Obviously, the question presupposes a dangerous level of generic abstractionism - many Christians do not work with the homeless, and I'm sure many atheists charitably donate their time and energy to such noteworthy causes. Yet, as Rev. Sideways continues her diatribe, an unsettling array of additional enigmas surface. She writes:
I know that this sounds quite paranoid but they ARE trying to get to people in their most stressful, weak states in order to brainwash them into believing the Jesus nonsense. They ARE abusing people in their most vulnerable state...I have seen homeless shelters that require their clients who want to have a bed there to attend classes to implant ideas into their head about Christianity that are just not true...This is very manipulative and it is a very dark, creepy thing that these religious people do.
A couple thoughts come to mind: while I remain highly skeptical of any mandatory religious instruction, I am hard pressed to categorically dismiss Christian shelter work as a subversive plot to 'abuse' and 'brainwash' the most vulnerable sectors of society. For one, this description fails to account for the countless venues that offer life-saving services through federal funds (hence, work or sobriety requirements replace religious ones). Secondly, as my good friend Jeannie playfully and insightfully asks: 'where are all these homeless converts'? Further, it is only from a position of privilege that we can adjudicate the worth of 'a consciousness free from contact with Jesus' in comparison with the basic human necessities of housing, warmth and food. What violence do we perform when we write such work off as worthless - even harmful - merely because it offends our personal cognitive sensibilities?
I am much more inclined to take Rev. Sideways' probing inquiry as a call to action. At their inception, many religiously-based homeless shelters came into existence to meet a dire (and theretofore unfulfilled) human need, benefitting in turn from the sustaining faith of parishioners and the circulating nature of church volunteerism. In turn, most have become secularized or disconnected from their spiritual origins. Today, whether Christian, atheist or any label in between, we should build our theologies (or philosophies) from the ground up, as we donate our lives to the betterment of others. Let us discover what the Jesus-of-the-homeless-shelter looks like first hand. We might even be transformed in the process.
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