Something dawned on me the other day. Is political correctness a controlling tactic? The essence of political correctness, which by the way is straight from Continental postmodern philosophy (poststructuralism, deconstructuralism), is treating the Other with dignity and giving them their due rights. That sounds good and it should be. But when political correctness comes in and interferes problems arise. By the Other is meant anyone who has a history of being oppressed. These include, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans, Indiginous peoples (North and South American Native Indians, Eskimos, Aboringinals, Maori,Polynessians women, children, animals, gays and probably others that I've not thought of. This leaves the oppressor to be white men of mostly European descent. But when the Others are put over the white men as in political correctness, then who is oppressed and controlled? An interesting thought isn't it?
I am still working on finding out how to really help the poor, but I'm not having much luck. Anyway, I thought I would summarize what I've written here and put in some additions about what I'm seeing out there with this evangelical obsession with helping the poor. Again, this is not about not helping the poor. It's about doing it correctly and as an outcome of the Christian life, not a legalistic works program. What I'm seeing is once again, naive, but most of the time well-meaning Christians not helping the poor as much as using them. Our motives must be pure. Trying to get in good with God, assuaging our guilt by helping the poor instead of putting it at the cross in the atonement, working with the poor so we can feel somehow superior.....all of these are the wrong reasons. I call this "pimping the poor."
The "Poor" Industry There is a whole industry in helping the poor and homeless. What would the situation be if there were no poor or homeless. How many social workers would we need? How many police would we need since crime is more severe in poorer and homeless areas? How many people wouldn't have jobs that pay over $30,000 (and $80,000+ for directors) working for non-profits that get government and private grants helping the poor and homeless? It really isn't in these people's best interests to help the poor, is it, because then they would be out of a job.
Those Not Ready to Help On another note, we have so many codependent, dysfunctional Christians, no way should they be going out to help anyone, much less the poor. But these are the very people who need to be needed so the poor and homeless are ripe pickings for them.
How to Not Help I still cannot find any really reasonable writings by Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) on how to help the poor and homeless. The best we seem to do is to feed the homeless so they can be homeless another day. Or, set up programs for the poor that are nice but really never seem to solve the poverty problem except perhaps for a very few individuals. I often wonder if church are really is serious about this, or are they simply trying to fell and look good? We need to stop fooling and lying to ourselves and others. For example, how many times have I read that some Christian is building a house for some poor person (here in America that is). That is an outright lie! Poor people cannot afford the mortgage, taxes, insurance and upkeep. These houses are being built for the lower part of the middle class or for those who are the better-off ones in the lower middle-class. Housing project-welfare folks are not going to be given these houses. (I'm not including here helping to rebuild houses that were destroyed by some disaster).
Maybe This is the Way to Help? The best way of helping the poor I can find are the three inner city black Word of Faith pastors whose churches bought a fast food franchise and are hiring and training people, not only in their churches, but also in their neighborhoods. And if you think this is insulting--that is, to hire people for fast food--I want you to think more broadly about what type of work many of these inner city people can do for their first job. Also, fast food places hire more than burger flippers. One may need to start there but can move up to cashier, assistant manager, manager, district manager or to other jobs utilizing those skills learned at the fast food restaurant. I am always somewhat amused when churches say they are going to help poor folks write their resumes. What resumes? They don't have anything to put on a resume. "Dropped out of school at 15, had three children and have been on welfare for the past 5 years and in a housing project." That resume? Churches are going to have to be more knowledgeable if they really wish to help the poor. But I am still persuaded that people in the inner city must be the leaders on this and we can assist at their direction. Actually, not all inner city dwellers are jobless and are on welfare. Perhaps we can assist churches (probably financially). But let's get rid of this need to be the "saviors" of the poor. It's really insulting to them.
Everywhere you go in the church world one hears that we should love others. But most of these exhortations seem to be very general and often vague. So, when I found this web page with a list of 37 ways the Bible tells us to love people, I thought that it could serve as a good example to what should be preached. I wonder what would happen in the lives of church members as well as the churches themselves if if pastors took all of these 37 and expanded on them. That's 37 weeks of sermons right there.
Here's what is wrong with America today. It's thinking the opposite of how it should be thinking. In the "good old days," you wanted your daughters to be sweet, clean-mouthed and clean-minded. But today? Well, one mother doesn't like the clean image that singer Taylor Swift is presenting. She wants her to "empower" the girls who follow her. In fact, she would rather have Taylor act like Lady Gaga because she at least empowers women. Here is what she writes,
I didn't expect Taylor Swift to make any radical, edgy, feminist remarks, but I also didn't expect Gidget meets the Little Mermaid. What an incredible platform for Swift to say something as simple as "Girls rock!" or something even crazier like "Love yourselves!"
Instead, she finished each song by looking wide-eyed into the crowd and noting how "amazing" it was that so many peopled came to the show and how "beautiful" everyone looked (incredible how she could see people with all those lights in her eyes).
Maybe my family got the vacuous experience we deserved. That would be true if it were just a benignly bad concert experience. The problem is that it was an insidious concert experience that emphasized everything but the artist's voice -- the flowing fairy dresses and saccharine monologues covering up Swift's real power. Covering up girl power.
The best moments were rare authentic ones with Swift's top lip a wee bit sweaty, hair oh-so-slightly disheveled, strumming "Mean" on a banjo and later "Fearless" on a ukulele. That's what we had come to see, but it was fleeting.
As the house lights came on, my older daughter, age 12 and a half, gave me a deflated, knowing look. My younger daughter was tired but managed to quietly gush: "I loved it." My son loved his glow stick
And now for the coup de grace,
I hope more discerning parents than us might think twice about Swift tickets. Better to have to explain the explicit sexuality of someone like Gaga and her "Born this Way" message than to have to undo the message of female powerlessness -- especially from an artist who is so fervently emulated by girls.
I thought this post from Tim Challies was very good as it really shows that helping the poor isn't as simple as so many Christian leaders want you to beleive.
"Just send money," or, "We'll just build a well," sounds nice but there is more to curb systemic poverty than middle class know-nothing Christians going into a country, or even into poor areas of their own country and "meddling." Here is what Challies writes about the root of poverty and many times our well-meaning but futile attempts to "help."
A $300 car payment sounds shameful when you consider that for many people that is as much money as they live off for an entire year. But it’s also just reality—we need cars and that is just what they cost in our context. We may feel evil for spending $20,000 on a car; but that is just what cars cost. The simple solution is to drive beat-up cars and send as much money as we can to foreign missions. But it’s not that simple. Third world countries do not need money; they need economic infrastructure that can generate wealth. Helping the poor is not as simple as giving them money—something to keep in mind when approached on the street by a panhandler. These are the kinds of things I find myself wrestling with.
First, stop preaching anything about what Jesus really did at the cross. Make vague statements like "He redeemed us, or, " He reconciled us." But don't give any specifics about why He did this or how you can get in on it and get it to work for you.
Second, Herd everyone into age groups so the teens and younger adults won't ever be discipled or have input by older members. Also, don't do anything to upset already existing clique groups.
Third, If starting small groups, let anyone lead them and never supervise or check up on what they are doing or how the group is faring. Always take the group leader's word for what is happening in their group. Never, never put people in groups according to geographical location as this will upset their cliques. Don't communicate how to join these groups to new people as this will also upset the cliques (they really don't want anyone new in their group).
Fourth, Separate singles from marrieds since we all know those awful single women will steal the married women's husbands and the single men....well...they are just weird, so why would married people want to be around them? So, keep the singles separate. Of course, there are pitfalls to this, namely that these people will eventually be so dysfunctional bouncing off each other that any marriages that come out of this group will be equally dysfunctional. However, this can be a good thing for the Christian therapists in your church since it'll increase their business.
Fifth, in order to keep those at bay that think your teaching is too shallow and the youth group does nothing but have fun, talk a lot about helping the poor and once in a while have an outing to help the poor. This will keep away any criticism as those who are criticizing will feel shamed coming against a church that "helps the poor."
Sixth, "believe Go for a budget that is way beyond practicality for your church. Then, when your church is knee-high in debt, pressure the congregation for money through guilt techniques.
Seventh, don't communicate well. This keeps the members off-guard and the criticism at bay. If they never know what is happening, I mean...what harm can they do?