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In doing some research I came across a quote that jumped out at me the other day from David Tracy, an influential theologian at the University of Chicago School of Divinity.
In an interview with that enduring and wonderful magazine Christian Century, Tracy said:
“In terms of the work of the Spirit among genuine Christian groups, I would point to the fact that when you go into the really terrible neighborhoods, you’ll find Christians serving there. And they’ve always been there. The hope for our culture as a whole—and not only the Christian church—is a recovery of that kind of spirituality.”
Indeed, our ultimate hope doesn’t really lie in the leaders and wannabe leaders in Washington D.C. or our statehouses. They’re mostly egomaniacs who deal in lies, distortions, misrepresentations and character assassination anyway.
Our real hope lies in the “genuine Christian groups” that quietly act as the hands and feet of Christ in, for lack of a better word, the “terrible” neighborhoods that most people avoid like the plague.*
These genuine Christian groups get precious little media coverage or glory for the Christian love they put into action and practice, but being the genuine (i.e., humble) Christians that they are, they aren’t in it for reasons of the ego anyway. They go in, for lack of a better word, to “terrible” neighborhoods and connect with people outside of their own comfortable homes because they genuinely love God and love others.
These are Christians who know that God doesn’t inflict pain and suffering on the very people that God loves unconditionally. Anyone who believes that God inflicts pain and suffering on anybody, anywhere, has God confused with some monster. These are Christians who know that God calls Christians to do God’s work in those very neighborhoods, or any place where despair is breeding.
You can bet that a lot of genuine Christians are already working alongside the poorest of the poor in Haiti to pick up and recover from the latest disaster to strike that country.
You can bet that multitudes of teams of mission-minded, loving Christians are already in areas ravaged by the same hurricane on the Gulf Coast and beyond in our own country.
You know the people I’m talking about, I’m sure–the compassionate Christian people that the militant atheist Bill Maher dismisses as “mentally ill.”**
And it’s not just “genuine” Christians, but people of other faith traditions, or morally high-minded humanitarians, whose faiths or value systems have the Golden Rule and serious peace and compassion at the cores of their theologies and world views.
God is blessing them as much as the people on the receiving end of their compassion.
*That said, I always give President Obama the credit due him for getting his hands dirty in working with the poor in the Chicago streets as a community organizer. I see that life experience of his as a big plus, not the negative that the Sean Hannitys and ultra-conservative politicians have seized upon with their typical distortions and misrepresentations. I’ve known and worked with community organizers and never met one that I didn’t admire for their integrity and their unselfish and unheralded work in “terrible” neighborhoods–and their Christian faith.
**Why so many Christians, and even clergy, are fans of Bill Maher, to the point of posting his quips on Facebook, is a mystery to me. His whole mission in life, like that of Paul Ryan’s hero Ayn Rand, is to destroy and eliminate Christianity and every other faith tradition.