During one episode in John Bunyan's classic, Pilgrim's Progress, Christian seems to be hopelessly mired in a "Slough of Despond.” No amount of effort seems sufficient to redeem him from such a perilous plight, so Christian resigns himself to a sad, sedentary demise. Suddenly, though, out of nowhere, a fellow pilgrim named Help comes to the rescue. With a single reach of the hand and a hearty tug, Help pulls Christian out of the slough and onto safe ground once again. In short order, both pilgrims are off and on their way, their destination now one trial closer than before.
If for no other reason than for clarity's sake, it is a good thing Bunyan set this scene in the early seventeenth century. Had he written it in contemporary America, the scenario would have to have been substantially more complex. Help would not have been able to just walk right up to the edge of the slough and yank Christian out. Oh, my, no!
Instead, Help would probably have been required to submit an environmental impact statement on pilgrim removal. In triplicate, of course. Upon receipt of Environmental Protection Agency approval, Help then would have been required to conduct a sectional opinion survey or, perhaps, call for a community-wide referendum, thus securing permission from the citizenry to undertake such a bold course of action. He would have had to gain approval from local, state, and federal FEMA officials, received disaster management instruction and certification from the Red Cross, and have undergone special psychological counseling and gender-specific sensitivity training. Next, he would have had to retain a lawyer, to protect him from criminal and/or civil liabilities; a press secretary, to schedule all future media appearances; and a literary agent, to find the best market for this “life story,” tentatively entitled Slough, Great Thou Art.
Finally, since he was a devout man, he would have had to return to his prayer closet in order to ascertain rightfully “God’s will” in the matter.
Meanwhile, of course, Christian would have expired in the slough, thus writing a premature and an entirely unsatisfactory ending to the tale.
Somehow we have complicated even the simplest of human transactions. Deals are no longer sealed with a handshake. They are dependent upon clause after clause of legalese. Marriages are no longer bound by vows. They are consummated by bilateral prenuptial property contracts. Helping is no longer a matter of neighborly concern. It is stipulated, conditioned, and administered by legislation and litigation. Humanism's grand scheme has backfired and, as a result, our society is less human than ever before.
All the finger-pointing, political-posturing, and blame-shifting we’re now seeing in the aftermath of Katrina is a stark reminder of that. On the other hand, the remarkable mobilization of churches all across America to help those who have suffered great loss begin to dig out, rebuild, and recover, is a beautiful study in contrast.
Biblical charity acts as an immutable humanizing force in the midst of such modern inhumanity. Biblical charity reaches across all barriers and defies all odds to rescue, without any delay, those caught in the sloughs of despond and deprivation. Biblical charity extends a steady, ready hand in times of need.