A church in Concord, NC, called Showers Of Blessings has become the target of complaints from its neighbors for following the teachings of the Bible.
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. -- Leviticus 25:35-36
With a population of over 80,000, Concord
is located just north of Charlotte and is the twelfth largest city in NC. It is considerably more conservative than Charlotte, with Republican voters edging out Democrats
50-48 in 2012. The Yellow Pages have 858 listings
for churches in Concord.
Not The Onion.
Residents living next to a Concord church are frustrated because they said no one told them a program that houses homeless people opened up inside the church.
That program has been operating for one-and-a-half years.
For a year and a half, nobody
noticed the homeless people were there. What tipped the neighbors off? Construction. Nothing perks up Southerners' noses like construction vehicles in the neighborhood. The facility is called My Father's House. There's even a sign out front.
Run by Concord-based Cooperative Christian Ministry
, it currently has housing for four families and has been approved to build four additional units in the church sanctuary.
Cooperative Christian Ministry (CCM) began in 1981 when seven Concord (NC) churches decided that by combining their efforts they could reach more people in need and provide greater assistance to the community as a whole. Today churches, businesses and other organizations work in conjunction with many, many individuals to actively support the ministry.
CCM has the support of Concord city government and city leaders have confirmed that the ministry is operating within the law. Nonetheless, at least two neighbors are angry they weren't notified Christianity is being practiced inside God's house.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” -- Matthew 8:20 ESV
Jeffrey Collins is among the neighbors who complained to the city:
We just don't want them walking around, this neighborhood has been quiet.
They've been there for eighteen months
. You just said the neighborhood has been quiet. Lindsay Coronis adds,
"We weren't notified about it and I don't think that's fair for any of the neighbors"
Weren't notified of WHAT, my dear? You live next to a church
. A homeless shelter is an approved accessory use for a house of worship for a guy named Jesus, who took good neighboring seriously enough to address it in His second of two commandments.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -- Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
As for the Scary Homeless People?
"These are families from our communities that may have experienced job loss,” Ed Hosack, CCM executive director, said. “There may have been medical bills, the break up or loss of a family member."
In the video at the link
, Mr. Hosack adds that all of the residents remain engaged in purposeful, intentional activities and "most of them go to work each day." Residents are screened and drug tested and the facility has 24-hour management.
Like so many families in Concord, North Carolina and the rest of the U.S., they were getting by until something snapped their fragile finances. That "something" -- an illness or loss -- placed them and their children in crisis. In a display of pro-family Christian values even an atheist can respect, My Father's House offers shelter, safety, and dignity as they get back on their feet.
To fully appreciate the depths of the neighbors' bile, try to get through the video (it won't embed.) Unsmiling, they spit out their commentary with palpable revulsion for the families living in My Father's House. "I just don't think its good for my kids to be around it," Ms. Coronis says.
Them. It. Dismissive, dehumanizing terms that turn human beings struggling with setbacks into The Other. Has the poison of victim blaming so polluted some American minds that even a Southern church can no longer open its doors to the same people Jesus would have welcomed?
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ -- Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
CCM is holding a community meeting in the church fellowship hall on Sunday to address neighbors' concerns. When the legal practice of religious freedom puts Jesus' teaching into action and is met with hostility in a red Southern city, the demonization of poverty must be nearly complete.
6:29 PM PT: Thank you all for the recs and comments, I didn't expect my little rant to take off like this! I'm trying to keep up with the comments and appreciate each one.