July 1996 – “Church may force out squatter” read the headline datelined Akron, Ohio, recently. I know you’re wondering what a “squatter” is. I’ll explain in a minute.
As I understand Christianity from reading the Bible, it is an active faith. Jesus told his followers to go and spread his message to the ends of the Earth. He told them to be salt and light in the culture and environment in which they lived. Faith without works is dead says the book of James. We could go on and on.
The above is why I have a hard time understanding separatist movements. I can understand separating oneself “from the world” for a season perhaps, but not a lifetime. How can you influence the world around you if you never mix around in it a little?
Jim Dunn said he was doing “God’s will.” Jim’s the above mentioned squatter in Akron. Allow me to quote from the Associated Press:
“Jim Dunn believes God told him to go live outside First Congregational Church, so he took and set up a makeshift tent on the front yard.
“That was 13 months ago. At first he was welcome, but his lengthy stay and the arrival of a few rats have made church members reconsider their generosity.
“Asking God for guidance, they will vote at their annual meeting today (May 19) on whether to oust him from church property.
“Dunn has spent his days sitting on an overturned bucket under a tree outside the church since April 1995, when Springfield Baptist Church asked him to leave its property. His only companion is a 9-year-old collie, Kay, who ignores the occasional 6-inch rat scurrying nearby.
“‘I’m not living my will, I’m living God’s will,’” said Dunn, 53.
“He has no visible means of support and won’t divulge his past. The Akron Beacon Journal quoted relatives as saying the family was aware of his living conditions but would not discuss his background.
“ ‘People have tried to help him,’ a sister told the newspaper. ‘This is his choice.’”
The article went on, “He was never a member of First Congregational and doesn’t attend its services. He was, however, a member for several years of Springfield Baptist.
“He won’t go to a shelter two blocks away from First Congregational. He doesn’t shower, but uses rest rooms in nearby service stations….”
Now you know what a squatter is. Even Mr. Bojangles sang and danced, Jim. You just sit.
But you know, the only real difference between Jim and many folks who sit in the church pews Sunday after Sunday is that most people bathe, hold a job, and sit inside the church building. Other than that, a lot of folks are just like the very misguided (and I’m being kind here) Jim Dunn. We’re “just go through the Sunday morning motions” Christians.
But Jesus calls us to be something quite the opposite. He’s called us to be about his father’s business using the gifts and talents he’s blessed us with. Read the parable of the talents. He’s called us to spread his message and stand for righteousness. That can be difficult to do nowadays.
I’m going to make a judgmental statement here. And I know this is risky in this day and age of political correctness. But my man Jim is no more doing the will of God by sitting around all day every day on a bucket than is the man in the moon. In fact, the man in the moon – if there is one – is probably more nearly doing the will of God than Jim.
Well, the church did vote to evict Jim from its property. Jim wound up in prison because he went back to the property after being forced to leave. Pity the police officer who had to make the arrest.
I liked church member Arthur Wallach’s answer for Jim. Wallach told Jim (with a bull horn, I suppose) he should follow the itinerant preaching style of Jesus: “It’s time for him to travel and take the Gospel message somewhere else.”
The same can be said for many of us sit on a pew inside the church.