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Eviction of Jesus

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the
devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty
and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked
and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then
they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or
a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he
will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of
the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into
eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew


What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking
in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and
filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is
that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James


Shane Claiborne, in his book, The Irresistible Revolution (1),  recounts when as a student he and some fellow college students choose to stand in solidarity with homeless people facing eviction.  The basic situation was this: A group of homeless in Philadelphia squatted in an abandoned Catholic church for shelter from winter. The building had no electricity or running water; it essentially function as a barrier against the outside elements.

The problem that moved the students to get involved with was that the Diocese of Philadelphia made plans to evict the homeless from this vacant, unused facility. Let me clarify that I am not Catholic bashing here, but calling into question this particular decision.  The students came and ministered to the homeless. As they looked around at the helplessness of these defenseless people, those on the margins of society who had no one at present to stand up for them and their basic human rights, Shane and his fellow-students decided they would defend these people. If these homeless, who had no where else to go, were jailed as trespassers then the students would go to jail with them.

On the day of the eviction, a large group awaited the police who were tasked to clear the church building. This non-violent group of students and homeless stood in the front of the church when the police officers arrived. A large crowd gave pause to the police so they left.  This was a stay however, not a final victory.

Very soon it was apparent to the homeless and the students that the Diocese had only made a strategic retreat. It was clear that attempts to evict would come when there was the least likelihood of press coverage or student involvement. Other organizations, hearing of the conflict, groups as diverse as other churches to the Philadelphia mafia acted to help. One church sent a box of microwave popcorn (no electricity hence no microwaves) and the Mob sent bicycles for the children. Evidently the Mob had more sense than some of the local churches.

Finally the Diocese utilized a mechanism that would stave off any interference and make them look compassionate as well. The church was not up to current fire code and the building would be condemned as unsafe. The night before the fire inspection all of the students and their friends they had grown to love sat in the building, at a loss as to what to do. After midnight there was a knock on the front door of the church. Shane went to answer the door angry that this was a surprise inspection and they had no recourse. He threw open the door to find two firemen.

Angry, Claiborne began to excoriate the firemen when they held up their hands and said, “You have it all wrong.  We are here to help because we feel this is an injustice. If it were known we were talking to you we would loose our jobs!” In the course of the next hours the firemen helped Shane and others collect the needed items to make the building code compliant. When the fire inspector looked over the building the next day,
he announced it free of any code infractions.

Ultimately, housing was found for all of those living in the church and the issue was resolved. When the residents finally officially vacated the building, they marched to the Mayor’s office. A now former resident voiced the thought that the Mayor needed to know what it was to live in their shoes. At the door to his honor’s office, they left a pile of all their shoes for all to see.

The definition of the greatness of a culture is couched in terms of how it treats its’ most defenseless members. The murder of the mentally ill and physically disabled on a nation-wide basis is only a few generations in our past.  We are speaking of Nazi Germany.

“No nation carried sterilization [and euthanasia] as far as Hitler’s Germany. The forced sterilizations began in January 1934, and altogether an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people were sterilized under the law. A diagnosis of “feeblemindedness” provided the grounds in the majority of cases, followed by schizophrenia and epilepsy. Most of the persons targeted by the law were patients in mental hospitals and other institutions. The majority of those sterilized were between the ages of twenty and forty, about equally divided between men and women.  Most were “Aryan” Germans. The “Sterilization Law” did not target so-called racial groups, such as Jews and Gypsies, although Gypsies were sterilized as deviant “asocials,” as were some homosexuals. The ‘Sterilization Law’ was followed by the Marriage Law of 1935, which required for all marriages proof that any offspring from the union would not be afflicted with a disabling hereditary disease.”

Only the Roman Catholic Church, for doctrinal reasons, opposed the sterilization program consistently; most German Protestant churches accepted and often cooperated with the policy. (Italics, mine) Popular films such as Das Erbe (“Inheritance”) helped build public support for government policies by stigmatizing the mentally ill and the handicapped and highlighting the costs of care. School mathematics books posed such questions as: ‘The construction of a lunatic asylum costs 6 million marks. How many houses at 15,000 marks each could have been built for that amount?’ ”

“Forced sterilization in Germany was the forerunner of the systematic killing of the mentally ill and the handicapped. In October 1939, Hitler himself initiated a decree which empowered physicians to grant a ‘mercy death’ to ‘patients considered incurable according to the best  available human judgment of their state of health.’ The intent of the so-called ‘euthanasia’ program, however, was not to relieve the suffering of the chronically ill. The Nazi regime used the term as a euphemism: its aim was to exterminate the mentally ill and the handicapped, thus ‘cleansing’ the ‘Aryan’ race of persons considered genetically defective and a financial burden to society. (Italic words by author)

“Hitler’s regime continued to send to physicians and the general public the message that mental patients were ‘useless eaters” and life unworthy of life.’ In 1941, the film Ich klage an (“I accuse”) in which a professor kills his incurably ill wife, was viewed by 18 million people. Doctors were encouraged to decide on their own who should live or die, Killing became part of hospital routine as infants, children, and adults were put to death by starvation, poisoning, and injections. On August 18, 1939, the Reich Ministry of the Interior circulated a decree compelling all physicians, nurses, and midwives to report newborn infants and children under the age of three who showed signs of severe mental or physical disability. At first only infants and toddlers were incorporated in the effort, but eventually juveniles up to 17 years of age were also killed. Conservative estimates suggest that at least 5,000 physically and mentally disabled children were murdered through starvation or lethal overdose of medication.” 2

What we saw in Germany in the 1930s is that a nation is in grave danger that exalts its’ own purposes and reason at the expense of God and what He commands. Hitler and his minions practiced the basest form of idolatry in Fuehrer worship; they replaced God as the conscience of Germany with their own seared conscience. Are we replacing God’s conscience with our own selfish conscience?

Recently in the state of Florida we came to a place of budgetary crisis where 170 million dollars were to be cut from programs for those in need. The following is an article in the Palm Beach Post summarizing the events of the potential budget reduction.

A day after Gov. Rick Scott ordered deep cuts to community organizations caring for developmentally disabled Floridians, the state Senate moved Friday to impose tight controls on future spending. The state’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities is running a $170 million deficit, prompting Scott late Thursday to issue an emergency order immediately slashing payments to caregivers by 15 percent. The reductions threaten services to thousands of Floridians with Down Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other disabilities and could close some group homes, advocates warn.

But a Scott spokesman said Friday that the cuts were needed to halt runaway costs. “The APD budget was heading for a cliff,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said Friday. “But these rate cuts should help turn the agency away from that cliff.” Leaders of Palm Beach County agencies largely dependent on state funds to serve disabled residents reacted swiftly — condemning Scott’s emergency cuts as “draconian” and “insensitive.” Many said the closure of key programs and layoffs are inevitable. At Seagull Industries for the Disabled Inc. in Riviera Beach, which receives about 40 percent of its $3.6 million budget from the state, Executive Director Fred Eisinger said he may eliminate one of its housing facilities and consolidate residential programs serving dozens of mentally disabled clients.  Job placement programs also could move onto the chopping block. Some of the agency’s more than 70 employees may find themselves jobless by summer, he said. “I have no clue at this moment how I dodge that bullet,” Eisinger said.

The cuts ordered by the Republican governor will last until the June 30 close of the budget year.  But by then, the GOP-led Legislature is expected to enact even deeper APD reductions as lawmakers attempt to close a state budget gap projected at $3.8  billion for the coming budget year. The Agency for Persons with Disabilities helps 30,000 developmentally disabled Floridians stay out of nursing homes and other institutions by instead living with their families or in group homes.  Many work or attend school.

Blessedly that funding was not cut but who is to say what happens another year.  The outworking of certain political thought today is frankly, “I have what I need, the hell with you. Budgetary needs trump human needs”

We as Christians cannot make that statement and call ourselves children of God and brother/sisters with Jesus. We seem to be slouching towards a public thought that the disabled, the mentally ill and the poor, be they man, woman or child are an inconvenience at best and a severe financial liability, thereby expendable, at worse. To the degree that we willingly begin the process to dehumanize people who are different, based on health or general usefulness to society we are aping Hitler’s Germany.  Those in Germany who followed the logical conclusion of this social Darwinism to the point of eradication we hung as war criminals.  As we look at how many would willingly ignore the needs of the elderly, the children, the mentally ill and the disabled dare we call ourselves ‘better’ and morally superior to the society of Hitler. We are no better if we do not fund the programs that help the needy.

Dorothy Day wrote, “The true atheist is the one who denies God’s image in ‘the least of these’”.  The danger in our day is that our increasing narcissism and self-absorption crowds the needs of others out. Ayn Rand was wrong: selfishness is not a virtue.

We in the church who stand against abortion, for example, do not have the option to be unwilling to care for those babies that would be born. In other words, for far too long the Church has stood for a social agenda that is pro-life but anti-action.  In all fairness not everyone is called to this task but to the degree we are called to care for the needy and down-trodden we MUST act.

It is not enough to hand out tracts if we do not hand out our hearts and souls to the legitimately needy and helpless to minister in Jesus’ name. Ministry to those we call ‘the least of these’ is not a choice or option, but a command.

Please allow me to confess that I have, all too often, simply turned a blind-eye to the needs of others thereby disobeying the command. Loving thoughtful friends, more loving and thoughtful than I, have contributed to a change in my mindset as I am confronted with what God’s word does teach. I now see my own pride, self-centeredness and lack of compassion for the poor and destitute. I cared not really for the plight of the sick until I became sick. I cared not for the plight of the poor; those living on the edge until I had lost virtually everything and understood for the first time the truth of “give us this day our daily bread.”

Affliction is just that: Affliction. But affliction can cause us to identify with others thus afflicted as a lifetime of sermons never can. I am not afforded the right to call myself ‘righteous’ if I do not show acts of compassion to those around me in need. You and I cannot save all of the needy in this nation by ourselves, but we can reach out here, where we are.

Any fellow-goats out there ready to follow our Lord? For many of us who name the name of Christ, we need to line up at the altar rail and repent.  I need to be first in line.


1. Claiborne, S: The Irresistible Revolution (2006):
Zondervan, Grand Rapids.


2. Strous, R,  Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Avi University American- Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Jewish Virtual Library, Nazi Persecution of the Mentally and Physically Disabled, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


3.  Caregivers for disabled call Scott’s emergency 15 percent cuts of their payments ‘draconian’ John Kennedy and Ana M. Valdes Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Posted: 7:56 p.m. Friday, April 1, 2011



Copyright © 2011 Brian Bailey, Author