Michael Marshall: Noise

For some background, you may want to read my two previous posts (1 and 2) about Michael Lee Marshal.

Narrative Power

In my post published January 22nd, I wrote that language had failed. Except that isn’t what has happened. Mike is dead and we are left with competing narratives: the injustice of Mike’s arrest, police brutality, what is “necessary,” the worth of black lives, homelessness as a social issue... So it goes.

This is how people make meaning in reaction to events and ultimately how they exert power.

Recently, I have found in myself a skepticism about my own thoughts. I don’t quite trust that my patterns of thought, prejudices, or reactions are really my own. I’m not saying there’s some other personality at work whispering in my mind. But I question whether my opinions about public events (especially events as fraught as Mike’s killing) are generated within me or whether I simply default to whatever narrative happens to have been convincing enough to gain power over me.

Of course, this is also a narrative I tell about myself.

Noise

Working with homeless folks, I’ve sometimes noticed and grown to suspect that speech is a distraction from true presence. In part this is because with people experiencing homelessness, you’ll often find yourself buffeted by a stream of words that frankly don’t make sense. I find myself nodding and smiling and thinking to myself “I don’t know what this guy is talking about.” I’ll look at the volunteers who work with me and we just sort of shrug and shake our heads. “Who knows?”

But other times, when I feel particularly grounded or, more often, when I’m just too tired to put on the stupid play of active listening, I have experienced a deeply spiritual connection with the person who is speaking. In these moments of revelation, speech becomes exactly what it is: noise. I wish I could explain the uncovered fullness of another person I’ve experienced in these moments, like the envelope containing the world has been opened for a moment to something cast just beside us, always there at hand but hidden by our narratives about how the world “really is,” but of course I can’t.

Opportunities for this kind of encounter with Mike are over. His narrative has ended. As a single individual, one must resist the tempting offer to take up the easy narratives offered by competing powers.

The truth is language really has failed. It failed before the sheriffs who killed Mike restrained him so brutally. No dumb narrative will bring him back to life. There is no justice for Mike, only silence. To claim anything else is to attempt to make meaning out of his meaningless death, and to use his story to wield power.

Logan's Failure of Imagination

I have been trying to figure out more to say about Mike who was restrained by Denver Sheriffs and sent to the hospital where he would later die.

What I’ve written so far feels entirely too small. But the situation makes me feel small. The enormity of the mechanism that generates these incidents of injustice is impossible for me to comprehend. My imagination isn't good enough. I'm reduced to doing small things and writing small thoughts.

Words about sin, justice, homelessness, race, responsibility, and reconciliation feel like empty placeholders or feeble attempts at meaning-making. When language fails, what are we left with but to lie down and die or get up and keep going? For too many people, language has utterly failed. All but a very few get up and keep going.

Network Coffeehouse can be hard sometimes, but Mike always made me feel like I was doing good work, and doing it well, and that I could keep going.

The Divinity School Dilemma

Yesterday, I experienced a wave of frustration related to my student loan debt. This happens from time to time, and really anything can set it off. Debt is stressful, as most of us are aware. Before I dive in, though, I’ve got to say that I’m more fortunate than many; I’ve been able to steadily pay on my debt for a while now. It’s still sizable enough to haunt me, but at least it isn’t Poltergeist-style whipping me around the room anymore. That’s not insignificant.

Nothing so far is unique. Thousands of former students are dealing with the exact same thing, though in varying levels of distress or ease. What makes it slightly different is what degree I went into debt for. I received a Master of Theological Studies degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School. So we’re talking about 1) a graduate degree, as opposed to a bachelor’s which is widely regarded as necessary in this country to participate in the job market and 2) a professional degree meant to lead to practical ministerial work for the social good.

Needless to say, it’s not easy to parse out what “useful” means when discussing this kind of education. I’m not a utilitarian guy by nature. John Stuart Mill makes me instinctively bristle. Always has. But that side of “useful” can’t be ignored here. However the other side of “useful,” wrapped up in the sense of communal good or intrinsic purpose (what religious folks call “calling”), can’t be ignored either. It’s easy to say that we can’t, or shouldn’t, put a price tag on such a thing. But is it irresponsible not to try? Yes. Because if divinity programs are going to rest their hats on being prophetic, there has to be prophetic talk about economic justice for all, their own students included. They, and we, must talk openly about how the values of M. Div. and M.T.S. programs balance against their costs. We owe it to our own tradition.

Gross, Gross Utility

I think this is the easier piece when it comes to discussing the “usefulness” of a degree, or anything. It’s easy because it’s cold. You can ask questions about “monetary value” and “long-term investment” and couch such questions in "greatest possible happiness." Then you can throw up a little in your mouth. Still, living in a society driven by capitalism, we have to consider how our decisions color our ability to trade our labor for the dollars needed to buy the goods and services that keep us alive (and therefore happier than were we not alive). This is also the easiest to discuss in terms of divinity degrees, because the answer is (almost) unequivocally “No. It’s not worth it.”

Going into any sizable amount of debt (the kind that takes more than a few years to pay off) for a profession focused on ministry, whether in a church setting or in the wider world, is, financially, ridiculous. Doctors may go into $170,000 worth of med school debt, but they’ve got a pretty legitimate shot of paying that off as long as they don’t do anything monumentally stupid. Divinity school doesn’t offer that certainty. It’s not meant to, honestly. But that becomes a factor when we talk about the elements of a useful degree. If you’re going to spend two or three years and large stacks of cash on education, which is largely thought of as an investment, both monetarily and socially, then you need to be clear about how the investment shakes out. Will your div degree earn you enough money to make taking out student loans financially sensible? Probably not.

I say this as one of the lucky few. I use my degree in my job. Without said degree, I probably wouldn’t have had the career arc I’ve had. Due to steady employment, I’ve been able to pay on my debt regularly. But non-profit work — the work commonly associated with the degree — only pays out so much, so I still have to do the real work of examining how my debt balances against the money-making potential of my education. Feels icky, but it’s a large piece of this crap puzzle.

But I Have a Vocation

Here’s where things might get murky and feelings-hurty. If we’re talking financially, it’s fairly easy to say that divinity schools are irresponsibly offering degrees that won’t produce students able to pay for them. There needs to be some prophetic witness to that unfortunate fact. But that doesn’t mean the degree isn't useful, right? There are other ways something can be “useful” without supporting the definition of utility found in a consumer economy.

Divinity school programs, ideally, produce people with an enhanced understanding of the way the divine operates in our world, and how our reactions should shift to reflect that divine work. These professional degrees are meant to be attached to people committed to the ethical and spiritual betterment of our world. That’s noble work. It’s important work. I won’t argue otherwise.

I also won’t argue the value of my own time spent seeking an M.T.S. I think I’m a better person for the things I read, the interactions I had, and the new avenues of thought I had opened to me. Hell, I wouldn’t have met Logan, and therefore wouldn’t be writing for you right now, had I not attended VDS. So, I gained much. I did some socially/morally/religiously important, arguably “useful,” work there. But was it worth it? That’s a harder question.

You can probably put a price on a profession. Maybe you can’t put a price on a vocation. Though you can, and should, think through whether the debt you incur to pursue your vocation keeps you from effectively living it out in the first place. Can you effectively run a homeless ministry if you can barely pay the rent?[^1] Maybe, maybe not. A key question divinity schools should be asking (though I doubt they are) is this:

“By allowing students to leave here burdened by debt, are we ensuring that their ministry is seriously hindered before it begins?”

That’s not a small question. That’s an ethical juggernaut. That’s a prophetic question.

Be Prophetic

I don’t have all the answers. Whatever the solution is, it will be nuanced and it’ll be varied depending on who you talk to. People's experiences during and after their time in the program will shed revealing light one way or another. I can see clear ways in which my degree has been both practically and personally useful. Ask an unemployed friend I graduated with, and they might have a different take. Understandably so. But this critical question shouldn’t even be generated by the future, current, or former student. Rather, this is a question for the keepers of the degrees themselves.

Vanderbilt Divinity School calls itself “The School of the Prophets.” Other divinity schools would probably like to cast themselves in the same light. To do so, they all need to be clear about their mission and how that mission is lived through their students. This means reconciling how their students are best able to live out their ministry in post-graduate life. So maybe they take on less students to ensure full financial coverage. Maybe it means something else entirely. But to avoid becoming “The School of the Profits,” they need to know what that something is.

[^1]: I realize there also needs to be a hefty discussion of the way student loan debt operates in this country happening at the same time as this one. I'm not trying to place all financial responsibility or blame on the schools, but I am saying that divinity schools especially must try to find the ethical road amidst the unethical landscape that is U.S. higher education.

21 Senators

I like to think that I’m not a natural curmudgeon. I enjoy hope; I revel in beauty; I seek out good things in life, both small and big.

But it’s important to be honest with yourself: I’m an asshole.

This doesn’t mean that the other stuff is untrue. It just means that my natural disposition toward the world is usually an obstacle for me. I’d like it to be otherwise, but, as some wise old Brits still say, you can’t always get what you want.

All that said, there are mornings when my natural lens through which I view reality is confirmed with serious force. For example, the first story I read this morning detailed how 21 United States senators chose to vote against a bipartisan bill to ban torture. Now keep in mind, this is America; torture isn’t going away. But at least the majority of our leaders feel (correctly) that there should be some explicit language against practicing it. That’s a good thing.

Unless you’re the worst.

Which is really the only way I can view the 21 human beings, charged with making policy decisions for millions of collective constituents, who openly voted to keep the right to treat other human beings worse than the law allows us to treat domesticated animals. Baffling, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s not baffling to you, though. Maybe you are still among those who feel that torture can serve the greater good, that it can lead to valuable information which protects the wider public. What’s wrecking one guy’s body when we’re talking about hundreds? Thousands? Millions?

But you’re wrong if you’re not baffled. I’m saying you’re wrong. I’m right. There aren't a lot of times in life when you can be confident, but about this, I am. We’ve seen time and time again that torture doesn’t work. It doesn’t get results. If your body was being pushed beyond all fathomable limits of pain and possibility, wouldn’t you say anything to get it to stop? That’s common sense, and common sense wins out in every reliable case we’ve seen.

Still, we’ve got 21 powerful leaders in this nation who feel fine with blatantly ignoring such evidence. I honestly wish I could be more cynical about this, because then at least I could believe that they’re only trying to win some shrewd political points with such a vote. But I’m not. As an asshole, what I’m seeing isn’t even through the lens of cynicism at this point. What I’m seeing is both the active and banal nature of evil at work. The warm light of hope is so far gone for me when I see a story like this that it’s hard for me to process. I mean, stuff shouldn’t line up with the way I tend to view the world because the way I tend to view the world sucks. But here we have it.

So what’s to be done? I don’t know. Elect different people? We can do that. We can take note of the specific individuals who think mangling the body and mind of another is fine if the perceived (but never actual) gains are big enough, and we can vote for someone else. We can keep our memories of their deeds sharp, never forgetting that their view of human life is straight up disturbing.

We can also remember the value of life, and the value of living it with purpose and hope in light of our reality as connected beings. That's the stuff of divinity. We can remember that we're humans, and as such, neighbors are our reality. We can live that out with some optimism for the good life to be shared by all. We can get upset when even the most jaded among us notice the imbalance of ethics and policy playing out in our public sphere.

We can desire the new and the good. And maybe this desire for transformation and change is part of being an asshole who wishes you weren’t; in any case, it sure makes you different than 21 senators.

That's a Catch

You know how in football sometimes we watch a wide receiver make a spectacular catch, but due to the rules laid down before the season began it isn't a catch? We see the replay over and over, and by the rules of common sense it's a catch. It's totally a catch. If you and I were out at a park playing a friendly game of gridiron and your friend Wyatt made the same catch it would totally be a catch. And not only that, everyone would be filled with glee because it was such a great catch, and even if you're on defense you can't help but be happy to have been a part of something so good.

But a professional sport doesn't work like that. It isn't self-policed the way our friendly game is. There are rules.

Last November twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer while holding a pellet gun. On Friday, the city of Cleveland produced court documents that argue Tamir was responsible for his own death. Specifically, they argue that Tamir "failed to exercise due care"[^1] in order to avoid injury.[^2]

There's a video of Tamir being killed. Normally I avoid watching these videos. I'm sensitive or afraid. I don't want to see someone be killed. But I watched this one.

Mark has written about it before: how Tamir played with snow and crushed ice under his feet, how he wandered around for minutes at a time, how he should have been afraid to be a twelve-year-old boy.

I watched the video knowing how it would end, but I was still shocked when the squad car burst into frame and a police officer shot Tamir not two seconds after opening the door. I don't know what I expected. Some kind of movie stand-off, I guess.

"Don't move! Show me your hands! Drop the gun!" A tense silence. Tamir makes the wrong move. Bang. Cue the music.

I was expecting something that conformed to common sense. Except the rules aren't based on common sense.

Sometimes a catch it isn't a catch and sometimes a twelve-year-old boy is responsible for his own murder. The only difference is, in the NFL everyone knows the rules and they apply the same to everybody.

  • [^1]: A phrase I will never forget.
  • [^2]: "Being shot in the stomach."

Ferguson

Ok, I lied. I'm a liar. I said we were taking the week off, but it's hard when news hits that riles you and enrages you and stifles you all at the same time.

A kid got shot by a cop. The kid didn't have a gun. The cop had a gun. Maybe the kid was gonna run away or maybe he tried to fight the cop. Don't get hung up on those opposing ideas, please, or we'll never get anywhere. The thing is, he got shot and he's dead. MLK Jr. had a lovely saying about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. Maybe it does, but Mike Brown didn't benefit. He's dead. The stories around what happened are muddy because someone's lying, maybe lots of people, but that's what happens when the stakes are high. People lie.

Fortunately, we have a trial system to sort out the lies and try to figure out the most likely truth so that we might pronounce innocence or guilt. Unfortunately, the grand jury and the prosecutor more or less robbed the Brown family and the public of that process. Whether you believe that Darren Wilson acted wrongly, the hazy nature of the events should have convinced everybody to take this matter to trial. It's what we have trials for. To look at all the evidence and make a decision. This is not what grand juries are for.

Grand juries look at the broad information, including cut and dry pieces of damning evidence, and say whether there's enough murkiness to warrant a trial. If Wilson had had a body camera on, or if the cruiser camera had caught anything, or if a bystander had be taking a video on their phone and taped the whole exchange, the grand jury would be within its authority to say "This happened this way, and nothing illegal happened." Of course, that evidence didn't exist in this case. Lots of people failed to do their jobs, so we're left with more questions than we should ever have when a person sworn to serve and protect kills another person.

At the bottom of all this, I'm tired. I'm worn out from my own cynicism, and equally worn out from clinging to bits of hope that things might turn out differently this time. I'm from Alabama, the land of this kind of injustice. I grew up seeing those images of cops beyond the law, especially in racially charged situations. As a teenager, I saw some of the more covert versions with my own eyes. It's tough to be this cynical about the moral universe. I wish I could believe as strongly as Dr. King did. I can't imagine what the Brown family must believe. I wish I could believe those religious leaders I respect who cry prophetically that "love and justice always win." Except they didn't for this kid. He's dead. They don't win for a lot of people.

I don't know exactly what happened the day Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. You don't either. That's what trials are for in this country, but we won't get one of those. Instead we'll have the rage of those who feel like their lives are worth less, the naive belief of some who feel law enforcement can do no wrong, the insidious joy of those who cannot empathize, the weary voices who still try to proclaim the good news, the sighing of we who don't know how it could get better, and the racial tension you could cut with a knife. But probably a bullet.

Thanksgiving and Firing Squads

I've written on the death penalty before, specifically on the problems associated with substituting chemicals for the drug cocktails used in lethal injections. Unfortunately, the subject is still a relevant one. The dwindling availability of the tried-and-true drug combinations are now forcing states to consider older methods of execution[^1] like the electric chair in Tennessee and, most recently, the firing squad in Utah.

The firing squad. How does that conversation even come up?

"Hey everyone, I know we as a state outlawed the firing squad a while back, but we really want—excuse me—need to kill this guy. Kill him dead, ifyaknowwhatImean. But how can we dead-kill a person without lethal injection drugs? It's not like we could just shoot him, right? Well that's the thing. We can. I mean, it's like JUSTICE BLAM BLAM."

What's troubling is that even though I just gave you a morbidly comic version of that discussion, the assuredly sterilized and euphemistic version happening behind legislature doors is probably much more unsettling. It's horrific that people in 2014 are talking about bringing back a punishment where five or six folks get to shoot someone to death with legal approval.

Eventually, if there's any goodness working within our public sector, we'll start talking about how the end of certain versions of the death penalty should signal the end of the death penalty altogether. I won't rehash my previous post, but it bears remembering that we don't have to kill those who've wounded us. We don't have to praise all measures and decisions of the judiciary. We can question, we can adapt, and we can reform.

Thanksgiving is a week away, and there seems to me no better time to consider what grace is at work in our lives, and what that grace might lead us to do when we stand before our enemy, when we stand before the convicted, before a possibly innocent person. Will we be thankful for forgiveness given us and for the forgiveness we may bestow on others? Or will we pull the trigger?

[^1]: Though not forcing them to consider non-execution, remarkably.

Front Row Seat

"Shortly before the war of 1914, an assassin whose crime was particularly repulsive (he had slaughtered a family of farmers, including the children) was condemned to death in Algiers. He was a farm worker who had killed in a sort of bloodthirsty frenzy but had aggravated his case by robbing his victims. The affair created a great stir. It was generally thought that decapitation was too mild a punishment for such a monster. This was the opinion, I have been told, of my father, who was especially aroused by the murder of the children. One of the few things I know about him, in any case, is that he wanted to witness the execution, for the first time in his life. He got up in the dark to go to the place of execution at the other end of town amid a great crowd of people. What he saw that morning he never told anyone. My mother relates merely that he came rushing home, his face distorted, refused to talk, lay down for a moment on the bed, and suddenly began to vomit. He had just discovered the reality hidden under the noble phrases with which it was masked. Instead of thinking of the slaughtered children, he could think of nothing but that quivering body that had just been dropped on to a board to have its head cut off." – Albert Camus

And so begins Camus’ exemplary critique of capital punishment, Reflections on the Guillotine. I wrote it out so that you might read it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve read it before. And if you haven’t read it before, maybe you can think of it in terms of what happened last week. It speaks to the sickening weight I felt upon hearing the details of Clayton Lockett’s botched execution in Oklahoma. If you want to know my feelings on capital punishment, read the masterpiece that is Reflections and you’ll pretty much have it. I might not agree with every point along the way, but I cannot deny the conclusion Camus reaches.

But I’m not writing about that right now. You can glean my opinion on the larger matter by reading a more brilliant writer than I could ever hope to be unpack an issue more eloquently in a little under sixty pages than I could ever hope to do in volumes and volumes. What I want to do here is ask you to reread Camus’ opening quote. Go.

Now that you’re back, read this. It’s Ziva Branstetter, a local reporter for the Tulsa World, giving a time-stamped, eyewitness account of Lockett’s forty-three-minute-long execution. Heads up, it’s not ok. You won’t feel ok after you read it. I doubt you’ll think anything about justice or goodness or the appeasement of social traditions and long-held mores. Or maybe you will; I don’t know you. But it makes me sick. Like Camus’ father, my thoughts go to the action, to the reality that is planned and executed death. State-sanctioned death happens a lot in this country, so why are we talking about this execution? Why does it matter if it was botched? He died anyway, right? Death penalty given, death penalty carried out. End of story.

But it isn’t, or no one would be talking about it. And that’s the point. We’re actually talking about it. We as the public are being confronted with something that is done on our behalf, something that we take part in as members of society. Supposedly we do it for a number or reasons: justice of the “eye for an eye” variety, social standards (it’s how we’ve always treated the most heinous crimes), or the safety of the social fabric (one less killer in our midst, and hell, maybe we’ve scared a few others out of it in the future). But none of that matters when we don’t have to look, when we don’t have to know what the killing sounds like, what it smells like, how it feels to watch life be there and then not be there because someone made it go away. But when an execution fails to do the job efficiently enough, quietly enough, sanitarily enough, we end up looking like a rubbernecker on the highway. Whoops. Shouldn’ta upset our weak constitutions like that.

Pop culture weighs in, too. In the third season of The Killing, Detective Sarah Linden watches Ray Seward, a man she helped put in jail but who she comes to learn is innocent, hang. She watches an innocent man hang. And the crunch of his broken neck isn’t the end. It doesn’t kill him immediately. He struggles, gurgling and gasping for breath for several agonizing seconds before he dies. Linden knew he was innocent, and she watched. Clayton Lockett wasn’t innocent. He kidnapped, beat, raped, shot, then buried alive nineteen-year-old Stephanie Neiman. We’re not supposed to see Seward and Lockett in the same way. One deserved it and one didn’t, right? The only problem with that is, if you think Lockett deserved to die, if we as a collective society are supposedly saying Lockett deserves to not only die, but to suffer in the process, why aren’t we watching? Why do we ask for, insist on, rather, having closed doors and rooms with blinds take our place? If you believe that the punishment is fitting, the least you can do is demand to show up and face it. Every time. It’s in your social contract, after all.

In America, we’ve managed to pull such a thick wool of cognitive dissonance and moral passivity over our eyes that we can perform execution medically. It’s like an out-patient procedure. Like, really out-patient. It’s clean and the needle isn’t dirty and the condemned is strapped to a surface that’s probably padded. These are layers meant to separate us, the public for whom the killing is done (it only makes sense if done for us, you see?), from the reality. Because the reality is messy, and if we actually had to face and name what was being done on our behalf dozens of times a year, we might get a bit squeamish and start talking nonsense, wondering if it’s actually a good thing we’re doing or not.

Here’s a hint: busting some guy’s vein with an untested chemical cocktail and then having him writhe for half an hour until he dies of a heart attack should make you squeamish, and it should make you think about how you view the death penalty. And really, it should be that grim every time. We’ve gotten really top notch at making it so unremarkable that we have the audacity to call certain kinds of making someone die not cruel and unusual. ‘Cause some kinds of making someone die who doesn’t want to die are cruel, and some kinds aren’t, right? That’s one way to think about it, I suppose. Until you are “shown the machine, made to touch the wood and steel and to hear the sound of a head falling.” Then maybe it’s not so easy. I’m not telling you how to feel about the death penalty or about justice or anything else. But the least you can do is touch the machine and watch it do its thing. Then you can talk about the ethics of keeping it around.

The Poor Don't Need PB&J

Since moving to Denver I've been active in a church called AfterHours Denver (AHD). It's weird. We meet in a bar three times a month for fellowship and to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be included in sack lunches. Every day AHD and its partner groups meet in Civic Center Park to distribute up to 150 lunches to the people who congregate there or who are passing through. Communion is also offered in the form of bread and grape juice.

That's it. It's weird. There's no building. There's no paid staff except Jerry. There's service and there's fellowship in the name of Christ.

A common criticism of AHD often comes in the form of a question: "What are you doing to address the root causes of homelessness? The poor don't need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich." It is an important question. It is a question that I, myself, have asked. It is also a question that can be cynical. When I have heard it, it is often delivered in a tone that says, "so what?"

The answer is, 'nothing.' "What are you doing to address the root causes of homelessness?" Realistically? "Nothing." So, if the answer is nothing, then who cares? Why continue to do it? I mean, other than the fact that most people like to have something to eat for lunch?

What I intend below is a quick look at AHD and its mission as a movement of Christian hope.

Hope

I follow Soren Kierkegaard's (SK) expansive treatment of hope in his book Works of Love. In it he deals with hope not as a feeling but as action. For SK, hope is "to relate oneself expectantly to the possibility of the good" (249). Importantly, SK points out that hope cannot be put to shame. Even if what is hoped for does not come to pass, still, hope remains intact. This is because the action of hoping for the possibility of the good, a good which may not exist in present time, itself creates the good (296). In the face of crushing poverty this is perhaps not quite satisfying. But hopefully the sandwich adds some tangible satisfaction.

Hebrews 11:1 teaches that faith is the constancy for what is hoped for. To ask the question alone, "do the poor need a PB&J," and not to participate in hope is to hope nothing at all, is to lose faith, and indeed is to sink into despair (248).

Going out into the park every day, sustained by the Spirit, in communion with homeless women and men, springs out of a constancy of hope. It is a work of love from love, an act of faith from faith. Far from doing nothing, this daily action creates out of nothing a new reality, community, and awareness.

Consciousness

Without public meetings among the poor, the root causes of homelessness will not be addressed. Awareness is the very beginning of the movement to address social problems. In a society in which most wish not to see the poor, in which individuals dismiss an area as dirty or off limits because homeless women and men sleep in doorways -- some actively go to the poor, ask them to gather together, and interact with them as individual human beings and blessed creations of a loving God.

The best case scenario is that those who gather are brought to a new consciousness. They come to be awake. If the Spirit of the divine is involved in the least then their being is transferred into a state of aletheia: unconcealedness, disclosure, all truth. Their world experiences an apocálypsis, not a literal destruction but a revelation that destroys preconceived notions, an un-covering, an end to a time in which the reality of the world as it exists was hidden to them. They may experience a re-birth and perhaps take a step on the road toward Christian Discipleship. They may ask, "why do these conditions of poverty exist," "why have I not come to terms with them until now," "why have they been hidden from me?" This new awareness may lead toward action addressing homelessness itself.

Worst case scenario? Someone who's hungry gets something to eat.