December 5, 2022

The Confusion of Government and Church

Homeless Man and Dog Anne Quindlen writes an interesting piece entitled “Blessed is the Full Plate” and focuses our attention on the plight of the homeless and poor in this time of increasing food cost.

If you think that it is a challenge for you to pay for food, remember that there are still many in the inner cities that are going without, and rely on the charity of others—like the Church of the Holy Apostles in New York City.  If Ms. Quindlen would have stay there, I could have fully got behind her—but she went a step further.

There’s a miracle in which an enormous crowd comes to hear Jesus and he feeds them all by turning a bit of bread and fish into enough to serve the multitudes. The truth is that America is so rich that political leaders could actually produce some variant of that miracle if they had the will. And, I suppose, if they thought there were votes in it. Enough with the pious sanctimony about gay marriage and abortion. If elected officials want to bring God talk into public life, let it be the bedrock stuff, about charity and mercy and the least of our brethren. Instead of the performance art of the presidential debate, the candidates should come to Holy Apostles and do what good people, people of faith, do there every day—feed the hungry, comfort the weary, soothe the afflicted. And wipe down the tables after each seating.

Two points come jumping to mind.  We will always have the poor with us—and that’s partly because of what makes them poor.  Earlier in her article she gives a breakdown of the type of people that come in: those that are drunk, high, and those that need mental help.  The problem of the poor isn’t necessarily that they need food as that they need help to right their lives.  People need to do more than throw money or food at the problem, they need to actually care about the individual.

The second dovetails with the first.  While it’d be a great photo-op for a politician to go to the Church of the Holy Apostles and feed lunch to the poor, it would be just that.  It takes sacrifice to do it every day, and to actually make a difference would require more than just a warm meal.  That’s exactly why it’s not the government’s job—it’s the job of the church.

You see, the church has a life changing message—that Jesus died for all sins and wants a personal relationship with you.  It’s a message that doesn’t just meet you where you are, pat you on the head after you have had a warm bite to eat and sends you on your way.  It’s a message that says that where you are isn’t good enough—there’s something better.

Part of the problem today is the church—a church that spends more time thinking about how to get more members and misses the call of Jesus to minister to others.  Christ’s example of being a servant is one for us to model.  The example He gave of ministering to the poor is an example for us to follow—the poor of the church, and the poor around us.

But we as Americans are much more willing to pitch some money in than we are to actually attempt to make a difference in a life.  Just like Ms. Quindlen goes as far as to think Washington could eliminate poverty (which would come from throwing more money at it), so we may be willing to throw our money at the problem (if I can still find enough for my vacation), but aren’t willing to invest our time doing the hard stuff.

Or am I mistaken?

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