In the book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress experimental psychologist Steve Pinker explains that using the tools of the Enlightenment humanity is seeing measurable progress. He argues that, while there are risks to be aware of, there is reason for optimism in a world that seems to be bombarded with bad news. The book is quite encouraging and helpful if you are the type of person that gets overwhelmed with the plethora of sources of trauma and tragedy in the world today. I have no doubt that his analysis of the numbers is correct, so I do not have a large dispute with what he is writing. On a grand scale humanity is seeing progress. From above it is easy to lose out on the details and subtracting the details of struggle in the world can make it look like a terrific place.
Makayla is in her early forties and for the majority of the past two and a half decades she has struggled with drug addiction. She has been in and out of rehab several times and done several stints in county jail for both drug offenses and prostitution, which is a way she would sometimes earn money for drugs. By her early thirties she had given birth to three children and all of them had been removed from her by the state. Makayla wanted to be a good mother, but her addiction would always get the best of her. As hard as she tries a lack of community, addiction, and a criminal record make it difficult for her to hold down a steady job, which makes it hard for her to succeed. The world getting better on a grand scale does not seem to be helping her.
The macro scale of Pinker’s book is an interesting look at the world, but it does not negate the very real challenges so many on the micro scale are working against. Those people who are struggling need a protective covering and a place of refuge so that they might get their footing and be able to take part in the optimism Pinker describes in his book. This is a place of great opportunity for people of faith to live that faith out. Part of the practice of hospitality is the provision of refuge, making space for those who struggle that they might find a respite from their struggles, while also helping them to find a way to overcome those them.
For people like Makayla hospitality looks like a community that will check up on her and be there for her when she is feeling the need for another high. It looks like work training, help interviewing (and perhaps finding appropriate clothing for interviewing), child care, and possibly even a first job to get her over the hump of the things holding her back. Hospitality in the church needs to look like more than a greeter at the door on Sunday morning. It should look like an open door the rest of the week welcoming those who are struggling. If we who are the church can find a way to work together we can help those who struggle find a place in a world that is, on the grand scale, getting better.
Makayla is my oldest son’s biological mother. As much as I would not give up being his father for all the money in the world, both he and Makayla should have been able to stay together. If the church is able to open its doors and support those who are struggling, maybe fewer families will have to be separated and hopefully find a place in this improving world.