Monday

Could the Church wipe out poverty?

"Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble." Psalm 41:1

When I was in college I majored in Sociology and Youth Ministries because I wanted to save the world. Shortly before graduating, I realized that social programs do not help people who do not want to change. I also learned that people often fall prey to circumstances beyond their control and suffer grievously despite any help they receive.

I became disillusioned and forgot about working in the realm of social work. I told myself, "social programs do not help people. Only Jesus can help people." Because of this, I put my full effort into the church and later changed my previous thinking to, "social programs do help people, but only Jesus can meet the deep needs of people."

The latter is true. I have found that issues are not black and white, like I once thought they were.

I recently attended the "Bridges out of Poverty" seminar hosted by the Department of Social Services. The content of this seminar, and of a book I am reading called "What Every Church Member Should Know about Poverty" by Bill Ehlig and Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D., have opened my eyes to some of the prejudices I have felt about the poor. These resources have helped me view life from a different perspective.

Social programs are necessary to reach people. As James said, faith without works is dead. However, the problem comes when we, as Christians, think that social programs are the crux of our faith. They are not. Jesus, and his sacrifice, is what our faith is founded upon. Social programs should naturally flow from our churches because of our gratefulness to God for what he has done, and because of our desire to share God's love with other people.

From this perspective, I wonder what would happen if churches forgot their doctrinal differences and united with each other and with various programs in our community in an effort to help? The church is already helping in many ways, but what if the effort were concerted? Could we wipe out poverty in Otero County with God's help? Are all things possible with God? I think that God will bless us if we try to find out.

China and the Olympics

As a kid I remember the years that America spent preparing for the Olympic Games. I remember the slogan "Proud sponsor of the (year) U. S. Olympic Games." I also remember watching the games on television and talking about favorite athletes with my friends in the church youth group.

The fact that I could go to church during that time was taken for granted. Christians in China aren't so fortunate, however.

In June 2008 Christian Solidarity Worldwide and China Aid published a report entitled "China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games." Apparently, the Communist Chinese government is cleaning house before the Olympic Games by imprisoning undesirable people. Undesirables in China include Christians, especially targeted are leaders in the house churches that have revolutionized the Christian movement. The report says that 415 house church leaders were arrested in 2007.

There is no way to accurately measure how many Christians there are in China. Internal sources say that there are 130 million Christians. This number includes 20 million Catholics. Most of these Christians choose to worship in unregistered house churches because the churches sanctioned by the state are highly regulated. The price is high though. The report says that "those belonging to unregistered, and therefore illegal, groups can face many difficulties, including being harassed, humiliated, fined, tortured, imprisoned and subjected to forced labour. Physical assault has left Christians injured, hospitalized and disabled ... members of unregistered churches come under particular attack when they are accused of being part of a cult. As their faith is not recognized as belonging to an official religion, house churches can be classified as cults ... and be subjected to harsh penalties" (3).

Nice, huh? My question is, why is the U.S. still participating in the Olympics? The recent Chinese 'intervention' in Tibet and the continued persecution of Christians is only the latest in a long history of offenses by the government that brought us the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It is no secret that China is guilty of horrendous violations of human rights. Their policies will not change if we simply ignore them.

China isn't the only nation to persecute those who believe in Christ. Release International, the voice of the persecuted church, said that "according to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith." Release International defines Christian persecution as "a situation where Christians are repetitively, persistently and systematically inflicted with grave or serious suffering or harm and deprived of (or significantly threatened with deprival of) their basic human rights because of a difference that comes from being a Christian that the persecutor will not tolerate." This is much more serious than what many American Christians call persecution, for example being made fun of or disagreed with.

Let's remember our brothers and sisters throughout the world in prayer with special attention to China as the Olympics draw near.


Sources
http://www.releaseinternational.org/pages/find-out-more/christian-persecution-faqs.php

For information on the report: http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=press&id=739