Update: the second (and final) part of this article is up, where we discuss some ways to look at this theologically.
Just over a month ago, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia announced a controversial plan to ban the outdoor feeding of homeless individuals in the city parks and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, home to many of this city’s finest museums, including the soon-to-open (and just as controversial) Barnes Foundation.
This has been met with the expected and understandable anger and protest from many of the city’s hunger-based non-profits and faith-based homeless ministries that participate in these outdoor feedings (the ban is still in process and has not been enforced yet). Some leading homeless advocates support it.
Many of these religious groups understandably feel like this move is an over-reach of cold, heartless government, trying to keep the church from doing its God-given call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Many have felt like this is an imposition on the religious freedom of the Christians of Philadelphia.
I would like to, as humbly as possible, disagree.