Just so no one can accuse me of being too much of a Conservative, I’m going to spend some time railing on the fact that Christians need to get out of their “holy huddles” and re-focus on helping those in need… But before I do, two anecdotes:
The other day I was walking between buildings in my employer’s downtown Seattle campus, when a pair of scantily dressed ladies in tight dresses crossed the street in front of me, one of them flinging her boa over her shoulder as she passed. As they got close I realised that they weren’t ladies at all. They were young men. This is Seattle.
Seattle residents generally identify themselves as liberal. In fact, I was in a volunteer information session in downtown Seattle, and as the facilitators laid out the facts about poverty, prostitution, and child sex workers in this city, they expressed genuine surprise that such things could even occur in such a liberal, educated city like this one! The absurdity of the notion that more liberalness should somehow lead to less sin completely escaped them.
So yes, I’m going to side with liberals briefly here, but always with the understanding that sin, a liberal lifestyle, and the corrosion of morals will lead to more sin — not less.
But then you have bewilderingly “conservative” viewpoints like “If only we had more guns, there would be less gun violence!” and “Health care shouldn’t be controlled by the government!” while the conservative agenda continues to make it difficult for people who genuinely need either mental or physical care to get it.
Its these two horrifically polarized sides of the national debate that leave a giant gap of un-met needs, rather than coming together to solve problems. Its the middle of America that is largely unserved by either political position. Conservatives won’t invest in liberal activities to the benefit of their country (or the rest of the world). Liberals won’t invest in Conservative activities to the benefit of their country (or the rest of the world).
I’ve personally had to wrestle with this debate. Seattle is a city with needs. Seattle is also a city more-or-less devoid of God (as an example, at my job you can create internal online communities and groups for anything — literally anything — except your faith.) In Seattle you can worship sports, or theater or music, you can invest in cars and yachts, you can go to strip clubs, and bars — but I’ve yet to see a church. I’m sure they’re here, but their presence is not tangible. I have yet to identify another Christian in Seattle.
So as a Christian who loves God, loves others and wants to serve the world, the most Christ-like expressions of that desire can be found within liberal programs, liberal organizations and Government-entitlement-spending-leveraging services. The Conservatives, for all their righteous indignation, have apparently abandoned the needy in favor of their comfortable east-side churches. Me included, if I take no action!
Indeed, this problem is not restricted to places like Seattle. The most noticeable community service organizations I’ve ever seen are United Way or Red Cross. Soup kitchens are in government funded community centers, not churches. Out of the Cold is run by the YMCA, not the local congregation. When did we turn over loving others to the secular world? When did the American church decide it was better to fight for Conservative values than for lost souls?
(As an aside, I’m well aware that many — if not most — of the unpaid volunteers who make these secular organizations work are Christians serving humbly and without advertisement of their obedience. Its the leadership of these efforts that we’ve given up on — not service entirely.)
We have similar frustrations with giving. We ache to apply good stewardship toward effective, impactful ministries reaching the world. But we can’t find them. The local youth shelter can clearly articulate their mission and vision, and the strategy and actions they’re taking to execute on it, then tell you exactly what they need, how much of it, and when. Church congregants dump some money in the offering plate, and once a year fill shoeboxes, ship them overseas, and hope that somehow American plastic junk will change lives and win souls for the kingdom.*
(* Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful program, and I’m sure it does have a beautiful impact every year — but its no substitute for getting off your butt and actually doing something!)
I don’t want to read another Christian apologist explaining where God was when mass shootings happen. I want Christian’s making God famous by being first on the ground when people are hurting, with tangible ways to help — and a message of hope. When I can’t find those people or those Christian groups doing those things (or worse, when I can find them, but they’re too busy defending their agenda to make an actual difference), my volunteer time and my money will have to align with liberal groups doing what Christians should be leading the charge in. If I’m to be obedient to God’s direction to help the least of these, what choice do I have?
Seriously…someone, give me some choices.