Talk Is Cheap!

“Loving Jesus and Serving The World”, reads a logo on The Levittown Church Of God van. Although we who come to the free shared homeless and needy meals appreciate being fed, some of us expressed outrage with the attitude of the host, namely the pastor, at the meal last night. 

We he opened, he bragged that the church itself provided the meal.  “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2. 

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2 

The host started taking up table cloths, chairs, and even tables not much past 6:30 p.m., as people were still eating. The meal is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. Guests were not let in until 6:05. One of the guests asked if the meal was supposed to end at 6:30 p.m.   “Don’t you see, everyone is leaving”, the pastor snapped.  Shortly thereafter, as I sat, wiping my mouth with a napkin, the pastor, standing opposite me said something like “hope you had a good meal; we’re breaking it down…”.  As I finished wiping my mouth, he flipped the table, abruptly folding it up, almost dropping it on my lap!   

As we moseyed towards the door, some of the hosts subtly pushed us out, as if we were cattle!  Movin’ movin’ movin’. Keep them doggies movin’. Keep them doggies movin’, rawhide…  Move ‘em out! 

Except for graciously and generously offering the guests food, the hosts did not interact with their guests as they have in the past.  In the past, the pastor and other hosts have reached out to others. On one occasion long ago I talked with the pastor about a problem, which was later resolved. 

Christians should reflect Jesus. People are attracted to God through the way they treat others, by their love. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  2 Corinthians 5:20  

There always has and always will be those who, in the name of Christ, do not rightly reflect Him.  

Some of the churches that host the meals reach out to their guests to develop relationships and minister to them. Many of the hosts and their guests know one another on a first name basis.  These churches practice the philosophy that man does not live by bread alone, and offer guests spiritual as well as physical food. They are there for their friends who visit the meals, as are the guests who help each other. 

In “There Are Homeless in Bucks County; A Journey With The Homeless”, I elaborate on the value of the  shared meals as well as other aspects of homelessness in Bucks County, based on personal experience with the homeless here: 

Birmingham and Levittown

In his letter from the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr urged leaders of the white “moderate”, lukewarm churches to stand for justice against the oppression of blacks in the Jim Crow south. This is the case with the homeless in Bucks County, PA, where some churches, instead of standing up for the homeless, go along with the Bucks County establishment and view the homeless as second class citizens. In both cases, churches have taken the stance to go along in order to get along.

The church needs to stand on Biblical principles and influence the culture – be the salt in society.

In Bucks County, as was the case with blacks during the Jim Crow south, which by the way was under the influence of Democrats, the rights of the homeless are not respected. At the Levittown public library, there’s been a campaign to constructively remove the homeless from the library. Instead of standing up for the disadvantaged, as the Salvation Army did back in the day, the Salvation Army Levittown Community Center tacitly endorses this attitude. When the center’s public relations gal, The Countess of Carlisle butted into a conversation I was having with another volunteer about the harassment of the homeless, she Augustly stated that some people who visit the library don’t like the homeless being there and that the librarian is right for obliging her fellow elitists.

I disagreed. Consequently, the countess used her position to block an offer I had to write for the Salvation Army.

Between a member of The Advocates for The Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) and the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, PA, an injustice was committed when a guest came to the church’s community meal drunk. He verbally assaulted and physically threatened another guest and anyone who seemed to have a problem with his behavior, cursing up a storm. He was restrained by a few men in the church.

The police were called. Two members of AHTN walked with the attacker to the other end of the large room. When the police came, they told the victim to leave, at the host’s request. The next time the victim came to the meal, he was told he had to leave. The host reluctantly said it was because he was saying bad things about the homeless.

There was false witness going around about the victim, that he ratted out homeless campsites and was a pervert, a sexual predator. I don’t know what any member from AHTN told the host when they walked out of hearing range of the victim, but it’s bizarre that the victim, who showed total restraint under attack, was banned from the church. I believe that AHTN repeated lies about the victim and maybe embellished the false witness, making up more lies. The attacker must have heard what was said.

Interestingly, the authorities did not bring the drunk and disorderly attacker to the district court where the victim filed a lawsuit against Redeemer Lutheran Church and members of AHTN. He may have shed the light of truth on what was said to cause Redeemer to ban the victim from the meals. The court entered a default judgment against him but dismissed the case against Redeemer and AHTN.

AHTN protected the perpetrator out of self interest. They view the homeless as miscreants whom they don’t hold accountable, which keeps their non profit in business.

On one occasion, the Levittown librarian ordered the locks of bikes parked legally in the bike rack in the library cut because some homeless people had abandoned their bikes there. All the locks were cut, including those who had their bikes parked there during their stay at the library. Christine, one of the AHTN members who talked with the hosts at Redeemer Lutheran Church, met with the librarian. She reported to the homeless that Pat, the librarian, made an announcement for those with bikes parked there to come out so they wouldn’t have their locks cut. I learned from a reliable source that Pat never made an announcement, as the guy who told me was in the library the whole time.

In his letter, Dr King wrote of being in the middle of two different forces in the black community. One is complacent and just goes along with the status quo. The other force is bitter and hateful and breeds violence. These black nationalist groups are the forerunners of today’s militant groups, such as Black Lives Matter. Dr. King writes “It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable devil.”

Some hold the same view in the homeless community. A homeless and a formerly homeless guy told me that because the homeless are oppressed and because of their situation, they have a reason to act like savages. I disagree.

MLK explained in his letter that the purpose of non violent protest is to call attention to injustice and bring people to the negotiating table. This is what a true advocate for the homeless did in Portland, Oregon. Consequently, Dignity Village, a community of tiny houses where some formerly homeless have administrative positions, was created.

What Bucks County needs is to call more attention to the homeless problem, and instead of pushing the homeless away, like the Democrats did the American Indian, respect the rights of the homeless and don’t quash even private efforts to house the homeless just because of a few bad apples. This is discrimination.

Some churches in Bucks County have been gracious to the homeless, feeding them, providing clothes, accepting, listening to and mentoring them. They need to do more of it!

We shall overcome!

Dr. King’s letter is lengthy, but, to borrow a phrase from a high school English teacher, it’s worth its weight in gold:

We All Have Baggage

“We all have baggage,” a former homeless man used to say. In my last blog, I analyzed people who engage in bizarre, anti-social behavior and explored the role of the mental health industry.

Today I’ll look into the problems of everyday people, focusing on the homeless.

Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung related a story about visiting an insane asylum with an “intelligent layman” who remarked that the people there were like everyday people, except their problems were greatly magnified.

People in today’s society have different degrees of issues. Just being homeless is an issue. Within this group, some individuals have more serious problems, such a drug and alcohol abuse.

Except when a substance abuse or other problem gets too extreme, when people need to be put in a treatment facility, they can go to meetings. Churches in lower Bucks County, PA have increasingly hosted programs, such as AA. There’s a unique program in Bucks County that combines alcohol and drug abuse counselling  with other problems, such as anger management, anxiety and depression, using the 12 steps program. There is even a 12 steps Bible, which matches Bible verses with the steps.

The program is actually a peer-to-peer, brother/sister to brother/sister program, where participants counsel one another.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”  – Proverbs 27:17

Even people who seem to have it made have problems, although they may be hidden. Some of them have positions of respectability. It’s usually through their actions that others see their issues, especially when it’s affecting them. For example, The Countess of Carlisle at the Salvation Army  Community Center in Levittown, PA.

The Countess contradicted the Salvation Army’s mission, which was established to reach out to those not so beautiful people – the poor, the down and out, drunks, druggies, prostitutes – and give them hope through Jesus.

On one occasion, the Countess joined a conversation about the homeless I was having with another volunteer. I expressed my problem with how the homeless are treated at the public library in Levittown, PA. She stated that the librarian is trying to keep them out because people who visit the library don’t like them there. When I told her how I challenged this discrimination – that the homeless were singled out as a group only because they are homeless – she Augustly quipped “what good’s that going to do?”  The Countess said that the librarian has total sovereignty over the library, as if it is her own property.

A Salvation Army worker from the regional office had offered me a job opportunity writing for the Salvation Army. The first step was to go to the center’s Captain, who told me I needed to go through the Countess. My assignment was to write a blog about the community meals. The Countess practically wrote it herself, injecting her ideas, mostly not relating to the meal.

I didn’t hear anything about the job for months until I saw the regional public relations person  taking photos at the center while I was working in the food bank. She asked me if I was still interested in writing for the Salvation Army. “Yes”, I said. Again, I went to Captain Casper Milquetoast, who directed me to the Countess.

“I don’t have time for that,” the Countess snapped. Hummm… Did her stonewalling me have anything to do with me expressing my opinion about the homeless? Probably a coincidence. If you believe that, you probably believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.

We humans are not perfect. We are all fallen creatures. Christians are sinners saved by grace. God designed us to live in a certain way. When we don’t, we become dysfunctional. We all mess up from time to time, in different degrees and various ways.

Even when we are, as Curly of The Three Stooges, a victim of circumstances, as I was with the Countess of Carlisle, we can still fall into sinful ways. My sinful self wanted to get even and harbored resentment. This isn’t the first time I felt this way.

Although I’ve come a long way after nearly having a mental breakdown about 2 ½ years ago, I still wrestle with problems resulting from character flaws, my sinful nature. To have victory over this character flaw, I remember that I cannot overcome the problem on my own, but need a higher power – God. I pray, read the Bible, go to Bible studies, get informal counsel from Christian brothers and sisters, etc. Consequently, I am starting to overcome my resentment, or at least have it under control.

We all need help, even with little problems. Little problems can become big. Unchecked, we can fall into a downward spiral, as I did. I wish I had nipped it in the bud!

Just being homeless is a problem, whether one is homeless because of one’s own folly, or as a result of economics, which was the main reason for homelessness during The Great Depression. No matter what the case, the homeless need to be shown Christian concern, accepted unconditionally and shown God’s love and mercy. In Bucks County, PA, Christians have been stepping up to the plate to do this. They have been offering them help with material, emotional, and spiritual needs. The homeless need to know that people care.

No matter what your problems or situation, even if you are one who thinks he has it made, you need the Lord.

As the apostle Paul writes in Romans:

” I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”  -Romans 7:15-20

Romans 7:18 accompanies the 1st step in the 12 Steps Journey Program.