Another cup of Caffeine for the Conscience- December 2, 2005
We’ve been discussing God’s Politics by Jim Wallis at Panera’s Bread Company for the last few weeks, with a neat group of people. Coffee seems to aid good conversation! I’d say it’s a real stimulant to good thought! On good authority, I’ve been told that Jim Wallis, who is also editor of Sojourner’s Magazine, will be coming to Omaha in April of 2006. He will be sponsored by Presbyterians for Peace and Justice, Creighton University, and Countryside Community Church. Following Wallis’ book, I posed the question,
When did Jesus become Pro-Rich? Actually, I started with another question, What is the most famous biblical text in America about the poor? It’s cited quite often, recently by Bill O’Reilly in one of his usual wrong-headed political opinion pieces in the local paper.
The verse in question is, “For you will always have the poor with you….(Mark 14:7)
That’s where O’Reilly stopped. The rest of the verse goes on to say, “For the poor you will always have with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you will.”
Jesus is assuming that his followers will always put themselves in close proximity to the poor and so will easily be able to help them. How close are we to the poor in America?
At our book discussion, we talked about experiences of being close to the poor. One man talked about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He called it a place of despair, where the best thing they do is celebrate funerals. He explained. Since so many adults die at a young age from poverty and drug abuse, funerals are a common experience. At the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, they have learned how to grieve, but not how to hope.
Another young woman spoke about her mission experience in Malawi, in the southern part of Africa. She made a curious comment. I often felt more comfortable there among the poor people of Malawi than I do here in the United States. The people of Malawi are poor, but they are generous with what little they have, she said. Here in America, too often, we measure people by what they have and not by who they are. You could say we all had a strong jolt of caffeine for the conscience in our discussion of God’s Politics that night.