Challenging the edifice that produces beggars

The Rt. Rev. Charles Jenkins, bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, writes about life after Katrina and the continuing needs in Episcopal Life Online on the fourth anniversary of the hurricane:

The generosity of our nation and the world in response to our time of having been brought so low is gratefully acknowledged.

Like the Good Samaritan who left silver with the innkeeper to care for the man robbed and beaten on the Jericho Road, we in Louisiana have known the mercy of others in our time of need. Some would say, the season for such generosity has passed. Indeed, many of us are well on the way to recovery and that which yet needs be healed will be done by God, perhaps through the hands of doctors and nurses. Indeed, I find in my own soul a wound so deep that healing seems possible only by grace.

However, not all are where I am on the road to recovery. Demonstrated so plainly time and time again is the indisputable fact that the “least of these” are not able to stand without assistance. Surely assistance is available for many but the process to that assistance remains a moving target. Deadlines are arbitrarily set to meet the needs of bureaucracy rather than the needs of our fellow citizens whose lives remain in the roadside gutter.


The words of Martin Luther King must ring loudly in our ears. “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies,” he told an audience at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967. “On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

We have engaged in a direct and intentional manner the work of challenging the edifice that produces beggars. I believe Dr. King to be correct when he calls this “true compassion.” Faith communities and people of good will are the standard bearers in this challenge. This challenge has been and continues to be lived out in New Orleans where the façade of American progress has been washed away. Many would be happy if we could again apply the “make-up” to the wound that affects us all, but such will not be the case. This wound is evident around our nation, but in New Orleans it has been exposed as the flood washed away the veneer.

Read his entire reflection here.

More on the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans on Talk of the Nation

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  1. Bishop Jenkins made similar remarks at our convention in Southern Ohio. He has truly found his voice as an apostle of Jesus Christ since the storm. I am grateful for this witness and for the reminder about Dr. King.

  2. Ormonde Plater

    Bishop Jenkins is truly righteous, a voice for social justice in south Louisiana. We will miss him when he retires at the end of the year.

  3. Ann, thanks for calling my attention to these powerful and eloquent words from Bp. Jenkins. I missed them until now.

    June Butler

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