Monday, October 01, 2012

Bill Leslie in Me

 For many years we attended LaSalle Street Church and for most if those years we both worked for LaSalle in one capacity or another. I was Bill's secretary for awhile. Bill was founder and senior pastor. 
 I forget the exact number, but I think it was 480. He used to say "There are over 480 verses in the Bible that speak of God's identification with the poor but only two that speak of the virgin birth. One of those actually says a young girl shall conceive."  The point being that our priorities need to be adjusted. 
 Social Justice starts in the Old Testament and runs through the New Testament like fire. But as you read the verses you will see that God is not calling for "bleeding heart liberalism" or throwing money at the problems of the disenfranchised - although I remain a democrat - but a sacrificial communion with that population. Meeting them as equals and receiving as well as giving. 

 That kind of equality is terribly difficult for those of us who grew up entitled. I am not sure most of us at LaSalle ever truly achieved it. 
I have been the mother of a son with profound disabilities for 30 years and the wife, for close to 40 years, of a man who has been a minister, a public school teacher, a janitor and unemployed. He is currently a school bus driver. We are now impoverished ourselves and live in a community that would have terrified me 40 years ago. Yet I am still conscious that my education, my accent, my skin color, my posture and my assumptions all still communicate authority wherever I am. I am still treated with more respect in stores, restaurants and laundromats than my neighbors. When I take a friend to a hospital or doctor visit, for example, the doctors and nurses invariably speak to me as though I am the guardian or person in charge of the friend (black, Latino or disabled) who is the patient, after all.  The friend will be ignored as if invisible unless I direct the doctor to speak to the friend. What is even more disturbing to me is how often the friend is not just okay with this but seems to welcome it and readily defers to me, clearly thinking they will get better care that way.  And they are probably correct. This is one way I can be of service to my friend: to make limited use of my power as an over educated white woman without ever mistaking that power for superiority. 

In our neighborhood, we are the "go to" people whenever a neighbor has to interact with public officials. We spend a lot of time reading and filling out complicated forms and advising people regarding confusing notices they receive. It seems to me that the complication of arcane paperwork has an inverse ratio to the educational level of the recipient. It is amazing how many intrusive and ridiculous yet terrifying forms poor people must fill out!  Although it is time consuming and seems thankless, our front lawn magically never seems to need mowing and the winter Charley had surgery I never had to shovel our front walk.  Of course, Sam Care comes first and it is sometimes important to say no, but helping is what friends do for each other and we try to do what we can. 

 We will never be like our friends. We can only be ourselves as honestly and faithfully as we possibly can. We do not "bear witness to Christ" in the way most Evangelicals mean it. We simply live our difficult life along side our friends who are leading equally difficult lives and by that witness we are all transformed.