How should we respond to the poor?

The bloggers Wormwood’s Doxy and Under There have had a moving dialog on what we owe those less fortunate than us, and it is worth reading in its entirely.

A sample from Doxy, whose essay is prompted by an encounter with a homeless man named William who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and its wake:

It is one thing to talk about “homelessness” or “the homeless”–it is quite another to look into the weary eyes of a human being who tells you that he slept in a bus shelter last night because he had nowhere else to go.

The Wall of Doubt is what I encounter every time I am faced with the failure of common decency–and let’s be honest and acknowledge that this is what is at the root of homelessness and abject poverty. These things are based in the failure of human beings to love and care for one another in the most basic ways.

That Wall is the rock on which my faith is tested–the stone that threatens to shatter what little confidence I have that there is a good and benevolent God in this universe.

Much better minds than mine have wrestled with the theodicy problem through the ages. I am under no illusion that I will be the one to solve the puzzle. But the problem takes on new urgency as I consider the fact that there is nothing I can do to help William.

And from UT’s response:

You see, I approached the whole ministry to the poor and homeless thing with some very flawed assumptions. Back then I really thought it was my mission to change people and make them ready to fit into society. “Housing readiness” is the technical term for the model that says let me “fix” you so you will no longer be homeless. If I can make you more like me then you can finally be a respectable citizen. The hubris of such a position is staggering and yet it was shamelessly my position. That was before I came to realize that “society” is a cultural/geographic construct that is very fluid over time and space. There will always be people who do not fit into what society terms “normal.” I also know that the kingdom of God has most often been hidden among the “freaks and the misfits.” Today we in polite society would, like both of their families did, try to have Jesus and St. Francis committed and stabilized on medication.

Please join in their conversation, either here on the Cafe, or at either of the blogs quoted above.

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