Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina saves the church

If you are a long time reader of my blog, then you know that I have had my challenges to the American church.

I want to take an angle here on Katrina and New Orleans' evacuees and the church.

I lived in Houston for three years and had the privilege of working with the Impact Church, an inner-city church serving the poor and homeless in Houston. I got an inside look at how the wealthy suburban white churches interact with the poor, urban black and Hispanic churches.

Here is what I observed:
1. Most suburban churches do not interact with the urban churches.
2. There are some suburban churches that do interact on a limited basis. Provide a meal about every three months, raise money, etc. Distant, but somewhat engaged.
3. A very few, and more so on a person by person basis, churches will volunteer time on a more regular basis to support reading programs, driving children to programs, etc.

The racial and SES barriers are impossible to miss. People in the burbs tend to stay in the burbs while poeple in the city tend to stay in the city. Pride, selfishness, comfy culture-centrism plague both groups. They ahve their reasons for not interacting.

Well, Katrina just smashed down all of those walls. An entire city is displaced. Whites are exceedingly willing to help blacks right now and blacks are willing to receive it. There is something very different about the "charity" offered and received right now. It is not given or received as a condescending hand down from the rich snobs to the poor shmucks. There is a genuineness about the acts of mercy and kindness being done.

The church is responding with grace and mercy. People have been activated. Stagnate people jst rotting in the pews are donating their time, their money and their stuff. Some are opening up their homes. The church is shingin right now and I hope that it continues to shine. This is what being the church is all about.

The truth is that many of the people in crisis after Katrina were in crisis before Katrina, but with all the assumptions, systemic barriers, cultural barriers, there was little room for Christian exchange. Those barriers have been smashed.

It is amazing how such a catastrophe has awakened love and compassion. I blogged about how Katrina saved New Orleans. Even more than that I believe that Katrina is saving the church.

I fear that this wave of comapssion is probably a temporary window of time until "things go back to normal." But I hope that they do not "go back to normal" if normal means racial and economic walls between people. I hope that this awakening of compassion changes the church forever. That compassion wil not be merely an excited response to disaster, but a new way of living life. I hope that the church becomes displaced from its comfy home of wealth and power and becomes humble and generous on a regular basis.


DJG said...

It is like we have to have these big disasters to find ways to serve....Which is all good, but what will we be doing in two months or 6 months? Will we remember? Will we just lock up the generosity that is now being freely given? I pray not, I pray that we will remain a changed people.

MaryAnn M said...

its what a friend and i were talking about it is a long term thing. and how if the Church would just BE THE CHURCH the whole thing could turn out to be a blessing for the whole nation.

change our hearts Lord.

Tony Myles said...

Holy cow, dude... what a cool insight! Thanks for sharing it!

TCS said...

Yesterday, I was to say the "Big" prayer. You know the one I speak of. I said something to the effect of this post, that maybe this disaster would provide some saving grace for our congregation/ for the church. Luckily our family also had nursery duty and I was able to exit without any questions afterwards. Maybe they all agreed.

Tony Myles said...

Holy cow, dude... what a cool insight! Thanks for sharing it!