Wednesday, November 16, 2005

thoughts from nickel and dimed

if I'm back, that means there will be quotes from books. Just a couple from a non-"christian" source. Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. It's her story on trying to live and work in "low-wage" America.

First, a comment on her work in a restaurant.
The worst, for some reason, are the visible Christians - like the ten person table, all jolly and sanctified after Sunday night service, who run me mercilessly and then leave $1 on a $92 bill. Or the guy with the crucifixion T-shirt (SOMEONE TO LOOK UP TO)who complains that his baked potato is too hard and his iced tea is too icy (I cheerfully fix both)and leaves no tip at all. As a general rule, people wearing crosses or WWJD ("What Would Jesus Do") buttons look at us disapprovingly no matter what we do, as if they were confusing waitressing with Mary Magdelene's original profession.

I noted the other night at Jacob's Well that in our culture the things that should characterize followers of Jesus - stuff like love, compassion, generosity, peace - are no longer considered "christian" traits to the world outside of the Church. That seeing someone who lives that way does not cause you to think, "That person is a Christian". Ehrenreich later, in an unrelated story, brings up why that may be.

On her trip to a tent revival for entertainment.
It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.

Is it a sweeping over-generalization made by a woman with no love for the Church? Yes. Is it yet another picture of someone who admires and is interested in Jesus, but wants nothing to do with those who claim to follow him? Yes. Is it an accurate enough picture that those of us who claim to follow Jesus should be bothered that it is thought and said? I'm afraid so.

It's a pretty interesting book. By the way, those are the only two spots where she has much to say about faith or God, so don't read it expecting that kind of thing.


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