Ghandi, Job and the ghetto

I have received a great deal of encouragement these past few days from a wide range of people through phone calls, emails and the like. This weekend I got a kind email from fellow blogger, Jamie Arpin-Ricci sharing his concern for me and my family and offering us some encouragement. I wrote him back and added my concern for his well-being right now as his urban community is reeling in the face of a shooting that just took place right outside his home. Jamie has the most generous spirit, and that is especially remarkable considering the range of challenges he faces living and loving in an urban context.

In his last email, he commented about the blood stain from the shooting and he made the point that for communities like ours, its gruesome presence is somehow “ok” or “understandable” whereas in other kinds of communities it would be the cause for great outrage and would demand a response. I can so relate to what he is wrestling with. I think one of the things that causes me the deepest grief on a day to day basis is the lack of outrage I see in the general population over the violence and suffering that is the norm in places like South Central.

I remember when Doug and I watched the movie “Ghandi” together this past year, I was struck by the power of the kind of non-violent resistance that Ghandi promoted, and I wondered, what would a movement like that look like in our world today?

I think that Jamie, and others like him, are the answer to that question: people who don’t have to live with blood-soaked sidewalks but who choose to for the sake of doing justice and loving mercy in those places. And because they are in places where they don’t “have to” be, there is the opportunity for inviting some outrage that would otherwise be missing. Because honestly, we are going to get more worked up over that shooting because it affects Jamie and his family than we would if we simply heard it on the news (which we likely wouldn’t because urban violence is not even newsworthy anymore).

Doug is asking really good questions about suffering right now as a result of his Job and Human Suffering class at Fuller, and he is considering how our theology of suffering and justice and injustice determine our response to those in pain around us. I will be excited to hear his thoughts develop further on this, because I think he is on to something. As horrible as it is to suggest, I think that there are some people we either consciously or unconsciously decide deserve their suffering and that is why we cease to show compassion; that is why we show no outrage. And it is not until someone who doesn’t “deserve” it suffers alongside those others that we pay it some attention.


  1. Thanks for the very encouraging words. I appreciate having others who truly understand.

    To further frustrate the situation we learned today that the victim is a guy we know, a very close friend of one of our staff. While he is a former gang member, he has been out for some time, cleaning up his life. He does not know his shooters and did cooperate with police as best he could. And yet, the police and the papers call him a gang member and claim he was unhelpful. Why? Because he is an inner city black kid with a record. Our “trusted media” and city government can’t get it right. All the more reason the church needs to step up. Now.


  2. Jamie,
    Thanks for offering the updates here and on your blog. The whole issue of the media is certainly a frustrating one. Most of the time here there is just no mention: our news consists of which celeb is entering rehab or getting plastic surgery–no joke. I think if you are black and live in the inner city and you get shot, unless you are a child, there really is no one who is going to assume the best of you.

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