Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary Baker Eddy, teachers' unions, and the plight of the homeless

While I couldn't possible smell the homeless man from across the street, I felt as if I could--as if those cartoony, wavy lines were rising up from him as he lay propped up against the building, so ugly in contrast to his surrounds. It surely didn't help I had just stepped out of the pristine environs of Boston's Christian Science Center, full of silent, bustling women eager to tell me (but not too forcefully) about Mary Baker Eddy's goodness. The homeless man was certainly not welcome in Ms. Eddy's large stained-glass globe, high-tech lobby, or well-appointed bathrooms.

I took a step into the street. I intended to invite him into Mary Baker Eddy's utopia and see what the very white, very clean, very uptight women would do when confronted with someone who wasn't a pleasant tourist eager to step into this marble-clad palace. But I stopped before my left foot caught up with my right, knowing that while their discomfort would make me feel very goodhighly superior, evenhis discomfort would make me feel very bad...dirty and mean.

Churches do that to memake me feel superior and angry. I'm mad they spend tens of thousandsmillions, in many caseson their buildings while often being surrounded by the squalor of tenements, seedy apartment buildings, and public housing. I fume when I see crosses of gold in neighborhoods where children are starving. The icing on such a distasteful cake? No one has a good answer for why. A friend likened it to teachers' unions. He said, They may want good education for kidsthey surely dobut they're set up to advocate for the adults, not the kids. They're fulfilling their mission regardless of the collateral damage. Churches are just trying to reach their goal of converting anyone, and they go to great lengthsgold crosses and fancy marble statuesto do it.

So today I won't use this homeless man as a toy to taunt the Christian Science Center employeesmake them question the ten-thousand-dollar video display next to them while this man lies in the street just as close. Instead, I walk up to the pretty middle-aged woman robotically greeting museum patrons and ask if she's aware this unwatched slideshow terminal could be feeding thousands of Boston's homeless this month. She blinks, looking down and away. Not as satisfying, but it'll do for today.

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