“The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.” – Donald Trump
Just kidding, it was probably Gandhi, but it’s also been attributed to Truman, Pope John Paul II, Dostoyevsky, and others. Whoever it was- I agree.
With all this talk around making America “great” again I think it’s revealing and scary to reflect on just how many people impoverished, imprisoned, and oppressed in our nation.
Today I brought some supplies to some friends of ours in a local homeless camp. For the past year our little church plant has befriended and tried to help some of our members who have been sleeping under 880 in Oakland. If you’ve driven through the Webster Tunnel to Alameda you’ve probably seen their tents.
As a follower of Christ, there is this peculiar teaching that we’re supposed to live out that says the divine abides powerfully and mysteriously in the “least of these”. Essentially, according to Christ, it’s the poor who are the most blessed in God’s economy. This teaching challenges the power structures of our world and calls us to serve, know, support, and love the poor and vulnerable.
Last winter I became friends with Mac, a brilliant Jesus-loving man who had just started to attend our church. One week we grabbed coffee and chatted about church, Thomas Merton, and homelessness. To be honest I was surprised when he told me he was homeless.
Over the course of time Mac and I became friends, he became a big part of our church, and invited us to partner the ministry he was carrying out in the homeless camp he stayed. We started a life group in the camp, brought them medicine, supplies, tents, food, water, and most importantly grew in friendship. Not bad for a church plant barley a year old that doesn’t even break even in it’s own budget yet.
That brings me to the last few weeks. At some point I got a call from Mac explaining that the Sheriff was kicking them out. They gave them 5 minutes to move their belongings or they would all be thrown away. Somewhere around 20 people had to get up and leave without any direction as to where they should go or any help getting there.
In the days that followed, they built the gates pictured below. If you get a chance to see them- they are huge (Trump reference intended). I’ve since asked multiple folks in the camp if anyone has come by to offer support or resources. Nothing. What’s hard for me to understand here is how we can have the resources to build and pay for such a significant fence, but we can’t take the time to work with the folks who were staying in the camp. All that happened here is a band-aid. What was the plan? Where did they expect Mac and his neighbors to go?
I’m not claiming to have answers, but I know that we should have the conversation. If we claim to be a “great” nation, how can we treat people like this?
If you’d like to read about this camp Mac had been bloging about it for a while. You can read his work here: https://oaklandhomeless.wordpress.com/