2.16.2009

Violence in the City


News of yet another cop killing wearies the entire city. It used to be that such violence could be swept to certain activities and parts of the city; as long as you stayed out of trouble, it wouldn't come spilling into your lap. But the last two years have seen an uncomfortable encroachment of murders into parts of the city we all frequent regularly: we've been to that parking lot, down that street, to that transit stop.

Worryingly, the notion of shooting at and killing a cop no longer registers any hesitation. And in nearby Coatesville, site of a rash or arsons, we are learning that even our own homes are no longer sacred.

Too much talk about who's at fault is about tsk-tsking and not getting to real solutions. The far right might vilify the perpetrators themselves, and shame the liberal left for excusing bad behavior; while the liberal left might blame a system that marginalizes too many, and shame the far right for not understanding this.

The Bible is clear that sin is both personal and systemic, and it moves past finger-pointing to mobilize God's people to be part of the solution. We are to be keepers of a code of ethics that is for our good to follow, and can be unashamed to offer that to a world that has seemed to have forgotten that it is not good when "people did whatever was right in their own eyes." We are also to be leavening agents, seeking for a kingdom to be characterized by mercy and justice and community, where we look out for one another and pay particular concern for those who are poor and hurting. Finally, we uphold the dignity and necessity of work and of money, seeing both as tools to bless and provide and being wary of situations in which we have too much or too little of either.

It may seem trite to offer, in a city ravaged with such brutal violence, that Christians can play a transformative role. Certainly, we need sound policing and job creation and social programs and a just justice system. But we also need places where people are affirmed, taught what's right and wrong, prayed over and kept accountable. And we need a Savior who is the Prince of Peace, who paid the ultimate price to deal with sin, our ultimate personal and societal problem.
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