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    Charity vs. Safety

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    Rohelf

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    Charity vs. Safety

    Post  Rohelf on August 30th 2010, 10:55 am

    This weekend I heard a sermon on the theme that all people are welcome at the table of the Lord and that we humans shouldn't presume to deny anyone access based on our own judgement. Which is good and true as far as it goes, but the speaker took it further, into asserting that we shouldn't judge people based on what we can see about them, ever- for example, crossing the street away from someone who makes you feel uneasy is uncharitable and un-Christian. And that, I think, is too far. The first thing that came to mind when I heard that was the admonition in Matthew 10:16 to be gentle but wise, and to know that there are wolves out there.

    Now, I'll admit that I learn significantly towards favoring safety, but as a single woman who works in a rather crummy area of town, I don't think that's unfounded. If somebody sets off my creep-meter, you can bet I'll avoid them, whether or not it's nice or polite to do so (and I've read that unscrupulous people will often use people's training to be polite against them). I don't engage panhandlers, and, when the person starts raving and swearing when I fail to give them money or attention, to me that just reinforces that not engaging them was the right decision. And sweet light of Elbereth, if you reach into my personal space, all bets are off and you should count yourself lucky if you don't get a shoe to the groin or a knuckle to the throat. I've experienced people banging on my driver's side window, following me for a block and yelling after me, and pointing at my bag and insisting that I must have some money in there, which, again, just adds evidence to the case for refusing to deal with strangers who accost me in public.

    How do you deal with such people and incidents, and do you feel that it's incumbent upon Christians to always be polite and friendly, even when you think you're being taken advantage of?

    Paeter
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    Re: Charity vs. Safety

    Post  Paeter on August 30th 2010, 5:42 pm

    Rohelf wrote:

    How do you deal with such people and incidents, and do you feel that it's incumbent upon Christians to always be polite and friendly, even when you think you're being taken advantage of?

    Well, I can't comment on how I deal with these kinds of situations, because I'm mostly cloistered in suburbia. As for politeness vs. safety, I don't think the two are necessarily opposed. If I'm alone in a certain kind of area and see two guys walking toward me with mean looks on there faces, I might cross the street. I can't control what they might think of me. And while the Bible encourages a willingness to give up our lives in service to him, we also need to be wise in how to best invest the lives we have.

    I don't know what God has planned for me, but as near as I can tell I can best serve him if I'm alive.(Not even counting my roles of husband and father) Paul struggled with this issue as well, not knowing whether it was better for him to die and be with Christ or live to continue serving others. (Phl. 1:20-26)

    I think that speaker would be hard pressed to present scripture to argue that we should be reckless and throw safety out the window in the kind of situations you're describing.



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    Re: Charity vs. Safety

    Post  mindspike on September 2nd 2010, 1:40 pm

    Rohelf wrote:How do you deal with such people and incidents, and do you feel that it's incumbent upon Christians to always be polite and friendly, even when you think you're being taken advantage of?

    I do think that as Christians we should always be polite, friendly, and on our best behavior. A Christian who is rude and boorish reflects poorly on Christ. Friendly is in the eye of the beholder, as I consider a vacant, impersonal smile and vaguely directed wave "friendly", while having strangers force their name upon me and sieze me by the hand is usually an invasion of my personal space.

    So politely cross the street. Politely roll up your window. Politely avoid eye contact. Politely turn down the request if contact cannot be avoided. Even if the supplicant's intentions are violent from the beginning, this tactic will likely delay the onset of violence - people enjoy being treated with respect. Remember also that you are under no obligation to explain your actions or apologize. Any guilt you may feel is entirely misplaced. Encounters such as this are predicated upon cultural conditioning, not religious beliefs, as the instigator has no way of knowing what you believe.

    As to being taken advantage of: I believe that we are called to give to the church, and to provide for the indigent, in that way which is most compatible with our spirit. If you are giving in order to fill a quota, percentage, or out of a sense of duty then this behavior become legal observance instead of spiritual giving. If you give in ways and amounts that allow you to do so without regrets and with a positive attitude, then you fulfill scripture. "God loves a cheerful giver." Without delving into a sermon on giving, a general priniciple is that you should only give what you desire to or have committed to, regardless of what others demand.

    Again, having someone demand money or service from you under threat of reprisal or intimidation is one definition of "Assault", a criminal action. Even if you provide the money or service, you are not performing Christian charity, but only being victimized. In all fairness, I spent a year in public law enforcement and nine years in private security, which may color my outlook.


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    Rohelf

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    Re: Charity vs. Safety

    Post  Rohelf on September 3rd 2010, 4:51 pm

    Paeter wrote:

    I think that speaker would be hard pressed to present scripture to argue that we should be reckless and throw safety out the window in the kind of situations you're describing.


    Yeah, this speaker says a lot of things that can't be supported by Scripture, or by any other form of fact-checking. I've heard him make multiple errors historical, scientific, logical, and even mathematical in sermons or other speech from the pulpit. He once managed to completely invert the moral of the book of Job, and even to distort the rationale behind the Atonement. When this person opens his mouth, I turn on my mental fallacy counter. Of course I can't know his heart, but it certainly seems like he has his own political, social, and doctrinal agenda, and just crams Scripture into it as best he can, wadding it up and breaking off corners if he has to. I could probably keep a forum going solely by posting his declamations and letting others refute them, but I also probably shouldn't, just because too many specific examples would probably mark this person out to anyone who's met him.

    Back on-topic, Dunadwarf and I were talking about this, and he mentioned how he often feels frustrated and insulted by people who can't trust him enough to even open the door to him or speak to him on the street... and I can sympathize (although it rarely happens to me... people seem to be less afraid/suspicious of strange women than strange men), and see how that would be vexing to honest people. But I think the people to blame in this case aren't the ones who mistrust you in error, but the ones who have abused that trust in the past, who have made the world into the kind of place where people are afraid to trust a stranger, even one who seems "nice" on the surface. They're the real problem.

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    Re: Charity vs. Safety

    Post  Paeter on September 3rd 2010, 5:19 pm

    Rohelf wrote:

    Yeah, this speaker says a lot of things that can't be supported by Scripture, or by any other form of fact-checking.



    But I think the people to blame in this case aren't the ones who mistrust you in error, but the ones who have abused that trust in the past, who have made the world into the kind of place where people are afraid to trust a stranger, even one who seems "nice" on the surface. They're the real problem.


    The speaker you're referring to isn't the regular teacher at your church, is he? If so, have you considered looking for another church to plug into?

    And I agree that the fallen nature of humanity is ultimately the culprit here. Can't wait for God to fix us and the universe so we can become the freely diverse yet unified people we were meant to be!

    There's a part of me that LOVES the goth fashion sense. All that black with metal buckles contrasted with pale skin. I just honestly think it kinda rocks. But if I chose to dress that way, I would have to spend so much time explaining myself and helping people feel relaxed around me. It would be a barrier to building good relationships. (I'm also pretty sure I'm not cool enough to pull it off well.) So that's why I don't always let all of my geek out all of the time.

    Paul has served as an inspiration to me, motivating me to try and fit in with "normal folk" whenever possible.

    1 Corinthians 9:19-22

    For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.


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