Thursday, July 12, 2007

observe: exhibit "A"

I found this in our alley as I was taking the trash out. It appears to be a card that was placed in a food box assembled by a local social club, one that I use to deliver ministerial contraband to about two or three years ago.

This most likely blew out of the trash container when the trash truck came by to empty it. I’m pretty sure I know which neighbor this originated from, but that’s not the point here.

The point is, dear reader*, that I now have black-n-white proof (or black-n-blue, symbolic of the spiritual abuse heaped upon the poor) of the kind of religious bullshit I fight against every waking moment of my life in the fair mother city.

Here’s your crumbs. Now let us guilt you into thanking a god, who would love to slap you around for not ATTENDING a social club apparatus that makes no sense to you or your family’s culture.

Why can’t the poor be served? Period. And maybe that service to them will be the Jesus they come to know and fall in love with?

Where's my turrets medicine...

*A gentle nod to Uncle George and his frequent addresses throughout his autobiography.


Deana Watson said...

what crap. i see why it ended up in the trash. pass the medicine over.

miller said...


when you're done pass it on over to me!


Matthew said...

Nice things about the people who made these cards:

1. They are giving away food.

2. They didn't insist that people come to church before they could get food.

3. They didn't insist that people come to their own church after they got food.

4. They're pretty good spellers.

5. They're trying to do two things that they think are good, feed people and "save souls". You gotta give people some slack when they're doing the things they think are right.

Agent B said...

Aww Matthew....always the devil's advocate. We need those around here, I guess.

Yeah, you're right. But hey, it's easier to nit pick at the negative rather than spotlight the positive. So, thanks for doing so.

But I continue to ask the questions posted at the end of this report.

And I continue to expose the "us vs them" barrier between wealthy middle-class christians and the poor...

miller said...

i see this card as proof that the food is just another drive-by evangelistic technique.

the very fact that this card is included is indicative of a relational vacuum within which the distribution occurs.

just doin' "good" shit in the name of Jesus gets ya nowhere.

passin' out food is just passin' out food... lots of people do it and not all of them "christians"

if its just about tryin' to do the right thing then i guess even the terrorists are great people.

Agent B said...

That's it: drive-by evangelism.

I didn't like this card because it reminded me of those tracts that are passed around.

And tracts are definitely drive-bys.

Agent B said...

"They didn't insist that people come to church before they could get food."

That's because this church buys their food from the local food bank, which carries USFDA food. And USFDA requirements state that persons receiving food must not be expected to attend a mandatory religious meeting (among MANY other rules and regs) in order to receive the food.

miller said...

That's because this church buys their food from the local food bank, which carries USFDA food.

how ironic! in attempting to "help" people is does something that is extremely unhelpful...

it makes purchases that contribute nothing to the local economy whatsoever!

i truly believe that a stronger local economy is far more helpful than passing out cheap food and tracts.


Agent B said...

"i truly believe that a stronger local economy is far more helpful than passing out cheap food and tracts."

I never thought about that local economy part. Good call.

Cheap food: Ohhhh man. You have no idea bro. You have no idea.

I am no fan of the local food bank. That is an entire series of blog posts...that will probably never be written...

Leanne said...

I've got some things to say about this but I am still processing.

Matthew made a good point. One I want to consider w/out letting my reactions color my responses.

This one is hard, B, as I've been on both sides, too.

I'll be back, okay?

-Benny- said...

I'm a minister who is on the streets daily with homeless teens. I build relationships that help kids see that they are pursued by God and then prayerfully they fall in love with Him. Here's my take on your post.

I appreciate your passion and your point is a pretty good observation. And I too have been upset with some (most) Christians feeble attempts at "evangelism". But honestly these folks are doing the best with what they have learned. They are more on the cutting edge than the folks who taught them. I think your observation was pretty harsh and condescending. I'm glad you want to see change but I think we all need to have a little less judgment and a little more love. Instead of being so harsh what if we start building relationships with these abusive, "drive by" Christians then we can teach in love and help them learn. It's easy to be angry, even upset, but those of us who are exposed to a new kind of Christianity have to move past those harsh emotions.

That's my 2 cents. I hope they did not come across as condescending

miller said...


it is possible and even profitable to be angry with the machine that perpetuates this system of "good works" and the vacuum of relationship.

you've broken free of it, it seems, and i applaud that...

however, we have really good biblical examples of such ire! it is not wrong to be angry with, even hate, any system that subverts the good news with mechanistic, legalistic adherence to empty religion.

if i am to be like my Rabbi, then i must be angry with that system.

however, his arms and heart are open to everyone!

i'm pretty good at the former

i really want to be better at the latter... and he is helping me in that regard.


Agent B said...

Benny - thanks for stopping by. I've heard a bit about you from Mark.

If this is considered judgment by me, then fine. I will accept the fruits of that (my own judgment).

I always wondered if Jesus was considered a little harsh and judgmental for flipping tables over.

I do know the person who runs this pantry. And I have many friends who receive food from them. I see both sides clearly.

But...I'm always willing to participate in dialogs on matters like these.

Thanks again for your input.

Mike Miller said...

I would assume the intent by the people who included the card was good.

I think God has great grace for those who have good intentions that may prove laughable in reality.

I think God has the power to work through lame cards or gestures, when coupled with meeting needs.

In my profession, I have learned it is always good to give people an opportunity to have a take home version of your message.

One interpretation of this message could be: a) this gift is given in the name of Christ; and b) other people who worship our savior can be found at a church.

Maybe not the most effective way of spreading the gospel, but I'd like to hear the argument that it does more harm than good.

Agent B said...

Wow. The real Mike Miller! Man, post a controversial report and old friends come out of the wood work.

"but I'd like to hear the argument that it does more harm than good"

Well...maybe not the most popular things to discuss, but:

1)Yet another example to the poor that Jesus is an impersonal, unreachable god. Thus the card drives another wedge between Jesus and them.

2)Many of the recipients of this card have the inability to read it.

3)Many, but not all, recipients do not attend a church. And that's usually because churches follow middle-class social rules which are very foreign to the poor.

4)It's another example of christians telling "the lost", "hey, if you want jesus, come to MY deal. Don't expect me to come to you." I think Jesus always went to their deal and hung out amongst "them".

Don't know if that's the argument you're looking for...

I don't have all the answers. But I've seen these drive-by means do more harm than good. $.02

Good to hear from you MM.

miller said...

i contend that it does more harm than good to everyone involved. Jesus says that there'll be a lot of folks talkin about the good things they've done in his name but only those who've done his Father's will will enter heaven... i think doing this kind of "ministry" provides a false sense of security for the "ministers".

i don't think we should continue to play the church card (no pun intended) as a reminder that people who worship God can be found there. like b said "church" isn't the place we automatically turn to find Jesus any more and it probably hasn't been since the first century. like which church should a person choose, and what are the criteria that should be used.

finally, as b alluded to, these things tend to be an inoculation against the church... it sends the message that we're all about the "bait and switch"... we come as strangers bearing gifts but what we want is your presence in our building on sunday morning where you'll hear all about how Jesus needs you to feed our machine and your presence provides the added benefit of showing what a great "church" we are...

i'm sorry, i love everybody i know that still swims in this pond... but i still think its a cess pool.


-Benny- said...

I agree with most of what is being said here.

A couple of thoughts.

1. We need to be careful that our anger with the system is not translated as anger with those in the system. We have to be careful not to alienate harvesters who can be loved into a better way of thinking/acting. Also if our anger is heard or perceived by those we are trying to care for and love...well it can drive them away from Jesus. Mostly because they adopt our anger and it manifests itself in misguided ways. I've seen it happen. It is definitely a balance that I'm trying to grow in.

2. "3)Many, but not all, recipients do not attend a church. And that's usually because churches follow middle-class social rules which are very foreign to the poor."
I would agree with this. But since mainline church is mostly what's out there that's where they know "Jesus is". So we need to get more folks out there creating true alternatives...finding ways to create fellowships of the heart, organic communities, etc.

So, I love dialogs such as this because these can be the catalysts for those communities to happen.

Love Well-

miller said...


i couldn't agree more with either of these statements...

i would even say extreme care needs to be taken with the anger thing!

as far as true alternatives...

well i can't speak for anyone else, but b and i are both entrenched in viable alternatives.

press on!

Leanne said...

I think the intention was well meaning but very short sighted and planned from two very different lenses. Food boxes and other evangelism/outreach/ministry can turn into "works" just like that! *snaps fingers*

You can become apart from people instead of connected to all mankind when you think YOU are doing something for THEM.

I'm not being clear, I know. Again, this is too close to home.