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University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: May 17, 2005
Latest Update: May 17, 2005

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Index of Topics on Site Christian Behavior and the Homeless: My World on May 17, 2005

I am going to speak of Christian behavior because at the moment our nation resounds with the message that we are a Christian nation. I find this strange to my heritage, although I was born to a Catholic family, because I consider that most of the religions I have study teach the same kindness and forgiveness, charity, tzedekheit, and love of others as oneself as does Christianity. I realize that Pope Benedict XVI believes that the Catholic Church is supreme over all other religions, but I profoundly disagree with him that one can only be saved by the Christian God, particularly if one happened to be born into any number of other cultures.

I see nothing particularly Christ-like in humans' inhumanity to humans, or to other creatures, for that matter. I see nothing particularly Christian in colonization, in which one takes another's land to glean the profits of it and expxloits the Other to work it for those profits to which the Other is not then entitled.

I do not see poverty as glamorous or more pious or caring or just than wealth. Both the wealthy and the poor have their share of not very bright, not very nice people. All religions that I have studied have some love and humanity to commend them. Some focus more on the afterlife, some more on the good life while we're on this earth. But only extremists in my experience have practiced cruelty and torture and general indifference to suffering and a lack of the necessities of life, including education.

Two topics that I have addressed today in responding to the discussions on transform_dom are homelessness and church attendance.

Michael Griffin had this to say about homelessness:

Greetings and what a great topic,

I have a take on homelessness,and it has to do with the life of the soul. Do you believe you have an immortal soul? One that will always be and has always been? Can neither be created or destroyed since it has existed before the concept of time... If we live on a soul level which has been around for ever, then we have witnessed or participated as either victum or victumizer in every event in history. We experienced the death of Christ or were one of the soldiers who drove the spikes. We had the bombs of nagasaki or hiroshima dropped on us or were the crew of the planes who dropped them. Perhaps we designed or built the bombs, or were just a tax payer back then and supported it that way. Could we have been a soldier, or a politician, who knows maybe we are different people simultanesously. The point i am trying to make is perhaps some of the homeless are those who have awakened to the possibility of remembering way more than most of us can handle, as far as the world of spirit goes. Maybe they have seen the lives they lived and experienced the lives lost have come into their consciousness. Perhaps knowing a little more puts them in a place very much like the stories we have heard about Christ's life, it is said he had only the clothes on his back, like the homeless? Would Christ himself live there or in beverly hills, would he be on the street in compton or live in palos verdes?

My anology is that from what i understand Christ walked and lived among the common people and had Mary Madgelene as a follower, he dressed very simply, owned nothing and spent his time with the people of the streets, is this not the story? Following that then i would "assume" if he walked among us he might not spend his time behind walls in gated communities and in crystal cathederals. would that be fair to surmise? I believe we all have individual souls and i'm not sure where you got the notion i thought otherwise, apologies for the mis communication. [in answer to an earlier post]. One more example of the "christian mindset" that i am horrifyed by is bush's comment after 911 when he said this is a "crusade." if you know anything about history in the middle east the crusades were a very dark time for those living in that region. The christians of the day decieded to conquer the known world and bring them christianity, and we all know Christ taught with the sword and used all his almighty power to persude people, right? So in my opinion the crusades were not christ-like either and for bush to use such terminology is terrifying to the peoples of the middle east. BTW there have been over 100,000 Iraqi deaths. Using this term to describe the situation in the middle east would be akin to threatening Israel with another holocaust. Bush's example and his quotes "wanted dead or alive" and "bring 'em on" are as far afield as one could get from any behavior that i could consider "christian" And i am appaled that our "resident select" our "commander 'n thief" would embarrass me and dishonor Christ, christians and the american people as he does. I would think christians would be more upset for his abuse of the position he has taken, but then real christians might follow Christ's example and turn the other cheek."

Michael, like Jason, doesn't pull any punches. His language and his reactions are tough. But Michael voices what many of us soften so as not to offend. There is really no longer time not to offend. We need to talk about this honestly, and I am very pleased that so many of you have.

Why is it OK to have such a high death toll in the Other country, yet totally unacceptable to have such a death toll in our own country? After all, it's our war. We gave it. In their country. I think Christ would think of those things. Though He didn't hesitate to throw out the money-lenders defiling the Temple. War, violence, human inter-relationships are complex social patterns that can't be prescribed by rules, particularly not by rules in place long, long before modern technology. But we need to consider what Christ, and what other religious leaders like Him might have counseled. Remember Ghandi.

Michael alludes also to a universal soul, though he says "immortal." I'm not sure about the "immortal." I understand that the Bible offers humans a just measure of days, but not immortality. So even that must be open to interpretation. But many religions speak of "soul" as though it were the ultimate community of living things, as though we had individual souls that long to rejoin, and in some cases are reborn, in relation to nirvana. Those aren't exactly Christian concepts, but we speak of returning to God in Heaven. Our dreams are not so different. All these religious and spiritual ideas challenge Christian thinking when it comes to illocutionary understanding of Others, and not just those of religions we once considered fairly foreign to our soils. They are foreign no more.

Jacquline Jones-Lee wrote in Message 3460:

Michael we each have our own individual souls. I understand your seeing this on a scientific level. (Jacqueline, I question whether Michael's theory of the universal soul is on a scientific level - more philosophical and spiritual - jeanne) How about looking at this on a CHRISTIAN level. God, created each one of us and would surely not have us to share a soul. (Can you think of sharing in the sense of Heaven where all Christians come together? - jeanne) I agree with you when you say that maybe their minds have been open to see more then we have. A lot of our homeless are our service men/women who have fo,ught for our country. They have seen warfare first hand; with the mind being so sensitive, I'm sure this is a lot to deal with. Waking up in cold sweats, delirious of still being in combat, seeing your best friend die in your arms, etc. These are some things that our Veterans suffer from and who knows what else is living on the streets. People have endured some horrible things in their life to fall to life on the streets.

As for Christ and where would he live; how about in our HEARTS? (Good point, well taken - jeanne) Therefore, he lives in Compton, Palos Verde, Santa Monica, etc.; and even on the streets with the homeless. And if we go back to when Christ walked the earth, would it not be easier to walk with his people of bondage then to sit on the throne as a Pharaoh/King. Who would listen to him then?

This is a difficult dialogue for us when we don't have the jargon of theology and philosophy to draw on. My first impression is that Michael and Jacqueline are talking about very much the same thing. But they're using very different words. This is a problem when we make a subject like religion taboo for so long. We all learn to think about it, as we must, in different ways, in different language. Jacqueline sees Michael's point about how much the homeless have seen. I don't think she sees yet his analogy of this to what souls that have lived before may have also seen, in much the same way. But they're starting to here that there is more to what is happening with the homeless in the street than just the image that meets our eyes. What an interesting challenge for someone like Shon to try to capture visually what that would be. Shon did a study with the homeless last semester. He needs to take it further now.

What I'm Asking of You for an A in Independent Study:

For an A in the Independent Study class, I would like all of you to confirm to me that you understand this universe of spiritual approach to both civic and religious life and why I am not asking for any of you to agree with the others, but merely to try to understand where they are coming from in this thought which has been with us, not only through the twentieth century, but back into pre-historic times in which the Mother goddesses, and the Egyptian Gods and all the others expressed our need to understand our souls, our ethics, our very reason for existence.

Now, to Michael and Miko and Jason and Sawson and Jacqueline and all the others of you who are thinking this through philosophically: Hello! Please call home, where we're asking questions like Taneisha asks here:

Taneisha Antoine wrote in Message No.

Taneisha Antoine: I just wanted to know your opinion about America's homelessness. At some point, every person has experienced some sort of homelessness. In your eyes do you see it as a huge growing problem? Why? What can we as a community do to help this issue?

Michael, I want you and Jason and Miko and others to think of these discussions on several levels. At a philosophical level are our proposed social solutions Christ-like or loving and caring and respectful of humans? At another philosophical level are our proposed social solutions taking into account the actual or the idealized behavior of humans and how does that affect how we put them into practice?

Then on a completely different level, what about Taneisha's question? What can we as a community do to help this issue? Nevermind whether it's Christ-like. She's already made peace with that issue. What can she expect when she tries to do some of what we have said must be done, (in this case, in Christ's name)?

And look at how Joi addressed the issue of homelessness:

Joi Dudley Message No. 3444 She says among other things, equally important:

A lot of times homeless people are not really willing to work, or may be sick in some sort of way, but we are all to choose to love each other and care about what happens to each other. But to me it seems that there is no real love for the homeless. It seems that people care more about animals and abortions than they do about men, women and children living on the street who need help also.

I am not saying we need to give a couple of quarters to every homeless person that we see, but we could at least speak to them when we see them on the street. Sometimes that will make their whole day, just to know someone cared enough to say, "Hi".

Joi is raising very real questions here about our assumption that everyone is or "should be" like us: hard working, thrifty, courteous, caring. C'mon, guys, even the non-homeless and the wealthy aren't consistently "proper according to middle class family values." These are what Martha Minow, a Harvard Law Professor of social justice calls "unstated assumptions." And she speaks of how those unstated assumptions lead us to misinterpret one another's values, ideas, behavior. This would be a good time to review that file.

Joi also brings up the important illocutionary step of just speaking to the Other. She's right, you know. We're often so determined to persuade the Other to think and behave as we do that we don't even bother to say "hello," the tip of the beginning of listening in good faith. Exclusion, not being acknowledged or spoken to in the presence of those who "belong," is painful, unnecessarily painful, and it often sends the excluded other into deeper anger and/or depression. Shouldn't we ask how this relates to the amount of rage that erupts in our homes, our schools, and on our highways?

Angelina Feagin in Message 3490, expresses her sentiment of how we might contribute:

I feel a strong sense to help the homeless too. Most times when someone asks for money in order to purchase food, and I have it, I do give. I believe that there are different reactions and changes in society that people go through that sends them down that particular path. I find myself praying on many occasions when I see someone homeless. There is a mission basket at my church that I always try to put money in because I know that it is for the homeless. I am in the process led by God to open Transitional Housing for youth that are found to be at a high risk of becoming homeless after leaving foster care.

Angelina makes several practical suggestions for the individual trying to be aware of the homeless problem and do something to make it better.

  • Giving money when we have it is one way of helping.
  • Praying, in addition to any spiritual help it may provide, keeps us aware of the problem as a real and present social issue. to the extent that we are aware, we are more willing to not exclude, not refuse to acknowledge or speak to those for whom we pray.
  • Organized efforts, like Transitional Housing for Youth, are more likely to efficiently tackle the problem that none of us can deal with alone.

So, Angelina has addressed the problem on many levels. I'd just like her to be aware of how she's touching those different levels.

Cheryl Williams takes this issue to a narrative level when she recounts this story in Message No. 3468.

Homelessness is a subject that should affect each and every one of us because it can happen to anyone. I have a very dear friend that suddenly found herself homeless after devoting her entire life to being a productive citizen. She was laid off a job that paid her lots of money, became very ill and nearly died forcing her to live on slid row after spending several months in the hospital with severe heart problems. The sad part of it was that she had to fight to get her social security disability benefits which took seven years. This country is portrayed as being compassionate about it's citizens but I watched first hand how she was treated when she had nothing to contribute. Thank God, she is now living in Florida with relatives that love her and is doing just fine. Throughout all of this she never gave up her faith and trust in God that one day she would feel and be treated like a human being again. I feel that our goverment should spend more time on taking care of it's own instead of worrying about another country's problems. No one in America should be homeless and without medical care. Just my thoughts.

For all the theories and conceptual links we examine, we still need the narrative to make the issues real in our busy lives. Stories, drama, images bring the awareness home to us.

I'm going to conclude this here, recognizing that there are many more messages I could bring into this discussion. But this will give you an idea of how you might use this same technique to conceptually link your own messages to the group discussion and to the theoretical issue of homelessness, religion, and present social issues. If you'd like your comment included in this essay-like format, just let me know and we'll fit it in.

love and peace, jeanne

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