Take a Seat on the Back Row. (And God Bless McDonalds.)

Summer is a big reading time for me. One of the best and most impactful books I've read this summer is Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America by Chris Arnade. Highly recommended.

Arnade's book is part travel memoir, part street reporting, part photo journalism. What it all adds up to is a tour through American poverty, urban and rural, white, black, and Hispanic. Dignity is a raw and empathetic look at what Arnade calls "back row America."

For me, there were two stand out chapters.

"If You Want to Understand the Country, Visit McDonalds" will give you wholly new eyes for the fast food chain, the frequent punching bag of elites. I say: God bless McDonalds! Read the chapter to find out why.

An article Arnade wrote in 2016--"McDonald's: You Can Sneer, But It's the Glue that Holds Communities Together"--was a preview of his chapter in Dignity. See also Adam Chandler's recent essay in The Atlantic, "What McDonald’s Does Right."

Basically, for missional impact in local communities, I'd pick McDonalds over most churches.

If you want a look inside the power of street churches like ours at Freedom Fellowship, read the chapter "God Filled My Emptiness" in Dignity. For years, when people have asked me about how to deal with faith problems, my answer has always been, "Worship with the poor." Arnade isn't a believer, but the power of faith he encountered in back row America profoundly affected him and changed how he sees religion. I've grown downright scornful of dogmatic atheism, and "God Filled My Emptiness" will explain why.

Let me end with this. There's a command in Romans 12:16 that I've never heard a sermon or teaching on:
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
The text could also be translated "be willing to do humble/menial tasks," which I also really like, but most of the major translations go with something like "associate with the lowly." Or, to borrow from Arnade: spend time on the back row of America.

Again, I've never heard a sermon about this text. No doubt, in this age where we're hyper self-conscious about privilege, there's something that would strike many of us as elitist and paternalistic about the command "associate with the lowly."

I can see that.

But if you want my opinion, Arnade's Dignity is the best sermon you'll ever hear about why we are called to associate with the lowly, called to take a seat on the back row.

Read Dignity. Let it inspire you to associate with the lowly and take a seat on the back row.

Or in a booth at your local McDonalds.

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