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THE POOR ARE?

I have no vote. Having said that I am not suggesting that I am neutral about who should be the next President. Never fear, I am not going to reveal my preference. Am I alone in noticing that the one constituency among the voting population which is not mentioned in the debates is the Poor?

Now it may well be that the poor have been given honorary membership in the “Middle Class” club. If the present financial crisis goes on for much longer, the distinction between poor and middle class may be moot. Perhaps politicians fear that poor people may be offended if they are identified? Perhaps they fear that middle class people won’t vote for a leader who plans to spend tax money on those who have nothing? Whatever the motive, far from the poor being always with us, they seem to have become invisible.

Episcopalians are well versed in identifying the poor of whatever race as a group for whom soup kitchens are intended and pews are not. I am not sure whether this attitude portrays a subtle form of prejudice or a sincere conviction that poor people would feel uncomfortable in our worshiping midst.

The prejudice looks something like this: our form of worship requires intelligence to appreciate. The poor like rumperty tumperty songs, extempore prayer and fundamentalist preaching, and anyway they tend to be Republicans. The poor don’t go to college, ergo they are dim witted. Episcopalians are intelligent and cultured. Anyway the poor wouldn’t pay our parish bills.

Even if we don’t harbor such obvious prejudice we may sincerely believe that the poor wouldn’t want or like what we offer. We may explain Rome’s greater success in pastoring all segments of a population, despite their liturgical tradition and ceremonialism, by suggesting that one doesn’t have to think to be a Roman Catholic. Tell that to Chesterton or Tolkein.

One doesn’t have to visit the Global South to encounter terrible poverty, sub standard education and appaling medical care. Visit any of our major cities. It may well be true that 11: AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America. That segregation isn’t merely between African-American and white churched Americans. There’s as frightening a sgregation between our Episcopalian middle class worshipers and those who rent apartments in inner cities or live in trailer parks.

Anglicanism in America has become a denomination. If that is not indictment enough it has become a denomination of an elite. The humbug lies in our protestation of liberal and compassionate values. Are we going to vote for the middle class as we pray with the middle class next month? Ah! but there’s always the soup kitchen and the thrift shop.