[As I write this, some churches are exceptions to the below. Some area churches have helped me and offered the community charity. Some have done so with a good spirit as well. These are trends I am seeing out there otherwise in the church world]
Some time ago I noticed the pastor's wife of the church I had just left posted this meme on her Facebook wall. It was otherwise full of gung-ho anti-welfare Republicanism. You know I can understand those who argue for limited government to a point but one thing never escaped my notice. They never offered any other real options for the poor or disabled outside of plucking their new middle class level job off the rainbows and unicorn Fox News job-tree. Their lives have been so different from my own.
Sometimes it got very tough being in that church. The pastor would rant and rave about how those who don't work, won't eat. Yes, it's in the Bible but there's a lot of verses that are ignored too, about fair day's wages for a fair days work and not oppressing the poor.
Psalm 12:5King James Version (KJV)
5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
We both would cringe inside as the pastor lectured about those who took advantage of welfare or people who "didn't want to work" over and over. Fox news ruled his mind. He never took the bankers to task. I tried to tell him different but failed. He would say nice words to me but not really listen.
As I wrote before I walked from that church the day it raised it's praise of war to the zenith. The pastor's son had taken to the pulpit to discuss his times in combat, unlike his thousand yard stare brother who had been there too, this guy seemed gleeful as if military combat was like summer camp. That was straw that broke the camel's back and I knew we didn't belong there anymore.
Class-wise we were the only poor people in that church, from what I could tell the lowest level above us was lower middle class. Everyone owned a home and had large intact families. Four families in the church were related to the pastor. There wasn't one single person outside of one widow, or child-less person in that church either out of 100 people which always gave me a strange feeling. I've seen that in churches I've visited, Single over a certain age? Childless? Those people just were not there. It was like only nuclear families were allowed. It seemed a given that the people in that church, expect certain lifestyles and incomes. Sadly this was the outlook of the entire church. To be poor in many of today's evangelical churches means you are considered a "bum" who did not work hard enough. You didn't do what was "right" to get ahead. You don't fit in. It's like the white picket fence life is mandated.
Sadly classism is a growing problem in the churches. I am sure there are exceptions to this rule but when Rick Warren got a hold of Drucker a business executive to write Purpose Driven Life, there is a reason that churches were affected by the change of churches into a business model. Some churches of course reject Rick Warren but some of his work has had a cultural impact that has infiltrated society as a whole. Churches are more focused on solving global poverty rather then dealing with the poverty right across the street or the train tracks. Pastors are more like business men then ministers and the most successful "sell" and get as many butts in seats as possible. Years ago the whole "seeker sensitive phenomenon was more about sales. Churches became more like 'consumer" organizations where salesmen or pastors were told to get in there and "hustle".
Poor church members don't work well in that model. If you are poor enough and groceries are negotiable and you can barely keep a 12-13 year old car running, there is not going to be any money for tithing. I don't believe in the 10 percent tithe but that is a whole other article and subject. In my old town I had people telling me, they didn't go to church because the pastors were always demanding money. Some told me point blank, "We are too poor to go to church.". I'm in that boat now. In my case, I have strong beliefs that have taken me out of the churches, I'm not interested in things that range from Patriarchy/Quiverful to the Prosperity gospel, but yes, being poor influences church membership.
Poor people don't make the pastors rich. I hope that doesn't sound too cynical, but think about the pastor who wants a good salary, a church full of very poor people who can barely throw a fiver in the basket weekly isn't going to pay his bills. His attention is going to go more towards the established and wealthier families handing over 10 percent of their entire income. More and more I'm with the people who start discussing how Paul was a tent-maker and provided for himself.
Some of these people were going without medical care and necessities so I understood even as I was in a church myself back then. One thing that always got me, is I noticed some pastors living far higher socioeconomic levels then some of their church members. It seemed odd to be trying to dig out money I didn't have for some guy to have a newer car and huge home. We see the super-wealthy televangelists and others who live like millionaires but this happens on the lower level a lot. There's still a few humble folks out there, but there's many pastors living large who are out of touch with realities of the USA economy.
I became a Christian as an adult, and well, having recently left the church world for good, I'm mulling over a lot of stuff. I'm in a "wrestle" with God moment, arguing night and day. The best I can say is "I am still talking to God." I already had my atheist years so throwing down and walking away from the Christian faith is not an option but I do fear my own falling away. Maybe my faith is growing more real and this is some kind of "growth" process. A lot of what I saw in the Christian world while I had much to enjoy in my first good church, bothers me now, it seems appearing good there is actually more important then being good. The fakeness doesn't appeal to me nor false displays of righteousness. I have discussed before in other articles along with a guest blogger, how people are told God will solve all their problems and guarantee them a great life, which in my mind is ensuring there are lots more atheists and others against God out there. It is concerning how "No" seems to be the answer to so many prayers lately.
The "Christian" world is troubling me on many levels. "Christians" seem "meaner" to me. Not all. I have good Christian friends and others who have a kind faith I meet all the time, but around a lot of Christians, I felt "judged". Hey I was a non-Christian long enough to know how that can go down, how I was screamed at for going to hell and told I was no good. It affected even the way I witnessed the gospel to others. Today I will witness once or twice but don't harangue people.
Among the church set for so many years, I noticed a lot of the same attitudes about the poor, that bothered me. Many loved the politicians that told people to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and went on and on about self reliance. They believed poor people had become poor via sin. That laziness, sloth, and drug and alcohol use were a given among the poor. In my case, they saw us as "lazy". My first church was rural and poor and more friendly, but I encountered more of this later as our own fortunes fell.
No one would imagine that my husband worked 14 hour days at the newspapers for years. Even now as poor as we are, he can spend the whole night hunched over the computer doing work. I was looking for more freelance work for him today and checking out job listings for him. The jobs are jokes, many jobs he can't physically do because they are manual, but all part time, temp and paying 8 dollars an hour. I swear wages have not advanced since the 1990s. I even checked out some newspaper jobs for him, we don't have money to move, but they are very few in number, and the pay for one was $25,000 a year which is what was offered in 1999 for reporter jobs. We know he is not in good enough health with caretaking duties to go back to the long days required in newspapers, it's troubling figuring out what to do.
Of course many "Christians" have told me disability and welfare are evil, and to be frank, it was hard to be on social security disability and have a bunch of smug people tell me social security was a "slave system" and that only the wicked depended on the government. Roosevelt was still discussed as evil incarnate for the likes of Ronald Reagan who seemed to destroy the economic system that worked far better before. I noticed the Tea Party and Libertarian types who sought to shame me, always owned their own homes, had land and extensive families networks and safety nets I never could dream of. Their jobs and businesses were secure. Life for them had an easier path. To me the dogging out the poor and disabled made no sense. Why not have the attitude of "By the grace of God, go I?".
Here too, with Christian Republican set, they never offer any real options in place of social security and other helps. Some would sneer at me saying I hadn't overcome my liberalism of my UU days. Lets get real. What church, charity or family is going to cover thousands of dollars in medical costs? A medicine I need to breathe daily and I have to use a nebulizer to take costs $1,066 retail PER MONTH. This med changed my life by the way, in terms of functionality, it helped my walking.
That's just one of my medicines, at least 2 others cost $700 bucks a monthly pop and I'm on more. I manage to keep myself out of the hospital via lots of maintenance medical care and nursing care when needed, but lets just say to me none of these people are realistic. They also scream about people "sucking off the government tit" at the behest of their brainwashers on radio stations and news programs. I have said to a few, "Ok so your answer to me is to go to the gutter?"
They thought they were special. I got the feeling many believed their blessings came to them because God had specially blessed them and they believed people lacking those things, did not obey God or did something to deserve their lot. Even if a church was not immersed into Word of Faith teachings that taught that prosperity came via closeness to God, I feel like this was a belief in many churches nonetheless. Really even in your non-Word of Faith churches, even "conservative-evangelical" the prosperity gospel has filtered through, like when the pastor at the last one taught, that if "you do right: God will bless you for it". What's that say about all the good people killed in wars and concentration camps and martyrs. My brain feels confused. Good home lives meant you were a good person. Identifying with the poor was identifying with the wicked and those God had not blessed.
One guy who has influenced the churches greatly is a man named Dave Ramsey who had had financial seminars in the churches for years. That fellow had advanced "hate the poor" philosophies in the churches. His books seem to think expendable income is a given and that frugal living will save us all and anyone can afford a house and good cars if they are just practical and don't make budgetary mistakes. Many of the financially struggling were assured that Dave Ramsey would show them the way out.
His prejudices are plain to see on his own website. Supposedly rich people are more moral and read a lot more. What would he think of my apartment with it's literally thousands of books. I never buy books, books can be gotten for very cheap. We used to sell books on ebay years ago for a little bit of money. This man's prejudices against the poor are sickening. You mean poor people don't make to-do lists? I have right now detailing what car repairs need done. What is the deal with #11? What's wrong with speaking your mind? The idea that the poor sitting around eating junk food is also pure prejudice. Many poor people cook beans and pre-plan meals to the extreme.
When poor in the "Christian" community one is literally pounded with the "self reliant" gospel. Ayn Rand who was a Theosphist by the way and anti-Christian to the core is more adhered to then anything Jesus Christ said about the poor. Her gospel of selfishness has definitely taken root in some of the churches over the gospel of Jesus Christ. I read Fountainhead and her books in my 20s. She definitely seemed to advance self-service and a sociopathic attitude towards life. One pundit wrote of Ayn Rand I read years ago saying there were no children, old or disabled people in her books. Well children need care and giving, so wonder her fictional world was a child-free one.! Her philosophies today is one reason that so much of the "evangelical" right wing pairs themselves up with the most heartless bastards. It's one reason that Trump who has been divorced several times and who has lived by the gospel of "me" for decades--by the way he was born rich with a business owner father, is being endorsed by the Republican party.
There is a cold cruelty in much of the church world and it is showing in their politics. Some here may tell me why don't you go into more liberal churches, but I don't agree with their teachings either, so I will remain an outsider for life. There are Christians leaving the church system.
One of my husband's said to me, "Well the best Christians don't go to church" and I got what he meant. Even the liberal churches, hey I'm an ex-UU had the immense class issues too. Religion is used to shame the poor, time and time again, and they teach totally against what Jesus taught in this. I get the feeling that if Jesus broke out the loaves and fishes for the poor around these right wing evangelists types, most would get angry and say he was making the poor ,more dependent who wanted to suck off the system. Hey when their politicians say this stuff, they give them more votes. They don't care about billions being handed over for wars and bankers, the poor are easy scapegoats, they want to toss overboard. I believe many will find Jesus saying to them, "I never knew you". The war praisers I left in that last church definitely are in a precarious spiritual position.
Many of them are fearful of identifying with the poor and this is one way the politicians get laws passed for people's own demise. Even the anti-union movements had a lot to do with this. Why do right wing Christians hate unions? Even if some went corrupt, I don't get that one. It worries me how America is growing to be a more hateful place, and the 1% are laughing and running to the bank as more is handed to them from all the "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" Steinbeck style. Many of them call themselves "Christians" as their love of money and propriety takes precedent. They are choosing denial rather then truth and throwing all ideas of Christian charity under the bus. They scream and shout about the socialists, as the "threat" while advancing the powerful and corrupt themselves.
More and more their wolves in the pulpit are united with the powerbrokers of our society and they have gotten their congregations to do likewise too. Forgotten is that Jesus was sent to the cross via the religious and state system married together. Today religion and state are unifying in a muddle-mess of power and sociopathy worship, this is why the poor are being disenfranchised from the false Babylonian churches.
I think the cloaks of denial is bring more coldness and cruelty to the poor and disabled too. They are afraid of seeing us and want us hidden away. They don't want to know what all the empty store fronts and full soup kitchens and food pantries mean for their future too. Many disabled and other people have learned to be careful of do-gooders who will beat us down with a present in one hand and a boatload of criticism and false judgment in another. Philanthropy can be used for sadism. Many poor get tired of in some religious circles of being the "pitied" and of being the "other".
There are good people out there who let you keep your humanity, there is one Lutheran woman in my town, who I believe has a true love for the poor but there are many who do not. They want to take it away. They see the poor as less then "human". You literally are not a human being to them. I know this feeling all too well. Their own fears lead them to deny that they could be in your boat. When I see someone worse off then me, I don't think "Oh look at that old drunk, or what did he do to end up behind that shopping cart?" I think "What happened to him?" He is a person to me. Compassion is an emotion getting in shorter supply.
I had a discussion with an older man at a church food pantry on this. One thing I had said during that course of the conversation was, "How come poor people who are Christians don't have our own church families taking care of them?" This poor old man told me three churches had treated him like he was invisible. I said if Jesus showed up wearing his robe and sandals with some dust of the road on him, they'd throw him out and yell "Get a job you bum!" He told me about his last pastor who drove a Cadillac.
Yeah the liberal world isn't much different either. It's not any easier on the poor. The New Age went into that book "The Secret" think and grow rich and money will come to you! This became a new Social Darwinism of it's own. Strange how there is an overlap with Ayn Rand there too. Rich New Agers told me "I lacked good karma" and have directly told me I must have been a very wicked person in my last life to have these severe disfiguring health problems and money problems." One psychic--medical intuitive to be exact, I visited during my UU days, told me, that I had been a very wicked woman in my past life. He gave me details of these lives which seemed very made up and was now equalizing my karmic position via suffering.
This oddly happened to me with some of the "Christians" too. It is an overlap that I was sure to notice. By the way I am learning to keep my mouth more shut about any problems outside of this blog. I think it will help me. One person I dealt with basically became a spiritual abuser using my abuse, and troubles to tell me that in a Christian context, I was "wicked" and "paying the price" for it.
The spiritual abuser told me because of my abuse and severe health problems I needed freed via "deliverance". She told me God wanted to heal me. She told me I did not have a natural disease--well the one I took 17 years to get diagnosed but at that time it wasn't diagnosed yet. If disabled be very careful of any Christians that promise "deliverance" or "healing" via prayer. I even faced this in the Catholic church where some charismatic Catholics told me, that if I had enough faith God would heal me. Problem is if you are still sick 5 years later, they see you as not having done what you were "supposed to". I can see many people already having lost their faith under some pressures I've been under. Here the message too was, same as the karma New Agers, if you suffer, it's your fault. If I had not read the book of Job, they would have destroyed me with their false teachings.
It is a place where many abuses and false theology and doctrines can abound. Even if one is questioning, and keeps an open mind that examines what they have to offer, these religious types can wiggle into your mind in an insidious fashion. Deeming themselves always the supreme experts, being a deferential scapegoat here, is not a good position. I thought surely something is spiritually awry being so poor and sick. Isn't God supposed to be blessing me? It only troubled my mind. Thankfully I broke away from the person in question, but one question I still ponder in that context, why are the suffering always the ones who are deemed wicked and the prosperous are the good? The Bible actually says the exact opposite.
Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
What does that say about Jesus Christ who ended up suffering the most on the cross? I never attended any Pentecostal or Charismatic churches in my case, but they are notorious for this. I've met ill people who took a pounding from those who told them they need their demons and curses of illness and financial problems drummed out of them. Those are dangerous places to admit you have any life challenges. My spiritual abuse came via an online "friendship", but in those churches, a disabled person will be told they have been "cursed" by the demon if illness or told that once delivered God will heal all their health problems. They are not seen as human either. They are seen as a problem to be reckoned with. The only answer is to be healed. If you failed to do that, you are a spiritual failure.
I never judged poor people myself this way but I figured out even in the churches I was in, that the main message was "Bad Things happen to Bad People" so what does that say about Jesus Christ on the cross?
There seems to be an open war on the disabled, suffering and poor in many of these churches. Their bad politics speak to their dark hearts. I believe that false teachings have taken over, and they are not preaching the comfort and goodness of God but drawing a net around people giving false hopes and dreams and answers for this life they focus on instead of eternal life. It ties into the sheer hatred shown many groups of people too. I can't go hate everyone like one certain party seems to want me to do. I'm not politically correct but I figure that is a path of evil too many of them are going down. The whole "Lets blow up the Islamic world" following the Plan for a New American Century "Christian response", gets on my nerves, and yes I care about the Jewish people too. By the way Iran is next on the list for the war mongers. The churches seem like they will be cheering to the day mushroom clouds are on the horizon.
The day I sat there, watching the pastor's ex-soldier son gleefully speak of killing people of another religion made me sick to my stomach. It's even hard to explain. A dark spirit has taken over many churches and I was feeling it that day. That very moment I knew I would be walking for good. Really they have become religious sock puppets to the elites who want their globalist wars and wars of civilizations. Evangelical churches almost seem to lust for Armageddon and can't wait until it gets here.
So why should I expect the treatment of the poor and disabled to be any better? All I know is I am done with the lot of them. I will see where God takes me now.