7.11.2007

The Question That Haunts Me




What does the first picture (in a symbolic sense) have to do with the second? What does the church have to do with genocide, abortion, global warming, cancer, AID's, and on and on it goes. It is a question that haunts me. This is why I am something of a cynic. If I go there it breaks me up. So I just don't go there.

4 comments:

Rick Meigs said...

David:

Nicely done.

What the first picture has to do with the second, for me, is that the first picture shows where "our" real concerns are and therefore where we put our resources. Which means, sadly, we have little to help solve or make a difference with the issues reflected in the second picture. We are far more concerned with our comfort and image than with being Jesus in the world.

Mx5 said...

Definitely a thought-provoking post, David. Regarding the church photo... definitely an image of the supposed "average" church in affluent America. We need to be careful about our assumptions, though. Are all churches affluent? Does the existence of a building mean that those in leadership of the church valued a building over dying children? Is the construction of a building always an indicator that a church is bloated and exclusively self-loving? That it's members are only concerned for themselves and their 401k plans and summer cottages? We know this does happen, but how often, and are buildings (or what cars the parishoners drive, or what clothes they wear)indicators of whether or not a person cares for people other than him/herself?

Barna Research indicates that 75% of "Born Again" Christians gave material resources directly to the poor, 64% donated money to organizations which help the poor, 66% made or bought food to give directly to the poor, 71% spent a significant amount of time praying for the poor, etc. Is it enough? No. The suffering continues. But it seems to me that more people care about the poor, and act upon their convictions than certainly I thought. I am surprised! My assumptions were incorrect, based on appearances. In this case, the picture painted a thousand words leaning toward pristine apathy, when in fact that doesn't seem to be the case, according to Barna. I am shocked.

Now to the photo of the children. What an awful, heart-wrenching, anger producing photo. Why are the children dying? Why is aid not getting to them? What is their government doing? What is the church doing? What about parachurch and relief organizations? What, if anything, has the culture contributed to this awful state?
If churches were not built in America, would it help these dear precious children?

The horrible situation of the hungry and suffering worldwide is something that should concern every believer in Jesus. Not just concern us, but prompt us to follow in His steps by feeding the hungry, caring for those in need, sharing the gospel with them, trying to bring hope and love.

I don't see the 2 photos as being antithetical... it's not "either build churches or save children" to me, rather, what can we do, as prompted by the Holy Spirit, to help those around us and in our world? Jesus Himself said that the poor would always be with us - yet those are just the people with whom He associated regularly... along with the very religious! He didn't just feed them, though, with bread that only satisfies for a day. He fed them words of life.

Hopefully the church is doing the same thing. Regardless, the suffering continues, in body and soul. Sometimes it is apparent outwardly, sometimes not.

David Best said...

Mx5,

This is so hard for me to communicate. I'm not trying to say precisely what you and Rick thought I was trying to say which is my fault. The question should read "what does The Church (uno, global, catholic) have to do with these things. And the answer as you pointed out, is a mixed bag. A very complicated mixed bag.

I'm not trying to throw stones directly at rich Christians. (define rich) However, if somebody feels guilty looking at this, good. (I do not mean you personally in any way.) If as you say the two images are not antithetical than so be it. (I do no mean that sarcastically)(print can be difficult to communicate in)

However, for the sake of conversation, let me challenge a couple things you said.

First, it's not "either build churches or save children" I think in some sense it is, at least to some degree. Yes we need churches, and beyond four walls and a roof, I believe in beauty and creativity, so lets build beautiful churches. Having said that, we do build them at the expense of something else. It is a fact that a dollar spent on X can not be spent on Y, unless of course spending X brings in X times 2, in which case then you can fund Y, but now were getting off topic. So in a very real sense we do choose churches and all manner of other things over suffering children. And maybe we should, (no scarcism) but lets make the decesion with our eyes wide open. I deeply believe that a church (local) budget is a deeply theological document. A very telling document.

Second, on the matter of "born again" believers and their giving. Is Mark 12:41-43 applicable? Not always, but how often?

41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny. 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

Mx5 said...

Good points, David, and well taken. As for the widow and her mites, I found it interesting in that passage that Jesus commented about the percentage that woman gave... 100%. Was this included in the Scriptures as a mandate or model that all should follow, or a statement of fact? Was He merely making a commentary on the heart of the woman, rather than her lack of monetary means?

The NT instruction to the churches definitely emphasizes caring for the poor. Who can argue that? It's how that caring looks which seems to be the sticking point.

I know there's plenty of criticism by missional or emergent conversationalists on how the evangelical church as a whole has really missed the mark when it comes to ministering to the poor and needy. There is also criticism against the EC/Missional movement that the social gospel has overtaken that particular part of the Body (globally) while minimizing the spiritual aspects of the Church. I think, for what it's worth, that there is value in both. Again, not antithetical, but for and with.

If we really concentrated on what Jesus called the most important commands ('love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,' and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ) it seems to me that the spiritual and social aspects of the gospel should go hand in hand.

Just my late night musings, er, ramblings, for what they're worth.