By David Gill, reprinted from The 313.
If you are like me, you must be exhausted and frustrated by the partisan divides in today’s world – divisions that have fractured the Christian church every bit as much as the society around us. We are in serious and deepening crisis. How will we ever come back together?
Sometimes we can worship together and pray side-by-side. Sometimes we can have conversation if we totally avoid politics and all the issues (like health care, pandemics, gun violence, fake news, and school curricula) that radically divide us. But may I suggest a subject on which (I have found) we can all join together in common cause?
Everybody needs work – a job, an occupation, meaningful tasks that relate not just to our economic needs but our very meaning and dignity as human beings. We serve a working (creator, sustainer, redeemer) God in whose image and likeness every man and woman is made. Conservative-leaning folk are well-known for insisting that everyone should work and be responsible for their own needs. Liberal types are often viewed by conservatives as enabling people to avoid work but get on government assistance programs. The reality on the ground is that liberal-types, every bit as much as conservatives, believe all people need jobs. Despite the exceptions (among both rich and poor), the vast majority of people do not want to be dependent on others or on the government. People want jobs. They want to make their own way and enjoy the dignity and pride that comes with it. I have been a city-boy based in Oakland most of my life and this is my consistent experience and observation among our people.
What does this imply? Unemployed (or under-employed) people often need some help acquiring the work and relational skills that can lead to employment opportunities. Instead of wasting time on fruitless and divisive political discussion, why don’t we take action to teach or coach folks toward better employability? We could use our church buildings for this. And no matter how apparently “unskilled” people are, everybody has some ability that could be turned into at least a “self-employed” or “gig” kind of work. But many of these folk don’t automatically know how to turn that skill or experience into a vocation – like yard clean-up, handyman tasks, cooking, hair-cutting, and so on. They need some entrepreneurship coaching. Some unemployed folk do have specialized skills and education but have been casualties of the economy or maybe of health challenges. They need some coaching, encouragement, and help getting back on track. Some have been unsuccessful in learning the ropes of job-searching or interviewing. We could help. If we are employers, we might be able to hire some train-able people and give them a chance. As a local church we could budget some funds to provide small (like even $500) start-up grants or to help buy computers. We could make work space available in our church buildings during the week.
If we debate economic theory – capitalism or socialism – we can ruin our unity in a flash and get mired in generalities and things we can’t change. But if we walk together into the trenches of real life and help our church members and neighbors find or create work, we will more than likely get along just fine, have some fun, bless our church and city, and glorify God.