A Different World

Myrtle Beach Christians feel law stands in way of mandate to help homeless. Where’s the outrage?

Tony Sylvester Gamble came up to Myrtle Beach from Salters in Williamsburg County. Growing up picking cotton and tobacco, he said he doesn't have skills that translate into most of the work force. Here since 2014, Gamble worked in seasonal jobs making minimum wage and was never able to save enough money to take him through the off season. "You use all your money paying for that hotel room rent and food and living. You don't have no money to save. I ain't stupid. I knew the season job would end and then what? I'd be out of that hotel room and out here on the street. I'm stuck. There's a lot of us stuck here," he said. Gamble and about 30 others are at Sun Coast Christian Church Emergency Shelter in Myrtle Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. They were given a warm meal and a place to sleep inside the church as the temperatures outside drop. But the emergency shelter was discontinued because of fire and building code concerns. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan / jblackmon@thesunnews.com
Tony Sylvester Gamble came up to Myrtle Beach from Salters in Williamsburg County. Growing up picking cotton and tobacco, he said he doesn't have skills that translate into most of the work force. Here since 2014, Gamble worked in seasonal jobs making minimum wage and was never able to save enough money to take him through the off season. "You use all your money paying for that hotel room rent and food and living. You don't have no money to save. I ain't stupid. I knew the season job would end and then what? I'd be out of that hotel room and out here on the street. I'm stuck. There's a lot of us stuck here," he said. Gamble and about 30 others are at Sun Coast Christian Church Emergency Shelter in Myrtle Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. They were given a warm meal and a place to sleep inside the church as the temperatures outside drop. But the emergency shelter was discontinued because of fire and building code concerns. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan / jblackmon@thesunnews.com JANET BLACKMON MORGAN JBLACKMON@THESUNNEWS.COM

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Some of the things I’ve heard Christians get passionate about in recent years:

- Gay marriage is becoming so mainstream pastors fear they might not be allowed to preach about its ‘sinfulness” from the pulpit.

- Some pastors fear they maybe forced to perform same-sex weddings in their churches.

- Christian pharmacists fear they will be forced to sell over-the-counter contraception pills they believe violate their religious beliefs against abortion.

- Corporations sued the government (and won) to avoid a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that required health insurance policies to provide certain types of contraception the Christian companies said violate their religious beliefs.

- The Catholic Church was up at arms when it was forced to begin treating same-sex couples and gay people more equally in its dealing with adoption services.

- A Christian pizza maker, wedding photographer, small mechanic, among others, declared their religious freedom to treat gay people differently than straight people, and many Christians came to their aid, including raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them express that right.

The passionate reaction to each of those situations was built upon the notion that if you are led by God to do a thing, the state should not be able to stop you, or compel you to do something you don’t want to do.

But that passion, that outrage, from Christians didn’t extend to more progressive Christians in North Carolina who felt the need to challenge a state law that prohibited progressive congregations from performing same-sex marriages inside their own churches. Yes, the state passed a law directly interfering with what goes on inside of churches in North Carolina - and it registered a collective yawn from those who scream about things such as a “War on Christmas.”

In the Myrtle Beach area, a small group of Christian homeless advocates has been fighting for years to live out their faith the way they see fit, to help the homeless with their brand of compassion and concern. That has included providing free meals in parks, hotel rooms on extreme weather days, as well as an attempt to establish a temporary shelter in a church.

At every turn, they have felt stymied. The city believes its approach in dealing with the homeless population is the more sensible and effective one.

Related: Religion, law clash in effort to aid homeless

Related: Some homeless in Myrtle Beach prefer streets to Street Reach

But I’ll leave that debate aside for now.

My question is a simple one:

Why do self-identified Christians get angry when a law or regulation or societal change seems to threaten their right to be able to tell gay people how sinful they are, but they don’t get nearly as upset when a law or regulation or societal change gets directly in the way of a Christian’s call to help the needy in the way they see fit?

Why is there more passion to be able to maintain the right to deny service to gay people, in the name of God, than to be able to maintain the right to serve the needy?

A group of Myrtle Beach area Christians wanted to literally provide homeless people shelter from the storm in their church, believing that’s what Jesus called them to do, but were turned back by the law. I get why the city has reservations about such an arrangement.

But why aren’t other Christians questioning the law’s ability to stop Christians from helping people?

Is it really more “Christian” to be able to maintain the right to treat gay people like second-class citizens than to help those in need?

From a reader responding to the homeless stories we published this weekend:

I couldn’t agree with you more. When are we going to find a way to help these homeless without somebody finding a law that it is breaking?

Those of us that are Christian had better go back and think about what we were taught about how Jesus treated people. It seems we should be bonding together to find a way to help them all.

I was raised so that the police were here to help us not always use the law to hurt us. Sounds like we must have somebody behind this that doesn’t want these people helped by a religious organization, because I know for a fact that the mayor is a good, Christian man. However, no matter what your religious feelings are, something needs to be done.

I also would like to know what is being done in North Myrtle. I know they are fed one day a week at the Methodist Church. Is there a shelter?

Or maybe those who are more adamant about denying gay people service are closer to God’s heart:

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