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A dog on a red skateboard! I must be seeing things.
It’s a simple story. A man takes his dog and some tools for building an ark on his skateboard and heads for the nearest pond. The story can be summed up in two words: “Riley was homeless.” I know there are a million jokes about homelessness but that doesn’t make them funny. After all, “It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop.”
I first heard this joke about 15 years ago. I immediately thought of my homeless friend from the Midwest. Riley is his name. When he first moved to Texas, he slept under a highway underpass with the rest of the panhandlers. I used to bring him canned food and water. We kept in touch over the years, and he eventually moved to a shelter. The last time I saw him was when we served jury duty together. I’ve been doing some soul searching lately, and this joke keeps popping into my head. The part about the “skateboard” is also so odd that it seems to tell the story backwards. The poor homeless guy is on his way to build an ark, not to look for it.
So, I guess my point is this: I think we are so often looking for the easy answers when it comes to the problems we face. If this is a problem, just build an ark!
The truth is that it’s not that easy. And it’s not just because it’s a human problem. The same is true of the problem of poverty and homelessness. If we are going to address poverty and homelessness, then we must understand what they really mean.
It’s been a long time since I wrote about poverty. It’s been an interesting time. I’ve been traveling the country speaking to churches, and meeting some really great people. We’ve had some really great conversations and seen some great ministry. It’s a great opportunity for me to visit with different groups of Christians.
I’m finding that poverty is a very real issue in every community. We know that there are people who have fallen on hard times, but we’re not aware of how widespread poverty is. It is one of the many problems that we face in the lives of individuals, and it is also a challenge to communities as a whole.
Many are quick to dismiss people who are homeless, or to say that the Bible isn’t very clear about what the role of government is in a society. I think we’ve been led to believe that because there are homeless people on the streets, that government is ineffective at addressing the needs of the poor. But it’s not like that at all.
I’ve met so many wonderful people who have helped to house and feed the homeless. We want to provide places for them to live and to have a safe place to eat. We see that when we do those things, the people who need our help are more likely to be able to provide for themselves. That’s true when you help someone with their rent, but it’s also true when you help someone with food.
Poverty is a very real issue. The Bible is very clear on what to do.
I’m reminded of a sermon I heard by James MacDonald years ago. We were talking about one of his sermons, and he was telling us about a visit to a mission in Ecuador. One of the brothers with him there explained that in Ecuador, people who were experiencing severe poverty weren’t just poor in their pocketbooks, they also had no shelter or protection from the elements. He explained that in addition to the problem of the hungry, there was also the problem of the homeless. James just laughed and said, “We take care of those kinds of things in North America.”
But as he was explaining this, he looked me right in the eye and said, “It’s much more dangerous for these poor people to sleep on the streets than it is for them to go and live in the kind of poverty they’re living in.”
If you’ve been reading about the Occupy movement recently, you’ve probably seen a lot of pictures and footage of police officers on horseback trying to control the movement.
You may be thinking, “That’s just a bunch of horse shit.” Well, you’re right! But let me tell you a little more about what’s going on.
There’s a real truth to the claim that you can’t make a revolution on the streets. The way to fight oppression and injustice is to be nonviolent. But you know how in a violent revolution that one side gets to start on top? And what if the side that comes out on top doesn’t really have a legitimate claim to being on top? The Occupy movement is just such a place.
But a few months ago, you might not have known that. A few months ago, the corporate media was all over this story, going on and on and on about this movement. And they were even trying to start a conversation about how one day in a generation, maybe, maybe in a few decades, this generation of people would step up to the plate and claim the future of the world for themselves. And here’s what happened.
The day the protests started to take place, the corporate media, who had been on the case for a month or two and who were expecting some big event, they found that the big event was taking place. The corporate media saw that people were getting arrested, and they were going to protest, and they didn’t know what it was about. They didn’t know whether they thought that the whole thing was a joke or not. But they knew that this was going on, and they could report on it, and they had been reporting on it.
But right at the moment when they finally got around to reporting on it, the events had been going on for a while, and the whole world already knew what it was about, and the corporate media had already started to report on it. They knew the whole world already knew what it was about. And the big surprise for the corporate media was that the world didn’t go along with it.
And so all of a sudden, these people that they’d been reporting on for a while were the heroes of the world. The corporate media didn’t know what to do with them. They weren’t even sure that they were reporting on anything. They weren’t sure what they were reporting on. All they knew was that they were reporting on something. And so all of a sudden, it turns out that people weren’t actually that upset about the world not getting along with them. They’d been protesting all along.
What happened is that the whole world, in the end, went along with it. It turned out that the only thing that the protesters really wanted, or the only thing that they were able to achieve, was to shut down the United States embassy in Egypt. And the corporate media’s role in all of this was to make it seem like the whole world was supporting them, and the whole world was behind them, when all of a sudden it turned out that people didn’t want them to protest.
In other words, the corporate media reported the wrong information, which was the opposite of the truth. It reported that people were