We have a dangerous cult in our society, or possibly two working together.
Have you met any homeless people lately? Mentally ill, drug addicts, and criminals; that is how most of us see homeless people.
I live near a city center, and homeless people are being chased out of their usual neighborhoods by new construction. I think that is why so many are moving into our community. They come with shopping carts and tents, and they settle in public parks. One couple put their tent, and large amounts of personal property, in a corporate parking lot.
Imagine coming to work in the morning, and your parking spot is occupied, by a family in a tent. The ‘personal property’ was probably salvaged from garbage bins.
I think the problem is growing this summer because the weather is warm.
Another driver of this issue is that people, who are not good personal managers, are being chased out of their homes by high costs. When rents go up and people are evicted, they look for a new place to settle. Imagine leaving a marginal lifestyle, and living in a tent, in a park.
I talk to some of these people, and they easily fall into – mental illness, drug use, and crime – or extreme stress, temptation, and limited opportunities. The stereotype becomes true, and it grows into a lifestyle.
We have a constant stream of scroungers, or dumpster divers, all day and all night. When we have something to throw out, and we think it might be useful to them, we leave it out where they can find it. Anything useful disappears quickly, especially bottles for recycling; those can be traded for money.
A few months ago, at the end of the winter, I went out for a walk. We have cold winters, and we keep electrical cords to plug our cars in, so they will start in the morning. In our alley, I saw a small woman, with a baby stroller, and she was stealing my neighbours’ heater cords. I talked to her, and she let me take the stolen cords back to their owners, but she would not let me touch the other things she had. I guess she was scrounging from garbage bins.
We had a friendly conversation.
Later, on my walk, I found her pushing a larger vehicle, a shopping cart stolen from a grocery store. She had upgraded to new transportation, and the cart was full. She told me she was going to meet her friends soon and her cargo was her contribution to the group. She didn’t want help or advice, so I went to a local fast-food place and bought a gift card, so she could get a meal.
When I found her, pushing the cart in an alley, she seemed shocked by the gift, but she was glad to take it. Now, months later, I hope she is safe with her friends, but I don’t know where she is.
You may have stories like mine. The homeless lifestyle is growing and thousands of people are falling into it.
Today I saw the other side, the “normal” life. We had business in a suburb far from home, and the houses were very nice. Near the houses were new vehicles, motor homes and boats for the summer. We did not see any homeless people pushing grocery carts. That suburban place was too expensive.
So, what is that dangerous cult?
We believe. It is dangerous to believe that we can drop out of the rat race and live in a tent, maybe under a bridge. That can ruin us quickly:
Another wrong idea is that material things make us successful. I don’t want to judge the people I met in the suburbs today, but we saw the expensive property, probably with large monthly payments.
Materialism is a lifestyle.
Jesus told his followers, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15)
For too many, life is measured by how much we own.
I think dropouts from one side fall onto the other side, and what we have, for everyone, is a spiritual sickness. It’s like a record with a flip side.
There is a better way, for both sides:
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2: 15 to 17)