In early June, fellow Journal Sentinel community columnist Steve Paske published “What Milwaukee needs is some brimstone,” a column on his impressions on religious fervor among Milwaukee’s inner city school children. Paske is a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, a prolific writer, and in my humble opinion, the best community columnist ever. He’s written a number of excellent, thought-provoking, out-of-the-box commentaries, particularly on education in MPS. I seriously think he should be a permanent Journal Sentinel columnist. I’m only a little jealous.
Today, a sort of follow-up to his “brimstone” column ran, and I have to say, I think it’s fantastic. I e-mailed Steve and told him he was my hero. You can read “If you really believe, show it,” in its entirely, or an excerpt below:
“It seems many of you appreciated my targeting the “immoral and repugnant” society of Milwaukee’s central city. You unabashedly agreed that in addition to the message of faith, a message of morality must be preached.
You decried the violent and promiscuous behavior of many in the central city. Then you got up from your computer and returned to the posh lifestyle many of us take for granted as Americans.
Even though a New Testament verse quotes Jesus as saying, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” some of you felt totally at ease criticizing the morality of another class of people. Which is funny because as a middle-class American, you easily fall into the top 10% of the Earth’s wealthiest.
Robert Kennedy said, ‘There is greater violence than the gun or the knife, the violence of institutional indifference: Indifference, inaction and decay.’
If as many people truly believed in the Christian God as say they do, the problems of the world wouldn’t be a hundredth of what they are today.
A true believer would never allow children to starve without doing everything humanly possible to save them. A true believer would never allow cities to crumble as they have without fighting to renew them.”
Really, I would like to copy the whole column, but I don’t have Steve‘s permission, so you should really just read it at the link.
I don’t consider myself a “Christian” in any defined sense anymore, and many of the reasons for that are tied into what Steve is talking about. If one really, truly believes the passages in the Bible are true, and that the words of Jesus are to be followed, that person has a mandate to become a radical activist for the poor and helpless in their society. That person would not hesitate to take any homeless person on the street and offer them the best room in their house; would “turn the other cheek” in ways that most Americans, particularly in our post 9-11, ultra-paranoid, security-happy society, would find appallingly foolish; would in fact not condemn prostitutes and drug dealers, but eat and drink and minister to them. That is what Jesus would do, and mostly white, mostly wealthy, mostly suburban America, locale of hundreds of the fastest-growing Evangelical mega-churches, looks nothing at all like Jesus. I, like Steve Paske, am not saying I live in the way Jesus would, but I also don’t claim to.