It’s a sight many of us have seen. People clad in maroon T-shirts, standing in the center divider of streets here in Imperial County, holding their plastic jars and going from car to car as traffic waits at a stoplight. They are asking for money.
They are the Army of the Maroon T-Shirt — men and women who have sought aid from charitable organizations, and who now solicit donations.
I don’t give them money when I’m driving, because it is a distraction, and I need to pay attention when I’m behind the wheel.
I almost always give them money if I see them in front of a store, or in a parking lot.
“Don’t you know they’ll just use the money for drugs or booze?” is one common observation from some people I know. So is, “If they need money why don’t they just get a job? — a question we could ask 26.1 percent of adults living here in Imperial County, that is, those among us who are unemployed.
Don’t think for one moment that you or your loved ones are immune to the scourge of homelessness or poverty. A lot of bankruptcies in this country occur because people get sick or injured, and wind up with huge medical bills they can’t pay.
That’s why I give them money, because, “There, but for the grace of God ...”
And a lot of what Jesus Christ and the Bible say about helping the poor make a lot sense.
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14)
Or how about this:
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11)
Of course, there are many in this country who adopt a sink-or-swim attitude when it comes to the poor and the homeless. They seem to regard being poor as a sin.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where beating up on the poor has evolved into a parlor game. From bashing Obamacare to going after entitlements to threatening to shut down Head Start to cutting food stamps, it’s just open season on the poor.
Because, sadly, in this country, no one really cares what poor people think.
Unless of course, poor people vote. But don’t worry. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 34 states have passed voter ID laws that, in some states, threaten to disenfranchise people who can’t get driver’s licenses or other photo identification (translation: poor people).
Look, if a person wants to seek office on the basis of being a Christian conservative, that’s fine. If enough constituents agree with that person’s views to get him or her elected, then that is how democracy works. Just don’t pick and choose certain aspects of Christianity to espouse and ignore the rest because it means embracing concepts like compassion, empathy, and charity. Or because those concepts may clash with the tenets of fiscal conservatism. You can’t have it both ways.
Or as one late-night comedian observed: “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition — and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
I sometimes dream about winning the lottery, and making a big donation to some deserving charity. That’s probably not going to happen.
But I can always give a dollar to the Army of the Maroon T-Shirt.