By Vincent Guider
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Metro Chicagoland has arrived at a defining moment in our history, and none of us are immune to its repercussions. Shootings and other deadly acts of violence are pervasive in some neighborhoods in our city and becoming more frequent in other areas where such things were nearly unheard of in years past. So, given the seriousness of the situation and how helpless it can make us feel, might we ponder practical solutions we at Old St. Pat’s can help to generate in response? What can we possibly do collectively and as individuals when the situations are in other neighborhoods? My travels in our city’s more marginalized neighborhoods reminds me of these central theological and civil rights question.
Regardless of where we live, either in the city or suburbs, and no matter how much education we have or money we earn, and irrespective of what color we are or what ethnicity we claim, we are all in this together. Urban violence is both a frustrating challenge and redemptive opportunity for us all. We must definitely see ourselves as “in this together!”
The spike in violence, and especially shootings, cannot be simply explained away as the activity of despicable lawless gangbangers. It’s not that simple. Among other complicated social factors, gun violence is largely symptomatic of joblessness and deficient educational, extracurricular and recreational opportunities for youth and young adults in neighborhoods that have been marginalized for decades. Many of those whom we may be tempted to label as gun wielding thugs are often actually people who grew up without basic opportunities to make it in America today. Many did not receive guidance from older, wiser, responsible adults who could help them navigate the American social/economic system we hold so dear and take so much for granted. Thus, if they did not get well educated and connected with the right people and opportunities to help them progress, they never even had a taste of the blessings of working-class or middle-class life. Poverty and alienation was their fate, and as a result many are still paying the painfully frustrating price today. The result is the shootings today. The shooters are frequently (and certainly not always) urban poor males who have no utilities in their homes, empty refrigerators, no access to wi-fi and other technology tools, lacking experience, attire, transportation pocket money or networks to secure sustainable jobs. In short, and not to make an excuse for wanton violence, most of the shooters are desperate to survive but lacking ways to do so in a society they feel locked out from. Hence, they pick up a gun, and without thinking things through carefully, they shoot. Tragic for sure!
Considering the Old St. Pat’s Mission, it is no longer conceivable that any of us would dismiss the issue by thinking, “Those sorts of things don’t happen where I live. Those people in the West and South Sides need to deal with the problem.” No, to the contrary, we are all in this together and what’s happening only one or two miles away from us today will be happening next door to us sooner than we think if we don’t weigh in today. It is a matter of Christian compassion and justice. Heck, it’s a matter of practicality as well!.
Jesus challenged His disciples and us in this Sunday’s familiar Gospel (Matt 5: 38-48). In it, He urges that we go that extra mile to love our neighbors.
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.”
Later in the passage, Jesus continued:
“Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
Many of us have found in our work in North Lawndale, and I’m sure so many of our Kinship Initiative volunteers walking alongside our North Lawndale that those who are better positioned in society can and should do a little bit more with and for those among us who are hurting – struggling – frustrated. There are neighbors who will only escape their misery as a result of our compassion, our strength and any access to opportunity we may be able to provide to them. Going the extra mile might require us to be temporarily uncomfortable or inconvenienced, but that’s our price – the price we pay to live out true discipleship. Through kinship, the haves go wherever the have-nots are to share the assets God so generously blessed us with. Are we willing to go that far? Many of the shooters are not looking for handout, they are simply looking for a chance.
Considering all of this, I anxiously look forward to the presentation by Mr. Arne Duncan, Former Secretary of Education for the Obama Administration, at Old St. Pat’s on Wednesday, February 22. He will speak on “The Urgency to Reduce Violence in Chicago.” I hope to hear his suggestions on how I personally and we as a community can help drastically reduce gun violence in our city. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us and me.