I was so pleased to get another email from the Wisconsin Council of Churches (WCC) last week. I actually only get their emails so that I can be constantly reminded of what a bunch of elitist, racist, classist bunch of hypocrites they are. Why do I say that? I say that because their conferences are always priced way beyond the means of any but the mid to upper socioeconomic classes. That way they can keep those pesky people of color and those pesky urban ministries from showing up at their events – after all, they are SO untidy. “Those people” might remind the WCC that they are living a delusion when they say they are an interfaith body – because interfaith implies that ALL faith communities and churches are potentially working together. When weekend conferences run in the range of $350-$650 and up, it isn’t too hard to figure out whom they are not interested in hearing from. Add to that the reality that they tend to hold their conferences at least an hour away from Milwaukee (the largest urban area in Wisconsin) and the picture gets completed rather quickly.
This time they have outdone themselves. Last week I received an invitation that read, in part”
“You’re invited to a very unique conference later this summer: The Earth Speaks: Hunger, Our Spiritual Challenge, to be held at the Conference Point Center August 16th-17th.With the deteriorating economic situation, food pantries throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest are reporting a dramatic growth in need for emergency food, particularly at the end of each month. And this growth is not just due to the dire economic circumstances facing low income families, but also to the rising number in the middle class who are losing their jobs.
“This August the interfaith community will gather at Conference Point Center, on the shores of Lake Geneva, to take a close look at the conditions which are causing hunger, both locally and abroad….
“We’ll have workshops looking at the religious community’s response to hunger, and we’ll have an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be done back home to address the systemic issues which are contributing to food insecurity. “
For those of you who don’t know, Lake Geneva is a beautiful lake and resort city located about an hour southwest of Milwaukee and about the same distance northwest of the Chicago metro area. It is where the “beautiful people” go to vacation. I absolutely love to visit Lake Geneva. It is beautiful, it has many charming shops and restaurants, and it is a very nice get away. It is also very expensive. If you are choosing to spend your money there on a vacation I have no problem with that – in fact, I encourage it.
I must ask – what in the world is the WCC thinking? What kind of an abject idiot plans a meeting about hunger and poverty in the lap of luxury? I will grant you that this is one of their more affordable conferences at $130 (for Sunday evening through Monday morning), but it is still in a place that is hard for less wealthy pastors and parishes to get to and is about as white as a freshly bleached bed sheet. God forbid the clergy of Wisconsin should get their hands dirty by holding a conference about hunger in an affordable place in an urban area where it might include representatives from food pantries that are struggling in the face of decreased supply and increased demand. No, no, no – they would much rather have talking heads from the national offices of food programs. That’s much more edifying than having someone who just might be working with folks in the towns they serve. Oh, I forgot – nobody who goes to these things really works with the hungry in any significant way anyway.
I am so silly. I forgot that the real purpose of this is to comfort the complacent and delude them into thinking that attending a conference makes an impact – silly me! They even invited a Rabbi and a Muslim woman! How broad minded! Now they can feel so very enlightened without ever having to endure any African American, Hispanic, or poor folk. How special!
In truth, this is representative of everything that is wrong with the Institutional Church – and every reason to return to Primitive Christianity. Those who support this kind of out of touch, self deluded, feel good nonsense are an example of the worst in middle class pseudo-Christianity and are largely responsible for the very accurate perception that the Institutional Church is irrelevant and effete. Even worse is that criticisms such as this fall on deaf ears and tend to be written off as the product of a lack of intellectual acumen or ignorance. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Needless to say, I haven’t received a response from the WCC to my email expressing my concern over this conference. I sent it after I received my invitation to Lake Geneva. The WCC needs to take note what when you bury your head in the sand you lose the right to complain when someone kicks you in the behind. I suppose they are safe from that, though, because they are mostly ignored by anyone actually serving the people they cogitate about. They will keep on fiddling while Rome burns and feel very good about themselves, a prime example of mental auto-eroticism.