The significance of the MREs piled around the cross was not clear to me. In fact, I am not sure about much that was going on at this scene. Clearly, it was some sort of outreach church. A large group of folks, many who appeared homeless, were gathered in a parking lot behind an abandoned check cashing drive-through. The minister, in a grey sweatshirt and cap, harangued the crowd, calling them to a moment of religious awakening. Hands were raised, people jumped from their seats, there was clapping and crying, partitioners called out for deliverance. It was charismatic faith let loose from its harness. I can’t speak to the details of this group’s dogma or interpretation of the Bible, but a humble church like this appeals to me. Outside church, with the sky as its cathedral and their parishioners mostly unwashed and destitute, seems closer to the Gospels than any gothic monolith could ever be. I don’t mean to stoke any religious controversy here, but I cannot avoid the observation that if Jesus where alive today then he would most likely be sporting a second-hand sweatshirt than carefully pressed suit. But, I am not a religious man so perhaps I should keep my opinions about what is right and proper for a spiritual exercise to myself.
Maybe I am just wrestling with my own inability to reconcile my life with the lives of others. Standing in front of this crowd, holding an expensive camera, wearing a new jacket, stomach full with a warm breakfast of my choice, I could not avoid the conclusion the only substantial difference between myself and those gathered here were some basic accidents of birth. Had things started out just a little differently for me then I could very easily have found myself among this number. Those are just the facts. We are all born to vastly different circumstances and those circumstances will directly effect the trajectory of our lives. The metaphorical clay of our bodies and selves is indistinguishable and this realization makes words like fairness and equality have a hollow ring.
My suspicion is that if I were to engage the minister of this group then I would probably have serious differences with his ideological worldview. My background in religious studies might lead me to view his interpretation of the Bible as close-minded or narrow (and he might think equally unflattering things about my perspective). My views on social policy might lead us to disagree about the usefulness of spirituality in the lives of drug addicts and the mentally ill. Regardless of how we might parse the issues or how much I might feel the strength of my position, it would all likely be so much empty rhetoric. He had spent his Sunday morning feeding the bodies and souls of the poor and I had spent mine in a warm bed. All particulars aside, I feel confident saying that these folks were up to more on a Sunday morning than I accomplish all week. Even if I might not have much of an inclination towards prayer, I am thankful for this small, internal exercise in humility.