Privileged Hate

It’s really weird what’s going on in the West right now: we hate and maim and murder the least of these (children, via “abortion”) and trumpet the guilt of the “privileged” class. This madness is one reason I feel the need to respond to Dr. Christena Cleveland. 

Dr. Cleveland was asked by Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) leadership to speak to women, and men, at their recent national staff conference. We’ll leave the obvious “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over men” violation for another time and just deal with what she said, publicly and on the record. Exploring the “feminist” decision of Cru might be labeled sexist bigotry – forget that it’s addressed plainly in Scripture.

Over and over again, Dr. Cleveland wants Cru staff to feel guilty about their privileged backgrounds (how she knows all of their privileged backgrounds?). This, dear friends, is classism. Dr. Cleveland deeply wants privileged people to feel guilt over their “privilege.” Marx does much the same thing in the pages of Communist Manifesto, so it’s nothing new, really.

If classism is treating people differently based on their social or economic “class,” and it is evil, then we should also clarify the name of its brother, racism. Racism is treating any human differently, positively or negatively, based on skin color. Strangely, in the name of “racial reconciliation,” Dr. Cleveland speaks as a racist, too:

  • “Crusade needs to divest itself of whiteness and maleness,” she claims at one point.
  • The white, privileged class has “inherited a fault,” in gaining land 100+ years ago through government programs.
  • With a bit of class, race, and religious guilt, she claims, “Christians are accommodated in the West.”

The madness of liberalism is the desire to use racism to combat racism, to use murder to combat “unwanted” children, to use welfare to encourage work. The Bible does none of these. In fact, the Word of God goes to great, careful lengths to avoid racism when speaking of race, to avoid classism when speaking of class:

  • For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. Romans 10:12
  • For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace… Ephesians 2:14-15
  • Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11

Phrases like “no distinction” and “there is not” teach us to stop looking at each other through the eyes of class and race. Trying to fight the fires of pride with more fiery arrogant racism is nonsense, Dr. Cleveland. Only Christ is the answer. Of him you spoke very little, seeming more interested in discussing race, class, and “white guilt.”

The Bible, conversely, is careful to condemn all of us – with actual evils we have done, not false ones – that we would come together to Christ.

 

 

Sob-Stories, Guilt, and a Freed Conscience

A Long Con on the Streets of Raleigh, NC

The other night I was out talking to folks on the cold downtown streets, and a homeless man approached me. Let’s call him, “Pierre.” I’ve met Pierre before, even buying him groceries late one night a few years back.

And I’ve seen him around town since then, growing out his beard and wandering aimlessly. Pierre has learned over time to use his weepy eyes, his sob story about his long lost family, and his quavering voice to get cash out of well-meaning urbanites. The other night he was at it again.

Pierre ingratiated himself by offering to help me with whatever I might need, sitting to talk and acting like he wanted to listen. For a solid half-hour, he seemed humble and ready to listen. So much so that I forgot the three years of data that shows otherwise.

As I packed up to leave, Pierre asked for a sandwich. Since I had already given him a snack, I didn’t think this was necessary, but he persisted. There I felt that old feeling – and this is yet another reason we can’t trust our wayward “feelings” – guilt. I felt guilty for not wanting to help him, as though I were responsible to feed every homeless person in my city.

I felt guilty because I’ve heard so many lying, cheating, stealing sob-stories and become hardened to them. I felt guilty because I thought Jesus would just help the guy.

So I bought him the sandwich (which prompted this resolution based on what I’ve learned). But then I felt worse. How’s that?

How and Why Evil Sob-Stories Grip the Conscience
The reason we feel so bad is because those stories are so bad – but not in the way we think. Those sob-stories, affected with all the facial and vocal contortions of a stage actor, are evil not because of what the person claims to have experienced, but because of their hidden motives.

In many cases (to leave out exceptions), the storyteller just wants to steal. He wants to steal your hard-earned cash, your dignity as an image-bearer, and your responsibility to love. He does all this by lying to you.

A lie? That seems harsh. Here’s how it works: the storyteller turns your desire to love on its head by hiding the truth – he is likely too lazy to work and has been for some time. He just wants money for nothing. He’ll say anything he thinks you’ll believe just because he wants a handout.

We could make obvious connections to the current handout system in our beloved US of A, but we’ll hold off for now. The point here is this: the truth is hard to tell when you’re dealing with a professional liar. And handing him money only prolongs and multiplies the problem.

Many, many homeless (and not homeless) people lie for a living to get a quick buck, and as Christians we ought not be bound to their lies. We ought not be bound to even prove them wrong. We ought not let our conscience be held to their standard of handing out money. That’s a lie, and I need to stop believing it.

Then How Should We Love?

When approached and asked for a handout, how do we thus proceed? What else can we do besides offering cash and going along our way? Here are four options:

  1. Talk: If you have the time and want to talk to the person, by all means do so. Get to know them, explain Jesus’ life-changing work in your heart, explain how all of us have broken every one of His commandments and deserve judgment, connect this sin to our current struggles and hardships – yours and the other person’s. But don’t feel like you have to end by giving them a ten-spot.
  2. Direct: In many cities, there are multiplicities of ministries that put the poor into work-stay programs, job training, and the like. If your new acquaintance says she doesn’t want to go, it at least shows you where her heart is.
  3. Jobs: If you know of someone who would like to hire an entry-level worker (though often the reply is predictably, “I don’t have my papers”) or you would like to extend the offer yourself for lawn-mowing or shed-building employment, offer the poor person a chance to work. Imagine that! Work!
  4. Local Church: Should a poor person genuinely feel his need for deeper change, suggest attending a Christ-centered worship service in the area. Give specific details of name, place, and time. If you will be there, meet him promptly before service or offer a pick-up.

But What If She Says She’s Still Hungry?
It might seem “mean” to refuse money to a hungry person, but hunger is biblically a motive for work. “If he will not work, let him not eat.” Christians need to be willing to bear along God’s harder consequences in grace, too. Fear not, little flock: it is a gracious thing to relate this truth to a lazy person.

Of course, if we “feel led” to give money or food (I often give small servings of food, rarely money), we shouldn’t think we’ve necessarily sinned, either. If the poor woman lied to ensnare you, she bears the brunt of that responsibility, not you. But I write so as not to burden you with guilt and instead free you to love.

Conclusion: To Grow in Love
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a “harden-your-heart-in-the-name-of-materialism” approach. Just the opposite: we need to grow in love for the poor precisely by being more careful in the way we love the poor.

Notice that none of these ways removes the dignity of the poor person and his need to work. Think this through with your local church and remember that, in God’s law, the poor could glean off of landowners’ fields, but the owners didn’t do it for them.

Again, this is a love-thing, not a guilt-thing. How are we promoting the gleaning of work for the good of the poor and the glory of God?

The Chalmers Center Helps Without Hurting

In my last post, I mentioned Corbett & Fikkert’s excellent book, When Helping Hurts. Here is the organization connected with (inspired by?) the book: The Chalmers Center.

Check them out for financial literacy and economic programs in the Americas and in the Majority World.

Why I’ve Stopped Giving Handouts

A Street Minister Rethinks Giving Money for Nothing

My Story
Like so many passionate young people ten years ago, I became enthralled with the radical generosity of God’s grace and began ministering directly to the homeless in my city. It gave me a feeling, quiet though it was, of self-righteousness in my own generosity.

Weeks and months of these one-sided relationships passed, and I saw change neither in the giver (me) nor the recipient. All of my handouts were doing nothing.

My friends and I would discuss our desire to help the poor, but come to no practical consensus about how to do so. Our handouts did nothing, and left us feeling violated – conscientiously and financially. It was as though the poor sought out idealistic young people to emotionally abuse with their sob-stories.

When “Helping” Hurts
But the pieces didn’t click together until we read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Their main points (outlined creatively in this video) are:

  1. At the deepest level of need, poor people, like all people, have broken relationships (with God, others, creation, and self).
  2. Though we may try to help the poor, “good intentions aren’t enough.”
  3. Poor people (like all people) need Jesus Christ and His local church to heal broken relationships at the root of poverty.
  4. The image of God in all people means that each of us has dignity, worth, and ability to work hard. “The ultimate solution to poverty comes not from the outside in, but from the inside out.
  5. Practically, we should only help the poor in ways that they cannot help themselves (i.e., pay for work, not for nothing).

Wow, even watching that video reminds me of the great harm I’ve done, we’ve done, in giving handouts to homeless people who willfully choose to beg rather than work. And these are the “handouts” I’m talking about – not all types, just the dishonest, undignified types.

There is a woman we meet who works hard and still has unexpected troubles, then there is a man who comes to our church to beg off of everyone. The first should be helped and counseled; the second rebuked and cast out if he continues his dishonest ways.

Giving handouts to those who can and should work instead tells them that it’s okay to beg, steal, lie, and cheat to get their cash. Instead, we ought to be pointing them to the Christ who is able to help us each fulfill our callings wherever we need to serve, work, and love.

A Moment on White Guilt
I’m not big into talking about this (Doug Wilson is one who does it more faithfully and carefully), but we ought to think long and hard about how money and privilege entitle us neither to withhold generosity nor succumb to guilty handouts. The people around us need better “love” than that; their souls are worth more.

I know I often “feel bad” because I grew up with opportunities that maybe others didn’t have, but there’s nothing wrong with opportunities. We know not why the Master gives one manager ten talents, the next five, and the last just one. We just know He gives them and calls us to account for them.

So Paul’s word to the rich in Ephesus makes more sense:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty,
nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches,
but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works,
to be generous and ready to share,
thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future,
so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV

Let us who are rich in this present age do good with the talents our Lord has given us, with an eye toward loving others and storing up treasure, not in self-righteous works, but in heaven. These “good works,” however, ought not indebt the poor to our own “goodness,” nor maim the image of God within them, but stoke the fires of Godly passions.

Speak Up: The Truth Always Wins

Mother, writer, and former Communist refugee Lea Singh writes at MercatorNet, asking, “Are We Sleepwalking through the Great Infanticide?“:

Speaking up for the truth might make us look like fools. And that is just the beginning. Today, it is a sad fact that opposing abortion can cost a person their job and even their career. You might also lose your friends, your standing in a social circle, your invitations to events. One day, your position on abortion could even cost you your freedom.

To me, as a former political refugee from Communist Czechoslovakia, all this sounds eerily familiar. Back then, most people in our country were also silent, and many feared the repercussions that would follow if they openly opposed the regime. But we had a few dissidents, and they made a world of difference. One of them, Vaclav Havel, eventually became the first president of a free Czechoslovakia.

The truth is a powerful thing; over time, throughout history, it has always won the moral battles, and I have no doubt that one day, abortion will be rejected and recognized as an unspeakable evil. Until that day comes the journey continues to require courage and sacrifice on the part of those who carry the responsibility of knowing the truth. It is up to us to awaken the conscience of our society, one person at a time.

As Martin Luther lived and taught, our courage isn’t measured where the battles are easy, but where the are the most fierce. Fifty years from now, our grandchildren will look back at our days and ask how we could let the Infant Holocaust happen before our closed eyes.

Yes, calling evil “evil” may well cost us our jobs, our friends, even our lives. It cost Jesus the same, His disciples the same, and now our children the same. So open your eyes, and speak up.

Money Frosting and Deeper Greed

“Giving handouts creates more problems than it solves,” says life-long missionary Nate Saint in his recent article on rich Westerners doing third-world missions, “Projecting Poverty Where It Doesn’t Exist.”

He explains several new problems handouts create:

  • Handouts create a false sense of need for the American way of life.
  • Handouts create a desire to see one’s self as needy in order to get free stuff.
  • Handouts hurt entire communities by provoking greed, money-lust, and discontentedness.

Read the whole article to see how Saint explains each with decades of life experience.

Missions for Maturity, Not Dependence

Pastor Doug Wilson, ruminating on Scripture and common observation to show why Christian missions to third-world countries should be “Fathers, Not Sugar Daddies“:

When someone is paid for being poor, it is often the case that they will do their job, and will work at being poor. When someone is paid for being entitled, then it is not surprising that they become indignant when someone points out they are feeling entitled. That’s their job.

He points out that this principle has very clear application to our own country’s welfare state as well.

Jesus Didn’t Start Programs; He Ate Meals

Tim Chester, from his book, A Meal with Jesus:

Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus then you’ll be doing mission. It’s not that meals alone save people. People are saved through the gospel message. But meals create natural opportunities to share that message in a context that resonates powerfully with what you’re saying.

So go preach the gospel with a meal.

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