The hypocrisy of the "Jesus cures all ills/happy-shiny" gospel.
| As a freezing wind sliced through the air, the Outcast wrapped himself more tightly in his thin, tattered sweater. From his bench outside the church, he heard the thumping music that concluded the Sunday services at New Life Community Church. Letting out a long sigh, he watched as the well-dressed congregants exited the church, humming worship songs, sipping coffees and commenting on how "relevant" and "cool" the service was. The Outcast wondered if any of these people even noticed him as he sat alone and shivering on the gray concrete bench. He would not have to wait long to find out.
Leslie Smith was the president of New Life's youth group. As she strode out the church doors in her designer jeans, emerald blue blouse and brown pea coat, her wavy brown hair tucked into a neat bun, she noticed the wizened old man sitting alone on the bench. She thought to herself, "I wonder if he knows about our homeless outreach program. As President, I should set an example for the other students and go talk to him. We might be able to help him." With that, Leslie waved goodbye to her giggly, gossipy friends and sat down conspicuously next to the man on the bench. She cleared her throat and began.
"Good morning, sir."
"'Morning," the Outcast replied with a nod of the head.
She tried again, "Very chilly out, isn't it?"
"Yes, it certainly is, especially when your sweater's got holes in it!" he admitted with a sheepish grin.
Taking this as her in, Leslie asked, "Do you need new clothes? Our church has a homeless outreach that passes out sandwiches and coats to people who need them."
The Outcast's eyes brightened. "You have a homeless ministry?" he asked.
"Yes," and she told him where and when it would be held.
The first thing the Outcast noticed when he arrived at the church the following Saturday evening was the smiles. Sugary smiles coated the faces of the volunteers like frosting on a cake--beautiful, brilliant white wedding cake to his sooty devil's food cake. It made him feel rather uneasy, but he decided to stay anyway. After he had finished his dinner consisting of a ham and cheese sandwich, chips and soda, and had received a new sweater, the Outcast sat down with the others to hear the message. After a brief introduction by one of the jovial volunteers, the pastor ascended the podium and began.
The Outcast left the meeting still ruminating on the message and the fake smiles of the volunteers, his heart feeling as bitter as the cold night air. The pastor had taught that Jesus came to bring people happiness and that if they would only believe in Christ, He would fill their lives with blessings. "Jesus is the answer, my friends, to whatever trouble you're facing," he had said. "I know many of you might suffer from substance abuse or mental illness, but I want you to know tonight that Jesus will deliver you from anything if you call upon His name." The Outcast had several friends who had struggled deeply with drugs, alcohol and various illnesses. Some of them had gone to outreaches like New Life's and had "accepted Jesus", but their problems remained. For them, Jesus was not the magic cure-all that the church had made him out to be. Frowning, the Outcast thought of all the plastic smiles he had seen that night. "Where are their problems, certainly they have some? Maybe they're just hiding them so as to appear as though they have it all together and Jesus has solved everything wrong in their lives Why can't Christians just be real? Whatever happened to just being yourself, being honest?" he thought to himself, walking back to his favorite bench and covering himself with his new sweater. "Ironic," he thought, closing his eyes, "I have food in my stomach and new clothes, but I'm no closer to Jesus or feeling loved by anyone than before. Maybe this whole Jesus thing is a joke." And with that, the Outcast fell asleep on the green metal bench in the middle of the park, just another homeless man in the middle of the vast city.