10 April 2009

Good Friday stream of consciousness

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the death of Jesus. Bear with me through this post, even if you aren't Christian. :)

I went to church this morning and it was a very lovely service. Our church and a neighbouring church joined our services together, because for some reason I don't grok at all, Good Friday turnout is low. After the service, they did something really cool. They went on a Cross-Walk. They took a cross from a nearby park, and carried it back to the church, stopping along the way to reflect on social justice issues. I didn't participate because I've not recovered enough from the surgery to manage that. But I think it was a really nifty idea.

One of the morals of the story of Jesus's death and resurrection is that sacrifice leads to salvation. We are so wrapped up in our own wants, that we often forget others needs. Jesus didn't do that. He obviously wanted to live, to be freed from his pain. And he clearly had the wherewithal to do so. But he didn't. That's an amazing thing to me. To give up one's life for the eternal life of someone else? Incredible.

Jesus challenged the establishment at every turn. From saving a woman from a horrible (but legal) death, to kicking the moneylenders out of the temple, right up to announcing that he was the Messiah. He said that no, it wasn't okay to overlook someone's suffering because of social convention. He said that every time we pass by the poor, hungry, lame, imprisoned, we pass him by. But we keep doing it. We seem to have lost the ability to sacrifice our own desires for the needs of others.

I think this is why the "Christian Conservatives" frustrate me so very very much. I cannot figure out their motives, or how they can possibly reconcile the two movements. As far as I can tell, the Conservatives want to ignore any suffering that isn't theirs. Women and children being brutally and systematically raped in Africa? Not our problem. Homelessness and joblessness everywhere, including here in our country? Still, not our problem. We have jobs, so should they! Lazy bums. Huge numbers of people imprisoned for crimes that hurt no one (possession of marijuana comes to mind)? Let 'em rot. They made their beds, let 'em lie in them.

In my community, there are houses worth millions of dollars. Houses that could shelter hundreds of people in relative comfort. In my community, there are homeless people. There are hospitals filled to the brims, with people lined up in hallways waiting to have a room. In my community, the government spends billions of dollars on sporting events. In my community, there are food banks. In my community, people leave food on their plates at restaurants because the portions are so big. In my community, there are mentally handicapped people living on the streets, because no one takes responsibility for them.

The society we live in is responsible for all the members, and each member has a responsibility to act to the best of his or her ability. Certainly all of us fail at some point or other, to a greater or lesser extent. Jesus forgives these transgressions. But somehow, many of his followers do not. Now, I understand that sometimes we cannot forgive, but I cannot understand the belief that we shouldn't at least try. Trying to forgive is another example of sacrifice, after all. It is hard to give up one's hatred and anger.

If Jesus comes back today, what will he look like? A dirty, bearded, jobless guy who regularly begs a meal off of people? Why not? That's who he was the first time. Keep that in mind next time you walk past the guy on the street asking for spare change.


Suzanne said...

Jesus challenged the establishment, but also affirmed it, and in fact founded an "establishment" himself, in the Church.

I think you have Christian Conservatives all wrong. Christian Conservatives believe that the poor must be helped. But helping someone who will not help themselves is NOT helping. It's counter-productive. The first thing a person needs to help themselves is a sense of responsibility. Homeless people who live on the street are often (though not exclusively) there because of the bad choices they make. They refuse to face up to the truth about their behaviour and beliefs, and continue blindly down that alley.

Christian conservatives also happen to believe that private charity is in a better position to help the poor than bureaucracies. Governments are good at cutting cheques, and that's about it. Often, what a poor person needs is not a cheque as the social capital to get back on his feet, something a church or religious group can more easily provide than a bureaucracy.

Poverty is *usually* the result of bad choices. Those bad choices may stem from a poor background, but they are choices nonetheless. Drug abuse is often at the root. Poverty can be overcome, but only if the poor person stops the bad behaviour that led them in the first place. Otherwise it's pointless.

Luna said...

Jesus didn't found the church. His followers did. And they did a piss-poor job, IMO. And even if you argue he did start the new establishment, it has changed so much, I doubt the man would recognise it. In either sense of the word.

I think you have Christian Conservatives all wrong. Christian Conservatives believe that the poor must be helped. But helping someone who will not help themselves is NOT helping.That just smacks of "I'll help you if I deem you worthy".

I strongly disagree that poverty is usually the result of bad choices. Extreme poverty in Canada is usually the result of mental illness. Drug abuse is a symptom, not a cause, in most of the cases. Drug abuse is often self-medication. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen who have massive mental health issues they're just not equipped to deal with. And no, they won't give up their booze or drugs, because that's the only thing that numbs their pain, and they're just too tired and hopeless and in pain to try. For someone like you to then say they shouldn't be helped makes me LIVID. Yeah, I know it's pointless, that that person is likely never going to be a functioning member of society. So fucking what? You don't help yourself, you don't eat?

Who the fuck are you to judge who gets help and who doesn't?

And private vs. government charity. Gotta love this. So what if the private charities go broke?

You and I are both part of the society that fostered the homelessness and poverty. We have the responsibility to do something about it. And if Joe Asshole says, "Fuck those people" and won't donate to charity, well I'm all for the government taking a hunk of his cheque and giving it to a charity to administer, or directly to the poor schmuck trying to pay rent.

"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me"

And finally, what of the working poor? The people working their asses off day and night, but who can't get a babysitter, so their kid goes unminded? Are there charities equipped to help these people? Hell no. A good government program would do wonders for these people. But no, Conservatards say, no universal child care for you. (No abortions, either, btw). You're on your own.

That's what it is. That's the consevative POV. You're on your own. We'll give you a hand if we think you deserve it. But otherwise, you made your bed, lie in it.

And that INFURIATES me.