On Friday, I had the privilege of sitting a big ball room full of generous people. These are people who really care about raising money and directing resources to organizations that really care about improving our community and lending a helping hand to those in need. So often, charity can translate to tokenism. There was no tokenism here. There was a certain genuineness about these efforts.
And yet there was this sense of discomfort. Somehow, there was still a huge disconnect here. This was entirely about raising money. (And don't get me wrong--without generous grants, many good organizations would not be able to function). But when it came to discussions that deal with hunger and poverty, there was no talk of looking at the root causes. And there was a disdain for the role of government in helping address some of the problems. (Not that government is the entire answer either).
Unfortunately, this sentiment also applies to the way many churches look at our roles in addressing hunger and poverty. Father Richard Rohr said it well in his book Simplicity.
We can no longer be satisfied by simply being the Church for the poor from our position of establishment. We must realize that sometimes that very generosity, that very attempt to be good to other people, has kept us in a position of power and superiority.
Somehow we must be of and with the poor, and then be ready for some mistrust and even criticism.
Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999), the holy Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, said it so truthfully, “As long as I fed the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked, ‘Why are there so many poor people?’ they called me a communist.”