I know this video has made its rounds, but I really like it. It’s made me think about a lot. Watch it real quick.
“Is it acceptable because its one individual helping another? Or because one individual is better than the other?”
This is a great question. And I think it needs to be asked not only in regards to charity, but of Church missions. (Yes, that’s “Big C” Church). First I’ll talk about the societal issue at play, and then all yall atheists can click away and church punks* can read on.
Huge shoutout to Yousef of FouseyTube for being brave enough to make this video and all the other social experiment videos he has done. (He also makes legitimately hilarious prank videos, so be sure to check those out too).
I think this video addresses something of monumental importance, which is the way America treats its poor. Here in Baltimore, the homeless frequently sleep on benches that are engraved with the phrase “Baltimore: The greatest city in America.” Which is so indicative of our attitude. Are we going to help the homeless? Naw dawg, but we can get them some really nice benches doe.
I’m going to ask you the same question I asked myself after watching this video: When you give money to a homeless person, why do you do it? No. Why do you ACTUALLY do it. Because you want them to stop badgering you at your car window? Because they asked and it would be awkward to say no? Because you don’t want to lie and say you don’t have cash? Because you’re afraid? Because you would feel guilty later if you didn’t? Because you want to post about it on Facebook for the likes…#blessed? Because you know what its like to be down and out? (If you’re reading this, no you frikkin don’t, stop lying).
I was utterly shocked by people’s reactions in this video. This looks to be a very wealthy area of LA, so I know the effects are a bit magnified, but I think the principle remains true no matter where you look in America. We give because, at least a little bit, we think we are better. Maybe we think we’re better and feel guilty about it. Or maybe we think we’re better and subconsciously enjoy the power of being able to bestow a monetary gift upon someone lesser.
If that sounds unlikely, check your heart again. When you gave that guy a dollar, were there other people watching? Were you showing off your generosity? Did you tell anyone about it later? Did you feel super great about yourself for the rest of the day?
Of course, this extends beyond handing out chump change on the streets. Have you ever volunteered at a soup kitchen? Gone on a short term missions trip? Run errands for an elderly person? Done anything that put you in power over someone society sees as “less” than you? You’re offering up your good graces and its all you, baby. God forbid someone tries to pay you back. And if they do, it’d better be something pandering and adorable that they can handle, like a free meal or something.
America is so messed up in this area. It’s like, if you give a gift, you are better, more righteous, more self-aware, more enlightened, more privileged, by default. Accepting a gift is admitting weakness.
In the past several months of unemployment, some of my friends have been paying for my coffee/drinks/food when we go out. Its been really humbling to be on the receiving end of that, and it has taught me much about not thinking you are “too big” to accept help. I didn’t even realize I had thought I was too good for it.
I dunno, money does things to ya, man. But a false sense of power doesn’t just come from money….
Okay, only church people read on, everyone else tune out.
In college, Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) was a pretty big deal in my life. And my most favorite thing of all was our annual spring break missions trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, “Big Break.” I went Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior year. I even helped to plan and lead the trip Junior year. The goal of the missions trip was to “reach” spring-breakers partying on the beach. We were encouraged to be non-confrontational and to have real, deep spiritual conversations, actually listening to people’s responses. All great things.
Now, I was all ABOUT this innovative evangelistic method. Growing up in the church, I was been exposed to quite a bit of short term missions, door-to-door tactics, conferences, tracts, you name it. This felt better somehow. More genuine. It’s like this trip was built for me. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m really good at talking to strangers. Plus I love the beach. So I thrived on these trips until my senior year.
The first semester of my senior year I went on an exchange trip to the US Virgin Islands. The lessons I learned there could fill many blog posts. When I returned to Towson for my last semester of college, I knew Big Break was around the corner. I haven’t told many people this, but I didn’t want to go. I made excuses for why not, but I didn’t even return to Cru. In fact, I didn’t attend church at all for a long time after that.
I think my understanding has been shaken. Let me clarify: My understanding of everything has been shaken.
Like so many kids born into the church, I initially thought of Christianity as rules and legalism. Then I learned it was really about grace and Jesus and loving people. Then I discovered the real world, the actual real world, were other people besides my Christian friends live, and realized that didn’t really make sense either, because that’s not actually what Christians believe, even if they claim to.
See, I figured out that the Church does things under the guise of “Equality.” Under the ruse of “We are all sinners.” Under the mask of “I’m no better than you. My good works are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Listen up yo. Nobody thinks their good works are like filthy rags, not a goddamn person. Maybe some monk somewhere, but certainly no person I have ever met. And that’s the tricky part, we say we think that. But we DON’T. Maybe we even think we think that. But that’s even more self-righteous.
Nah, the truth is, we think we’re pretty great for following Jesus. Doin’ a pretty bang up job of this whole Christian walk thing. Definitely doing the right stuff over here, yes sirree-bob. Readin’ that Bible in the morning with some coffee. MMM, Coffee and the Word. Going to Bolivia or some shit for a week…gonna talk to some orphans there. Move around some concrete bricks. Making a difference for the ole Kingdom.
(And I GET to say all this because I’VE DONE AND THOUGHT OFF OF THESE THINGS).
That’s why I didn’t want to go on Big Break anymore. Because here we come, a big pack of us. In our one-piece bathing suits from Target that we convince ourselves are cute. Here we come on our high horses, delivering the Word of the Lord to you: the poor lost souls having fun in the sun in Florida. Deep down you know it feels empty to drink with friends, right? That’s why we’re here. To show you that you don’t need alcohol and ~sexual relations~.
Do you see what I’m saying? Is this making sense? Because in the Virgin Islands I found myself for the first time being a spring breaker on the “wrong” side of a beach evangelism trip. Playing beer pong on an inflatable raft in the ocean.
And suddenly it didn’t seem like everyone needed this one-piece bathing suit Jesus as much as the Church told me they did. Cuz I was in a bikini and I already had Jesus.
So I’ve found that the Church is much trickier than I thought. I even tricked myself, and I think most people do. We trick ourselves into thinking we’re not judging others, but we ARE. WE ARE. We don’t realize that were judging people because we’re so obsessed with the fact that we’re not. Just like in that video. We see others as less fortunate than ourselves because they don’t have Jesus. So we pity them. We pity them in a gross, degrading way. Like they could never even fathom our incredibly great lives with the Lord. We point to our Bibles, and the fact that we’re not on a trashy spring break trip, and the fact that we’ve never dropped an f-bomb at a prayer meeting and say in our heart of hearts, “You see that? That’s a BENZ.”
Let’s spit some truth, its time for some REAL grace in the Church. And by that I mean, Christians better start truly believing in a Jesus that would kick back and sip a Natty with the spring breakers instead of engaging with them for 10 minutes and then feeling really good about it for the next 11 months.
*Middle school Audio Adrenaline reference?? I am the least cool person ever, don’t look at me.