When I hear people ask, What can religion do to address classism and poverty? I think instead, What does classism do to religion? Classism hurts Jesus, y’all. We may be struggling/working poor, fallible and often defiant, but Jesus still loves us (the Bible told me so).
Here are 10 times when Christian churches denied that truth, and, thusly, hurt the lil’ baby Jesus:
- A 92 year old woman was excommunicated for being too poor to tithe.
- Fifty percent of your church chorus/band had the best equipment and clothes … but couldn’t pay their electric bill or rent.
- You really wanted to go to church, but you had to go to work. (I love Jesus but, you know, I get time and a half Sundays.)
- You realized that Vacation Bible School is the closest thing you will probably ever get to a vacation. OMG, memorizing scriptures for stickers! It’s the best summer ever!
- People who have never been to any country in Africa thought they should go there, convert the “natives” to Christianity, and then send them rice, toothbrushes, and used clothing for years on end without knowing their culture. “Oh those poor Africans!”
- Your Sunday Best, was everyone else’s laundry day clothes.
- One of Jesus’s homies tossed their last crumpled dollar into the tithing basket on top of a bunch of 10’s and 20’s.
- You had nowhere to sleep and you asked a church to house you for your volunteer services and they said, “We are sorry but you don’t come to church enough.” But they posted pictures online of their newly remodeled kitchen.
- Your mom spanked you for saying a curse word in the church, cuz you know them church ladies gave your mom the riot act.
- You had head lice, roaches, holes in your socks but no food for dinner and were told, Pray on it.
All “jokes” aside, I have found that within Christianity and various forms of it, classism is pervasive. My personal experience is that my crazy life in poverty pulled me way away from any religious observation or celebration of the Christian God. Maybe that’s an excuse, or maybe I’m still hung up on the fact that my father, who was a homeless addict, tried to preach respectability politics to me when I had a job and a roof.
Considering the fact that of all three times that I was couch-surfing and homeless (or in a shelter), most the people who offered me their homes were either Buddhist or non-practicing. From the Christians, among the wealthiest of helpers, I was told implicitly that in exchange for the money, I should go to church with them, or they would say, But you gotta get your life straight. They often felt compelled to “share” arbitrary rules of conduct that completely ignored my true needs, desires and lifestyle. When you are this poor, the most basic of choices are a luxury, including not being grateful for things that you don’t want.
Of course, Christians aren’t the only culpable persons, and there are numerous stories of people who have had the opposite experience from myself.
I do intend to invoke the healing power of music, in which many people feel the presence of the divine.”
Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves
Some people might say that I need to have faith and believe. Well okay, but instead I intend to work. If a higher power wants to bless me and create venues for me to do that without killing myself, all power to it/her/him.
I do intend to invoke the healing power of music, in which many people feel the presence of the divine. I’m cool with that, too. Just not all the rules, politics, groupthink, and yes, classism. This post is not an indictment, just a cautionary rant.