Saturday, August 18, 2012

Which Came First?

Everyone here at the Mission has been slightly stunned by the reality of the gradual winnowing of guests and their ejection, starting with long-term residents who've been here years.   Most guests who've been given walking papers have rejected the option to remain on for a limited time as an unpaid "Disciple of Christ," perfoming menial chores for bed and meals.  The principle reason for rejecting this offer is one I can understand:  the religious devotion, rituals, chores, and Bible classes required are drooling and dunderheaded beyond belief, the worst kind of primitive religiosity crossed with lots of New Age uplift guff and prison-speak.

I spoke with Lee, a man who's been living at the Mission for five years, why he was choosing the uncertainty of the street over discipleship.  "I don't want anyone telling me how to worship, and I'm too old to be on my knees scrubbing shit.   My feet hurt.   Ain't doing no stupid-ass disciple program.  Lots of people here ain't even religious.  I'll sleep outside or get into the Village."

The Village is a small collection tool-shed sized structures across the street associated with the Poverillo House with no electricity or plumbing.  Painted soft pastel colors (from a distance the Village always makes me think of Disneyland) each tiny shelter has two shelves inside to bunk a pair men.  The waiting list for the Village is long and uncertain.  Beyond that option you can risk getting rolled or raped or arrested in parks and doorways.    That's about it.

I overheard a Native American homeless man and parolee discuss his fate with a companion while standing in line waiting admission to chapel:

"I already told my fucking P.O. [parole officer] I'll go back to prison before I do that Christian shit.   I'm an Indian, Lakota Sioux, we don't believe that shit.  The mission's supposed to be for everyone!"

"You got that right."

"These fake preachers--they're in it for the money.  When we sweat in the lodge that's the real spirit!  This place is drying up because nobody wants to donate anymore, that's why they're broke.  The Christian bullshit prison program gets state funds, tax-payer dollars, man,  the rest is donations and nobody's donating, that's why the food is such garbage.  Shit, Jesus ain't gonna help nobody!  We need somebody with real power like Superman!"

"Superman?  What's that shit all about?  You're an indian.  I thought you prayed to the Great Spirit or something."

"I don't pray, you don't understand.  I just like Superman."

"Well, you know, you can see Christian symbolism in the Superman story."

"What the fuck?"

"You know, boy comes to earth, has powers, saves people, his father gives his only son to us . . ."

"That's bullshit!  That's backwards!  The Christians got all that from Superman!  They stole it! Just like everything else!"

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