Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Poverty of the West

I recently read a portion of Mother Teresa's Nobel prize speech (given on 11 December 1979 upon receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize). She said something that has haunted me for weeks now:

"Around the world, not only in the poor countries, I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society—that poverty is so hurtable [sic] and so much, and I find that very difficult."

It is relatively easy to donate food to feed orphans. What is much harder to do, however, is to love those people who have been marginalised by society and especially by the Church - the so-called "sinners" who don't meet with society's normalising gaze of approval: those who struggle with addictions, the LGBT community, that colleague who's just... angry and mean (ever ask yourself what's behind that?), or the "scary-looking" neighbour with whom you can't relate no matter how hard you try.

I am tired of shutting them out, judging them, and maintaining a stance of superiority over them. Whatever I think about their lifestyles or choices matters very little because there is something undeniable about them: they are beautiful people made in the Image of God and therefore precious and loved, deserving of our compassion and respect. Jesus treated people with dignity (in fact, the only people he got really angry with were the religious leaders!), met them where they were in life, and engaged in authentic dialogue with them. He didn't debate, spew out hate speech or disdain them. He loved them. He treated every person equally.

It sickens me to think that the Church is the last place some people would feel welcomed because they are judged so harshly. That is not the message Jesus preached. At the risk of sounding offensive (which is not my intent), I don't want to be like the church; I want to be like Jesus. It's time to address the "poverty of the West".


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written!

Diane Grisdale said...

So many wise words in your last three posts. We would be wise to heed them all.
After visiting the townships in South Africa, I now understand the poverty of we who live in the West. Thank yu for these wonderful blogs, Diane