FROM THE SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL: Lou(ise) Landrum, the executive director of the Spartanburg (S.C.) Soup Kitchen told the Herald-Journal she would resign from her job before she let atheists volunteer and be a "disservice to this community."
"This is a ministry to serve God" Landrum added. "We stand on the principles of God. Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don't know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don't give any money. I wouldn't want their money." [...] "They can set up across the street from the Soup Kitchen," Laundrum added. "They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street," she said.
SEE | http://bit.ly/HhRsQt | (Spartanburg Herald-Journal)
SEE | http://www.helpthekitchen.org/ | (the kitchen's website)
SEE | http://on.fb.me/HhWEnc | (the kitchen's Facebook page)
SEE | http://upstateatheists.org/ | (the Upstate Atheists)
GREGG DesELMS's WORDS...
The atheists should set-up their own soup kitchen. It would, if they did, mostly empty-out Landrum's. Here's why...
What happened, at The Spartanburg Soup Kitchen, is exactly what's wrong with the vast majority of homeless helping entities in the United States; and is precisely why the "poverty justice center" (for lack of a better thing to call it, yet) that we're planning to build (with the help of angel funders) will be so successful. I will bet my left arm that literally the very evening of the day on which we distribute to the homeless in that town the flyers and pamphlets announcing that we're open, nearly all the beds in the existing shelter in the town in which we plan to build it will be empty as their occupants flock to our doors.
And that's because even though ours, too, will be religiously run, and there will be clerical-collar-wearing clergy walking around all over the place, not a one of them will be permitted to bring-up the subject of religion or faith with any of the clients/residents. The only time, in fact, that said clients/residents will ever even hear about religion is during intake, when they're told where is the bulletin board on which is located all the information about where is the chapel, mosque, temple and synagogue (yes, all four will be under our roof), and announcements of all things going on in and around them. No one, in any case, would ever be either turned-away or made to feel in even the slightest bit unwelcome; and in lieu of a worship space, atheists and secular humanists (technically, there's a difference, but not so's ya's notice) would also have a room, and a place on that bulletin board.
In the city where I'm planning the center is only one both-genders homeless shelter, which is run by conservative Christians who are not only Pentecostals, but CONSERVATIVE ones (if that can even be imagined, but now I digress... sorry). They CLAIM that even those of no faith are welcome, but the homeless in town will tell you otherwise. Ask virtually any of them and they'll say they'd rather live in a swamp encampment, or under a bridge, or in an old burned-out car dealership, than be in the town's Pentecostal-run shelter wherein they're pretty much FORCED to participate in Bible study and worship -- or, worse, supposed-to-be-secular moments -- where they must dance around...
SEE | http://bit.ly/HhP6B1
...(often with their palms to the skies and speaking in tongues) to religious music or it's made clear to them that maybe they should just move on. In 2008, HUD did a study of such shelters, soup kitchens and rescue missions, many of them part of the conservative Christian Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM)...
...and HUD learned that pretty much only those who had been raised in whatever form of Christianity is being forced on shelter or mission clients/residents (or soup kitchen guests) tend to appreciate or get anything from it; or to thrive or improve in the shelter's or mission's programs. The rest may or may not do okay, program- and recovery-wise, but there is no question that they are irritated with, and resentful of having religion -- specifically conservative Christianity -- shoved down their throats throughout. Most, sadly, just leave before completing the program, the study showed.
And so, then, people's lives get endangered...
SEE | http://bit.ly/2012-homelessness-fact-sheet (a PDF file)
...by their being put back out onto the street from such godawful places, either voluntarily, or because they're made to feel so unwelcome that they have no choice, simply because the homeless helping entity can't separate what its operators perceive to be their (Great Com)mission from what is actually their Great Commandment.
The receipt by the homeless of desperately-needed services should never be conditioned on that said homeless believe in a certain thing, or in a certain way; or even that they have any belief, at all.
The proof that we'll be making that flesh in our center: We'll even welcome Republicans! [grin]
Even religiously-run homeless and poverty helping entities MUST be run as if they were secular... especially if they receive government funding. That's how we'll be doing it, even if we receive not a dime from the government. It's the only right, honest and honorable way to do things... the way of integrity.
If The Spartanburg Soup Kitchen were run that way, then none of this would be going on: atheists would be as welcome behind the serving counter as in front of it...
...that is, assuming they're even welcome, there, in front of it; and there's evidence in the kitchen's director's words that they're not. Keep reading...
This very conservative soup kitchen is run by very conservative Presbyterians...
...who are nevertheless part of the not-known-to-be-all-THAT-conservative mainline Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).
SEE | http://www.pcusa.org/
Truth is, I would have expected it to be part of the smaller and more conservative other big US group of Presbyterians: The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
SEE | http://www.pcanet.org/
It is ironic that this soup kitchen's very first "[w]e believe that" statements on its "Our Mission" web page is: "Every human being should be treated with dignity and respect ... and everyone is welcome..."
Everyone except atheists, apparently. Or is it simply that atheists aren't welcome on the server side of the table? No double-standard, there, eh?
More hypocrasy from the fourth of their "what we believe" statements: "Our volunteers and supporters are a valued asset and we know that they are essential to our success."
Unless they're atheists, apparently.
More: "We continue to strive to ensure every volunteer ... has a positive and safe experience with our Soup Kitchen."
Yeah... well... not so much, it seems.
Finally: "Everything we do is to glorify God."
And there it is, ladies and gentlemen! Coupled with the first line of the kitchen's Mission Statement...
"We seek to serve the poor and homeless of our community by sharing the love of God..."
...we find the REAL problem: Like most religiously-run, nearly-always-conservative places of this sort, they put The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), ahead of The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40). Sharing the love of God, in the form of proselytizing, becomes more important than feeding God's children.
Such as they should take a lesson from the Sheep and the Goats Parable of Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46), the most recognizable line from which is "whatever you did for the least of these my brothers, you did for me, also," (Matthew 25:40) spoken by Christ to the sheep believers, on his right. The hypocrtical goats, on his left, in that parable never connect Christ's love with their faith; and put a higher value on ritual observances of it which actually separate Christ from the realities, trials and tribulations of daily life. The parable describes a hypocrasy-eliminating test by Christ, who wants his followers to actually POSSESS both righteousness and love, and not merely outwardly display what only APPEARS to be those things.
Conservative Christian who run homeless helping entities tend to be the hypocracy-filled latter, as is so deftly illustrated by what this horrible soup kitchen (or at least its horrible director) has done.
It should matter not if any of their beneficiary clients/guests are saved; all that this kitchen should care about is that they're fed; with no expectation of a spiritual return on that investment. The quote from the kitchen's director, though...
"Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don't know what an atheist is?"
...evidences that it's more than that. After all, if making Christians out of the guests wasn't the REAL goal, then why would whether or not said guests could recognize atheists matter?
Unsurprising to at least me, the Second Presbyterian Church also runs a shelter.
I'll bet atheists aren't welcome there, either.
Few things, in my opinion, could be more sinful.
Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com