Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday meditations. . .

"If you lessen your anger at the structures of power, you lower your love for the victims of power." --William Sloan Coffin

"May we always be patient and loving to others, and may God continue to gift us with anger at any injustice that supports the infrastructure of powers in the world that ignore the plight of the poor and steal people's lives and dignity."
--Don Thomas
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Confession: I struggle at times with my emotions when it comes to seeking the rights of those who have little if any voice in the processes of the community. I feel anger rising when I see the poor being shut out because of unfair social and political structures. Seeking to walk in patience and kindness with others who don't seem to understand the issues, who have opposing opinions and interests, or who don't understand me and my reactions is very difficult at times.

On the one hand, I know that anger, especially without understanding or explanation, can be counterproductive, offensive and negative. (I've been reminded of that again this week.) On the other, my experience with so many extremely poor friends and the crowds who come to us combine to provide me with a very short fuse at times when folks oppose what I consider to be the "rights of the poor."

Keeping myself and my ego out of things is a battle. Trying to live in a purity of spirit about these values is where I seek to stay, often unsuccessfully. I know the values are correct when it comes to people who struggle with poverty and the forces that press against them and their interests.

So, I find myself praying very simply: "God have mercy on me a sinner. God bring relief, hope, understanding, real community and justice to your people."
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20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bless your heart, Larry. None of us are perfect and many of us need to work on anger issues. But having said that, I can't help being reminded of something someone once said to me. He was complaining about a missionary friend of mine, saying that this wonderful,hardworking man who did so much to spread the good news of Jesus in the Soviet Union (when it still was the USSR)"just gets too angry when he talks to me." So I explained how living the life this missionary had lived and seeing the things and working with the people he had changes a person. He had very intense feelings and wanted to express those to the complacent Christians he saw in the States. I see you as the same sort of "missionary" and I totally understand your "righteous anger." God bless you in your work. I hope you keep right on feeling indignation for the people you're trying to help!
Karen E.

Daniel Gray said...

Amen. I always wonder about Jesus' anger with the temple hawkers and how he felt about it afterwards. It always seems that I feel guilty sometime after a bout of anger. I wonder if that is the feeling we have to overcome when we attempt to express Godly anger at injustice.

Larry James said...

Daniel, thanks for this and Karen, thanks to you as well. I know that my feelings after "confrontations" and sharp disagreements are not so much guilt, but dismay and regret that my anger might be taken as some demonstration/expression of personal dislike or hatred of another person involved in the debate on the other side. On the other hand, I stand by my conviction in the debate. Can make one feel badly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Larry. I know I, too, can get too strident at times. I try to forgive and forget when others do so, and hope they can do the same for me.

Daniel Gray said...

Guilt wasn't the right word... What you describe is more in tune with what I was thinking.

Anonymous said...

Larry, for what it's worth, from one who leans to the right I view you as a good and just man because you are. There are times I strongly disagree with you, but never with your spirit and never with your attitude. I come to your site to be challenged and I continue to be. I just wish that the person who questioned the value of your house would have taken the time to see your salary. It's all public record. I doubt there is a leader of a nonprofit who would trade salaries. God bless.

Richard Corum

Larry James said...

Richard, thanks for your comment. It's really ok. The cost of my house, the condition it was in and its current value is all evidence of how housing values have appreciated in some parts of the inner city--much, much more than in suburbs like Richardson. Our experience with this old house is an argument both for moving toward the inner city and for mixed income housing and neighborhoods. I'll likely write more about this later.

Chris said...

Larry,I saw something in the paper today that should make you happy. It was an article by Robert Rector. It said that for the first time since 1996, the federal government will begin paying states bonuses to increase their welfare caseloads. Under the stimulus bill, the federal government will pay 80 per cent of the cost for each new family that a state enrolls in welfare.

But overturning welfare reform is just the beginning. Of the $791 billion in new spending and tax cuts in the stimulus bill, 28 percent, or 224 billion, is new meanstested welfare spending, providing cash,food, housing, medical care and social services to poor and low income Americans. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The real long-term cost of expanded welfare is actually hidden by budgetry gimmicks. The stimulus bill pretends that nearly all of ihs welfare expansions will lapse after two years. While some will, there are half a dozen that will not.

I guess this should insure dependency for another generation.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I'm so glad you have Larry completely figured out... that he wants people on welfare and to be dependent on "handouts". Nothing every changes with you, does it?

Anonymous said...

Larry,
Up here in Denver we don't have the same size of poverty issues that you have in Dallas, but we have some. I remember a few years ago I wrote a church paper telling them I was sick of them judging others. They wrote me back, I was quite judgemental about them judging others. When you must slice the head off a poisonous snake, you don't have time to polish the knife. Never apologize for standing up for the poor. Keep that spirit of humility and self-examination. It's one of the reasons we keep coming back to your wonderful blog. God Bless.
Larry Wishard

Anonymous said...

Chris:

Huh?!

Larry writes a personal blog about the tone of discussion and keeping anger in check ... and you pipe up with something you saw about the stimulus bill.

Huh?!

Please just make the smallest effort to stay on subject. If you want to discuss something else, may I suggest writing your own blog?

Chris said...

Anon. 1209

The point is, if the states sigh up everyone for welfare there will be less poverty and less anger.

belinda said...

Before I go any further, let me comment on the "good news in the Soviet Union." I've said it before - my husband is Russian. He was born there in 1951. He "grew up" in the church - the Russian Orthodox church. He knows way more of the Bible than I do, and I even went to a so-called Christian school, 1st - 9th grade. I don't understand how we have gotten so far off track, thinking there were no churches and that communists didn't believe in God. Do you have any idea how many churches are located in Russia, even within the Kremlin walls??

Anonymous said...

Chris:

Careful. Since expanding welfare leads to the goods of decreasing poverty and anger, then according to your own syllogism expanding welfare is good. Glad we're all in agreement!

Belinda:

You win! You've beaten Chris for being off-topic by a country mile!

belinda said...

I only went "there" in response to the first anonymous comment.

Anonymous said...

Belinda - before i go any further, my wife is from Illinois.

belinda said...

Then I'm sure she could give first-hand accounts of life in Illinois.

Anonymous said...

One can only assume you are talking about the events that took place at City Hall the week before you posted this blog.

I hope that you have apologized to the person who found your finger in their face while you were yelling that they killed your project.

You need to know that this person stayed completely neutral during all discussions. I looked to him for his opinion, and he stated that he needed to remain neutral.

It would have been nice to have an example in CityWalk, but that project is currently over one year behind. Starting a project before finishing another one has to be stressful. Your anger should be focused on the reason CityWalk isn't finished and helping people.

Larry James said...

Anon 10:29, thanks for your post. Actually, I was thinking in more general terms than you might imagine. But, the Plaza Inn debate does provide an example of situaitons that cause my dilemma. I have made a couple of apologizes to folks who seemed particularly upset and/or offended by my strong stance on behalf of the poorest of our neighbors. I would respectfully disagree with you that I was "yelling" at anyone. I did enjoy an animated conversation with Ms. Medrano and the person you have in mind. Ms. Medrano is my council member. With both I challenged their thinking and their actions out of my deep conviction regarding what was being lost to the city. I could say much, much more here, but I'll leave it at that.

Regarding your comments and very unfair crituque on the schedule for CityWalk, at the Central Dalals CDC and at CDM, we have done and did everything possible to push the deal forward as quickly as possible. The delay resulted from the sluggishness of the financial partners in the deal. We are actually right on schedule, thanks to the fact that we went ahead and did all of the hazmat work before we closed on the construction loan. This move was a bit risky, but we took it to speed the project forward.

Finally, let me say, that if in my disagreement with your point of view, I have offended you in any way, I ask for your forgiveness. I don't, however, apologize for my advocacy with and on behalf of the poorest of our neighbors.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry if you feel that my comment was unfair. My information came directly from the CityWalk site. I'll copy and paste here.
Larry James of Central Dallas Ministries is a happy man this morning. On Friday, he passed the biggest hurdle yet in his now year-long quest to convert 511 N. Akard into a residential alternative for lower and no-income folks, securing $12 million in tax credits through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

With the department's approval, the next step is working with underwriters, city staff and syndicators.

"We're hoping to close on the construction loan by the end of September, and then we're looking at construction starting by the end of this year or early next, meaning completion by the end of 2007 or start of 2008," James told DallasBlog this morning.

Thanks for the apology, but there is no reason to apologize. I find your blog quite amusing, and I love irony. It's interesting to me that you don't want anyone to stereotype the homeless, yet you freely stereotype the "affluent nimbys".