“Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear a word you are saying!!! Perhaps this should be inscribed in the chancel area of every church in the nation. This is probably the main problem that mainline churches have and it is the reason they are decreasing in number and size—their actions and their words are, too often, not matching.
I recently ran across a poem called “The Mood of Christmas” by Howard Thurman. It reads:
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost.
To heal the broken.
To feed the hungry.
To release the prisoner.
To rebuild the nation.
To bring peace among people.
To make music in the heart.”
We Christians love the Advent Season and the Christmas Season. They are times of Joy and Love, and Peace and Hope for most of us—-and rightly so—-the coming of the Christ Child (God with us—Immanuel) was a time of “Joy to the World” as the hymn we sing says it. But it is not Jesus’ coming that is so important, it was what Jesus did after he got here and the message of the Kingdom of God—-a different and better way to live—-that is important.
I’m afraid that message of what life can be like if God is at the center of it. as om the Kingdom of God, and the messenger’s life of sacrifice and service to God that models life in the Kingdom, have been lost among the Christmas wrappings. The work that Jesus set his followers to do was what Thurman wrote about. It is the ministry Jesus described in his sermon at his home synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
I am going to use only one of the items on Thurman’s list to illustrate my point, because it is a problem that is near to my heart, and I feel it is near to God’s heart….Feed the Hungry.
Recently the Kansas Food Bank that serves more than 215,000 Kansans annually, combined with the Hunger in America national organization to issue a report on Hunger in America. They used rigorous academic research standards for their report which was reviewed by a technical advisory team that included researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and the Urban Institute. The study was funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation the data was gathered by over 6000 trained data collectors. This is not “a bunch of crying, do-good liberals” reporting. This is hard data gathered and put together by trained researchers. The results are frightening! I will share a few of them with you. The full report may be seen by going to Google and entering Hunger Statistics, Kansas Food Bank Warehouse.
1 in 7 people in Kansas—an estimated 215,300 people, turned to the Kansas Food Bank meal service programs for help in feeding themselves in 2014. Of these 215, 300 persons 68, 900 were children and 19,900 were senior citizens. 11% were adult students.. Among all clients, 14% were black, 37% were Latino, and 42 % white.
The above reported that 82% were buying inexpensive , unhealthy food because they couldn’t afford the healthier. They also reported the tough choices and trade-offs they had to make to try and keep food on the table this past year:
71% reported choosing between paying for food and utilities. 35% had to do this on a monthly basis.
73 percent report making choices between paying for food and paying for transportation to work. 35 percent made that choice every month.
66 percent had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine and medical care. 30 percent of thse households had to choose every month.
60 % reported choosing between paying for food and paying for housing. 28% reported having to do that every month.
Ways they tried to cope with food shortages included, 52% who ate food past the expiration date. 37% pawned or sold personal property in order to buy food. 33% reported watering down food or drinks.
Why does this happen in a wealthy country? The report gave the following reasons: Low Wages; underemployment; and unemployment. Of the 60% who were employed last year, they were only able to work part time and at minimum wages. For families with both husband and wife working part-time at minimum wage of 7.25 per hr. it has been shown that even if both parents work, they cannot make enough to live on and pay rent, utilities and food expenses. Therefore the choices that they have to make that are listed above.
So far the churches have been mostly silent in dealing with the causes of poverty. They are involved, at least some of them, in treating the symptoms and helping those caught in this vicious cycle survive—-but not in dealing with the causes of the problem itself.
Can you imagine the impact if churches as a group were to demand that their legislators at state and national levels take action to raise the minimum wage to one that a family could live on? What if churches boycotted those business who paid their employees just the present minimum wages of $7.25 an hour? What if we said—-we’re not going to buy your hamburgers, McDonalds, until you pay your employees a living wage and provide benefits for them. We don’t care if you raise the price of a Big Mac in order to do so!
Behind unemployment is often the lack of an education. It has been proven since the days of John F. Kennedy’s Head Start Program that Early Childhood Education to get poorer children ready for public schooling improves their chances of success in school and acquiring the education they need in today’s labor market place. Yet in Kansas, our Governor and Legislature is currently taking the Tobacco Funds earmarked for Early Childhood Education and putting them in the General Funds as well as taking funds from Education,Kindergarten through College, in order to continue allowing over 100,000 small businesses in Kansas to not pay income taxes at all.
What would happen if churches were to demand that this not happen? What if we demanded that everyone pay their fair share of taxes—including businesses? Most of the legislators and the governor are presenting themselves as Christians. Governor Brownback and your legislative toadies—your actions speak so loudly we can’t hear a word of what you are saying about being Christians!!
There are many other ways of attacking the problem of poverty. The problem is not lacking ways but lacking will to do so.
In my opinion, if churches are not actively involved in doing something to change at least one of the above 7 things—actively involved—-then their action, or lack of action, is speaking so loudly to the world that the world can’t hear a word of what they say to each other on Sunday a.m. at the worship service. If they are not working to correct the above problems at their root, then they have no right to proclaim the Kingdom of God that Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim. Jesus gave few commandments, but one that he did give was the Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself!