"Give food to the hungry and care for the homeless."
-- Isaiah 58:10 - Contemporary English Version of The Bible
The great thing about "Freedom OF Religion" is that it is also "Freedom FROM Religion".
In America you have the right to reject all religious ideologies, just as you have the right to decide for yourself which - if any - religious ideas seem true to you. Still, a 2011 Gallup poll discovered that, on average, 8 out of 10 people in America have some level of belief in the validity of the Bible and the existence of its God.
LINK - http://www.gallup.com/poll/148427/Say-Bible-Literally.aspx?utm_source=tagrss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_term=All%20Gallup%20Headlines
So, while the Venice - Mar-Vista PATCH site is in no way a religious forum, it is likely that most of us who come here embrace the Bible, its God and its teachings to some degree. Even those of us who do not will readily acknowledge that the Bible is perhaps the most influential book in Western Civilization - informing our society's laws, customs, values, morals and ways of thinking.
Did you know that throughout its pages The Bible makes many statements which - if we did not know better - we might easily conclude were intended to speak about the homeless situation here in Venice Beach?
Whether you are "a believer" or not, wouldn't you like to know what the Bible has to say about our treatment of homeless people, and how God views them?
Why not take a few minutes and read some of the ideas about homelessness presented within the pages of The Bible?
HOMELESS PEOPLE IN THE (JEWISH) "OLD TESTAMENT"
Starting with the book of Exodus in the Hebrew "Old Testament" (the first half of our modern Bible), we find God telling the Jews not to plant or harvest their fields, olive yards or grape vineyards every 7th year, but to just let the lands produce whatever residual crop they will on their own, and then to allow "THE POOR OF THY PEOPLE" to eat that crop. (Exodus 23:11).
In Leviticus 19:10 God further commands the Jews that they not "gather every grape of thy vineyard", but instead : "LEAVE (a portion of) THEM FOR THE POOR AND STRANGER".
While those opposed to feeding the homeless here in Venice have tried to convince us that it does not help, but merely "enables" them, God, in the Bible, does not seem to be aware of this. It appears that HE thinks that providing food to the poor and homeless is a good idea.
What about "transients" - the word that many of those who despise the homeless here in Venice use to describe the un-housed that they are so anxious to have us get rid of?
In Leviticus 25:35 (King James Version of the Bible), God tells the people (and tells us) :
"THOU SHALT RELIEVE HIM, YEA, THOUGH HE BE A STRANGER, OR A SOJOURNER; THAT HE MAY LIVE WITH THEE".
A "sojourner" is defined as : "a temporary resident", in other words a "transient".
Of course, when God says "live with thee", He is not suggesting that you move the transient into your home (although many Old Testament Jews did just that), but merely that you not molest him, persecute him or try to run him out of town.
In fact, in Leviticus 19:33, God commands :
"…IF A STRANGER SOJOURN [ meaning : "if he lives as a 'transient' "] IN YOUR LAND, YE SHALL NOT VEX HIM" [alternate translation : "ye shall not oppress him"]
God, in the Bible, is pretty specific about how he wants us to deal with poor people, saying :
"IF THERE BE AMONG YOU A POOR MAN…THOU SHALT NOT HARDEN THINE HEART, NOR SHUT THINE HAND…" (Dt.15:7)
…and cautions us to :
"BEWARE THAT…THINE EYE BE EVIL AGAINST THY POOR BROTHER, AND THOU GIVEST HIM NOUGHT; AND HE CRY UNTO THE LORD AGAINST THEE, AND IT BE SIN UNTO THEE." (Dt.15:9)
…He reminds us that :
"...THE POOR SHALL NEVER CEASE OUT OF THE LAND: THEREFORE, I COMMAND THEE, SAYING, THOU SHALT OPEN THINE HAND WIDE …TO THE POOR, AND TO THE NEEDY…" (Dt.15:11)
What part of this don't we understand?
As you have probably guessed, I myself am "a believer", and I'll tell you : in times like this, when a handful of powerful and vocal homeless-haters are orchestrating a non-stop propaganda campaign of fear and loathing against the un-housed of Venice - while calling any of us ("believers" or not ) who have a heart for these unfortunate people terrible names, and publishing our home addresses so that their crazy violent friends can make threats against our lives, it is comforting to me to realize that there is one BIG and Extremely Powerful Friend on our side of the issue.
The Bible makes any number of statements showing that God takes a PERSONAL interest in how the poor and homeless are treated.
For instance, in the Old Testament book of Job, Job says :
"…(because of God,) THE POOR HATH HOPE, AND INIQUITY STOPPETH HER MOUTH" [meaning that evil, itself, has nothing left to say] (Job 5:16 )
Why? Because... :
"…THE CRY OF THE POOR COMETH UNTO HIM (to God), AND HE HEARETH THE CRY OF THE AFFLICTED" (Job 36:6)
And 1 Samuel 9:18 (Contemporary English Version) says about God :
"YOU LIFT THE POOR AND HOMELESS OUT OF THE GARBAGE DUMP..."
THOSE WHO "PERSECUTE" THE HOMELESS
What about those among us who make "victims" out of the poor and homeless…who use political pressure to criminalize them… condemn them…impound their vehicles and meager possessions and leave them destitute on the sidewalks…who oppose and obstruct the attempts of private individuals and groups to provide them with food, clothes and services…who whip up local residents into a hysterical frenzy against them and try to get them run out of town or worse?
What is the Bible's perspective on such people?
(Psalm 10:2) : "THE WICKED, IN THEIR PRIDE, DOTH PERSECUTE THE POOR : LET THEM BE TAKEN IN THE DEVICES THEY HAVE IMAGINED" - Which means, "let the harm they have attempted to do to the poor fall upon them instead".
Proverbs 30:14 (Contemporary English Version - "C.E.V.") speaks of people who :
"…ARE SO GREEDY THAT THEY GOBBLE DOWN THE POOR AND HOMELESS."
Psalm 109:16 talks in disturbing tones about :
"HE THAT…PERSECUTED THE POOR AND NEEDY MAN, THAT HE MIGHT EVEN SLAY THE BROKEN IN HEART."
Psalm 72:4 (C.E.V.) doesn't pull any punches, commanding :
"LET THE KING DEFEND THE POOR, RESCUE THE HOMELESS, AND CRUSH EVERYONE WHO HURTS THEM"
Psalm 82:4 (C.E.V.) instructs :
" RESCUE THE WEAK AND HOMELESS FROM THE POWERFUL HANDS OF HEARTLESS PEOPLE"
And Psalm 140:12 (C.E.V) says :
"…LORD, I KNOW THAT YOU DEFEND THE HOMELESS AND SEE THAT THE POOR ARE GIVEN JUSTICE."
FEEDING THE HOMELESS
We recently witnessed a heated and lengthy debate in this forum between those who support the offering of food to the homeless and those oppose it.
Are you curious where The God Of The Bible weighs in on this issue?
in Psalm 132:15 God says :
" …I WILL SATISFY THE POOR WITH BREAD".
Does this make God a member of what those who oppose aiding the un-housed call "The Social Services Mafia"? Is God the ultimate "enabler" so fiercely decried by them?
As for all the false statements and false accusations made by "the haters" against the poor and un-housed, consider Proverbs 21:13 :
"…A POOR MAN IS BETTER THAN A LIAR."
POLICE HARASSMENT OF THE UNHOUSED
If there are any "Venice's Finest" reading this, please permit me to say something to you :
Most of us who live here in Venice appreciate the risks you take and the job you do for this community, and I know that you are under authority, that you have to do what you are told to do - but when you are impounding a homeless person's vehicle because he broke a "law" that says he's not allowed to shelter himself or sleep in it, and when you are preventing it from being released to him until it has rung up such exorbitant storage charges that it must be abandoned by its impoverished owner (with all of his worldly possessions still inside it because he was prevented from retrieving them), bear in mind that in the Bible, God has said :
"ROB NOT THE POOR… NEITHER OPPRESS THE AFFLICTED…" (Proverbs. 22:22)
I don't know what YOU call it when you take some poor, un-housed person's vehicle (with all his belongings in it) because he has broken some trumped up, nonsensical "law" by using it as shelter against the elements and to protect himself from predators while he sleeps (actions which harm NO ONE), but I call that "robbing" and "oppressing" him.
Ultimately you are going to have to answer to a higher authority than your desk sergeant or shift commander.
OPPRESSING THE HOMELESS
From Mark Ryavec and his "Venice Stakeholders" - to Bill Rosendahl and Zev Yaraslofsky - to the Police tasked with making the lives of the homeless miserable - to the residents of this community who look the other way while these persecutions take place...the Bible makes clear that :
"…THE PEOPLE…HAVE USED OPPRESSION, AND EXERCISED ROBBERY, AND HAVE VEXED THE POOR AND NEEDY: YEA, THEY HAVE OPPRESSED THE STRANGER WRONGFULLY." (Ezekiel 22:29)
This is not an insignificant matter.
The Bible tells us that God sees it all :
"IF THOU SEEST THE OPPRESSION OF THE POOR, AND VIOLENT PERVERTING OF JUDGEMENT AND JUSTICE…MARVEL NOT AT THE MATTER: FOR HE THAT IS HIGHER THAN THE HIGHEST REGARDETH IT, AND THERE BE HIGHER THAN THEY." ( Ecclesiastes 5:8)
"He that is higher..." - that's God, folks. And according to Scripture, He's got a LONG memory!
HOMELESSNESS IN THE (CHRISTIAN) NEW TESTAMENT
Well, then, what about Christianity?
Where do Jesus and The New Testament of The Bible stand on the question of the poor and homeless?
Remember Dt.15:11 above? "The poor shall not cease out of the land…"? Note that Jesus quoted it to his followers :
"For ye have the poor always with you..." (MT.26:11)
Remember, Jesus was a Jew.
He taught in the synagogue, and the Jews who heard him teach called him "Rabbi". He taught from the Jewish Old Testament, nor did he deviate from its perceptions about God.
He said : "Think not that I am come to destroy The Law, or The Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Mt.5:17).
"The Law" and "The Prophets" are references to parts of the Jewish "Old Testament" of the Bible (from which the above quotations are taken). He was making clear that he was not teaching anything which contradicted what the Old Testament said, but rather that he was the embodiment of it and had come to fulfill its prophecies .
Jesus was 100% down the line with what God had said in the Old Testament about the oppression of poor and needy strangers and transients . As a matter of fact...
JESUS IS THE MOST FAMOUS HOMELESS PERSON IN HISTORY.
Jesus had no home throughout the time of his ministry. He used to call himself "The Son Of Man", and he is reported to have said : "…the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but THE SON OF MAN HATH NOT WHERE TO LAY HIS HEAD." (Mt.8:20)
That's right. Jesus was homeless. Just as homeless as that scruffy guy rolled up in a sleeping bag in the alley next to the pizza place on Main Street at the edge of Venice.
I guess if Jesus had walked the streets of Venice, the police - under pressure from the City Council - would have first told him that he couldn't sleep on the Boardwalk, but that he could sleep on 3rd. Street between 9PM and 6AM - then later they would have trumped up some bogus accusation (such as "defecating in the rosebushes") and run him off of 3rd. street.
Mark Ryavec would have submitted a blog to PATCH railing about how Jesus was a dangerous violent criminal and the residents of Venice weren't going to allow him to threaten their safety and serenity...and his hand-picked political agitators would have burned up Bill Rosendahl's phone lines demanding that he protect Venice homeowners from this dangerous derelict.
Eventually Rosendahl would have caved in to them, and leaned hard enough on the police that they would have impounded Jesus's cloak - and later they would have gambled among themselves to see who got to keep it.
He would have been busted along with a couple of other homeless malefactors (who may have actually been criminals) and probably all three would have been made into public examples - to discourage other homeless from being in Venice.
Well, you get the picture.
A DESPERATE SITUATION
OK, fun is fun, but there's really nothing funny about the plight of the unfortunate poor and homeless in L.A. (in general) and Venice Beach (in specific).
It's a harsh, harsh existence and there's precious little relief on the horizon for these folks. Very few available jobs - especially for someone without a shower or an address. Shelter beds and potential housing relief is available for MAYBE one out of five of them…the rest have no real way out for now.
Hounding them from one community to the other is no answer, neither is persecuting them or making them the object of hatred and fear among the housed community.
The Bible couldn't be any clearer on the subject.
It directs us to have compassion and mercy on them, to give to them, to help them get something to eat, a toilet to use, someplace to clean up, some area where they can lay down overnight without being molested by the police or victimized by violent criminals or zealous community-vigilante groups, maybe some clean clothes, maybe some medical help, some counciling - and above all, some dignity and respect.
They are already victims of an economy gone bad, the last thing they need now is to be victims of hatred, fear, scorn and persecution on the part of the community.
The Bible is equally clear about those who oppress, victimize and persecute the homeless and poor.
I, for one, wouldn't want to be around when the lightning starts landing in the vicinity of those who have made a practice of abusing the poor and homeless just for their own personal political and financial gain.
Thanks for taking the time to read and consider the ideas presented in this article. Here's the good news. You get to decide for yourself what YOU are going to do about it.
Personally, I think it's time to "stop hating and start helping".