Where Are Our "Christ Rooms"?
In a nation wracked with depression after the collapse of the stock market and banking system, as millions suffered unemployment, hunger and homelessness, Dorothy Day co-founded the Catholic Worker movement. In the struggle for social justice, her prophetic critique was not directed only at government, but first at those who called themselves Christians.
"Every house should have a Christ Room, a room set aside for the neighbor in need," she admonished the Christians of her day. "It is you yourself who must perform the works of mercy. Often you can only give the price of a meal, or a bed. … Often you can literally take off a garment, if it be only a scarf, to warm some shivering person. But we must act personally, at a personal sacrifice … to combat the growing tendency to let the State take the job which Our Lord Himself gave us to do."
Because we serve Christ himself in our acts of care for those in need (Matthew 25:31-46), we are to dedicate a portion of our God-given resources—however limited they may be— to meet the needs of vulnerable neighbors. As ESA public policy directorvdescribes, our approach to public policy ripples outward, in discerning the most faithful perspectives and actions for individual followers of Jesus, for churches, and then for the nation. The Call for Intergenerational Justice reminds us, "Reforming our culture of debt is not just the responsibility of government." In the maelstrom of deficit debates, we must not forget our first responsibility as individuals and churches to the faithful use of our own resources.
So here are a few questions we ought to be asking of ourselves:
• Does my household have a "Christ Room"? What personal sacrifice am I willing to make for the sake of my neighbor who is beloved of God? Am I engaged with the needs in my community and world through direct personal engagement, as well as indirectly through support of service agencies or policy advocacy?
• Does our church have a "Christ Room"? What is our church's plan for hospitality and care for those wounded by our nation's economic struggles? (See Romans 12:13.)
And to politicians and policy analysts who say that compassion and charity should be the province of private citizens, not the state, we can inquire:
• Where is your "Christ Room"? What are you doing, as a private citizen, to ensure that the needs of neighbors in local and global are being met with the love and dignity owed to Christ himself? Is your personal sacrifice consistent with what you expect from others?
Finally, we can ask of our nation as a whole:
• Is the giving of private individuals and churches sufficient to meet the standard of God's compassion for those who are suffering need in our communities, nation, and world? If not, how can we use our national resources in a way that best represents the priorities consistently laid out in Scripture?
As Jim Wallis points out, "$8.5 billion in low-income housing is on the cutting block. $8.4 billion—the same amount of money—is being kept for mortgage deductions on second vacation homes for the wealthy. That's a choice. What choice should we make there?"
Low-income housing … or vacation homes. Where are our Christ Rooms?