My friend and I started a feeding the homeless endeavour during Lent this year which has been carried out twice now, with much success. The success however, has been on the material side, that is the amount of food that has been distributed has been substantial. However, the student participation is the actual distribution run has been somewhat lacking and for an Orthodox Seminary this raises a few concerns. As usual, my friend Ray expresses these concerns most eloquently on his own blog and I therefore post the following excerpt, allowing him to say it far better than I could ever do. Enjoy!
Triumph of the academy
By: Ray Fulmer
Overall I'm usually nice about the fact that a seminary arrangement is more than a little bit silly in some ways. I mean come now, look at it - Here we are in a vocational school for a profession that's based on unseen faith which has as a pre-requisite that things are not always as they appear. Our solution: Study it.Now don't get me wrong, education is great. Education has always been an integral part of the clerical caste, and this has always included an intellectual element. Still, today there was an interesting contest of priorities.We have a student-run project, started by Theo and yours truly, which essentially goes like this: We collect money from the students, order several hundred mini-burgers from White Castle, buy some little brown sacks, economy-sized chips, and various flavors of sodas, sack it all up 4 burgers/a chips bag/and a coke apiece, and hand them out to as many people at the Emergency Assitance Unit for homeless families as we can. Cool huh?Now I don't want to downplay student contribution; the seminarians were very very generous and the effort would have been completely fruitless without them. Still, of probably 20 people I asked to come along with us to do the manpower side of the job...well lets just say that at the last minute I ended up with 2 (both of which were one of the four who went last time). Everyone else had papers to write and books to read for finals.Am I misreading priorities? I haven't always had the greatest ability to gauge priorities, but it seems to me like "I'll help give treats to the homeless once I've got my paper done a full day early" isn't exactly the dead-to-self WWJD kind of answer the gospel seems to call us to.Somehow the whole mindframe behind that kind of answer seems to say a lot about how we're taught to prioritize. Sure, be a Christian and do goody-two-shoes things if you get the chance, but what's REALLY important.... make sure to keep up-to-date on your studies. Don't want those grades to slip while you're out there trying to live the gospel! I mean really, let us not overstate the point, don't make yourself stay up that extra couple of hours and break your mode of concentration just to bag a few burgers!The whole thing in some way seems to represent the triumph of the intellectual-first nature of our religion. I should be the one to gripe I know, but it does.Another thing that seems really... telling. I notice that it isn't the raging social justice libs that get out there. Now of course they applaud the effort from the sidelines. Hell, they're even willing to work the desk job that makes your endeavor possible, but when it comes time for the soles to meet the pavement it's always the worker bees who end up doing everything. Someday we're going to learn how to properly respect and validate the effort of our worker bees. Being only a mild one myself I'm from a family of sterling examples, and don't let anyone tell you differently - they're the ones who keep our boat afloat. Everyone else either doesn't care or, like my Amnesty and social-justice Christian friends, feel it's their job to "raise awareness" about this or that situation. Now of course they end up mostly "raising awareness" to other "aware" people, who are themselves busy "raising awareness", all the while the awareness raisers are just praying that they can lure the intistinguishable swarm to come do the real sweat and blood work of fixing the problem at hand.Again, I don't mean to toot my own horn, or even say that I'm right. Lord knows that without him I wouldn't help a soul, and especially I wouldn't be able to tolerate it after my first endeavor (I haven't ever helped any kind of poor run where the people we were helping didn't contain at least a few ridiculously ungrateful souls). On the other hand, I wonder what the Lord would convict us of if we asked him in prayer? For me everything seems to go a little more spiritually smoothly when I do my part, both financially and physically. So really this is a bit self-rewarding for me, thus I'm not a good example. Nothing makes me happier than making someone else happier in the way the Lord would be happy about. Let happiness flow! Now of course, if I were to pray "lord, sleep in or go to matins?" I think I wouldn't like the consistent answer I received, so I'm certainly not meaning to judge, but rather I guess I'm just seeing that in the end we've all got self-centered priorities. God help us.