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Evangelical Christians have created for themselves their own captive audience, now they want you and me to pay them to maintain this subculture that they have formed through their ideology. Rather, we have supported it for decades. But since neither you nor I objected loudly enough, they've established official policy backing their activities, lest you or I should decide to squawk in the future. For this, we have only ourselves to blame.
When I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1985, I noticed something conspicuously different about this city than any other I'd ever visited: the rescue missions and similar agencies were falling over one another in making this town a Mecca for winos and junkies and bums. (Oh my!) One group even celebrated this lifestyle with a giant mural depicting four or five tramps playing cards and drinking Night Train in an open boxcar.
Since the government offered little to nothing in the way of helping people bring their existence from street-urchin level to some semblance of self-responsibility, this town became renowned as a place where you could pee right on the sidewalk (or on somebody's car, for that matter).
Religious groups made vagrancy easy by enabling this subculture to thrive. Tramps across the land knew about Portland. The churches pitched their hard-sell evangelism at the cost of untold human misery.
Successive city administrators failed to step in, define the problems, and outline a plan of attack. So a plethora of agencies made good business of taking donations and doing it on their own terms.
You had lots of bad food but little else, such as decent clothing for finding work. With an artificially high population density in that economic class, unskilled jobs were at a premium. Dressing for work was a joke.
Free food made it much easier to live irresponsibly. Boxcars destined for Portland were filled to capacity. The jail soon over-flowed and police released felons at the scene with nary a citation: "What're they gonna do? Throw me in jail? Hah!"
Then the charities' wildest dreams came true: the city got involved to the point of footing the bill for some of the food -- even for the religious missions that require you to endure a long sermon before you can eat! We began paying the churches to inflict their destructive, dead-end ideology onto a captive audience of vulnerable people!
But the food never got any better. One outfit gave out only old Twinkies and stale sandwiches which had spent days or weeks on lunch wagons. I felt for the duffs with poor eyesight, who often couldn't see the fuzzy blue "business" growing on this shit. And everywhere you went, tray after tray of stale, hard, drippy, nutritious doughnuts!
There was no accountability. The City dared not move against those who did her dirty work. The churches cared for nobody except the converts, who ate well, wore decent clothing, and were naturally first in line at the mission-run jobs programs.
In Santa Barbara, connecting laborers with jobs was so lucrative that it became an underground movement. The lazy had no free food, so people opted for the vast opportunities at hand, or got caught up in the mental health system, or moved on.
Copyright ©2001 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon