Church vs. the Marginalized

In the homeless shelter where I’ve been for over a month, church is an integral component of how the place runs on a daily basis.  A nonprofit organization affiliated with a local church assigns beds, monitors housing and welfare resources for the homeless guests, and maintains the physical facility.

Our meals are outsourced.  Breakfast and lunch are provided from the nearby jail.  Dinner is donated by the network of churches across our county.  It is amazing how the nonprofit organization reaches a variety of denominations to prepare, deliver and serve the dinner to over 100 individuals per night.  Some churches volunteer more often than others, on a regular basis.

Regardless of how the dinner turns out to be, it is definitely the ritual that the homeless, both from the shelter and the outside, look forward to each day.  I’ve noticed that church volunteers actually enjoy the experience more than we do.  The pride is quite apparent in each believer for acting on what he or she has been indoctrinated, which most church-goers don’t necessarily follow through in reality.

As a Christian and an ethnic minority, I couldn’t help myself paying attention to which denomination did indeed serve the homeless better than others.  Judging by the name of the church introduced each evening, it is the Catholic Church that reigns in this criterion, especially of White-American congregations.

While I admired the power of Catholic Church to compel its followers with such a discipline to this day, I also wondered what made this branch of Christianity remain so loyal to this onerous task.

After pondering over weeks, I’ve realized that Catholic Church is the originator of helping the poor and needy.  Feeding the homeless stems from this concept.  If this principle were to thrive among the believers, the inventor of this idea had to be most vigilant with the practice.

Does that make Catholic Church better practitioners of Christianity?

The evidence is quite the contrary.  And, helping the poor and needy is the Catholic Church’s tradition, not of the Bible.  If you are in doubt, you should explore the scripture yourself.

In John 21:15-17 of the New Testament, Peter was commanded by Jesus to feed the latter’s sheep.  Biblical scholars interpret such as feeding the Word of God.  Shouldn’t that start with solving the physical hunger first?

To answer that question, we need to explore the goal of feeding the Word of God.  What Christ ultimately offered was belonging to God, to those who were alienated by the cultural or societal standards.  He didn’t embrace the poor and needy only.  He did all kinds of people regardless of their background, thereby striving for spiritual equality.

If one were to be secure by belonging to God, sustenance alone won’t accomplish that task. So many times, the homeless arrive at the shelter with their broken spirits, which disable their sense of self-worth.   If so, recovering such to the extent where a homeless person can function on his or her own mandates quite a process.

Under this premise, satisfying the physical hunger is the bare minimum that the believers end up offering to the homeless.  And, this service is the compensation for having neglected the former’s surroundings all along.  Parishioners might satisfy their pastors or church elders with this particular kind of volunteerism.  However, it has no relevance to God whatsoever.  He responds to each of our best efforts serving his goal, based on his standard only.  Anything less than that faces nothing but the divine indifference.

Then, the question is why the Catholic Church, which has the longest history of Christianity, practices it in the erroneous manner to this day.

The answer lies with how the Catholic Church has managed itself for its relevance and livelihood since the ancient period.  The Church always co-opted with the rulers of various dynasties, which joined the rank of the entrenched as well.  When the Church looked out for its self-interests in this manner, the institution could only give little to the underprivileged.  In short, the Catholic Church has always been pragmatic with its own survival, which is furthest from laying down one’s life for fellow human-beings (John 15:13).

The conceptual betrayal has to do with ignoring the unique element of Christianity. Compared to other religions that offer the dogma only, Christianity accompanies miracles as well.  They reserve the room for God to aid those who observe all the divine rules but may fall short of achieving the ultimate result by his standard.  And, a miracle is entirely God’s judgment call, which may happen only in extraordinary circumstances.

However, Christian authorities believe what has happened in the Bible only. Therefore, they are handicapped in their own practice of Christianity by dismissing this unexpected factor from God.  Instead, they have always been the foremost group to bend God’s rules for the sake of maintaining the physical church.  Unfortunately, this choice is wrong on multiple accounts from the divine perspective.

This kind of inconsistency doesn’t rest with the Catholic Church alone.  All the Protestant denominations might have liberated themselves from Catholicism and thereafter in the doctrinal and ritualistic areas.  However, all of these churches inherited the exactly same method of maintaining their institutions from the Catholic Church.  Therefore, all religious entities, regardless of Catholic or Protestant, don’t question the idea of giving the bare minimum to the poor and needy, while choosing to be silent with how the powers-that-be conduct themselves, regardless of the periods.  Most of all, churches aren’t aware of their own hypocrisies.

That is how all the denominations of Christianity can respond to the call of feeding the homeless without any question, even to this day.  Meanwhile, all of them have gone through the identical pattern of rise and fall of influence among the general public.  Yet, none of the denominations is aware of the fact that this narrow-minded practice won’t cure the perennial illness of Christianity.

This religious tradition has filtered into the secular society  as well for centuries.  Societal delinquents are often disillusioned with what our government offers them, after having been neglected by the rest of American society.  Our government is programmed to offer the bare minimum resources for survival, granted for a limited duration for each of the needy individual.  And, no one has ever questioned this practice, although our government is saddled with aggravated or chronic issues out of this constituent. This phenomenon demands more resources year after year, especially in the economic downturn.

What is the remedy for Christianity, especially in American society?

The purpose of church may have been belonging even at the expense of defying the Biblical principles.  The goal of Christianity is instilling the moral backbone in each individual, to maximize human dignity. Only then, he or she is equipped with the discretion of which community or societal structure he or she should belong to.  One can help his or her church to abide by the divine principles in its management.  Without that discriminating discipline under the belt, no person, who claims to be a Christian, can benefit others at all.

For example, in spite of the aftermath suffered together out of the financial crisis in 2008, there hasn’t been a collective will among the American public to investigate why such happened and what prevented the U.S. government from repairing our system. Regardless of the faith in God, Americans have worried about their own belongings at any cost.

If American society had Christian authorities, they would have recognized that it was paying the irreparable price for having served two masters (Matthew 6:24).  In the political term, we uphold the divine principles through democracy.  In the economic sense, we worship money above all else by allowing each individual to maximize one’s profits at any cost.  These two are incompatible.  And, such should have been communicated to the general public.  However, no Christian among the religious establishment dared to do so.

Can American Christians get away with such cowardice?  Absolutely not.

As believers, they have had it too easy all along.  Most other nations have long-held dynastic heritages, which make it difficult for Christianity to gain a foothold without any compromise.  The United States was a clean slate that could be founded upon divine principles from its inception, which most Americans take it for granted.

The idea of equality doesn’t hold without the Biblical basis that all of us are born in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which is one of the fundamental precepts out of the Age of Enlightenment.  It was the cultural revolution among European intellectuals who left the corrupt church to maximize the divine principles in complete purity.  Our founding fathers were products of this era, and adopted such ideas into the societal structure of the United States from its beginning.

There was one flaw in the U.S. Constitution, as our founding fathers sought self-interests through the erroneous economic principle.  This issue affected the minorities only for quite a while.  In the recent decades, the conceptual conflict began to denigrate the majority of Americans, as the country generated a greater segment of educated elites pushing our system to its limit based on what was allowed by the U.S. Constitution.  We’ve reached the point where we can’t ignore this inconsistency any longer.

American Christians have the foremost duty to recognize that our system, as it is, forces us compromise our dignity at all times.  And, they need to command the efforts to bring our system to a functional democracy without any contradiction.

That endeavor is something no secular force has ever attempted.  This pursuit is a long-overdue for American Christians to initiate.  Given how monumental this task is, it requires all denominations of Christianity to cooperate under the goal of completing a living heaven.  And, this lofty goal is something that non-believers can respond, and thereby unite the nation.

Why now for American public?  From the divine perspective, it must be the perfect timing.

All branches of Christianity must have been humbled by each of their progress, or lack thereof, in American society and the rest of the world.  Yet, they must wonder what to be done for the future, individually and collectively.  In terms of human resources, we must have sufficient size of Americans, both believers and non-believers, with the knowledge base and technological skills, who can digest challenging and complicated tasks of an enormous scale.  Finally, as our system has taken a worse turn based on the collective ignorance of the marginalized, well-meaning Americans can no longer be passive.

For this generation of Americans, it is a divine blessing to be given an awesome task to be accomplished.  If we assume and indeed give our best efforts for this purpose, we may be able to please God for once.  He may even pepper us with his miracles to succeed.  That will be a great piece of American history to share with future generations.

The only question is whether they will respond to that divine calling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Map of Political Ignorance among the Homeless

You may wonder why the general public should care about how informed the homeless are about our political system, while you have more important issues to worry about for your own well-being.

Since we didn’t know how prevalent political ignorance was among the underprivileged in the latest presidential election, we are about to be ruled by this factor during the next 4 years.  I hope that gives you the compelling reason to read this post further.

As I’ve conversed with a number of fellow homeless individuals at where I’ve dwelt for over a month, I’ve come to understand the dynamics of the presidential election in 2016.  Among many of them at the shelter, I’ve come across exactly the same mentality as the white working class who were instrumental in elevating Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.  Some are proud supporters of him.  Then, there are others who want a liberal figure with the identical level of swagger as Trump.  It was quite alarming to confront such.

This revelation made me realize how useless the postmortem by the mainstream media and the political establishment turned out to be.  All the published reports were based on superficial elements of the voter base, which led to no definitive conclusion. Based on my direct experience, the citizens’ educational spectrum was what ultimately mattered, which was never considered at all.

Let me highlight the levels of civic illiteracy I’ve encountered.

The first has to do with the highest level of oblivion.  At my shelter, most of those who thought like Trump supporters didn’t graduate from high school.  The typical question social workers ask a homeless individual is whether he or she has the GED, General Educational Development tests that give the certification of high school equivalency.  Many of my fellow guests never bothered with such.

Just like the blue-collar White Americans who empowered Donald Trump, many of the homeless with this level of education jumped into the job market 2 or 3 decades ago as teenagers, especially in the manufacturing sector that required or trained specific skills for limited tasks.  As this industry waned in the U.S. economy, these folks, in their middle-ages without transferable skills, had nowhere to turn to in the domestic market.

There are also those in their 20s, who’ve dropped out of high school as well.  Yet, their understanding of our system was the same as that of the older men who were disenfranchised.  It revealed just how poor and stagnant the quality of elementary education was among the underprivileged, no matter how much societal progress we thought we’d made.

What was the consistent reason for dropping out of the school?   Many of them were already marginalized in their schools for various reasons.  So, these individuals rushed into the adulthood to distinguish themselves from their peers, through financial means.

At this point, all those who are sidelined want is equality, at an expedited pace.  As they’ve become powerless, their desire for such is quite intense through an almighty advocate.

The way they presume about the president of the United States is the sovereign of an ancient dynasty.  If one were to head a nation, his or her command should be executed immediately, according to their expectation. What this constituent demand is a righteous dictator with the absolute power.  For this segment of population, their scope of democracy is sovereignty by election instead of heritage.  As Donald Trump fulfilled this expectation completely during the presidential campaign, he won the election.

I’ve gathered that the marginalized, starting with my fellow guests at the homeless shelter, don’t know that a democracy strives for equality by allocating limited power among the executive, judicial and legislative branches, with each of their mutual independence from others.  I’ve also found that the hierarchy among the city or municipal, state and federal governments is a whole new territory they aren’t interested.  For the less privileged, separation of power and self-reliance of each entity were nothing but the hindrance against equality they feel so entitled to deserve, which should simply be directed from the federal government.

The second level of political unawareness pinpoints to the unconditional worshipers of the U.S. Constitution. They think it is the ultimate savior that can correct all the ills of our system, if we access the legal system. Those who possess this train of thoughts happen to be schooled longer up to 12th grade, but are very few at the shelter.

They don’t realize that the U.S. Constitution is an organic entity that evolves with a constant examination of the rules against the founders’ intent.  As a result, this minority doesn’t understand how vital the selection of the U.S. Supreme Court justices is, whose interpretations of the law can affect our lives for a minimum of a century.  This constituent doesn’t know that it is the president who has the power to nominate each justice for a life-time appointment.  It escapes their attention that this privilege is the ultimate route for the sitting president to leave his or her legacy way beyond one or two designated terms.

The first two groups make up the vast majority of the homeless population where I am.  There are few college graduates.  But, their degrees tend to be vocation-oriented.  That means this faction, which is even tinier than the aforementioned two, tend not to comprehend why the U.S. Constitution has to be questioned constantly, either.  These people aren’t equipped with the liberal art foundation that allows each individual to grasp the caveat of our system.

I couldn’t utter any of it at all, upon facing the magnitude of the conceptual gap.

Our economic principle, maximization of profits or self-interests at any cost, is what Americans need to abide by on a daily basis.  It is the measure that our forefathers integrated into the U.S. Constitution to protect their self-interests, which wasn’t possible in an aristocracy.  As this rule dominates our lives on a daily basis, all the wonderful qualities about our democracy form a pie in the sky in order to quiet the public.

The founding fathers might have founded a sound democracy by embedding checks and balances within the government.  Unfortunately, this very government, as a whole, has no safeguarding mechanism against the wealthy, thereby allowing them to accumulate unlimited power over our entire societal structure.  Intentionally or not, our forefathers ended up creating a plutocracy, a system that would benefit the rich.  This paradigm goes against the goal of democracy, thereby equality.

In turn, the U.S. Constitution constantly clashes between our economic and political goals.  It is the role of the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve each of the conflicts between the two issues at all times, without ever clarifying what our system was meant to be between a democracy or plutocracy.  Just because one earned a college degree, it didn’t mean that he or she digested the duplicity of our system at all.

As I’ve seen the shades of ignorance among the homeless, I came to realize that I must have appeared like an alien in the Internet for the last 7 years.  I operated under the assumption that the general public must have been equipped with the same level of academic and informational base as I have.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Most people probably had no idea what I was speaking about at all.

Here are the sobering lessons I’ve amassed out of my exposure at a homeless shelter.

Firstly, when the ruling class attempts to maintain a dysfunctional system, the mainstream can suppress the dissenting voice for so long.  As we’ve just entered the phase, a retaliatory paradigm emerges to accommodate the underprivileged.  Against our plutocracy, what white working class strove for was voluntary communism, in the conceptual term.  The latter just won the presidential election, which proved that ignorance was more powerful than knowledge, cursory knowledge to be specific.

Secondly, voluntary communism is destined to continue if our economic and educational disparities broaden and deepen over time.  That scenario has a great chance to be realized under Donald Trump’s leadership.  And, as the president-elect has set a precedent with the underprivileged, future presidential candidates, regardless of their political bent, need to offer the same or even more to secure the votes of the less privileged.

If this ideology is to take a hold in the United States, we will never be able to have a leader with integrity.  In a modern democracy, a leader has to risk his or her name and good will to get anything done for the society.  Everything he or she attempts is an idea that has not been tested. Committing others to the uncertainty of the outcome and sharing the responsibility for the potential failure isn’t easy.  In spite of these risks, followers can devote themselves to a noble cause only if they believe in the integrity of the commander-in-chief.

That isn’t the operating parameter between Donald Trump and white working class.  Both assume that power alone is what makes everything happen.  For this tool to work, fear is often the accompanying element into the equation.  This conceptual complex doesn’t allow the exploration of potential paths.  And, the underprivileged aren’t about to be loyal to the chosen idea, either, as they don’t risk anything of themselves.

Thirdly, it was harrowing to witness the consequence of the propaganda.  To serve their own economic or political agenda, the mainstream media have exploited the underprivileged with such.  For this constituent with the limited educational background, the mainstream media turned out to be the secular religion that constantly fed what people wanted to hear with no accountability whatsoever.  These people hung onto every piece of information and news at face value.

In particular, the liberal propaganda was so corrosive yet potent, which is disseminated by the vast majority of the mainstream media.  The homeless desperately held onto the notion of getting something from our system, without realizing that this self-pity eventually drove them to their rock bottom.  Yet, they were so ready to take this idea all the way to their graves.  In contrast, white working class were at least one step ahead by demanding more out of our system.

All in all, I urge the readers of this blog post to consider as follows: What level of knowledge do you possess about our system, regardless of your academic pedigrees?  How have you acted on such so far?  What level of your ignorance or laziness contributed to our collective destiny?  Have you fallen for the media’s propaganda?  If so, what makes you want to relinquish individual responsibility toward our system?  Have you realized that our democracy is denigrated when you do so?

Both plutocracy and voluntary communism are equally erroneous and problematic.  Most of all, neither of them is sustainable.  What choice do you plan to make in this dilemma?

Do you have the courage to confront the flaw of our founding fathers and to devise the ideal course for our system?  Will you be able to cooperate with others you don’t necessarily like for a higher purpose?

 

 

 

 

What Causes Homelessness?

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The chart above is just one of the analyses on homelessness in the United States, produced by the federal government agency, HUD.  There are other numerous ways these people are dissected.  In the end, all of them speak to the condition of homelessness.

There are no governmental, nonprofit, or research organizations that have attempted to examine the fundamental cause of why people become homeless.  There seems to be the fear of how overwhelming the issues may be, if they are uncovered.  There seems to be the reservation of how much it will cost to accommodate the societal delinquents.

Without delving into the root of the problem, however, no program is destined to be effective for the beneficiaries.

If we know the reason, the remedy may not have to do with material resources at all.  This post is to address that unexplored element.  To do so, I offer a closer look at a governmental homeless shelter in New Jersey, which has been the place where I’ve dwelt since the mid-December of 2016.  My own experience as well as my direct access to fellow homeless individuals should offer the insight that outsiders normally can’t and don’t catch.

Based on my experience, I’ve seen a fuller portrait of America represented at where I’ve been. I’ve come across the entire spectrum of age, class, ethnicity, race, and religion represented at my location.  In terms of gender, there are definitely more men than women, which corresponds with the national statistics.  The vast majority of homeless individuals, at least where I am, are cigarette-smokers.

Differentiating homeless people in various categories works against solving the problem. And, becoming a homeless is the last stage of relinquishing control over one’s life.  Therefore, securing a dwelling place is the last thing that a homeless individual needs to regain the command of his or her life.

The United States is a country that consists of people of diverse origins and backgrounds, but with the same goal as anyone else, the American dream.  Unfortunately, there is a segment of population, of a diverse background, who either have faltered or can’t fulfill such for whatever reasons.  Finding the commonality among those individuals appears to be the best route to tackle the homelessness.

As I’ve spoken with a variety of fellow guests at the homeless shelter, I’ve detected a consistent cause among us.  We have had difficulty with a boundary against others.

We live in a country where one can maximize his or her self-gains or profits at any cost.  As this dominating economic principle has no boundary, each individual has to establish his or her border against others to guard himself or herself.  That is a common sense among Americans.  To succeed and to belong to the mainstream, one has to be vigilant about exploiting others but not reciprocating their kindness.  That behavior is perfectly legal in the United States.

The recurrent fault of homeless individuals at where I am is that we’ve made an exception to this societal norm.  With our loved ones or inner circle, we presumed the boundary was unnecessary.  Most of us were unconditionally giving or trusting, but ended up being betrayed or let down by family members, friends, lovers, or entrusted authorities.  However, many of us ended up being defenseless against what we had gone through.

Abusing oneself or others, falling into depression, relying on alcohol or drugs, becoming chronically homeless were the forms of reaction against how the reality went against what the homeless individuals thought this world should be.  All of these measures were self-destructive.  What I’d gathered was that those who employed such felt entitled to harm themselves at least in one point in life, as others with power already had.

What would be the proper remedy for these wounded souls?

The rational solution may be to indoctrinate them as to how the majority of Americans cope with the reality, especially for success.  However, I predict such will be useless.

Why?  Many of my fellow homeless individuals have big hearts.  In spite of their experiences, these people are quite forgiving.  They rather not conform to the inhumane way of living, if that choice is available.  In the absence of such, they suffer the material consequences.  Some of them do so repeatedly.

Among this circle, I found receptive ears as I shared my experience.  It would have been so easy for me if I could hate those who betrayed me.  Instead, I understood their mental weakness, even at my most trying moment in life.

Just like my fellow shelter guests, I was left alone to console my heart.  It was apparent that God protected the weaklings more in the human world.  I wondered what it meant for those of us who believed in God who did absolutely nothing for us.

A few days of meditation rendered the revelation.  What many of us did was to create our individual haven in a tiny scale by defying the societal norm.  And, none of us could sustain that realm on our own.  Every one of them was shattered in the end.

If this world indeed went against the divine goal and methods, those who believe in God needed to seek to alter this orbit for all.  The reason that we don’t extend that far has to do with the lack of faith in ourselves and the Almighty.

In the end, God had nothing to do with our predicament.  It was entirely our fault.  We didn’t have the conviction to begin with.  And, we didn’t seek ideas, strength, and wisdom from God to dare the worthy goal.   Instead, we either settled for less or gave up.

The quandary for the readers is as follows:  Although you don’t suffer the material poverty like homeless individuals, you may have the same traits as we do, or think like we do. Unfortunately, if you don’t want to fall into the same trap as we do, you are advised to live your life on guard at all times.

You can’t be certain of your judgment about others.  If our experience is any indication, you don’t possibly know them until you are confronted with the reality that tests your relationships.  If you dare to give unconditionally to your inner circle like us, you can’t avoid the similar consequences, which happens more in later stage of your lives.

Your choice or preference of giving is arbitrary from the divine perspective.  Therefore, you eventually pay the price for having committed self-indulgence filled with inequity and unfairness, like we do.

If that is the apparent path all of us are destined to walk, the question is whether you want to continue to conform to the societal rule that mandates mutual brutality from all of us, or to question the alternative that endorses humanity in our relationships with others at all times.