As it turned out, these weren't refugees from a Dickens novel though their plight was just as hopelessly sentimental.
This pathetic little gathering, 15 adults and three kids, might as well represent the last remaining liberal Christians in Kansas City.
Their leader was the Rev. Donna Simon, who organized the vigil to protest the government's proposed cuts to Medicare, food stamps and student loans. They met in front of Sen. Kit Bond's office at 911 Main, where Christmas lights strung on barren trees lit their four-page statement.
"God is honored when the hungry are fed," Simon read. "We pray for a just economy."
Simon didn't have any bright ideas about how to pay for spreading democracy over in the Middle East, but she griped plenty about the $41 billion in cuts the U.S. House and Senate have proposed to make in everything from prescription drug benefits to agriculture subsidies.
"The idea that Christian conservatives say that they follow Jesus Christ, but then they cut services to the poor and elderly, is ludicrous," Simon says. "The Christian left needs to stand up and show that there's another side out there."
What is this blasphemous talk about "the Christian left"?
Simon's flock could hardly be considered much of a church anyway, by today's standards. Her little group came from the Abiding Peace church, which meets at Finnigan's Hall in North Kansas City. That's where her congregation has gathered since financial trouble forced it earlier this year to sell the church's building on Chouteau Trafficway. To make ends meet, Simon waits tables Mondays and Fridays at the Bristol Bar & Grill in Leawood.
The congregation hasn't quite recovered from the day it appointed a female as its pastor, recalls longtime member Niki Williams, a 32-year-old hairdresser. And what divided the church even more than the woman thing was the fact that Simon's a lesbian. A lesbian in the pulpit! At that point, Abiding Peace dropped from a whopping 65 members to about 48.
No telling where the others went, but this pontificating porterhouse figures they decamped for churches headed by straight, male ministers. Like Catholic priests.
The fact that the congregation disobediently appointed a lesbian minister brought down the wrath of the Lutheran higher-ups. Abiding Peace has been officially censured because of Simon's sexual orientation, which means it can't participate in any reindeer games, i.e., Lutheran regional leadership committees that can enact change to church rules.
With that kind of standing in the church, it seems that Simon has no business protesting a good Christian like Bond.
Members of the oxymoronic "Christian left" might do well to read the good senator's sermonizin' on the Web. Check out, for instance, the site of the Arkansas-based Leadership Training Institute of America, which helps prepare Christian youth for the godless outside world. The site includes an essay that Bond penned in 1999 about an America sans Jesus. "We are losing our youth to humanism, new age thought, the punk culture, and the subsequent moral relativism, sexual promiscuity, rebellion, and belief in evolution," Bond wrote. "Kids corrupt before their parents' eyes. Young people raised in church are abandoning the teachings of their churches, the Bible, and Christ. Students who attend college often return anti-Christian."
Bond's folks didn't return the Strip's phone messages inquiring about the wee little protest outside his office last week. This rump roast figures the senator was probably busy raising money for important highway projects in Missouri or rustling up more dough for law enforcement to wage the battle against meth. No one can accuse Kit Bond of not caring about poor people when he announces $16 million in federal funds to improve Kansas City's bus system, as he did earlier this month. As Bond said in a press release a couple of weeks ago, "People who cannot afford cars or prefer to leave them at home can access public transit to get to work, to go shopping, to eat out or to visit the doctor."
If people can't actually afford to visit the doctor because Bond and other Christian Republicans have cut Medicare funds, at least they can take a bus to go shopping and eat out.
As the protest outside Bond's downtown office wrapped up, members of Simon's congregation took turns with Christmas-style prayers. They said something about the one in six children in this country living in poverty. Somebody mentioned old folks who can't afford medicine. And then Simon went on a diatribe about getting troops home. Didn't she hear George W. Bush say the troops will come home when the job is done, which is ... when the job is done?
This meat pie hopes that while Christians this year celebrate the birth of Jesus (the savior, not Jesus the lawn guy), we can all say a prayer for misguided left-wing Christians and their poor and elderly friends. God bless 'em, every one.