Monday, July 24, 2006

The Booming Homeless

Ok, blogs are for rants; here's one that won't amuse.

Calgary is experiencing a wild rodeo ride these days: an economic boom which is fueling unprecedented growth and a surge in real estate. But out-of-control growth is not a good thing. Many middle-class and low income Calgarians have been left homeless and suffering. These are people with full time jobs and families whose rents have skyrocketed, or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or lured here by the promise of jobs without taking into account the increasing cost of living- something which it appears increases every month. I cringe to think of how it will be for these people in a few short months when winter sets in.
The most disturbing thing to me in all this is the relative silence from the church in Calgary. It seems most Christians are hoping the government will step in and alleviate the problem of homelessness and all the associated problems which come with it. But taking care of the poor is the prerogative of the Body of Christ, not the government. If ever there was a time for the Body to step up to the plate and do something about poverty in our city, it is NOW.
Of course I am aware that there are already numerous Christian agencies already in place to assist the homeless, but those places are overwhelmed by the volume of people needing assistance. I am quite sure that the amount of financial aid they receive has not increased in proportion to the need - or the prosperity in some sectors. It is definitely time for something new to be implemented.
This new thing should cross our denominational boundaries. We are all the Body in Calgary, and we must lay down our doctrinal swords and truly demonstrate that we belong to the One who is, by definition, Love. I am no organizer and I have no idea what we ought to do. Perhaps we should raise funds to build or purchase our own low-cost housing for those who are struggling. The Muslim community is raising 14 million dollars to build a mosque. Perhaps our answer should be raising millions of dollars to build low-rent homes. Whatever each of our churches could do alone is nothing compared to what we can do together.
Maybe it is easier for us to let down our guards towards theology than money.
Whatever we do, let us do it remembering God's admonitions in James and Isaiah 58 about true faith focusing on taking care of the needy. The Body is sleeping when we should realize that this is our moment to shine! This is our moment to shut the mouths of the scoffers who despise our faith and our God. But all I see and hear is silence when we should be weeping, working, healing and helping.
Let us also not forget that every boom has a bust - whether gradual or sudden, there is no doubt that this prosperity cannot last forever. Let us do as much as we can while our home values are high and our jobs are secure. If the boom has left this many people in the dust, what will the bust bring? Certainly nothing will get better for anyone. Never before has Jesus' call to turn away from the riches of this world rung so true as it does today. Am I like the rich young ruler who cannot give up great wealth in order to follow Him? Am I even worse than him, not realizing that I cannot serve two masters, and trying keep one foot in my comfortable life and follow Him too?
I don't want to give up my home or my comforts. But who knows but that I will not retain them for long anyway? Isn't it better to give them up for His sake than have them taken away in the end for no one's profit- except perhaps the bank?