s no secret that Jesus was all about social justice, the proclamation of liberation, hope, freedom and  restoration seems to be at the heart of what can be termed ‘the good news’. Disappointedly, the dominant Church culture focuses on the avoidance of justice – “which is what an obsession with being forgiven and avoiding hell begins to resemble when it is not accompanied by a desire to forgive others and pursue justice on their behalf.”[2]

I purpose an alternative narrative, one which sifts the traditions of religious capitalism to reveal a movement of justice and equity. It’s time to fly the flag of humanitarian, ecological, religious and governmental revolution. It’s time to OCCUPY JESUS.


[1] Brian D. McLaren, Everything must change: When the world’s biggest problems and Jesus’ good news collide, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 219

[2] Ibid,. 219

WWJD? Weetbix, blankets, hugs and a fishing rod

weetbix  Christine Rankin: “Weetbix goes a long way.” WOW! What a debate! Well at least we know THE solutions to child poverty don’t we? So, what would Jesus do again Bob, Christine and Hannah? Give the 270,000 kiwi kids in poverty a grilling for not utilizing their weetbix economically? I just can’t believe the utter ‘moral high ground’ that three wealthy ‘middle class’ people peacocked on THE VOTE NZ tonight; wait a second I thought they were followers of Christ? Doubt it. What is certain though is that a majority of the voters blame parents for the state of New Zealand’s child poverty crisis. Apparently all poor people need is to be taught to work hard, learn how to fish, give more hugs, stop abusing their kids, buy heaps of blankets, and to make sure weetbix is on the shopping list. Seriously? 270,000 kids in poverty seriously. I don’t know why the ‘unholy trinity’ don’t see the reality of social economic circumstances as vital to family and therefore child wellbeing. Maybe I need to take Bob up on his offer and go to one of his budgeting programmes? Only if he shouts me weetbix though.