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Poor People Are Stupid Scum.

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Saturday, March 28

Readings: Jeremiah 11:18-20, Psalm 7, John 7:40-53

Redneck! Trailer trash! Rabble! The poor are an object of special scorn from the Beautiful People in today's Gospel. How can poor people know anything about the Messiah? Galilee? How can anything good come out of Galilee -- or Appalachia -- or the dysfunctional inner city -- or from that part of town where all of those kind of people live. How can they know anything? They are poor. They aren't white spiffy-dressing upper class executive types. They don't play golf. They don't belong to the right clubs or go to the right schools. They certainly do not belong to our political party. They are ignorant rubes from the bad parts of town. Away with them, they hurt our eyes, somebody should do us all a favor and quickly kill them to put them out of our misery. If Jesus was the Messiah, We the Smart and Beautiful Upper Class People would know this. And furthermore, he'd be from our side of town, not from Galilee.

Jesus is obviously a sensation among the poor and working classes of Jerusalem in 33 AD. Even the guards whose paycheck comes from the ruling elites are impressed. How can we arrest him? Haven't you heard him talk? What's the conventional wisdom answer to this? None of the Smart and Beautiful Upper Class People believe in Jesus, so how could he really be the Messiah? Duuuh, isn't this obvious? How could we miss this eternal truth? Jesus can't be the Messiah because he's not rich, nor even very middle class. And furthermore, he comes from the bad part of town.

Perhaps we should read today's Gospel and do an internal inventory regarding our own class and racial prejudices. Sure, our speech may be politically correct, but when was the last time someone from a different race -- or economic class -- was welcomed as a visitor in our home? When were we welcomed as a visitor in the home of someone from a different race or economic class? If we visit the poor, do we complain afterwards about their housekeeping? Or their personal manners? Or the smell of their neighborhood or living room? Or the hair we found on the sink in the bathroom?

Do we judge the poor by a higher standard than we apply to ourselves? Everybody in Congress, and a lot of voters, seems to somehow "know" that poor people are poor because of their inherent character defects, such as sexual promiscuity. But when the President of the United States turns out to be a shameless adulterer and sexual predator, do we close our eyes, turn our gaze elsewhere, and murmur wise thoughts such as "boys will be boys" and "well, the economy is going good", or "at least he's not a Republican".

Do we really listen to the Church of the Poor? Exactly how many hours last month did we spend listening to poor people? If the answer is zero, what does that say about our deep-seated racial and economic class prejudices? What is wrong with us that we are not seeking out poor people that will talk to us? Why do we warn each other -- "Don't go there, it's a bad neighborhood." My God, we might meet a poor person and actually have to talk to him or her. And we can't be having this, can we? Let us remember that Lent is not about Denial, and Denial is not a river in Africa. Don't Even kNow I Am Lying, as they say, is a big problem when the rich and affluent and comfortable are brought face to face with their hidden racial and economic class prejudices.

Prayer intentions today:

+ For all those with racial and class prejudices, especially those who think they don't have any, that they will honestly examine their behavior and see if there is enough evidence to convict them of solidarity with the poor, we pray to the Lord.

Praxis today:

+ Go find some poor people and listen to them. Talk a little bit, if you must, to get the conversation going. Then, be quiet and listen. Ask questions. Make a personal resolution to spend at least two-three hours every month in conversation with poor people. And remember, in this case, More Is Better.

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