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How Can the Gospel Become Truly Good News to the Poor?

A church building and some members attending a training in the province.  Photo from ninenails.wordpress.com.

I am glad to read a friend's post about how she found "very compelling a point (I) mentioned last year that there has to be a ‘tension’ in the church, where the rich Christians should experience being or living with poor Christians".  She writes this as one of her recent realizations  after attending a mission exposure in our small provincial town last year.

I am glad it had an impact in her life.  May I just give credit to whom it is due.  That idea isn't mine.  I just quoted from Atty. Raineer Chu's  "The Gospel is Good News to the Poor".  I originally read that at the COLF Philippines site.

Let me use this post to quote two of Atty. Raineer Chu's writings.  The first is already mentioned above and the second is the 77th footnote from a Journal of Asian Mission article by Atty. Chu entitled "A Theoretical Framework on How to Change Communities:  The Shalom House Model in the Philippines".

I am directly quoting long sections below because these are things I have long been thinking of and struggling with but couldn't find the courage nor the skill to write them.  It is up to you, my friend, to process these on your own or with friends for healthy discussion.

1.  From "The Gospel is Good News to the Poor" (2009)

I have only one message today: that the church should always aim to have the rich and the poor together inside the church. This way the church can jump start the Kingdom within. This way the church can regain her voice to the world outside to speak against greed and corruption.
Rich and poor separated
The problem is the church has separated the rich from the poor Christians and now the Christians cannot feel the tension of the gospel...  The gospel of the kingdom means to receive Jesus and to live out the Kingdom in me and in the community of believers called the church.
Cannot feel the tension of the gospel
This tension is found in 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, applying this, we see that a member who has two cars is sitting beside one who has not had a decent meal that day, will likely sell his second car to feed his brother. (emphasis mine)  Applying also 1 John 3:17 which says, but whoever has a surplus of the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and does not provide for his needy brother, how does the love of God abide in him?
I John 4 says 20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? 21And God Himself has commanded that we must love not only Him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too....
 Church aligned with rich and powerful
Let us begin by looking at the poor. Most churches look at the poor either with suspicion or with disdain. Historically, the church has always been aligned with the rich and powerful. Geneva Global study shows that of total USA donations to the poor including church giving, only 4% reached the poor. Mega churches in Manila will spend billions on their air-conditioned buildings when just a tenth of that will easily finance the entire urban poor ministry needs of the country. Most churches spend their money for themselves than for the poor. Tithes in the New Testament are meant for the poor, your giving in church must not redound to your own welfare like air-con and great buildings but you should make sure it is given to the Lord....
Philippine poor
The Philippines today has the highest inequality gap in Asia. More than 50% live below the poverty line. 40% of Metro Manila live in slums. Note that only 10% of the poor need capital for entrepreneurial business, 90% of the poor need jobs. Most of the big Christian micro finance institutions lend to the upper level poor who are bankable because they have a cash flow or a business, while the 80% poorest of the poor are not reached by them....

2.  From "A Theoretical Framework on How to Change Communities..." (2012)

The main reason why the church seems inutile in the face of social justice is because our gospel in the Philippines came from the American church of the early 1900. The American gospel of that period and maybe still so today had no wherewithal to address social structural evils like corruption. The American church sees poverty as merely a personal ethical problem and the solution is simply sheer hard work on the premise that everyone has equal opportunity to rise from poverty if only they work hard, just like the middle class Americans today did. (emphasis mine)  This is well illustrated in the book by Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith (2001) where 2,000 respondents chosen for being evangelicals, where asked if racism existed in  America. Half of the respondents, who were white, said no, while the other half, who were black, said yes.

The main cause of poverty in the Philippines as reported by the World 
Bank is graft and corruption, and no amount of hard work will solve that. Filipinos who migrate to America are as hard working as any of the Americans in America and earn as much (nurses work three shifts earning more than US$7,000 dollars a month). Clearly, the Philippine gospel needs to be reexamined, to fit it with tools that can address these social structural evils. The American gospel is individualistic and discourages community which is critical in urban poor development.  It also carries a scientific bias which cannot tolerate the tension of contradictions(emphasis mine)   The life of the poor is full of contradictions—they worship a mighty God and they are being evicted from their homes, a loving God and they watch as their child dies slowly because they cannot afford to buy medicines and tonight, they will go to bed without dinner as usual.

What do you think?  More importantly, what will you do?  I can always write articles or poems like "The Ordinary Workingman" but is it enough?  I don't know.  I just feel it's not enough.


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