The Spirituality of Poverty and Advocacy (SPA)
Once in a while I discuss the spirituality of my homelessness and advocacy while making one of my many speeches to high schools, colleges, universities and churches. That's not to say that I somehow choose to be homeless in order to fulfill a spiritual mission. True spirituality is not mission-based, as a mission has a beginning, a middle and an end. Spirituality is a state of being that has a beginning and no end; therefore, it can't have a middle. My homelessness and advocacy have been spiritual insomuch as I have learned about the horrors that exist in the most powerful country in the world; I have tapped into abilities that I didn't realize I had; and, I have made various spiritual connections in my mind as to how power is attained (or obtained) and used vs. how it should be used.
Wikipedia defines advocacy as: a political process by an individual or group which aims to influence public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or conducting exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief. Lobbying (often by lobby groups) is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on an issue which plays a significant role in modern politics. Research has started unfolding how advocacy groups in the U.S. and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.
As indicated by the aforementioned definition, the primary target of my advocacy is government. However, as Hannibal Barca's (Barcid's) army often surrounded the opposing army and then defeated their virtual prisoners in a "circular battle", I too need an army of concerned and/or directly-affected citizens to surround and inundate government with our demands. Unfortunately, many of the people who could make up this “army” are very weak in spirit and disenfranchised. The poor and homeless have accepted their state as their lot in life and those who have sufficient means of survival don't get involved or cease their involvement in advocacy for any number of reasons ranging from having very busy schedules to believing that the poor and homeless deserve what life has dealt them. But so much for building the army. Let's define the reason for the war – spiritual-class war, of course.
The story begins between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago when God (Allah, Jehovah) spoke the world into existence using power and methodologies that transcend human science and work much more quickly and differently than big bang-evolutionary theory can ever understand or account for. During the first 3,000 years of this world's existence, the Creator made known His Laws which included compassion for the poor. Howbeit, He never demanded that able-bodied people be given hand-outs in perpetuity. He DID however command land owners not to pick up crops that were dropped during harvesting or to go over the field a second time. This would allow the stranger, the fatherless and the widow (those who didn't have a man of means in their lives) to “glean” their sustenance from the field. After all the Earth is the Lord's and it is He who brings the increase.
There were several hundred years during which God is not known to have spoken to anyone on Earth. The confused mixture of religions known as Hellenistic Polytheism sprung out of this era. Then came Jesus. He was born into poverty and homelessness. After Jesus at age twelve astounds the elders in the temple, we don't read anymore about Joseph. It is believed by some that the societal (mis)leaders took the home of his widowed mother Mary and that he had her and other widows in mind when he accused the Sanhedrin (pharisees and sadducees collectively) of taking the homes of widows.
There were various other instances during his ministry that were either possibly or certainly intended to send a strong message to those who oppress or ignore the poor. One such possibility was when Jesus turned water into wine. Jewish weddings were major social events that were attended by many. You didn't necessarily have to be a family member to attend. Notable people were served first and the poor were allowed to usurp the leftovers. The lord of the feast clearly stated that the worst wine is usually saved for last. This, of course, means that the poor get the low-quality wine. Jesus, however, “saved” the best for last.
Jesus was certainly speaking against oppression of the poor during his temple rampage. He accused those selling in the temple of turning what should've been a house of prayer into a den of thieves. It qualified as such for at least two reasons. First of all, God allowed the poor to offer turtledoves which they'd caught that were without spot of blemish. Even when a poor person brought a suitable dove to be offered, they were told by those selling in the temple that it had a blemish and that they must purchase a turtledove from the temple. That's when the second act of exploitation took place. The person had to exchange their money for temple currency before purchasing a turtledove and they always lost money in the exchange.
In addition to Jesus living in poverty and commanding his disciples to travel light, he told a rich young ruler who wanted to become a follower that he had to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man walked away. Christ also told us that there is very little chance of a rich man getting into Heaven. (The “eye of the needle” was a very small doorway that was cut into the city wall. A camel could only come through on its knees with no luggage on its back.) In the parable of the man who planned to build bigger barns, Jesus sent the message that the rich are OBLIGATED to help the poor. The story of a conversation between Abraham who held Lazarus in his bosom while in Heaven and a rich man who'd gone to Hell is believed by many theologians to be true insomuch as it gives the names of two out of three characters. (Maybe Jesus wanted to give other rich men the sense that it could one day be their story – to let them fill in the blank with their own name.) It is worth noting that in both the parable and the true story the rich man simply IGNORES THE POOR and GOES TO HELL. How much more will those who actively oppress and exploit the poor burn for it???!!!
It is also worth noting that Jesus opposed the religious super structure of his day but refused, on more than one occasion, to openly oppose the political super structure. He told those who were speaking supposedly in the name of God how wrong they were; but, he didn't give us any political advice or tell the Romans that they were wrong for anything that they were doing. The Jews wanted a savior to deliver them from the Romans. Jesus was not that kind of savior.
Despite Jesus' avoidance of politics, the disciples began intentional Communist communities as described in Acts chapter 2 verses 42 through 47. It makes sense when you consider the fact that neither partisan politics nor McCarthyism had the place in first century Rome that they have in present-day America. Add to that the fact that people don't need to be political in order to decide that they'll hold all things in common and live together in an intentional community. They just have to care about each other.
The first-century Christians were able to maintain these non-dictatorial Communist communities because, as Galatians 5:22 and 23 tells us: “The fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, GOODNESS, faith, meekness and temperance. Against such there is no law.” Oddly enough, various state and city governments in this country as well as governments in other countries like that of Budapest, Hungary have outlawed acts of kindness like feeding or giving money to the homeless and/or acts whereby the homeless help themselves by sleeping in public places. People in this country (especially in Florida) have actually gone to jail for helping the homeless. Galatians 5:22-23 is no longer true.
Fast forward to 1945. The United States has become a world power. As a matter of fact, they're well on their way to becoming the most powerful nation on Earth. General Eisenhower who was largely responsible for U.S. victory in World War II would become president eight years later and finish his second term in January 1961. He was the first two-term president since term limits were ratified by the states in 1951.
Though term limits were intended to keep a president from becoming a dictator, they've actually caused the office of the U.S. President to evolve into something quite evil. Someone who rules for life after their election, selection or appointment is likely to become a dictator. Someone who has to be re-elected every four years is likely to bear in mind what the voting public wants and to do their best to deliver insomuch as they want to remain in office for as long as possible. Someone who is in their last term no longer needs to satisfy their constituency and is likely to do anything but. This allows a second-term president to wreak havoc on a politically inept public.
Eisenhower fought against dictatorship among other things and was the last of the “non-imperialist two-term-limited U.S. Presidents” – even if what he did opened the door for present-day U.S. Imperialism. I firmly believe that the horsemen of Revelation chapter 6 correspond with the two-term presidents since Eisenhower:
1 – Nixon went out conquering the political climate of his day and turning the office of the president into a vehicle which the wealthy and greedy could use to implement their evil agendas. Though one might point to acts of greed or corporatism that pre-date the Nixon administration, the early 1970's is when we went full-on with the fascistic marriage of government and corporations and with corporate greed. These acts amounted to giving to the wealthy; but, they weren't yet taking noticeable amounts from the poor.
2 – Reagan definitely was given power to make war. He was the last cold war president. I guess you can say that he caused us to “win” the cold war. He built up the military and funded it by cutting funding for social programs. Reaganomics caused inflation to increase exponentially. The higher prices, low wages and decreased social services made it more convenient for the poor to join the military which had just received their former social service dollars. Reagan even made it possible for the poor to get career training if they came home alive. He clearly took from the "non-militant poor".
3 – The third horseman was given a set of balances and went out saying, “A measure of wheat for a day's wages and two measures of barely for a day's wages”. This horseman was promoting low wages and inflation among other things – low ROI (return on investments) at all levels. Clinton implemented the “Welfare to Work” program which looks good on its face. However, the end result of that policy and other socio-economic conditions is a combination of hard work, continued low income and insufficient sustenance for the poor.
4 – That makes Bush 43 “Death”. While governor of Texas, he oversaw 119 executions, pardoning none. As president he used a personal vendetta against Hussein as the pretext for a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, spent about a trillion dollars on the war industry that was nurtured to maturity by Reagan, decimated an oil-rich country and solidified the U.S. Government's image in other countries as the world bully. We also saw the death of the U.S. presidency insomuch as Cheney seemed to be more in control than Bush. They took the reins of world capitalism and ensured that the U.S. Government would control this destructive beast as much as is possible for any one government to do. It was toward the end of the Bush era that the economy went south in a big way. Bush began the bail-out process which gave ungodly amounts of money to the rich who'd already wasted their means like the prodigal son. He did this at the expense of the poor. Even with Bush 43 out of office, the beast of Capitalism continues to consume the poor.
5 – After mentioning the fourth horseman, scripture tells us that Hades followed close behind. With Bush 43's administration having taken the reins of the destructive super structure of world capitalism, the system of national, state and local governments is becoming more decadent, losing any sense of morality or direction and dying. That leaves Obama to either maintain the status quo or begin something new. It stands to reason that he's beginning something new and that it is so different from what we've known that it's implementation will feel like Hell on Earth for some people.
He's in his sixth year with about 30 months remaining. While he has maintained some of the hurtful policies of his predecessors, he is also known to be one of the softest and sweetest presidents in recent history. I've suspected for some time now that Obama would lord over the de-imperialization of the U.S. – that he would put an end to the practice of the U.S. Policing the world (whether or not that is his intent). That could be Hell for some. If his appointment of a Cuban descendant to the position of HUD secretary is any indication, he could want disadvantaged and oppressed people to advance socio-economically. (There are other political reasons for choosing Julian Castro to lead HUD.) That supposition is turned on its head when you consider how he has not contributed to the social uplift of Afro-Americans. Then again, as was quite clear in his most recent State of the Union address, he loves women as much or more so than I do. It's conceivable that he will do all he can by January 20, 2017 to take power from the men and give it to the women. While it would be Hell for wealthy men, it might cause more to be done for the poor.
There is a way to marry all of those possibilities – the social uplift of disadvantaged groups such as Blacks, women and poor immigrants as well as the end of U.S. Imperialism. After all, it's been more than 50 years since Eisenhower left office and it's been said that a U.S. President affects the country for 50 years after he leaves office. So, it stands to reason that the imperialism that U.S. victory in World War II made possible will now come to an end. That said, the end of U.S. Imperialism doesn't have to be a goal of Obama in order to happen.
On May 20th, 2009 Obama signed into law the HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance, Rapid Transition to Housing). Cities and states that receive HUD funding must fully implement it by August 31, 2014 and begin to show decreases in homelessness by 2015. Obamacare elicited some sharp retorts from state governments. Some people went so far as to call Obama a Socialist (a title he should embrace now that he's in his second term). But the HEARTH Act got through, largely unnoticed. It could start a ripple effect that leads to the social uplift of many poor people. Let's hope.
Here in Washington, DC (the “belly of the beast” of capitalism), homelessness rose by 13% from January 2013 (6,859) to January 2014 (7,748). it has probably surpassed 8,000 in this city of +/- 650,000. Fortunately, Kristy Greenwalt who formerly worked for the U.S. Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (USICH) now heads the DC ICH. Given the circumstances, I can assure you that she'll “catch Hell” trying to bring DC up to par. Whether or not DC and various other cities and states succeed at decreasing homelessness, the attempts at implementation are bound to change the public and political discourses in a bigger way than the Occupy Movement did. This could be Hell for the rich. It could be the beginning of a Socialist or Communist revolution. Let's hope. Maybe it will start around the time of my 47th birthday (Feb. 15th, 2016) or sooner. Let's hope.
All of that brings me back to myself and my spiritual journey. Before I first experienced homelessness around Feb. 20th, 1994, I was working a dead-end job in Gainesville, FL. I was OK in this city that has been voted many times (at least 5) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to be the best city to live in. In short, becoming homeless opened my eyes to the inequities, atrocities and social injustice in the world around me. It has caused me to think about the many things you've just read and to make these and other connections between world events, politics and what the Bible says – especially what it says about spiritual wickedness in high places. Since becoming homeless, I've improved my writing skills and become a public speaker. I often help people to apply age-old scriptures to the here and now. I present some tough logic that flies in the face of excuses that government might give for ignoring the poor. I seek to embolden the poor. All in all, I have become the embodiment of the thinking that is necessary to usher in a Socialist or Communist revolution with a Biblical-spiritual spin. After all, love for the poor is the only Biblical theme that holds fast from beginning to end.