I don’t want to awkwardly climb off my high horse.
President Obama seems to enjoy tutoring Christians with historical references. Last week he said Christians should be more active and concerned about the poor than opposing gay marriage and abortion. Mr. President, the People of God are capable of multi-tasking.
Seven hundred pastors in Kenya told Mr. Obama he was welcome to visit their country next month, but to please refrain from lecturing them on homosexuality. “Leave the preaching to us,” was their headline.
The poor. One of my favorite stories is Man of LaMancha which has as background the horrible Inquisition. Not one of the Church’s best hours! Nor were the Crusades which in part were defensive responses against the Muslims. “We Conquer…in the name of Christ.” Not pretty. But while the history books record stories of the Crusaders, they also tell the stories of the wives and mothers at home carrying for the poor and the sick, some of which were Muslims. World historians—more specifically Roman historians say that the Church of Jesus Christ won the Roman Empire by caring for their enemy’s sick. Caring for the poor has always been a dominant character of People of the Way.
One of the bends in my journey came when Dr. Will Campbell spoke at my University. He was a friend and participant in the Civil Rights Movement while at the same time he served as a chaplain for the KKK. I think Brother Campbell wrote it in his book Brother to a Dragonfly, but I heard the answer firsthand. Someone asked him how he could pull off being active in both opposing camps. He answered, “By carrying the bedpans of their sick.”
Mr. President, please read the rest of the historical story. You also need to hang with some of my friends and family. I have found those closest to the Bible tend to be the most faithful and generous givers. They stand for what they believe to be true and give sacrificially to the poor and sick and needy.
Some of my friends have a habit of adopting orphans and visiting Ethiopia. Before I went to kindergarten, my family sent offerings to the mission to Ethiopia. We have been giving to the African nations my entire life. It is not just historical, the mission continues. My wife and I helped buy an Ethiopian chicken farm to enable a village to become financially self-sufficient. Friends have taught villagers financial principles and others built water purification apparatus which they carry to the countries God has called them to.
My youth was filled with images, stories and personalities of World Vision, Salvation Army, missions to Burma, China, Africa and other nations with others committed to wherever there were poor and needy. That is part of the history that is ignored during the demeaning diatribes. The Crusaders of the 20th Century sought ways to improve lives and save souls. Most of them made mistakes; some screwed up and looked to the critics like self-serving colonists. We saw people as lost as well as hungry. The brightest among us knew that we could never lead someone to Christ as long as their stomachs were empty.
I’m sure the folks at Samaritan Purse were surprised to hear they needed to pay attention to the poor. That organization and dozens like it are the first responders in Nepal and New Orleans.
Ask who builds the hospitals and infrastructure in the third world. Who built hospitals in this country and cared for the poor and sick and needy and homeless in our nation’s history. In my city of birth, the names of the hospitals were, Methodist, Mercy (Roman Catholic), Lutheran. Who fought the outbreak of the ebola threats during the past year? Most of those early front-liners were connected to Christian mission organizations.
Caring for the sick, ministering to the poor and expressing beliefs that are deeply held are not mutually exclusive. Upward mobility is one of the byproducts in Central and South American countries because Pentecostals taught the Word of God including self-reliance, personal responsibility while declaring personal purity and sexual holiness. The poor became the mission because the leaders were poor. There are many stories of the poor becoming a sanctified political force as transformation and formation changed people. Societal transformation is still happening in Mozambique and a thousand other “war” fronts. Talk to Heidi Baker about caring for the poor on the city dumps.
A friend motivated us to buy 119,000 pencils to send to the poor. Does that count? I have close friends reaching out to the poor in The Dominican Republic at this moment. Other close friends have been to Haiti in the past few months and others are scheduled to work in India this summer.
I shall continue to pray for you Mr. President. I am also praying for those who are committed to going to the streets in USA and foreign countries to do what they can for the poor.
Dr. Michael Savage is an over-the-top radio talk show host. He screams a lot and knows how to verbalize cynicism. He’s been quoting Jeremiah recently. Last week he got very quiet just before saying, “You’re going to wonder where this is coming from. Only religion will save this country.” Jesus is the answer, but I want to hear specifics!
© 2015 D. Dean Benton http://bentonministries.com