Saturday’s Stray Thoughts

Trying something new here. I’m going to try to end the week by posting just what the title suggests–a few things that have struck cords, but not enough to send out a clear sound in the form of a regular post. If any of them happen to hit an area you’d like to weigh in on or believe to be worthy of further discussion, feel free to let me know. For now, there will be no intended connection between the thoughts offered or subjects touched upon. And if anyone follows Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog, yes, I am guilty of copying his model in Weekly Meanderings.

First, as a loyal Penn State alum (nothing hidden about that), I’ve got mixed feelings about the announcement of the next head football coach. They didn’t ask for my opinion, so I guess it’s not worth much. I’m just hoping for some continuity of the many good things that the program has been.

Something hit me this morning as I was watching the news. Homelessness. The report was in reaction to a recent string of murders perpetrated on homeless victims. I know it’s not a new problem, though homelessness is on the increase in the U. S. Maybe that’s part of the problem–it’s not new, and therefore off the pages until something different happens. But the thought of what it might mean to be without a home, as I sat comfortably in my living room just hit me hard this time. What to do about it? I wish I knew; but I don’t want to put the matter back into the forgotten recesses of my mind.

Then there was the visitation for a friend’s deceased son, a young father all of nineteen years of age. There were pictures. Pictures of people whose lives will be impacted by the loss. I couldn’t help but think if only–if only he could see the important place he held in lives. I have no idea what it is that keeps people from seeing and hearing the value they hold in the lives of others. It isn’t always that we are not told we are loved; something keeps certain people from hearing it. Wish we could get at it and destroy it.

Presidential politics well underway. Enough said. Sigh.

It seems Iran has a bit of a problem. After predictably vilifying and threatening a U. S. Navy vessel (and, of course, all things American along with it), doesn’t the same vessel turn around and rescue a distressed Iranian civilian vessel and crew? Gosh, it’s hard for anyone to rant against acts of kindness and human compassion. Do you suppose there’s a lesson there regarding the way to show people who a nation really is, and what it’s citizens are actually about? At least, when they are true to themselves. Something about feeding the enemy when he is hungry, heaping burning coals, etc., comes to mind.

Speaking of Iran, it is becoming more and more apparent that we, in terms of both government policy and media portrayal, really don’t know as much as we need to know about Islam. It is not just another monotheistic faith; it has an entirely different view of God, people, and (to return to a theme from earlier in the week) of human flourishing. All the more reason to figure out what a Christian vision of that public good really entails.

I received an email from someone in the Obama campaign machinery this week. It was addressed to Pennsylvanians, seeking horror stories about Rick Santorum to be shared with the rest of the nation so that all would be aware of how dangerous this man could be. Oh, and it was “signed” by a gal named Aletheia. How disturbingly ironic.

And how are any of you doing with those resolutions? Here’s hoping that, at the very least, the one about avoiding being stupid is still intact. And do venture a bit of feedback on this format for ending the week.

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5 thoughts on “Saturday’s Stray Thoughts

  1. On homelessness, I’ve always wondered how the church managed to turn Jesus’s statement, “you will always have the poor with you” into “so there’s no use bothering to do anything to help them.”

  2. Amy, excellent point. And yes homelessness has definitely increased over the last couple of years. Living in a place where I do run into homeless people from time to time (Philadelphia), this topic has been on my mind a lot in the last year or two. So here are a few random thoughts on homelessness.

    I have heard the argument, “Oh, that person is drunk. If you give him money he will just use it to buy alcohol.” 2 things. 1) Money is not the only or most important thing you can give to a person. 2) Some of the passages in the gospels speak of Jesus healing “each one” or “all”. It does not say anything about denying healing to those who would later commit sins great or small with that healing or distinguish between those who would follow Him and those who would not.

    Another argument I have heard is that it is not safe. While this can be true at times, and wisdom and discretion are needed, it does not mean ignore them and do nothing. There are a lot of people that may not look that safe, but are harmless.

    I’m not going to argue for or against giving money directly to a person here, but offer a couple of other suggestions.

    There are Christian, other non-profit, government-run, and government-affiliated organizations that have shelters and/or provide services to homeless people. Learn about those in your local area, what the strengths and weaknesses are, what the requirements are for staying at one. If you feel that one of them does a particularly good job at reaching out to these people, you may feel called to give of your time or money to that organization. (and a lot of them constantly need men’s underwear). I know of at least one organization that really reached out to the people who would not typically go for the shelter thing. However, despite a successful few years, they could not continue. So there is one less place to go at a time when more are needed.

    Or if you do end up having a conversation with someone who is homeless and they are open to suggestions you may be able to share information with them, though this is another place wisdom and discretion is needed. Or you may just have a small sheet of paper you carry around in case the situation arises that has locations and phone numbers on it, and say, “you may not need this, and have some other leads, but here are a few places to check out. If not you can throw it away or give it to someone else.”

    Maybe you volunteer at a soup kitchen. For those really serious about combating this problem face-to-face, I’m going to borrow a suggestion from someone else. Gather people (maybe from your church, or maybe in partnership with other churches, or elsewhere) in prayer and preparation, and pick a time and place to go where the homeless people are. Going out 2 by 2, cover an area and engage in conversation. Sometimes you will get a story, sometimes you won’t, and sometimes you will get a story that does not quite make sense. Have some mini-stories of your own. Go out with baked goods to share and sit down with them. Take them for a slice of pizza. Maybe they do not have a phone and would like to make a call. Maybe they need a ride somewhere.

    Be prayerful, creative, intentional, flexible, and wise.

    (I did not mean for this to be so long, so I will stop now. Did I mention I’d been thinking about it a lot?)

  3. Iran does have problems, according to a mixture of sources, less than 1% of the population goes to mosque on a weekly basis, there are 500,000 prostitutes in Tehran and 14% of the adult population uses opium or its derivates like Heroin, and the inflation rate is officially 15%, but in food the unofficial rate is over 50%. And the worst, more conversions to Christianity!

    “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

    Iran’s leadership is a very eschatologically driven group of people, many are “12ers” looking for the 12th Iman and the end of the age. I was watching a German film that had received many awards about this guy in a bunker told from his secretary’s perspective. He too actually embraced the destruction of his people, defeat was perfectly fine.

    Nihilism is a dangerous thing.

    For that philosophical premise alone I can admire the construction of a Kingdom here and now. Unfortunately that is more ana-baptist theology than evangelical. Insights from Sun Tzu; however, would probably not be the strong suit of Mennonite USA.

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