Sunday, March 19, 2017


The question is, how do we respond?

Today's sermon at Grand River Unitarian was both the most overtly Christian and the most overtly political I've yet attended.

It's worth noting that the Christianity was still muted, and was the inevitable byproduct of the guest speaker (the Lutheran chaplain of the House of Friendship), and the politics was the inevitable byproduct of the topic (poverty and homelessness).

I'm still glad I went, because once again today's service cleared up something religious that has bothered me for a long time.

Lutherans believe you are 'saved' -- a concept I have enough trouble with --- by God's grace alone, through faith alone. That's always suggested to me that there's nothing you have to do except believe. And if that doesn't work out for you, well, you're not believing hard enough. QED.

The speaker explained that Lutherans believe everything in your life is a God-given gift, and "so  the question is, how do we respond? We give back." Faith without works is thus a false faith.

People fought wars over this. Over whether salvation was by faith or faith plus works. And all one side had to do was explain that really, both sides are saying the same thing. But I guess murder is more fun.

(Next time you're in an argument, stop for a second and check to make sure you don't actually agree with each other.)

You know, I think I'd make a pretty fair minister, at least (and only) in this tradition of Unitarian Universalism  I'm increasingly attracted to. I have the requisite level of caring. I can get up in front of a congregation and tell a pointed story, which is essentially what a decent sermon is. I've got the open mind and an open heart. I'm maybe a touch introverted, but Rev. Jess -- who wasn't there this week -- says she was, too.

Anyway, today there was a fair bit of time devoted to the concept of a universal basic income (UBI). Ontario will be experimenting with a modified version of this plan starting this spring, essentially ensuring that no person's after-tax income can fall below $22,000 a year.

I find it sort of telling that no matter what the topic under discussion is there, it's either something I have studied in some depth or simply run across recently and 'bookmarked' for further investigation. Universal basic income is both those things, and "so how do we respond" is a nice five word summation of my answer to the problem of evil.

We need a response to the evils that are poverty and homelessness.

And we need UBI because 47% of jobs are going to be automated within the next 50 years, starting with truck drivers and (yike) most of the retail sector. We also need UBI because just giving people money with no strings attached is approximately 50% cheaper than paying the costs of poverty--chiefly health care and policing.

The sermon today stressed that people living with homelessness--there's that construction again--are PEOPLE. People who were once your neighbours, people who are still your family.  You may look down your nose at the dishevelled 'bum' hallucinating on the corner, not knowing anything of the trauma that brought him to that corner, not understanding that he medicates that pain with alcohol or harder drugs because what else is there, really? We tell these people to go out and get a job. Hey, you know, it's just that simple. Let them eat cake!

I've never been homeless. We came much closer than I'd like to acknowledge a couple of years ago, but we've always had a roof overhead.  I'm thus not qualified to even speculate on what my existence would look like without one. It's something you take very much for granted.  I certainly have, so much so that I've repeatedly complained about just how many homes I've lived in. It's like the guy with no shoes who met the guy with no feet. We say romantic things like "home is not a place, it's a person" and "as long as I'm with you, I'm home"...and most of us probably have no interest in testing that hypothesis.

There is a tsunami of senior citizen homelessness just around the corner to go along with the tide of homelessness that's already here and largely hidden from view.

The question is, how do we respond?

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