By Stanley Campbell
Let me explain why I am a Christian. Christianity is a nice story. God becomes man and tells other men to love one another. The men get angry and string God up. God comes back and tells them they’re forgiven.
It’s an amazing love story, and I stood up when I heard it.
Of course, lots of folks don’t take it seriously, or they take it the wrong way. Like us rich Americans. “I’m rich ’cause God loves me, so I’m rich.” And the poor? “God doesn’t like them very much.” Well, I don’t think so. I believe we’ll be judged by how many poor people we help with our wealth. And there’s a lot of poor people out there! Some say it’s because of our wealth.
Jesus says, “Help the poor, or go to hell.” That’s in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 41 and 42. Look it up.
I once had a vision (some say a hallucination). I was waiting for a bus on a street in Nicaragua. I had my luggage and was in the front of the line. The bus came along, and there was this mad rush for the door.
That’s when I saw what may be the gates of heaven: a giant, multi-colored, universal school bus, cruising down from heaven and stopping among millions of people. And there I’ll be, standing in line with the multitude, but I will be weighted down with all my worldly possessions. Meanwhile, the majority of souls waiting for the heavenly bus will be dirt poor and buck-naked.
Jesus Christ himself will be driving, and He pulls up, the doors will swing open, pouring out free love, and the masses will swarm aboard because they know a good thing when they see it. And I’ll be stuck there with my clothes and books and color TV, and I pray I can let go and get on the bus.
So maybe I’ll have a garage sale and donate the money to the poor. Giving money to the church is no excuse for not helping the poor. You’ll still go to hell.
So you’re a nice guy.
You give 10 percent of your income to the church or religious congregation of your choice. Well, God bless you, you hope. Tithing is a religious mandate that everyone give a percentage of their wealth to help the poor. Kind of like a biblical income tax. But some think giving to a church will keep them from the fiery pits of hell. WRONG!
I work for a church group: Rockford Urban Ministries (I’ll be celebrating 25 years as RUM director Thursday, April 22, 7 p.m., at Bethany UMC, Eighth Street and Third Avenue). I know how difficult it is to get people to help the poor.
Some of you go to a church. You go into a building, usually on Sundays, or for weddings and funerals. You know it is a denomination of a religion and may even know what distinguishes your denomination from others.
You tithe (give money to your church). The Bible suggests tithing 10 percent of your gross income—but they’re lucky if you give 10 bucks per week. You think you’re doing God a big favor.
You give money to pay for the heating, the air conditioning, cushions for your little tushes, pretty pictures and stained glass windows to look through, and keep out the sight of poor people living in wretched conditions.
Tithing is really supposed to be giving money to the poor, not making your meeting hall more comfortable.
You may be saying, especially if you don’t go to church, “Why don’t you tell the people at First Assembly or on WQFL radio?”
That’s easy to answer: I can’t—they won’t let me near their facilities.
All I can hope is that one of their listeners will accidentally read me while they are looking for Tea Party coverage. Let me practice my right-wing preacher’s voice: “Verily, I say to you, Jesus sayith, give to the poor, or you’re going to hell.” Amen, brothers and sisters.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the April 14-20, 2010 issue