I have found it necessary, occasionally, to write about the street ministries in our city. Some of the following letters have been published in one paper or another, while others have not. It might be informative to publish these letters here. But first, I will lay down a little foundation for them.

Recently (February 2013) I discovered an audio book on the LibriVox site, and because it was so excellent and so excellently read (by Ruth Golding), I listened to it carefully all the way through. That book is The History of London by Walter Besant, published in 1894. Walter Besant speaks, at the close of this fascinating history, against the sins of idleness and vagrancy. Because I hate these sins so much myself, and because few people beside myself seem to be concerned about them, I was encouraged to hear this man speaking my mind. The sin of vagrancy is long gone from modern conversation. And idleness is treated as a virtue nowadays. In more moral days in London, the practice of these sins could end in punishment, which is not a bad idea. What is a vagrant? A vagrant is a person who wanders idly about. Do you know who these people are in the city of Red Deer? They are easy to spot—they are very conspicuous—they are the wandering blots on our boulevards, the leaners upon walls, and the destroyers of public property. There they are outside the library bumming cigarettes. There they are outside the stores trying to ‘score’ a few bucks. There they are outside the soup kitchens because they’ve wasted their government checks on bad habits, some of which are criminal. Many of these vagrants are on social assistance and refuse to work in spite of their ability and this province’s innumerable opportunities. The sins of idleness and vagrancy are not tolerated in a just society. Our society is unjust, and so it tolerates, and even funds, idle wanderers who are up to no good. You should not like that if you are a taxpayer paying for the idle ways of these wandering, lazy vagrants. Here is what Walter Besant has to say about this social plague called vagrancy:

“No statutes, however, can put down the curse of vagrancy and idleness. It can only be suppressed by the will and resolution of the people themselves. If for a single fortnight we should refuse to give a single penny to beggars: if in every street we should all resolve upon having none but honest folks among us: then and only then, would the rogue find this island of Great Britain impossible to be longer inhabited by him and his tribe.”

Yea for Victorian England! This resolution I wholeheartedly advocate for the city of Red Deer. But even if every citizen were to refuse the monetary appeals of dishonest beggars, these vagrants would still be with us. They will be with us for as long as we continue to provide government checks for them to purchase their drugs with. We need to crack down on every addict, whether drinker or drug user, who is using his check to finance his idle habit. A person who is using his government check (which money comes from deductions made from your check) to buy drugs or drinks deserves to have his support revoked. Then he might appreciate, and be thankful for, the soup kitchens that he now blasphemes in. Then he might appreciate, and be thankful for, the kitchen staff that he now disrespects. Then he might appreciate, and be thankful for, the food that he now gulps down without thought and reflection. Then he might sober up, repent, and get a job!

But how do you know if a person who asks for money is a dishonest beggar? I would not want an honest person turned away who has a momentary need that he feels compelled to ask passersby to help him with. This lecture is not about that. These common vagrants who are cigarette smokers, drinkers, or drug addicts, and who want nothing to do but wander about at other peoples’ expense, they are easily identified through conversation with ‘normal’ people. Learn to identify them. The best way to help vagrants and idlers (who are usually drug addicts and drinkers) is to refuse to condone and support their sins and crimes. They might hurt in the short term when withdrawal symptoms come on. But this is for their good in the long term. Better to suffer a little now than to continue as an addict indefinitely. The life of an addict is short, unhappy, and ends in misery. To sober up and repent is better. Sobriety and responsibility cannot happen with these vagrants until our downtown societies become intolerant of vagrancy and its associate evils. 

Jesus did not ‘hang out’ with unrepentant sinners like certain pastors tell you and like certain street workers do. When sinners were within earshot, he told them to ‘repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand’ or he told them some parable with which to reprove their sins. ‘Go, and sin no more’ are the words he preached. He did not ask; he did not say ‘please’; he did not apologize; he preached with commanding authority. And this kind of preaching is precisely what our vagrants need to hear today. Go and get a job, a life, and a reason to live honorably, you addicted, vagrant beggars, and sin no more. This is Christ-centered preaching because it imitates Christ’s own words and spirit.

This idea that Jesus Christ was buddy-buddy with sinners comes not from the word of God. He was never with them in that spirit. Those who think that he was have received no illumination from God’s word about Jesus’ nature and the nature of his life. They are entirely ignorant of his ministry and the prophecies concerning it. Moreover, they must be entirely untouched by the Spirit of Truth. If you have this idea that the Son of God and Son of Man would be, if he were here physically, laughing it up in lighthearted conversation with obstinate punks and impenitent prostitutes, you simply have no Lord and Saviour for your soul as of yet; your Jesus, if you profess to have him, is not the Jesus of history and revelation. Any pastor who preaches Jesus as your buddy does not preach him as a person worthy to be worshipped or holy enough to save. Any pastor preaching a message like that must be a curse to the Church and a damnable soul; a blessing sent from God, this, he cannot be. Jesus may have been homeless; but he was always holy, and therefore never ‘part of the gang.’ The Prince of Peace was always the Prince of Purity and the Preacher of Holiness, never anyone less than that—never ‘the nice guy’ that it was fun to just ‘hang out’ with.

The letters about street ministries follow: 

March 2006

Dear Youth Pastors at Balmoral, Bethany Baptist, and First Baptist:

The letter below was intended for the Advocate. A friend of mine was concerned that it might discourage the youth. Another reminded me of the verse that warns against causing one of God’s little ones to stumble. And so I withheld it. I hope that the good I aimed to achieve will not be lost by my sending the letter just to you. Beware of spinning your wheels, brothers. Redeem the time by walking by the commands of Scripture. Help your youth to lay up treasures in heaven by the practice of God’s holy religion. Amen.

Re: Meet the Street Program.

Certain of our churches have just gathered their youth back from a 24 hour walkabout on the street. This Meet the Street program aimed to dredge up sympathy for the homeless by a 24 hour experience of pretended homelessness. Now, let me address each youth that took part in this event: You did well to go out as your church told you to, that you might be better acquainted with what it feels like to have no home. Do not be sad about what I have to say to your superiors. Even they need to be lectured from time to time.

To you superiors that hatched this program, or borrowed it. You are evangelicals, learned in the Scriptures, trying to live lives of useful piety. [I was embarrassingly generous in my assumptions in this place.] You want your church babes to be holy and fruitful too. Do you not use the Scriptures as your guide? Where in There do we see anybody being sent out by God or by Christ or by the Spirit or by the Apostles to pretend to be somebody he is not? Never mind your motives. I do not question your motives much. Where do you find the Lord sanctioning pretence? You do not. In the Scriptures we find men and women going about doing good, not being sent out for an experience.

Is it not a little true that this program tries to palliate the guilty feelings that one has for being fortunate in the face of another’s poverty? Is it perhaps done to quell your children’s troublesome questions about financial and spiritual disparity? Or are you trying to palliate your own selves vicariously through your children?

Regardless, if you will look away from your programs long enough to peek at the Bible, you will discover that reality, not pretence, is the norm for problem solving and blessing in There. If you must send your children out, at least come up with a biblical formula that will benefit these pampered youngsters and bless those whose lives are hard. If you were to rear up a responsible youth pastor, for instance, and send him out with his kids to read the Scriptures and godly books to the sick, to the dying, and to the lonely, then something substantial might be expected to take place in the lives of those involved. Why? Because that would approximate the true religion that James commands us to perform (James 1.27.) And obedience to God begets real fruit. The Holy Bible would have you know that you will get nowhere with programs packed with pretence. God desires servants, not actors.


June 3rd, 2010

Red Deer Advocate
Letters to the Editor
Re: The Financial Strain at Loaves and Fishes.

Dear Editor:

The recent article on the scramble for funds by Loaves and Fishes needs a postscript. It says there that “everyone from single mothers with children to men looking for work access the meal program.” This is correct. But who else accesses the meal program?

The fact that is continually ignored, for fear of being judged for bringing it up, is that there are people eating meals there who shouldn’t. There are lazy freeloaders who don’t cook and don’t buy food when they could do both. And there are drug addicts who eat there so they can use their government assistance money to buy drugs instead of food.

As long as these classes of people are catered to, the need for funds will continue to grow, and those who really need the service will get less than they require. I can already hear the response this letter will cause. ‘Mr. Gaboury, we should welcome everyone and judge no one.’ If that’s the attitude, expect conscientious people to put their money where discrimination is justly made according to need. To regularly feed a drug addict who uses his government check to buy drugs is the same as feeding him in order that he may buy those drugs. That’s the reality of logic. It’s just plain wrong to overlook the fact that drug addicts are being fed because they buy drugs with their government money instead of food. Everyone knows this is going on. It’s wrong. It helps to entrench the drug addicts in their addictions. And it’s time for the person in charge of the kitchen to put a stop to it. The problem can’t be easily fixed. But resolutions toward fixing it should begin at once. Maybe when the drug addicts are faced with a choice between food and drugs, they will be closer to kicking the habit than they now are.


June 11th, 2010

Red Deer Advocate
Letters to the Editor
Re: In my Defense.

Dear Editor:

In consideration for the Advocate, I usually do not answer letters that are written against my own. But I’d like to get a few words in to defend myself against LK’s angry response.

I communicated in my letter that it’s wrong to regularly feed people who are using their government checks to buy drugs instead of food. I never said, blanket-like, Stop feeding drug addicts. This headline was put in by the paper.

Furthermore, LK misquotes me. Nowhere did I refer to “freeloading drug addicts.” I mentioned lazy freeloaders and drug addicts separately. Emotional misrepresentation is the only way some writers can hope to convince readers of their opinion, I guess. 

I’ll quote responsibly. LK says, “I have love, compassion and kindness in my heart. What does Gaboury have?” Is it loving to let drug users go headlong into self-destruction by continually enabling them? Here’s what Gaboury has. I love drug users enough to welcome new measures that will compel them to use their money for food instead of drugs. This is loving, for it is better for a person to eat than to shoot up.


August 25th, 2010

Red Deer Advocate
Letters to the Editor
Re: The Weak Religion in ‘Street Tales.’

Dear Editor:

I think the public is given to understand that Potter’s Hands is a Christian service and that Chris Salomons, its kitchen coordinator, is a Christian. I am not wholeheartedly convinced.

Any gospel-believing Christian organization will tell you that helping needy people achieve a better life for themselves cannot be the ultimate end striven for in helping them because a merely moral life cannot gain anyone an entry into heaven. They need the gospel, not just help, because the Bible teaches that sinners (the ones not yet saved) stand condemned before God and will be judged by him unless the obedience and merits of Christ are credited to them through faith in his name. 

The religion of Chris Salomons in Street Tales falls way short of the gospel. I can show this from at least four of his articles. I’ll just paraphrase the last paragraph of the one from August 18th, The horrible burden of self-loathing. Don’t condemn street people, he says. They already condemn themselves. Let’s help them make some changes and then guilt will no longer keep them down.

I’m not for condemning anyone. But if sinners are on the road to damnation, as Romans 3 teaches, can it be wrong for a Christian to warn them of it by the use of words like ‘guilt’ and ‘condemnation’? After all, it is necessary to do this in order to preach the gospel of salvation from the punishment guilty sinners will get if they don’t repent.

All sinners, including street people and drug addicts, face imminent condemnation by God and will be kept down in hell by the guilt of sin forever unless they are redeemed and released by the salvation Jesus provides through faith. Do you not agree, Mr. Salomons? Aren’t you a gospel-believing Christian?


October 24th, 2012

Red Deer Advocate
Letters to the Editor
Re: The last ‘Street Tales’ article.

Dear Editor:

What is being accomplished by Potter’s Hands vis-à-vis the drug/prostitution problem downtown? Chris Salomons thinks it’s a great victory when a streetwalker condescends to talk to him about her tiresome occupation! Why such hollow victories reported by the author of ‘Street Tales?’ Does Potter’s Hands have a gospel of deliverance to go along with its deeds of help?

True, Mr. Salomons, you do not ‘pound’ your beliefs into people. But what is your alternative? “Just let her know that she was an OK person.” That was the message you had for the streetwalker you spoke of. This message will do little lasting good. Sinners need to be told they are not OK. That is a negative, offensive message. But it is the truth. And it is a message that may lead to repentance, which turn from sin is necessary to being delivered from sin and hell. I’m not talking about hell on earth (though prostitution must be hellish), but the hell of everlasting misery that is consequent to death.

Is Potter’s Hands a Christian ministry or not? Does the gospel of salvation from sin even exist over there? Saving sinners from hunger and loneliness is a good work. But it is not the gospel. Do not leave out the most important message: the death of Christ for sin, which saves the sinner from hell through a confidence in it. Streetwalkers don’t just “need a chance to talk” (the title of Mr. Salomons’ article.) They need to be told to repent.


December 13th 2012

Red Deer Express
Letters to the Editor
Re: The ‘Homeless Report.’

Dear Editor:

Mr. Weber recently commented on information already provided in the homeless report. Easy job. Homeless people include a certain percentage of women, immigrants, etc. We need some new information.

Mr. Weber is an investigative reporter, is he not? Some of us want the following statistics to be gathered. What percentage of homeless people are on drugs? What percentage of them are on alcohol? What percentage of them are on government support? What percentage of them use their government checks to support their addictions? What percentage of them are unthankful for the soup kitchens that provide free food for people who waste taxpayer dollars in this way? If these numbers were collected and then submitted to government authorities, then something might be done to stem these abuses that cost taxpayers so much hard-earned money.

One might begin by asking Mr. Salomons at Potter’s Hands for some of these important statistics. But will he even admit that street people are sinners, that some of them are criminals, and that system abuse should be curbed? The new building operated by that ministry, down in Fairview, is not that fair to look upon. Its filthy state is proof that people ‘reformed’ by Potter’s Hands are not reformed at all. If they were, Convent Park would not be filthy, but clean. The tenants are not reformed enough to clean the lobby? Maybe they are too busy being busybodies downtown! Maybe government workers should be hired to do it at more, yes, even more taxpayer expense!


The following letter is about the nature of poverty. Since this subject is intimately related to street ministries, I include it here. Many street people are on AISH, and are therefore far from being poor. I know people who work hard for a living but whose paychecks do not exceed what AISH recipients receive for doing nothing at all. If you are on AISH, don’t whine, be thankful, and make sure you don’t spend these generous taxpayer dollars you receive on sinful habits like cigarettes, booze, drugs, and taxi cabs. The grateful recipient will spend taxpayer dollars responsibly. 

December 3rd, 2011

The Calgary Herald
Letters to the Editor
Re: Poverty in Canada

Dear Editor:

On December 2nd, Lorna Crozier became guest host for a day on CBC radio’s ‘The Current.’ Her piece of journalism was called: ‘We are the 10%: Poverty in Canada.’ Lorna Crozier, an award-winning poet, means to include herself in that word ‘we.’ This is interesting, for she admits that for her, being poor as a kid means that you had food and shelter, but no piano, music, or books.

Most of the persons interviewed by her (in a hushed tone because of the travesty involved) admit that they did not consider themselves poor while growing up. In fact, they testify to having pleasant memories instead. Now, thanks to Lorna Crozier’s keen judgment, they think they were poor! Thanks for putting such a black mark on all those pleasant memories! Thanks for making satisfied persons into whiners!

Here are some samples of the poor people interviewed for this documentary. A man is poor, but smokes a pack a day of cigarettes. A mother is poor, but able to support her expensive drug habit. One woman considers herself poor because she has only $1200.00 left after all her bills are paid. Another woman considers herself poor because she can’t buy a house.

Of course the numbers of poor people are ‘staggering’ when we assess the matter like this. Lorna Crozier should study the potato famines of Ireland or follow the news of famine in Somalia. (Both subjects are covered by the CBC.) Then, with fresh knowledge of what poverty actually is, she could be on her way to changing her mind about how rampant poverty is in Canada. And hopefully, too, she will repent of dumping her pity-party on us about that piano she didn’t get as a kid. CBC is often the platform for preaching the increase of social funds, not just for the needy, but for the not-so needy as well. That’s what’s going on here.       

In the follow-up to this program, Anna Maria Tremonti and Lorna Crozier teamed up to take some calls from across the nation. One woman phoned because she could not afford skis and hockey equipment for her kids. Welcome to the real world, lady. Some privation will do your kids good. She had heard, to her dismay, the following proverb: ‘Don’t expect anything; nothing can disappoint you.’ This is not Scripture, but it’s a very good motto. She should memorize it and then put it into practice. Another woman phoned in to say that ‘poverty in Canada is like poverty everywhere else.’ Now there’s a proverb that should dismay all of us, because of its untruthfulness. Did the hosts correct her? No, they’re in the dark about what poverty is like elsewhere, I guess. They accept the statement as valid; they must believe that poverty in Canada is largely the same as what we see in Bombay, Haiti, and Somalia. They must suppose that there are just as many programs to help the poor in those places as there are in Canada! Speaking of middle-class persons or even lower-middle-class persons as poor is an insult to everyone who is poor for real!

There was a lot of talk about rights in this discussion on poverty, very little on duties. A blind man, for instance, called in to whine that his check was being handled by the people he lived with. Yes, but he was sleeping with the daughter of the house! You lose some rights, man, when you shirk your duty to be an upstanding, dignified citizen! What you reap by your sin is loss. That’s the way it goes. Maybe the most pathetic element of this propagandist program on poverty is the tone the hosts used during the discussion: the hesitant, I-don’t-want-to hurt-you whisper, the sympathetic I-feel-your-pain outreach. I took in this propagandist effort in toto; I can, with confidence, conclude, that none of the people who phoned in is truly poor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi mark, I have read some of your letters. They do address the real problems that are in our culture, as well in the churches.
From Patrick.