This morning I received an email from our Senior Lead Officer about the spike in gang violence this past week. A conflict between the Rolling 20’s (the gang that runs our street and the blocks north of us) and the Rolling 30’s (recently named one of L.A.’s “Top Ten Most Dangerous Gangs”) who control the area just south of us has resulted in a series of shootings. While most of our church was away celebrating the marriage of our good friends on Saturday, there were seven shootings in our immediate area. Just today on our way to the library, we passed the street shrine from one of those killings. The victim was nineteen.
When I lived and ministered in Chicago, my kids would always let me know when gang wars erupted, and why. Too often they would claim the life of someone’s brother or cousin or girlfriend, and I remember struggling when I was a student with the way life on our campus would simply go on. There was one particularly painful week when five young people were shot and killed. Each of them was someone connected with one of my kids, and that was the first time I really, authentically wrestled with God.
It was also one of the first times I really burned with anger at the casual indifference or chosen ignorance of my “Christian” peers and our institution as a whole. The front page of our student newspaper screamed: “Five murders within blocks of campus” and the article that followed detailed the precautions we should take for our own safety. There was absolutely nothing in the article, not even a hint, that spoke to the fact that the children who called us neighbor were dying, or that our response should be anything more than choosing different streets to use when we walked to the El.
I struggle with that very thing today. My day has consisted of a delightful trip to the library with friends, making plans for dinner with a couple who will soon be getting married, and reading new books with my kids. Is there anything about my life that has changed as a result of these deaths? As we prepare to follow the path of Jesus this week, the path leading to humiliation and death, I marvel at how easily my life can remain sanitized from the pain of the â€œlittle onesâ€ Jesus would commend to my care. As our church rehearses choirs and special music and coordinates flowers, I wonder how we are being called this week to live as crucifixion, resurrection people?