We are our brother’s keeper in time of trouble
SUSAN K. SMITH | 9/11/2017, 9:28 a.m.
Crazy Faith Ministrie
What will the people do who have been devastated by Hurricane Harvey? And what will “church people” do in response to the enormous needs of people that will only increase, even as the flood waters recede?
Literally thousands of people are hunkered down in massive shelters, where they sleep on cots and have no privacy. Many of those in the shelters have lost everything they had, and some of those have no idea of how they are going to survive. I heard a young man on a news report said he had lost his car that he’d purchased only two weeks prior to the hurricane. He was beside himself; he was going to have to continue to pay his car note though he had not car – and he worried that he might not have a job if he could not find a way to get to work.
Everyone has suffered and is suffering, but the fact of the matter is that some people are suffering more because they don’t see a way out or a way up. They do not have the resources to rebuild; many of them were renters anyway. Many were due to receive public assistance checks on the Aug. 30 and didn’t get them, so they have no money. Many are sick and cannot get to a doctor and many immigrants are afraid to seek help they need for fear of being deported.
It is a bad, bad situation, one that will last for years.
What do those who have been spared do? Right now, there is heightened attention given to the devastation, but soon, the cameras will leave and the people will be largely forgotten, left to fend on their own. If they are poor and Black or Brown, they will be judged as they try to work their way through a system that does not like them or care for them even in good times. In bad times, that lack of care will become more widespread and obvious.
The challenge is for “church people” to be intentional about forming community. It won’t be enough to go to our nice, safe churches, hear a good sermon and clap our hands as the music brings tears to our eyes. We will have to have “eyes that see” and hearts that care – for the long haul. The absence of cameras should not also mean the absence of our involvement. Some of the people in shelters will be there for months. Some will have difficulty filling out papers for federal assistance, including FEMA trailers. Some will lose their jobs. They will be hurting and angry and afraid. They will need to “see” God in what “church people” do.
The intentionality of the faith community will be vital for their stability and peace of mind. The Black church has always been a refuge, but what the church has done in the past may not be enough this time. The church’s work and focus may have to be re-examined and changed some in order to respond to the changes that are happening in the federal government, and which will trickle down to the local level. Tempers are going to fly; people are going to be sick, both mentally and physically, because they will not be able to get their medicine. The patience of the people – and of the caregivers- will be stretched, and with less patience, there will probably be more violence. Police, already emboldened by the current administration in their excessively violent tactics, will probably be more intense, and the nation, ever quick to demonize and dehumanize people of color, will be quick to assume that if the police are being violent, the people probably deserve it.
We all know that is not true, not in general and certainly not now.
Those of us who have been spared this suffering have to step up. The nation was already in a tailspin because of the antics of the president; people have not felt safe or cared for. Nobody – except, maybe, for the president’s base – has felt safe. White supremacists have been emboldened because of their perception of being supported by the president.
The government will use any and every excuse to further discriminate against and oppress the people who need help the most. The suffering is bad now, but will only increase. Now as never before, “church people” have to understand that we are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers. They will walk in despair and hopelessness, and God help us all if we turn a deaf ear and a closed door.
We all go to church. Now it is time to be the church.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is a preacher, writer and organizer She is available for speaking. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.