Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fighting Father Rob Burgess reflects on Easter, homelessness, and mental illness

Today is Easter Sunday. The sun is out and it is a beautiful spring day in Michigan, although there is a hint of spring rain in the air.

My wife and I just left church not too long ago. In the Sunday meal after the service, it was nice to see that literally every chair was taken in our church's basement meeting room as folks shared a meal. However, I must confess to not having been in a social mood today. So, I volunteered to count the collection in my pastor's office with a couple other gentlemen from the congregation.

My pastor today talked some about the resurrection, but mostly he talked about Jesus' ministry and life. He reminded us that Jesus throughout his ministry sought out and ministered to the social out castes, the immigrants/foreigners, the lepers/the blind and those who suffered mental illnesses (which the gospel often calls folks who Jesus "caste out demons" from), etc. Certainly, Jesus' apostles were not the cream of society. They were tax collectors and prostitutes, fishermen and the lot. In short, Jesus ministered to the least, those that society shuns.

The great American poet of the 20th Century, Langston Hughes, once wrote a poem called "Down and Out". It starts like this:

Baby, if you love me
Help me when I'm down and out.
If you love me, baby,
Help me when I'm down and out,
I'm a po' gal
Nobody gives a damn about.

Mr. Hughes brought to our attention with his poem a poor woman who society neglects and too often forgets. My pastor talked about such a woman who had come to our church's food pantry, a woman who spent time in jail, as a result lost her job, for lying on a federal application so that she could get medical insurance for her family.

I had brought Mr. Hughes' poem to church this morning to encourage folks to sign up to work at the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen this coming Saturday morning where it is our turn to serve a wholesome meal to the less fortunate.

After church, driving home I saw someone hitch hiking on the side of the road at her usual corner. I asked my wife, "Do you mind if I pick up Cathy and give her a ride to the store?"
Some call her Chatty Cathy. Seems she talks a lot.

Cathy is a learning disabled adult who lives in a foster home for similar learning disabled adults. I would guess her IQ would put her at the level of a 2nd or 3rd grader, maybe 8 or 9 years old.

After her room and board are paid by the state, Cathy has $44 a month left over to buy personal items: shampoo, tissue, underwear, etc. Since it is close the end of the month, and Cathy gets her $44 at the beginning of each month, she has exhausted the $44 and has nothing left until the beginning of the month comes around again. (I realize that in some countries, the poorest on our planet, $44 a month would be all that a family would have for everything.)

So, as I picked up Cathy, I helped her into the front seat of my Ford pickup. Cathy also has physical health problems along with her mental health issues. We had a pleasant chat as she rode the couple miles to the "big box" store, where she will spend her afternoon chatting with customers as they enter the store, and perhaps begging for a dollar or two to buy more of the personal items that I mentioned above that her $44 does not afford her.

Langston Hughes is not in the bible. Or is he? I suppose many of the psalms are poems of anguish.

So, let me conclude with the rest of Langston's poem as I ponder what Jesus' ministry was all about:

The credit man's done took ma clothes
And rent time's nearly here.
I'd like to buy a straightenin' comb,
An' I need a dime fo' beer.

I need a dime fo' beer.

As I helped Cathy down from my truck, so that she could take a seat on a bench outside the store and spend the rest of Easter Sunday greeting folks as they arrive to buy groceries or clothing or other sundry items, I open my wallet and gave her $3. (I probably should have given her the remaining $20, but did not.)

I think I would like to read a little more Langston Hughes this Easter Sunday. Looks like it will be a good day for it. The sun has just gone behind the clouds. The rains are closing in.

Join the discussion on the Fighting Fathers Forum
(use VIP code 'NO HOMERS' to join the forum)
Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Father Dave's letter to Senator Bob Brown

I got wind of the fact that Greens leader, Bob Brown, was being put under pressure to bring rogue State Senate member, Lee Rhiannon, into line over her 'extremist politics', reflected in her daring to support a strategy of non-violent resistance (BDS) against the military occupation of Palestine! :shock:

It appalled me to think that the Greens too would let their integrity slide for the sake of political expediency! I wrote to Bob Brown, pleading with him not to abandon Lee Rhiannon in her courageous stand. Here's my email:

Dear Senator Brown,

I wish to add my heartfelt plea that you continue to give
full support to Lee Rhiannon. She has shown great courage
in supporting the global Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions
campaign (BDS) aimed at ending the Palestinian Occupation,
and she deserves the support of every Australian.

The Palestinian people have suffered enormously over so
many years through the Occupation of the West Bank and the
virtual imprisonment of the population of Gaza. The betrayal
of these suffering people by the major government parties of
our land – all for the sake of political expedience - is
frankly sickening! The Greens though have been a shining
light of integrity in this ever-darkening political landscape.
Let’s keep it that way!

My friend Bishop Riah Abu el Assal (former Anglican Archbishop
of Jerusalem) is fond of saying, “the path to peace in the
Middle East runs through Jerusalem”. Never has that been more
true than today. Peace in Israel/Palestine is the key to peace
in the Middle East, and the BDS campaign is the non-violent
strategy that the Palestinians themselves have chosen in order
to achieve this peace.

The ferocity of the response to Fiona Byrne (for Marrickville
Council’s BDS stand) and now the attacks on Ms Rhiannon, are
a clear reflection of the effectiveness of the BDS strategy.
Those with a vested interest in the Occupation are evidently
threatened by these exemplary women and their principled stand.

Stand with them, Senator! For the sake of the suffering people
of Palestine and for the sake of justice, screw your courage
to the sticking point (as the Bard would say) and don’t allow
erroneous accusations of anti-Semitism and the like to divert
you from the cause of justice.

You have my prayers, and you have my support in any form that
might be useful to you on this issue.

Yours in the Good Fight

Rev. David B. Smith, B.A.,B.Th., Dip. A.
Parish Priest, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill
Professional Boxer, 6th degree black belt
Senior Trainer, Father Dave's Fight Club
Managing Director, Fighting Fathers Ministries
Marrickville Citizen of the Year 1994 & 2009
Nominated Australian of the Year 2004 & 2009

Unhappily, the email did no good. Lee Rhiannon was apparently taken to task by her leader in order to assauge the self-righteous anger of the dominant powers. God help us! :roll:

Join the debate on the Fighting Fathers Forum
(use VIP code 'NO HOMERS' to join the forum)
Technorati Tags: ,

Keith weighs in on where Australia is heading

Keith weighs in on the debate about the 'Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions' controversy in Marrickville, and uses this as a springboard to highlight broader concerns about where this 'lucky country' is heading!

Anytime anyone or any organisation or government criticises Israel they are immediately criticised and pressured as anti-semitic in an obviously organised way amid vociferous denials about that organisation from the various Jewish groups here. But I think there is a deeper and much more serious issue developing.

The USA has seen an increasing polarisation and loss of civility in its political debate for some time. Christians have been part of that as the Glenn Beck phenomenon clearly shows. The division and stridency that George Bush and John Howard encouraged and played on continues to grow here in Australia. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

I predict an increasing and increasingly acrimonious divide between those Christians who support the Greens and those who support people like Fred Nile. The choice will be clear, whether you are going to support the future or the past; Whether you are going to be inclusive or exclusive in your basic philosophy and approach to life; whether you will embrace or spend your life threatened by the Other.

The Religious Right is an organisation predicated on fear and grief at their loss of previous influence. You see the same phenomenon when you look at who is driving climate change denial. They are mostly old, rich, white men who fear a loss of power and money. There is no logic to any of this. It is pure emotion, so reasoned argument is useless. It is fear being expressed as politics. You see the same fear of change and loss of power at play on the issues of women in leadership in the church and the place of gays in society.

I expect the next ten years to be interesting and sad as the election of Barry O'Farrell will allow the Religious Right a voice they have not had before. I predict uncomfortable times ahead for those of us who value justice, fairness and inclusiveness.

Join the debate on the Fighting Fathers Forum (use VIP code 'NO HOMERS' to join the forum)