The Workers Defense Project has offices located at an Episcopal Church in Dallas. Some people would say that the location is “not the best” because of safety concerns, etc. and it is located in a working-class Latino neighborhood in Dallas, so the neighborhood certainly has character. Personally, I have always felt safe, and I enjoy being part of this neighborhood. But this church recently decided to do something that I, quite frankly, think is the antithesis of Christian behavior, and this action immediately made me think if any of the churches that I belong to would act any differently.
A little background: As a poorer neighborhood in Dallas, there are a number of homeless individuals, men mostly, who frequently wander around the neighborhood. The church has essentially a porch (covered area with a bench), and sometimes these men will sleep on the benches. I have come to the office and found homeless men around the property, and the other day, I came to office and two policemen were at the office probably as a result of these homeless men sleeping on the property.
So a couple of weeks ago, I was in my office in the afternoon and I began to hear strange cutting and drilling sounds. I went outside to investigate, and discovered that the church had decided to install a locked, iron gate in front of the porch area, most likely to provide “security.” Of course, the real purpose of the gate is to keep the homeless from seeking shelter outside the office/sanctuary area.
We, as the Church, have created a large number of walls, real or imaginary to keep people who we deem “undesired” out. Worst, we justify these actions to ourselves and convince ourselves that God would side with us. I’m positive that the church members felt as though the gate was necessary for the “safety and security” of the church, but should the church be more concerned with its own safety and security? Or with offering hospitality to ALL of our neighbors? Is God proud of actions that keep our neighbors out? Or does God want us to show love to everybody?
I guess that you know how I answer these questions. I do not believe that God is proud of this church for installing an iron gate, nor do I believe that God supports any actions committed by churches intended to exclude others. So, I think that it is time for us to start asking: what would your church do when faced with any sort of “undesirable” situation? Would your church offer hospitality to homeless men or continue to shut out these neighbors?