Monday, June 3, 2013

The Poster Project: A Reflection on the Response to It

This isn't really another posting about the "He Ate with Outcasts" poster project re: which I've blogged a number of times previously. It's a reflection on the response to those postings. I'm fascinated--and, I'll say frankly, moved--by the number of interesting stories that have come my way from that response.

Among those who have requested copies of the poster:

∙A member of a gay-inclusive Catholic parish in San Francisco whose parish sponsors a weekly soup kitchen for homeless men; those working in this ministry want to frame the poster and hang it in the social hall in which the weekly suppers take place.

∙Someone who works at a soup kitchen sponsored by a Catholic group in Philadelphia, and who wants a copy to hang in the dining room of this soup kitchen.

∙A member of an inclusive Catholic eucharistic community in Milwaukee whose pastors are a woman priest and a married man, who wants the poster for display before Sunday liturgies at the Methodist church which gives hospitality to this community.

∙Lay Catholics committed to making their home parishes more welcoming and inclusive communities, from all over the place, as well as people like me, who no longer find a space within the Catholic church that appears to want us and our spirituality.

I say I'm moved by the response, and here's what I mean by that statement: the response to the poster project affirms for me all over again that there's a remarkable spiritual hunger throughout many Catholic parishes today, as well as among those of us alienated from traditional Catholic parish life as it happens to be lived within our particular communities. That hunger focuses on the gospels's clear and overweening affirmation that Jesus sat down and ate with outcasts.

It focuses on the gospels' clear, overweening, and central affirmation that Jesus invited himself to sit down and eat with outcasts. That he did so by preference. That he so loved to sit and eat and drink with the outcasts of his society that he got a name for himself as that man who drinks too much and sits at the tables of the dirty and dispossessed.

A reader of this blog left a comment here in the last week or so to inform me that, while Jesus may well have eaten with outcasts, he chose to do so in order to inform those at table with him that they had to repent, mend their lives, and get on the straight and narrow path to salvation. Being a Christian is hard, this reader reminded me. It's hard because God's love is tough and demanding love, which expects you sinners to toe the line.

My response to this reader's comments: Some good news you find in your gospels! If the gospels are all about good news, they're about the good news that God's love is unrestricted, and that it flows freely and by surprising divine choice to those at the bottom of society, to the excluded, unwanted, and demeaned.

Jesus ate with outcasts in order to demonstrate to the excluded, unwanted, and demeaned that they are included, wanted, and valued by God, if not by their own social and religious communities. Jesus ate with outcasts in order to make himself one with them--to eat and drink with them--not to preach to them and to use meals as a kind of bait to force people to conversion. The eating and drinking and becoming one with those on the margins of society was the preaching.

It was the proclamation of a message about how God's love is totally unrestricted, and about how it flows freely and by divine choice to those on the margins of society. It was the proclamation of a message that's about the good news that is at the very heart of the gospel--about the good news of a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light, of bruised reeds that will not be broken by the redeemer, and smoldering wicks that will not be quenched by those insistent on condemning, on heaping burdens on the backs of already burdened human beings, on drawing lines between the righteous and washed and the unrighteous and the unwashed.

I'm moved by the many ways in which this gospel message seems to resonate in the lives of many different kinds of people of faith today, as well as among many of us who can no longer find a foothold in faith communities. I'm moved to be connected to many different kinds of people whose outlook is shaped by the same gospel message that challenges me to see the world in entirely new terms. And I'm honored to find people working in direct ministry to the least among us among the readers of this blog, just as I'm honored to find people who are part of inclusive and welcoming Catholic communities reading and supporting the blog.

For anyone entirely new to the discussion of the poster project: when I posted an image of the painting "He Ate with Outcasts" here some weeks back, several readers asked if it might be possible to have poster copies of the painting made. My spouse Steve took the poster to a printer and found that the printer could, indeed, reproduce the painting in digital form, and that the least expensive copy he could make would be a copy 18" x 24", which would cost $25.00.

We have estimated a cost of about $5.00 for mailing expenses, and so we're telling anyone who writes in to request a copy that it will cost $30.00. My goal is not to make a profit of any sort, but to make copies of the painting available at a reasonable cost for anyone who wants them. If the mailing costs don't total $5.00 in every case, I am intending to save the surplus amounts from various mailings, gather it together, and then donate it to some worthy cause.

Meanwhile, a reader of this blog, Chris Morley, pointed out that the artist who painted "He Ate with Outcasts," Margaret Puckette, may own the copyright, and so I contacted Margaret to check on that. She graciously allowed me to proceed with the poster project, and told me she would gladly send a letter of permission for this.

As I mentioned to you all yesterday, I'm away from home for a few days. By the time we left home, the letter of permission hadn't yet arrived, though it may well have done so since we traveled last Thursday. If it has arrived when we return home a week from today, I'll place it on file with the printer and will begin mailing copies of the poster to those who have already emailed me to request a copy. 

If anyone else wants copies, I'll gladly keep having them made. You may email me about this at wdlindsy @

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