Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife is quoted as saying the following:
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
I understand this. We like when people serve. We love when people are willing to do something for someone else.
But we don’t necessarily like for people to question the systems that persist that cause people to be poor. That kind of deep thinking causes problems for us. I think this is so because we have to do some self-examination and ask how we are contributing to the maintenance of such systems.
What are the things around us that raise questions – uncomfortable questions, inconvenient question? Do we dare ask them? Or are we afraid of the labels that we’ll get in response? Are we willing to examine the simple one-line answers to these questions? Are we willing to question those in authority?
Here’s a few we can start with:
Why do we have poverty? Why are there people with no shelter? Do we really believe that this is solely the fault of the individual? If so why? If not, why not? What does this mean for us as a culture and society?
Why are there more African-Americans housed in jails and prisons than other races in this country? Are African-Americans really that more violent or crime-oriented than other races? Do we really believe it? Why? Or are there other reasons that we just don’t want to talk about?
Why is white nationalism out in the open and on the rise in this nation? What does it say about our nation?
Why does human trafficking exist? Why does it happen here? Do we even want to acknowledge that it exists, or would we rather just turn a blind eye? What does that say about us?
We can ask questions like this in other areas of life too. For example, why are people willing to be upset by football players kneeling peacefully during the anthem, but are silent when white nationalists cause violence at one of their rallies?
We can even ask these difficult questions about church?
Why do people in an institution do all they can to protect that institution from bad publicity, but do nothing for victims of abuse when it is brought to the attention of those same people?
Why are we holding onto a model that no longer works? What is it that we fear about change and the church, especially since the church has been changing for centuries? Why do we allow Christians to just be spectators at church, rather than being disciples who are church? Why do we use excuses to stop ministry from happening as opposed to discerning what Jesus has in store for us and following it?
Why do we allow our political leanings to determine out religious beliefs? Why do so many not want faith to have an impact on politics, but it’s ok for politics to impact faith?
This is the most dangerous question that ever was asked. And it should continue to be asked. And it should continue to be uncomfortable and inconvenient. It is only in our uncomfortableness and inconvenience that we are willing to examine and change. Let us be uncomfortable and inconvenienced. Let us examine these questions, structures, institutions, and more. And let us be open to the kingdom and how it works in and through us.