No Room at the Inn

There was no room in the Inn for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Luke tells us.

Does this make the Holy Family homeless?

Apparently not, Nick Coleman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune found out. He was deluged with email because of a Christmas column about 100 homeless people who died in Minneapolis in 2004.

One died on the railroad tracks on his 51st birthday, unable or unwilling to get out of the way of a coming train. Another was strangled, her body found beneath a bridge. A third, dying of cancer, spent the last weeks of his life in a rocking chair in a drop-in center so he would be close to his friends at the end.

The one whose death I reported was the one a passerby saw sitting helplessly amid a roaring blaze, moaning as his homemade tent went up in flames, his arms stretched over his head.

His name was Robin Sam.

"Robin was a wonderful man," a fellow named Patrick Wood, who works with the homeless, told me back then. "He's a tremendous loss. Say what you will about people like him, they have gifts. He was resilient, he was resourceful, he was passionate, he was caring. He had a lot to offer."

He was 38, and he died last February in a snowy ditch beneath a freeway bridge on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, hidden from the thousands who passed over him each day, out of our sight until he was on fire. I'll say his name again: Robin Sam.

They all had names and they all had gifts, the homeless Minnesotans who died in 2004. There may have been 100 who died alone, without homes, without care, without a safety net.

Coleman ended with this tag, which got him in trouble.

In Minnesota, we should be able to celebrate the holidays -- and take care of the needy.

If we can't do that, you have to wonder what we're celebrating this Christmas. After all, once upon a time, a homeless couple came to Bethlehem, looking for shelter.

Were readers upset at the 100 people who died on the street?

Nope, says Coleman in a follow up column. They were mad at the insinuation that Jesus was homeless.

Apparently they missed what Jesus says in Luke 9:58: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." I don't know but that sounds pretty homeless to me. That's all I'm saying.

Coleman says it's not the secularists that Christians have to worry about at Christmas time--it's themselves. "No one knows how to give us Christians a bigger black eye than the people who call themselves Christians," he wrote.

This week, a number of my fellow Christians took time from worship to criticize a column I wrote about the homeless. They didn't write to tell me about their concern for the 8,000 homeless in Minnesota or the fact that half of them are women and kids or that 100 of them died this year.

No, they wrote to say that even though we will always have the poor with us, as Jesus said, that doesn't mean those poor buggers shouldn't get out of the way of our SUVs.

"These homeless are bums, nothing but leeches on society," wrote a guy who signed himself Trav. "If we could push a button and make the homeless die and disappear without repercussions, nearly everybody would do it. I would. Good riddance."


But it's all the nuns fault, says Coleman. They taught him in Catholic school that Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

I guess the point these compassionate Christians are trying to make is that Jesus wouldn't give the homeless a second glance if he came back. And you know what? They might be right. Jesus might walk right past the homeless, the poor and the sick, and march straight into our churches.

Because he'd have a lot of tables to overturn.

Amen to that.


Powered by Blogger