Midweek Musing on NIMBY - June 14, 2023
In one community, a social service agency had acquired a home on a residential street where they planned to house a few mentally impaired adults, who would be there with caregivers. They had selected people who could function in society and who were not a threat to anyone. Most had jobs in the community bagging groceries or in restaurants.
However, upon hearing about this project some of the neighbors objected. They stated fear for safety and the loss of property value. Others, also in the neighborhood, felt that they should support the project, and not a few cited the Christian value of loving one's neighbor.
The resulting argument was a bit of brouhaha (that’s southern for a big argument), but the notion of NIMBY ... Not In My Back Yard ... was challenged by the Christian concept of what it means to be a neighbor and the realization that we cannot be Christians if we just look after ourselves.
Reading about this made me remember a quote from the great Russian Christian and writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A complex individual and prominent Soviet dissident, Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of communism and helped to raise global awareness of political repression in the Soviet Union. He once put it this way: “Mankind’s sole salvation lies in everybody making everything his business. And that goes especially for Christians.”
Unfortunately, this concept has disappeared from much of society.
Recently, I read an article about a woman who tried to switch seats with a man on a flight so that she could sit next to her toddler since they weren't booked together. The man declined with colorful language that I will not include here. The controversy about this made it to the Internet and of course there were lots of comments.
One that's particularly bothered me was,“I don’t know you. I don’t generally care about you beyond reasonable human compassion. And I am certainly not responsible for your poor planning. Don’t talk to me again and go away.” There were others that said the same thing but with profane language that I will not reprint here.
While I wasn't on the plane to know all that occurred, that comments that followed the original post saddened me. These ideas of “not my problem” and “not in my backyard” are counters to the message of Jesus Christ.
Theologically we are called to love others as we would love ourselves. Practically it is only when such love and compassion and grace occur that the world is actually changed for the better.
Now I recognize that as a community we at times may have legitimate concerns about certain developments in our community. I would never advocate for a sex offender halfway house next to a school. However, I also don’t think we can simply say no without seeking a way to minister to all of the least of these. As Christians, we are called to approach such situations with a broader perspective and a commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Friends, as hard as it is sometimes, we are called to embrace a selfless love. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors unconditionally and sacrificially. This love extends beyond our immediate surroundings and encompasses the well-being of all people. By adopting a “not my problem” or NIMBY mindset, we may prioritize our own comfort or convenience over the welfare of others, which is contrary to the selfless love Jesus exemplified.
Additionally, Christianity teaches that all people are created in the image of God and share a common humanity. Our faith invites us to see beyond boundaries and recognize that all decisions impact others. This viewpoint allows us to practice stewardship and engage in the work of justice. As stewards of God’s creation, Christians are called to responsibly manage and utilize the resources entrusted to us. This includes ensuring equitable access to resources and opportunities for all people.
The “not my problem” and NIMBY mentality can hinder progress and perpetuate social and economic disparities. Instead, Christians should actively seek justice and advocate for the well-being of all members of society, even if it means supporting initiatives that may inconvenience us personally.
The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of showing compassion and empathy towards those in need. Our faith compels us to consider the needs and concerns of others, seeking ways to alleviate suffering and improve the lives of those who are marginalized or disadvantaged.
In Matthew 25:35-36, Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
This passage emphasizes the importance of actively caring for the marginalized and those in need, encouraging believers to actively engage in addressing social issues and extending help to others.
As followers of Christ, we are called to embrace a broader perspective of what is good and right not just for “me and mine” but of the entire community. We must engage with the world around us in ways that promote love, justice, and compassion for all people, even when as it often will require sacrifices on our part.
In the name of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Alleluia Amen.
Here is a link to the article about the plane ride. Please note there is strong language in article.