Crazy for Jesus
Some days ago, I read that the Anglican Communion commemorates William and Catherine Booth on August 20. The Booths were founders of the Salvation Army. Many of us have come to think of it as Christmas kettles or a place we take our old used stuff to be resold in the army’s stores, much like our Op Shop. But the Salvation Army is far more; it has become a vigorous and effective worldwide caring ministry to millions of the least and lost.
William Booth was a Methodist preacher in England’s Victorian era. He much preferred street corners to pastorates, and was soon barred from the formalized ministry. Preaching to those considered hopeless—the destitute, alcoholics, prostitutes, and criminals in London’s West End—the Booths were frequently pelted with rocks from the passing gentry. But they marched on with a military philosophy and precision, even adding stirring band music to their campaigns among the ragged and ignored poor. The uniformed “General” Booth later created soup kitchens, then housing, then job help. You and I might have thought of him as quite eccentric. The Church of England and the English Methodists thought he was a little crazy.
This past weekend, I saw a picture that you probably saw, too. Five-year-old Omran has just been pulled from a bombed building in Aleppo and is seated in the back of an ambulance, covered with ash and blood. A video shows that he never changes expression, never sheds a tear; this is the face of shell shock and unimaginable terror. Another family member did not survive. Omran stares ahead and cannot see a present or future. And we know that Omran is just one of many.
There are loud voices in this mother and grandma’s head: Oh God, what can I possibly do? What can the church do? What have we not done and should’ve? Where is a loving lap for him to sit on? Why haven’t we prevented this hell on earth? How will this child and the thousands of others heal? I bet you hear those voices, too.
I am not wise enough to answer those questions, although I wish someone else were. Unfortunately, it is easy to shrug off serious plans of action when the presenting problems are this overwhelming. In D.C., we can’t even write our congressperson. Oh, well.
Maybe General and Mrs. Booth had the right idea. You and the Booths and I cannot save the world—salvation is God’s business. But maybe I need to get a little crazier. We each have our figurative street corner that cries out for acts of faith in a troubled world. Maybe I’ll sit on the bench by the bus stop and hand out water bottles and share a prayer. Maybe I’ll go down to the mosque just to shake hands and say hi. Or visit with the gentleman who waves signs in front of the Vatican’s Nunciature on Massachusetts Avenue, protesting unacknowledged pedophilia. Or I could sing a hymn to the odiferous, snoring pile of blankets near the Metro.
We pray, we support causes that we believe make a difference. But I for one need to follow in the general’s path, “preaching” through acts of loving connectedness with people on my street corner, no matter who they might be. Omran’s life will not be the better for it, I know, but I pray that someone else’s life will. That’s what Jesus asks, that’s what we CAN do, that’s where it starts.
Let’s get a little crazy for Jesus. And for Omran.