Crime and Violence

"Of course the Democratic debate is on TV," I replied to my wife
Tuesday night. Only it wasn't - except on MSNBC, which we don't get.
But it was here in Philadelphia, at Drexel University not far from our
house. So the next morning, I went to philly.com to see how everyone
did. Only to find the story not at all on the website's main page.
Instead, the main story was an officer shooting in a busy part of
downtown, uncomfortably close to where the debates were being held.
(In fact, the shooter fled from Center City in the direction of the
debates, and ended up in the Schuylkill River, which separates
University City from Center City, and they had to fish him out after
he had drowned.)

This shooting was bookended by yesterday's shooting of an officer and
subsequent manhunt uncomfortably close to my former boss' house, and
Sunday's shooting of an officer uncomfortably close to my house and
workplace. So that's three shootings of officers in four days, all at
a time when the national media has its cameras literally pointed at
Philadelphia. Not good times.

Even though we live in a very urban part of the country, it can be
easy to forget just how disenfranchised and lawless large portions of
our population are. But while it is not good for such violent
reminders to come so uncomfortably close to where we live, work, and
play, perhaps it is good for us to be uncomfortably reminded.

After all, the easy response is to find some community, possibly gated
and usually far from urban centers, where one doesn't have to worry
about crime and violence. But with crime and violence come the causes
of crime and violence, which are messy and systemic and spiritual and
personal and communal and deep-rooted. And most importantly, with
crime and violence come victims, perpetrators, and collateral damage
in the form of people whom God loves deeply and unconditionally.

In other words, we can decide that the beginning and end of the story
is the crime and violence; and if that is our lens, who wouldn't want
to do everything possible to avoid and to distance? Or we can decide
that as Christians who follow a God who loves all people and who calls
us to join in on that love, there ought to be a broader perspective of
crime and violence, to include the people and causes and results and
solutions; and that such a broader perspective would necessarily impel
us, by God's grace and in His love, to not avoid or distance but
rather to think and act and serve and care.

I want to be careful to not say that living close to urban centers is
necessarily more spiritual or more obedient than living in the
far-flung suburbs, because it's not. What I am trying to say is that
it matters how we view the front page of our local paper the week in
which three cops have been hit in four days. If we run because crime
and violence is the beginning and end of that story, I don't know that
we are doing what God would have us to do. If, instead, we pray and
consider and investigate and care, by God's grace and in His love, and
if we all as Christians choose into that posture, maybe we might not
only not run and hide, but also work towards some solutions and even
find and implement those solutions. And I think God would be pleased
that His physical body on earth was put into motion for such a cause
and in such a time.



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