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Non-Believer Puts Anglican Priest to Shame

Non-Believer Puts Anglican Priest to Shame

Two friends, Reverend Canon Dr. Harold Munn and a "non-believer", watched a group of hungry homeless people in their city, discussing their plight of no food on the weekends.

From Friday night to Monday morning, a number of agencies, which provide food for the destitute, are closed. Those that do feed the homeless require that they reside in their shelter. If you are not a resident, then you do not get to eat on the weekends.

The non-believer, upset by what she saw and heard, was crying in the parking lot.

“How can this be? How can there be no food on weekends?”

The priest admitted that he was concerned too, but he believed nothing could be done about it. The people could starve on the weekends, because no one would help them, as far as he knew.

Nothing fails like prayer, but human compassion and determination works more often than not. His non-believing friend was off on a mission to make sure all homeless people in the city received food on the weekend.

Fr. Munn believes he could learn from his non-theist friend.

She has no religious practice. Once or twice she has spoken about coming to my church but never has. Her commitment to feed people who have no food far surpasses mine. I stand there in the dark, in silence, and learn from her. I, who every weekend feed my congregation with the bread and wine of Jesus’ inclusive justice. She puts me to shame. She’s far more Jesus than I am. I could see her throwing over the tables of the money-changers.

The non-believer took off during the following weeks, initiating meetings, surveying the food each organization received, and its distribution. Now food is available on weekends to all homeless people in their city and he did not believe she could do it.

I must agree with Fr. Munn, even though I am a humanist. It seems to me, atheists/freethinkers/humanists/non-theists, are more like what many Christian ministers preach for their flock to be than not. Most of us are the exact opposite of the stereotype many Christians attempt to cast us as being.

However, according to Fr. Munn, there is a problem. There is?

It isn’t that she’s more outraged than I am, or that she’s a better organizer than I am. Neither of those would be hard to do better than I do.

The problem is how the church is going to respond to being surpassed by the miraculous action of God in the secular world. It’s not just that it undermines our pride in thinking we are the loving ones who set the example. It’s not just that secular agencies have more staff or funding than any parish.

It’s that God uses people of no faith instead of us.

What?  Sometimes even the more liberal ministers make no sense and leave us with our chins dropped.

He also added that there is a long-standing tradition that God uses unbelievers to get things done. I had no idea such a tradition existed.

Humm… I wonder if it is because we do not get on our knees and beg, but rather take action ourselves to solve the problem? Is it possible the Humanist Manifesto II is correct?

[W]e can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.

Then there is the Humanist Manifesto III:

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life's fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature's resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Seems to me the “non-believer” was doing what comes naturally to us and showed her compassion for others by taking action to help them, despite the fact others might think she would not succeed. Her empathy drove her to take action and she was determined to succeed, which she did.

In the end, Fr. Munn and his church invited secular leaders to a special service to honour their work. The secular leaders attended and were grateful.

How should the church respond to being bypassed by God like this? We could find an excuse to invite secular leaders to a special service where we honour their work.

We did. And they were deeply grateful. And we were deeply moved. And we were all fed. And there were tears of joy at the inclusion of everyone.

I would honestly prefer to see more of churches, despite not making sense, welcoming secular leaders, whether they are humanist celebrants, atheist chaplains, or just common every day people, with no religious beliefs, who take action to help others, instead of constantly criticizing non-theists. I would rather see a believer doubt our abilities to help others, rather than criticize us for “having little faith” and not praying to solve things.

In the end, while Fr. Munn is a compassionate man, taking action goes farther than prayer and as the FFRF often says, “Nothing fails like prayer”. In this case, praying would solve nothing. Only other humans can solve issues as these.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • The problem is how the church is going to respond to being surpassed by the miraculous action of God in the secular world.

    Okay, enlighten me.


    • 😆 Like I said, even Anglican priests can cause one shock and awe by what they say. I can't even picture that one in my head. I couldn't even paraphrase that section, thus the "What?" after it. It's one of those, do what to who, how and where? moments even though I read it several times now.

  • God helps those who helps themselves. People who believe only in prayers instead of putting efforts to turn the things in their favor get nothing. Miracle never happens we need to bring them in our life with our efforts.

    • Totally agrre with you. You can't help who don't want help.

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