Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Starting with Skid Row

I'm currently in the process of applying to graduate school, so I've been thinking a lot about my future. I'm trying to decide what I want to do with me life, what avenues I'd like to pursue. While theology is definitely what I want to study, I don't like the idea of being cooped up in a stuffy office at some university for the rest of my life. I am convinced that theology cannot be divorced from ethics, and ethics has to grapple with the problems in our world hands on. I relish the prospect of entering academia, but I know that in order for my studies to be worthwhile I must be actively involved in social issues.

Maybe that is part of why I wanted to do social work. Working on Skid Row is not my dream job and it doesn't lead naturally to a career in theology, but somehow it is really important to me. I love the people I work with and the personal connections I get to make with them. I like that I am in the business of providing hope. But I can't pretend that it isn't sad, too.

More than a hundred people come in our doors each day, and all of them are homeless. There are lots of reasons that people end up down here, but the most common reason is bad luck. One thing went wrong that sent them sliding down a slippery slope and they crash-landed on Skid Row. These people have reached a point where they can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps--they need compassion and they need help.

Even though I've only worked here a short time, I know that I will never be able to formulate any sort of theology or Christian ethic that leaves these people out. A gospel of prosperity based on good words and happy thoughts won't do. A message of middle-class individualistic pietism won't cut it. If we are bold enough to call ourselves Christians, we cannot allow the homeless, the drug addicted, the HIV infected, the mentally ill, and the lonely to be neglected. I know that it is something that I cannot ignore, and I'm sure it will influence the direction my life takes. From here on out, my thought and theology will probably start with Skid Row.

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