Friday, January 26, 2007

Why I'll be at Taft Home on Tuesday Night

At the risk of elevating one of God's charateristics over all the others, I believe that one of the neglected attributes of God in the white, evangelical tradition that I come from God's desire for justice. In fact the only time I heard people talk about God's justice it seemed, was when they talking about why people go to hell for eternity.

But over the last couple of years, as I try to understand more and more about the kingdom of God is and try to live out the Lord's prayer ("your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven"), there's been a growing sense that as Christian I should be lending my voice to issues of justice.

Recently, as I've been pastoring at LifeBridge, I've grown more connected to Carl Cannon, a local community activist. Anyway, yesterday, in Peoria, the third apparent homicide of the year was committed (pjstar article here). Therefore, on Tuesday night at 6:00, Carl has organized another community prayer vigil to say "enough," to the criminals of Peoria. The vigil will be at Taft Homes -- very close to where 16-year old Domonique Alexander lived.

You may ask, why is rural boy that lives in Brimfield, and works at the large, white church at the north end of town going to be standing in the freezing cold at Taft Homes on a Tuesday night. The answer, is that I have a growing sense that wherever I feel led, I must lend my voice to issues of justice.

Anyone want to join me?


JGanschow said...

What is it about violence in this community? It seems like the criminals here kill for no reason. It is usually a teenage victim and teenage shooter. There is no money involved, it doesn't appear to be as a result of a dispute, it's just random drive-bys. What's the point?! Kids are dying at the hands of other kids. How can this be stopped? The community has a gathering every time this happens (about once a month) and they call for an end to the violence, but what do they physically do to prevent it from happening again?

ckd said...

I think everyone involved would see the rallys as only the first step. Of course, it's a complex problem including factors like...

1. attitude (can we get some city pride?)
2. the breakdown of the home
3. poverty
4. increased drug trafficking in Peoria

I guess that my thinking at this point, is that by lending my voice, I send a message to politicians, police, etc., that we care about justice and what's right in our community.

To me, the reality is that no matter where you live in central Illinois, Peoria is our community -- since we all benefit from what the city does.

JGanschow said...

I completely agree. I just don't see any follow-up to the rallies. And maybe that's my own fault. Maybe I should be involved. Maybe the media only focuses on the gathering and funeral and then drops the story. I want Peoria to be redeemed as much as anyone. This is my home too.

beth b said...

Ok, you knew i would have input on this one! haha! As someone who works in law enforcement, not a cop, i am the victim services coordinator for the Peoria County Sheriff's Office (for those of you that didn't know), i work with victims and witnesses of violent crimes. Justin, you asked what is happening in this community. We ask that question constantly the past 14 months. What I have seen, is a higher amount of drug trafficking, more gang involvement and at a younger age, more destruction of the home, less services for those with mental illnesses, and community that has all but given up on the south end of our city. What can help that? I agree with Charlie finding some pride in our city again. I think the Dream Center is a good start, but not nearly the scale we need. Basically as a community we need to band together and fight for what is left.
I love that they do the vigils after the homidices. Which by the way we are up to 3 and possibly a 4th for the year. The church and Christ following community needs to be present during this dark time for our city. I have not been to a prayer vigil yet, but plan on attending. Charlie i want to tell you i think it is awesome you are involved with this!! Kudos my friend!!!
The politicians, police, deputies, social workers, nurses, ER docs, ect of this community are all well aware of what is happening. The message that needs to be sent to these groups of people is not that something needs to be done (we know that!) it is that as a community you support them and are willing to help.

JGanschow said...

I agree that support for those that become invovled after the fact is crucial, as it has to be incredibly difficult to cope with the reality of the situation, inform families of deaths, patrol the streets, etc. But this still doesn't take guns out of the hands of kids.
Getting kids involved in productive activities where they can grow spiritually, become educated and prepared to become functioning members of society, and giving them self-worth is what is needed. Is that accomplished by more funding for civic services? Or are these kids not going to become involved anyway? It's such an incredible hurdle to overcome, but one that is necessary to save the South Side.

Beth B said...

I agree we need to do something to instill pride back in that area of the town. I think so many down there have given up and accepted this as thier future. It just doesn't have to be so. They need hope. Which is why i think it is so vital that the local churches be present, even if it is after the fact. They see that we care and want to help, and my prayer is that will draw them in. Also having more for students to do after school would be a tremendous help. i know that would be expensive, hard to man, and hard to get kids to come to, but once we did it would make a huge impact.

JGanschow said...

I concur. Giving them hope is a great start!

Chris Whetstone said...

Are you familiar with Kids Hope USA? I'm in the process of implementing it here at good 'ol FBC. We did it at my former church in West Michigan. It is one of the few "proven" ways I have seen churches be able to make a real impact in the lives of elementary age kids - with the hope of breaking the cycle (kids coming from broken homes, drugs, violence, etc. & growing into adults who continue in that lifestyle & produce more kids who start the process over again). The program isn't old enough yet to have any statistics on whether or not it truly is breaking the cycle - but the stats on the kids improvement in school coursework & tests is incredible. has all the info. Of course this doesn't end the violence right now - but could lay a good foundation for the future.