“very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.” – Jennifer Friedenbach, The Coalition on Homeless Executive Director
Last month a story started circulating around the Internet of a San Francisco Catholic church that installed a mechanism in its doorways that would spray water on the homeless who slept below.
All of this was to be a deterrent for homeless peoples. The move turned out to be a bad witness for the Catholic church and Christians in general.
Many who were Christians and many who were not went online to deride the church for their inhumane methods. All who did so mentioned that this is not how Christ would act towards the homeless.
This month we’ve been discussing the unifying factor of Christ’s resurrection. The Great Commission is what unites us and helps bring in a multiethnic culture to the church as a whole. More specifically on the blog, we’ve been discussing what it means to be a witness and how witnessing unites us.
What we saw here with this Catholic church in mid-March is how divisive bad witnessing can be. All agreed that the church was a bad witness of Christ in their decision to douse homeless people sleeping on their steps. Even non-Christians saw that.
The church set up the deterrent for the perceived safety of the homeless people. This way, there would be no needles, feces, or other distressing things happening in these doorways when the homeless stayed the night there.
In reality, the comfort of the church was what inspired the inhumane deterrent. When we think of Christ and how he responded to people, we understand that Christ was one who stepped outside of his own comforts to comfort the afflicted.
People rallied around Christ because he was a good witness of God’s love. People derided the Catholic church in San Francisco because they were not.
We see unity and division in how we choose to witness to others.