Are The Homeless Movin’ On Up?

As the number of guests who attend the shared meals for the homeless and those in need continues to grow in Bucks County, PA, the food to feed them is stretched. Sometimes, the gracious hosts are unable to offer seconds. 

Actually, this is a good thing, as some of the guests have been overeating and continue to get fatter.  A few years ago, a homeless friend (now no longer homeless) told me he doesn’t want to be made too comfortable in his homeless situation because it will not give him incentive to move forward, out of being homeless (which he did).  This is analogous to people continually leaving bread for birds, who then can’t fly south for the winter. 

Some people who go to the meals have become quite rotund, which is a polite word for “fat.” Some of them are proud of their big bellies.  

By indulging the homeless in meals that have, to some, become a Roman banquet, the meals provide more than subsistence. Gorging yourself does not give you much motivation to leave the nest. 

Parks in Bucks County have posted rules not to feed the waterfowl, a tradition almost as dumb as smoking. Migrating waterfowl, instead of continuing on their journey south, may stop in route where they can get welfare. Here they grow so fat that they can’t fly south! They have trouble even getting off the ground! 

Like the waterfowl, needy people need to stick to basics, and continue their journey, and not get stuck in a rut, like the characters in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. In the story, the characters, who were just supposed to take a nap on their way to the Celestial City, lingered, and had to suffer the consequences. God, of course, guided them along The King’s Highway, home. 

We are all homeless, in a sense. For the Christian, heaven is home. We are just sojourners on this earth and we shouldn’t get too caught up in the things of this world. Easter is a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave to overcome death to save us from our sins and to follow his ways in life to advance His kingdom. God restores us to the way he created us. 

Easter is not about the bunny; it’s about the lamb! 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33 

Who the homeless really are and their challenges is the subject of my recently published book: “There Are Homeless in Bucks County; A Journey With The Homeless”, which focuses on the homeless in lower Bucks County, based on first-hand experience: 

Christian Socialism?

There is a school of thought that socialism could work if it were driven by Christian principles. I disagree.

Christian socialism started becoming a major movement in England in the 1960s. The movement ties capitalism with idolatry and greed. Many years ago, a pastor told me that Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto, believed that capitalism was the source of greed. He said that Marx was wrong; sinful human nature is what causes greed.

The terms “Christian” and “Socialism” are mutually exclusive. The legal term “Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius” (the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other) applies here.

God tells Christians to feed the poor (and clothe and shelter them). But this isn’t best done through socialism, even when society has a Christian consensus. Taxing citizens, the government controlling the means of production and redistributing wealth – the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, doesn’t create as many goods and services as does free market capitalism.

Bill Gates, not a government program, was able to lower the price of computers, improve them, and make them so user friendly that someone as technically retarded as I can use them.

A problem with central planning (socialism) is that this system is out of touch with consumer needs. A corollary problem is that, as the government controls the means of production under socialism, it can control what you believe – it’s inimical to religious freedom. It could also hold up, or even stop, material it doesn’t like, under the influence of special interests, such as Christian movies.

I’m reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of the soul, the Christian walk. Mr. Bunyan was thrown in jail because he was a non conformist – he didn’t fall in lock step with the official government church of England. Not allowing religious freedom is why, to use an Archie Bunker quip, we kicked England out of this country.

With more wealth to go around, there is more for the poor. There is a greater harvest, and as was the case in Leviticus, there was sufficient grain on the margins of the fields for the poor. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”  — Leviticus 23:22

Today in Bucks County, PA, churches and individuals have been feeding and clothing the poor. Caring Christians not only feed and clothe the homeless, but they minister them, addressing their spiritual/emotional needs.

Shortly after BO was elected, Pastor Rick Warren said that private funds for the needy has dwindled because of all the taxes. After the government extorts citizens’ money, they don’t have as great a harvest to share. Sure, you might say, under a Christian consensus politicians won’t squander tax money like the Skinny Socialist did with Solyndra.

But, as John Calvin believed, because of the total depravity of man, government and churches shouldn’t put their power centrally.  That is,  you shouldn’t put all your eggheads in one basket. Our government’s separation of powers is based on the Presbyterian model of forming presbyteries, where if a church is straying from God’s Word, an independent presbytery can call the wayward church out.

Likewise, Martin Luther started a practice where anybody, from any walk of life, can challenge the clergy by pointing to scripture. The pastor at the church I attend encourages churchgoers to study the Bible and be accountable.   By the way, a Lutheran is just an unfinished Presbyterian.

Free market capitalism allows for free choice. School choice is so called because it lets parents, rather than school districts, choose what’s best for your children. It’s your money. Under school choice, the money that’s put into the pot lets you use your taxes as you best see fit.

The economic free market and the free market of ideas, for example, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”, gives us the freedom to engage in the unfettered exchange of ideas in the search for the truth.

To bad a John Bunyan didn’t have those rights. Instead, a judge, whom he fictionalized in Pilgrims Progress as Judge Hategood, and his kangaroo court abridged this godly man’s rights.

Giving socialism a Christian name and endorsement does not change the outcome of a system that has historically brought misery on society. Woodrow Wilson, for example, a progressive (progressing to complete socialism) whose father was a pastor, was a dictator who threw anybody In jail who protested against WWI. He was as bad for society as was progressive President LBJ.

In the 70’s, evangelist Francis Schaeffer said that freedom in this country has been abused. To keep order in society, Dr. Schaeffer said, one of two things will have to happen. Either we will have to have a police state to control people from the outside, or we will have to have a Reformed Christian consensus to govern people from the inside.

I prefer the latter. It’s not big government that makes a society great; it’s personal responsibility and achievement.

Go Home

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone”

-Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone

Being homeless is not just a matter of being physically homeless. It’s about not being at home or at peace with yourself and others. One symptom of being without a home is drug use in places such as Bucks County, PA, which has the highest overdose rate in the state and second in the country. Bob Dylan wailed about problems in society.

In Desolation Row, Dylan indicts society with the punch line “The Titanic sails at dawn.”

People, including myself, sometimes lose their way. About two decades ago, a pastor told me that the biggest problem in the church he pastored was that the sons and daughters of church members have left the church. These are the baby boomers, the Woodstock generation who have gone astray and have gone their own way.

Jesus told a parable about a wayward son in Luke 15: 11-24. Like the lost Woodstock flower children, the prodigal son took his inheritance and ran wild, until he became destitute, and like David in the Bible, fell into an emotional pit. If you read the Bible, you’ll know that God rescued David from the pit.

When  the prodigal son returned home, broken, his father ran up to greet him and welcomed him home. It was like Timmy being reunited with Lassie!    

Years ago, when I worked for  Pennsylvania State Parks, the head law enforcement ranger told me that once someone is sent to jail for a crime, he is automatically a career criminal, no matter how small the offense. I pointed out that the writer O-Henry went to jail for robbing a bank, got out early for good behavior, and became a respected member of the community and a famous writer.

“He was being punished,” the ranger said Augustly.

Finally, when I wouldn’t agree with him, the ranger, continuing in an August manner, pointed out that this is what the state of Pennsylvania believes. Am I impressed that this is the right view because the state says so? Nope!

The state also, like Donald Trump, promotes gambling. It doesn’t make it right. In fact, gambling is morally wrong.

Officials representing the Bucks County Health Department also writes people off. They try to shanghai the homeless, offering them housing to lure them into mental health treatment, whether they need it or not. Holy quid pro quo, Batman! Some people view the homeless as being mentally deranged.

I view liberals as people who have mental problems.

Some people in lower Bucks County, PA simply write off the homeless as having no value to society and unredeemable. I disagree.

Some of the homeless I’ve met in lower Bucks County PA are finding their way home, and I just don’t mean housing. They have found comfort in the Lord, whom they allow to direct their paths.

A house doesn’t make a home. There’s a circle of homeless friends who get together a community meals who are at home with one another. Recently, one of them got engaged. The couple are decent people with moral values.

Some people who live in Bucks County sit smugly and are judgmental about the homeless. What’s important to many of them is personal peace and prosperity, and they look down at the homeless from their Ivory Towers.

When I did a program at a state park for a summer camp, the kids were very unruly. One of the leaders approached me and said “they won’t listen to you; they come from low income families — from places such as Levittown and Bristol.”

I told the counselor that income has nothing to do with behavior, and pointed out that  many park problems come from the children of local Yuppies, who drive up in their BMW’s. She shrugged her shoulders and dismissed this idea.

Likewise, many of the problems in the homeless community are a result of refugees from Recovery Houses, some of the druggies from upper income families. See my recent blog Druggies and The Homeless about how the recovery houses in the area that have been creating Frankenstein Monsters who are running amok in lower Bucks County.

I, a baby boomer, lost my way for awhile. Like David, I fell into an emotional pit, suffering from anxiety, so much so that my heart raced so hard at night I almost called 911, depression, and I harbored anger towards others and was angry at the circumstances of my life.

Like some of the wayward people in the homeless community I know — such as drunks and druggies, to whom concerned Christians have ministered, I have flagged off people who have tried to bring me back to God and his ways.

Finally, this prodigal son came home. I am now much better equipped to deal with the vicissitudes of life; and can better weather life’s storms.

Lately, the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA lost one of their own. A woman dearly beloved in the community died from cancer. She’s come home. People, like the evangelist character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress,  have pointed her home, while serving as an ambassador of Christ.

“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.”  – 2nd Corinthians 5:20.


Out of The Ashes

During an orientation for a homeless friend who is getting treatment for his addiction, the host admonished the visitors to set borders and make rules for loved ones with an addiction problem, but never to put them down.

The homeless have fled the woods near the public library in Levittown, PA. The aftermath of the wholesale evictions at Queen Anne Park has left a fresh start for some of the former residents. Can the Phoenix arise from the ashes?

During my year and 1/2 relationship with the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA, to borrow a phrase from the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” Several months ago, I witnessed a very smart, well educated woman who had an alcohol problem ruin her life.

At one point she had started to come around, recommending books to me and discussing them and engaging in elevated discussions about things such as literature and art, but, like Darth Vader, she returned to the dark side.

She has left the homeless community in my area, and there are rumors that she has a job and has a place to stay. In any case, she is out of my hands.

There were others who went off the deep end, off to the wild dark yonder.

Saddened that I couldn’t help people who went to the dark side, I shared this with a Christian sister. She said that when she first started working with the homeless, she thought she could change the world. She said that God, not us, is ultimately responsible for results and that the best we can do is show people God’s love.

I came to grips with the idea that I am not responsible for results. People have to want to change. You can take people by the hand, but you can’t drag them. I also realize that I, and no other human, is the center of the universe.

We all have a role to play in the world. For more than a year, people have been ministering to my friend, and now he may be on the road to recovery. He has been troublesome, even obnoxious. Sometimes he’d lament that his friends no longer like him. I told him that we don’t like what he’s doing but we still love him and would like to see him straighten out.

I too went through a period where, with all the people God sent into my life, I continued my wayward ways. I didn’t listen to many people close to me, even the pastor of a church I used to attend. After I left the church, while driving for a rug company as I passed the church, I literally thumbed my nose at it.

It was only after I fell into a pit, like the Psalm writer David, that I came around.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

— Psalm 40:2

“Oh Lord, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”

— Psalm 30:2

It is not for us to judge — we don’t control the horizontal; we don’t control the vertical. God does. We can hold the people causing problems in the homeless community accountable for their actions, but we should not put them down as human beings, who are made in the image of God.

Jonah thought he controlled the horizontal and the vertical and walked the other way when God told him to go to the decadent town of Nineveh. He had given up hope for them and wanted to see them destroyed. It took being swallowed by a whale to get him to obey God and minister to the people in Nineveh.

In a sense, we are all refugees, having lost direction in life. As Bob Dylan sang:

“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own

No direction home…”

People can find direction. As David wrote: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

— Psalm 119:105

Like the character Evangelist in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we can just point people to God.

You don’t have to live like a refugee. There is a bridge that leads home.

Don’t Drink The Kool-aid

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”

— Beat poet Allen Ginsburg, from Howl.

The Beats were supposed to be so cool, man, cool. If you call decadent, perverted sex, drugs and bizarre, destructive behavior and a nihilistic attitude of life cool. Wonder what your meaning of “is” is?

In an interview, Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary 60’s folk singers fame, was asked if she identified with the beatniks. Mary answered an unequivocal “no”, and explained that the beatniks don’t bathe, don’t work, etc. The one thing she said she had in common with the Beatniks, however, is that she’s a rebel, speaking out against things she thinks need changing.

The Beatniks morphed into the Hippies, largely disciples of Allen Ginsburg. And the Hippies further devolved into yuppies.

Hope and change aren’t always complimentary.

Fast forward to Woodstock, a bastion of decadence, a prelude to the cults and the me generation of the 70s.

And along came Jones. Long tale Jones. Slick talking Jones, false preaching Jones. Along came Kool-aid pushing Jim Jones.

In a documentary of Jim Jones and Jonestown, Guyana, Jonestown survivors related how they became disillusioned with Jonestown and lamented their dehumanizing degradation and the loss of privacy and freedom in a police state. One survivor, in retrospect, wondered why he and others didn’t act a red flag they should have seen early on.

Before the tragic grand finale at Jonestown in 1978, Jim Jones did a dry run for the poison Kool-aid episode. He had members of his flock (whom survivors said he fleeced) drink the Kool-aid, telling them they will die. Jones very well may have been mimicking the Bible story where God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, only at the last minute to stop the sacrifice in order to test Abraham’s obedience.

Jim Jones thought he was God.

People were taken in by Jones’ welcome grin. Guyana, which, according to the documentary on CNN, was a socialist state in 1972, welcomed Jones, a comrade in arms, a fellow traveler.

Jones and his henchmen preyed on the weak and needy in society, including a homeless person who was picked up in California and lured to the utopian promise of hope and change of Jonestown, Guyana.

When people don’t have solid values, then anything is possible. Jonestown Guyana is a perfect example. If people don’t follow the true, unadulterated Word of God, and practice it, destruction isn’t far behind.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther started a practice where anyone, from any walk of life can challenge the clergy on the truth of scripture, and one another.

Jesus is the solid rock on which I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the allegory of the soul, Evangelist” points up, directly to God.

The Romantics in the 18th century, as a college professor told my class, were the forerunners of the flower children. They believed that the love of nature leads to the love of man. Wrong! For the Christian, the love of God leads to the love of our fellow humans.

I went to a conference the spring before last where the theme was “Reflecting God”. A analogy was made to the moon. The moon has no light of its own but gets it from the sun. Likewise, we reflect God’s love; we have no goodness apart from him.

“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

The ultimate hope for the homeless community and our nation is God. Dig, man?


We Are All Homeless

It takes more than a house to make a home.  It takes love and concern for other family members to  this.

The nuclear family in this country has all but disappeared.  A songwriter asked:

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing…

I ask:

Where has the nuclear family gone?

Long time passing

Where has the nuclear family gone?

Long, long time ago

The mothers have all joined women’s lib

The kids are all preoccupied with electronic toys

The fathers are chasing their success and sports (and women)

And the most important thing is things

Parents shake their heads when kids run away

Or when they go on drugs or alcohol

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

There’s a painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art which I call The Fractured Family. The mother, the father, and the child are isolated in different planes (I’m about to leave on a jet one), as are other attachments, such as the school and the playground.  This is not the nuclear family.  Something went wrong along the way.

The nuclear family exploded into a mushroom cloud —  into a purple haze, made up of unrecognizable fragments of electrons buzzing around chaotically. Maybe someday we can defragment our dysfunctional society, but in the meantime…

“There’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mr. Jones?”, whines Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan sang about the youth who ran away from home looking for better pastures.  He asked:

“How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own

No direction home

A complete unknown

Like a Rolling Stone”

Dylan was critical about the runaway youth who wandered in the urban wilderness.

Some homeless people in lower Bucks County, PA are not that much different in a sense than the hipsters who aimlessly wandered the streets in places such as Greenwich Village, NY in search of a better life.  And as one homeless person told me “we all have baggage.”

The difference between the hipsters who headed to their Greenwich Village Mecca and the homeless is that the hipsters choose to venture out, on a lark in some cases, to explore an alternative life style.  Although there are homeless who just walked away from life or are out in the street because of an alcohol or drug problem, many of them originally became homeless because of a job loss/home loss or other circumstance beyond their control.

And the homeless are that way, to quote Henry “Frogman” Thomas, because they ain’t got a home.  Otherwise, the homeless face the same vicissitudes of life as the rest of the population.

Back in the Eisenhower 50’s, there was no homeless problem.  The economy was sound.  Families stayed together.  Crime was low.  People were honest and worked hard.  At some point, there was moral decay in our society, which resulted in more poverty and crime.  Divorce rates skyrocketed, etc.

Just before the alleged Great Society of LBJ, the economy, as a result of the culture where the nuclear family thrived, was improving.  Poverty rates declined and the country prospered.  LBJ’s  war on poverty reversed these gains.  This Quixotic president launched an attack on windmills.  In fact, poverty as well as crime increased during this war.  Families were fragmented, as the system rewarded mothers to keep fathers out of the home.  As radio talk show host Tom Marr said “Where you have liberal rule, you have more poverty and crime.”

Today’s homeless problem is the aftermath of a nation in moral decay.  But, like the Phoenix who rises from the ashes, we can restore our nation, and resolve the homeless problem.  There are obstacles along the way, as is depicted in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, but God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

To help the homeless get a home, we at Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless have a plan to foster industry, responsibility and self sufficiency amongst the homeless.

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