What it’s Like Going to Church When You Are Homeless

What it’s Like Going to Church When You Are Homeless December 5, 2017

A great collection of interviews by Eve Tushnet:

Mr. Brandkamp described the similar vulnerability and fear he experienced on the day in 1986 when, at age 21, he lost his first job, developed bronchitis and was evicted along with his mother: “We spent three days and three nights on the streets [of New York] wandering from donut shops to doorways to park benches. Our stuff was stolen while we were on a park bench trying to get some sleep. In my grandparents’ neighborhood, of all places—a very safe neighborhood—but no place is safe when you’re homeless.”

And yet, he said, “What I thought was the worst day of my life ended up being the hand of God.” Life had been brutally hard for a long time: “We knew we were chronically poor. I ate three out of four weeks of the month, was chronically malnourished through my teen years. My mom dealt with a lot of mental health issues from my father’s abuse.” The shock of ending up on the streets made them cast around for help, and they found a Dutch Reformed church on Staten Island with an overflowing ministry to homeless people. Their shelter was so full that Mr. Brandkamp and his mother slept for several nights on chairs. But the people there saw him and his mother and didn’t judge them. “They saved our lives,” Mr. Brandkamp says. He became a Christian while homeless.

When I read things like I think back on moments like Rush Limbaugh’s frequent “Homeless Updates” and his incessant mockery of the homeless and I feel nothing but burning shame that it did not even occur to me to turn off the radio as I would have if somebody came on to pour out a torrent of blasphemy against our Lord.

But that was the achievement of American conservatism in creating the freak show of Christianism that has now reached full flower in its prostitution to a sex predator like Donald Trump and a child molester like Roy Moore. Opposition to abortion took away the sins of the Right. Mockery of the least of these was, you know, a bit awkward and tasteless. But Limbaugh was a *conservative* and good Christians could chuckle along with these little foibles because of all the *good* he was doing in hating damn libruls who care about these losers.

I did that. I thought that. I went along with that. Me. Through my own most grievous fault.

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