Yesterday, JB and I were driving back from his place (waaaaay out in the boonies, as you may recall), and at the exit for my house, I saw from a distance a person holding a cardboard sign.
“Oh, god…a panhandler”, I said. These guys are everywhere, looking bored and holding their signs at every major intersection in Memphis. I hate to be callous about it, I really do, but when you see the same ones over and over again, you kind of stop feeling sorry for them and start wondering why they’re not dead yet. Is that bad? Or is it just me?
As we approached the intersection, I saw that it was a woman, and that she was crying. She held her hand up and slowly waved at us, and said, “Help me.” I saw her mouth those words, and I looked at her eyes. Folks, I’ve seen that face before. It’s the face you make when you’ve just about lost hope that anything could ever be right for you again. It’s the face that faith makes as it exits your soul. It’s the face that pride leaves behind when you give it up.
We drove on, because we, naturally, had things to do.
We parked at Kroger, where I was supposed to go in to get raw veggies for my family’s get-together, and I lost it. I started crying for that woman, and thinking about all the times I’ve seen that face on myself and the ones I love. And the worst part, the thing that I was crying for the most, was that I couldn’t help her. I could give her the few dollars I had, but it would never be enough. I could bring her clothes, but they would only last for so long. And scoff if you want at my attitude, because yeah, there are some con artists out there, but the thing I wanted most to do was take her to my house so she could shower, give her some clothes, and take her to my dad’s for dinner, then drive her to the nearest shelter with some cash.
In the end, I did what so many other people did last night – I bought my vegetables, I packed a small overnight bag, I threw the presents in the back of the car, and I headed to my dad’s house to sit with my relatives, eat like a pig, and open packages filled with things I don’t need that will just take up more space in my already-overloaded house.
I talked with JB, and later my dad, about it, and realized that THAT, right there, was the problem I have with 99% of the churches I’ve ever heard of or personally experienced.
The Baptist church around the corner from my dad’s house just built a new congregation hall with stadium seating…padded, of course, so that they can listen to the pastor talk about helping their fellow man without their asses going numb.
JB’s church is arguing with each other about a stained-glass-window fund. Because obviously, the only way to worship is with a multi-colored cubist rendition of Jesus raining prismed light on your face.
The tithing basket is a way for the churches to get the money they need to remain open. I get that. Pay your rent, etc. But the extra money? Guess what that’s supposed to be for? That’s right – helping your fellow man. The place where communism and socialism have the most place is the most totalitarian, capitalist-pig situation I can imagine right now. And that? Is really sad.
I’m not saying that organized religion is bad. Bad things come of it, because people, at their core (and I include myself in this) like to be a part of something. They want to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves, and church will often give them an outlet for that desire. The problem comes when you get a bunch of folks who happen to be weak-minded, and a person (or smaller group of people) who are willing to step up and “lead the flock”. In general, those people desire to be in power because they desire some sort of control, and that doesn’t always lead to good things. More often than not, that power becomes corrupted. Look at Joel Osteen – he’s fucking insane, and he preaches to a football stadium. How is that Christian? How is making millions of dollars writing books about your opinion of Christianity in any way moral? Particularly when that interpretation leaves out essential things like, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, among other things.
I am an Agnostic because of this crap. I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to tell me how to interpret morality when I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job with it on my own. I accept the consequences, good or bad, and do my best to work with them. I try to be nice to others, and you guys know that if I can do something extra for someone, I will. I realize that not everyone is like me, and I accept that.
What I can’t accept is that a place where people are supposed to be worshipping Christ, a man who adamantly preached humility and brotherhood, would have to be so fucking pretentious. And there are people like that woman all over the place who have no where to go on Christmas, the time of year where those same pretentious folks hang out in their giant palaces and listen to someone talk about how God loves everyone while they watch their kids lope across the stage in robes and crowns, reciting the lines they’ve heard so many times…lines that they probably can’t even interpret properly.
I think that money and time would be better spent practicing what they preach. Walk the talk. Stop being a good Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or whatever you are, and start being a good PERSON.
I realize we can’t help everyone. I realize that organizing this sort of thing too much is what causes the sorts of retarded-ass problems that the government is causing.
I also realize that random acts of kindness have literally saved my ass (and my life, to be frank), and that those can be done by anyone, at any time, without anyone telling you to do so, or regulating it to make sure a quota is met.
So today, or any day, if you see someone that needs help, and you’re able to do so, please go for it. If you’ve got enough pull somewhere, please encourage others to do the same. It’s as simple as talking to someone for a little bit when you’re sitting next to them in a waiting room – you never know how much it could mean to someone that you took that bit of time to be a fellow human being.
Merry Christmas, everyone.