Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

In the fall of 2001, I encountered Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle for the first time and am ashamed to admit I was not impressed. Father Boyle was speaking as part of the Pepperdine University convocation series and told how founded the nonprofit Homeboy Industries in inner city Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the country. He talked about serving gang involved youth with criminal records by inviting them from criminality into community and creating employment opportunities for them in a bakery and silk screen shop. Father Boyle, better known as “Father G” in his neighborhood of Boyle Heights, reported from the front lines how the light was stepping into the darkness, but I could not comprehend it.

Under Father Greg Boyle's guidance, former gang members and prison inmates find work, community and healing at Homeboy Industries in inner city Los Angeles

“Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” is the Homeboy mantra. “Jobs, not jail,” Boyle said of his social justice entrepreneurial endeavor. But in recounting his interactions with the gang members, Father Boyle also cursed up a storm, speaking like the young people he was working with and arguing that doing so had been an effective means of building rapport. Only 18 years old and in fierce protection of my heirloom faith, I could not see past his riling rhetoric to the incredible significance of his work pulling kids out of gang violence through love. I appreciated that young men and women were giving up gang allegiances to work side by side in reconciliation, but I did not understand why Father Boyle would “stoop to their level” by speaking so profanely. I felt his message was lost in translation. I was a Protestant who didn’t cuss, he was a Catholic who did. It seemed a bridge too far. Never mind that this man was practicing much of what he was preaching and that I was just a child attempting to play Border Patrol on behalf of the church.

I didn’t begin to understand what Father Boyle was about until God placed me in the gang neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles almost immediately thereafter. Many students find work study jobs on campus, mine brought me on weekends to Raymond Street, a boundary line separating the Crip and Blood neighborhoods in South Central. I’m certain the only reason they entrusted the job to an 18 year old first semester freshman is because everybody else had already said no.

But it was in South Central that for the first time I witnessed injustice in person and was given eyes to see. It was on Raymond Street that for the first time, someone I knew was murdered; a 14 year old whose death attracted no outrage or even a raised eyebrow from society. It was in these streets that I realized you can’t pull yourself up by your boot straps if you weren’t given boots. Perhaps my greatest realization was acknowledging that had I grown up in the neighborhood I was working in, I would have chosen a life of gangs and drugs and that it could have been my body in the outline at the end of the taped off street. God created all men equal we say, but we sure don’t act accordingly.

A decade has now passed since those first Pepperdine days, and wouldn’t you know it, I again encountered Father Greg Boyle this week. Only instead of walking away upset this time, I felt privileged to listen to a humble servant summarize rather succinctly and eloquently what has taken me ten years to begin to learn and process.

Boyle was interviewed, along with two former gang members and current Homeboy employees, by Tom Ashbrook for the NPR’s “On Point” which aired on Monday May 16, 2011. Ashbrook asked Father Boyle about changes he would like to see in society and here’s how he responded:

“Well, I think in the end it’s about creating a community of kinship, such that God in fact might recognize it. So, there’s an idea that’s taken root in the world, it’s at the root of all that’s wrong with it, and the idea is this, that there just might be lives out there that matter less than other lives. And how do we together stand against that idea? And, so, what I think Homeboy seeks to do is to stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop.”

Boyle continued, “In the end if we want justice and we want peace, those things can’t happen without an undergirding sense of kinship where we recognize that it’s an illusion when we talk about them. There’s just us. And you want to seek to bridge anything that separates us or creates the distance. Once you have kinship, you can get to justice and you can get to peace. But if you think there’s an us and a them, we’ve got too far to go. And so that’s the task, the task is to remember that we belong to each other.”

Father G ended by expounding on Acts 2:43 where “awe came upon everyone” upon the founding of the church. “In the end, (awe) is the opposite of judgment, you know? We seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what Loretta and Robin (the former gang members alongside him) have had to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carried it. And so the measure of our compassion really lies not in our service of people, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with folks who are different. And who have had to carry more than I ever was asked to carry. And I grew up just like them in the gang capital of the world. But because I grew up in a certain part of town with two wonderful parents, a trauma free childhood, and wonderful siblings, and opportunities and education, that doesn’t make me morally superior to Loretta and Robin. Quite the opposite. I stand in awe at what they had to carry. And awe came upon everyone. That’s sort of the measure of the quality of our communal life it seems to me, when we can move from judgment to awe.”

Amen.

A lot can change in a decade, thank God. Father Boyle joked that during the first ten years of his gang ministry that times were so turbulent he considered changing the after hours voice mail to say, “Thank you for calling Homeboy Industries, your bomb threat is important to us.” Thankfully, over the past ten years, the organization no longer receives death threats or hate mail and Homeboy Industries stands as a beacon of proof that things can improve, even if hope is built slowly and incrementally.

This sentiment is echoed in “Follow Me to Freedom”, a collaborative effort between civil rights leader John Perkins and modern day prophet Shane Claiborne. In the book, Shane records his first meeting with Mr. Perkins when he shared his frustration that after three years of ministry in North Philadelphia, things did not seem to be improving much. Claiborne writes, “John looked me dead in the eye and, with the gentleness of a father, plainly and sincerely explained the way things work: ‘Oh, Shane, you’ll start to see some things change. You’ll start to see signs of transformation – in about 10 years. Or maybe 12.’ And he didn’t flinch… I gulped… yet somehow I knew he spoke the truth, and it gave me hope.” Now ten years after that first conversation, The Simple Way and other New Monastic communities are providing hope to all of us by pointing to the possibility of another world.

I’m not sure where I’ll be ten years from now, but I am extremely grateful for where God has faithfully led me over the past decade. From Pepperdine and the neighborhoods of South Central, to an amazing woman I am blessed to call my wife and a great adventure in the Big Sky Country of Montana, to this present time in the Northeast enjoying our three beautiful children and preparing to live intentionally in community and plotting a missional church plant on God’s time.

The progress will continue to be slow and incremental I’m sure, but we will continue to pray that we can be led by the Spirit. In the words of Homeboy employee Loretta Andrews, we must not “fear to change.” When we allow change to occur by God’s hand, I believe He will lead us across the bridges of racism, classism, poverty and injustice until we come to a fuller understanding that there really is no them, only us, despite differences in our upbringings, cultures, and language. Jaime and I look forward to committing to a community long term and perhaps a decade from now, we too will be able to say that awe has come upon us.

I once read a scholar who advocated that Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Speech” should be banned in the United States for at least a decade. The scholar argued that the power the civil rights movement led by King had been sterilized by the granting of a state holiday in King’s honor. Surely, there is no greater way to fundamentally alter a revolution than to sanction it with a government stamp of approval (see Constantine and Christianity). The scholar further made a case that King’s message had been distilled to a sound bite of the “Dream” speech and believed that if “I Have a Dream” was temporarily banned, perhaps Americans would actually listen to and read King’s other words. Perhaps the U.S would remember that King was not simply one day on the Washington mall and now a day off, but a prophet in the mold of the Hebrew Bible, standing in the gaps of social injustices affecting not only Black, but Brown, Red, Yellow and White citizens alike who were being oppressed due to their low socioeconomic status, suffering through poverty and losing their sons in Vietnam.

I felt the argument was compelling and had to reconcile my appreciation for Dr. King with the reality that my own awareness of MLK was his “Dream” speech and brief excerpts of his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Wanting to read more of Dr. King, I tracked down a compilation of his sermons entitled “Strength to Love” copyrighted in 1963. The book quickly joined the ranks of C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” and Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” as books I never can finish because the information and ideas contained within require copious amounts of time to process and incorporate.

One of the sections of Dr. King’s book I have read repeatedly is a sermon entitled “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.” Based on Jesus’ statement, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” in Matthew 10:16, the chapter begins the book and beautifully illustrates the plagues of mankind, both in the 60’s and today, while pointing to the character of God and Jesus’ third way teachings on nonviolence for the solution.

Dr. King opens by noting that a “strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites” and acknowledging that men rarely achieve such a balance of opposites, finding it difficult to be simultaneously a realist and an idealist, or humble and self-assertive at the same time. However, the truth remains that “life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony” and remarks that “truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.”

Extremes are rarely useful and most truth cannot be categorized in black and white despite our frequent attempts to do so. This is not to say that absolute truth does not exist, but that from our limited perspective truth is usually discovered in the messy gray of life, even should we refuse to acknowledge it. This is not because God is not clear, but because our own judgment is so frequently clouded. We all readily testify that our enemies are not completely in the right, but often miss that neither are we. Therefore, we also miss the truths that can be learned when we allow our enemies to become our teacher.

Dr. King noted that “Jesus recognized the need for blending opposites. He knew that his disciples would face a difficult and hostile world… He knew that they would meet cold and arrogant men whose hearts had been hardened by the long winter of traditionalism. So he said to them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” And he gave them a formula for action, ‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’ It is pretty difficult to imagine a single person having, simultaneously, the characteristics of the serpent and the dove, but this is what Jesus expects.” Dr. King added we must “combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”

Speaking of the need to embody the tough minded characteristics of the snake, Dr. King stated, “Who doubts that this toughness of mind is one of man’s greatest needs? Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” I believe King’s insights nearly fifty years ago remain true as our families, organizations and churches are largely vacant of leaders demonstrating strong critical thinking skills.

In yet another glimpse of the future, Dr. King pointed out that man’s tendency toward being soft minded is seen in the way we cower before and obey the advertising industry, purchasing products based on exposure and perceived status over quality. Dr. King also implicated the press in taking advantage of the gullibility of the public and recognized the sad reality that “Few people have the toughness of mind to judge critically and to discern the true from the false, the fact from the fiction.” I shudder to think what the Reverend may have said about our current entertainment-driven “news” media and the ease with which most of us have been herded into opposing political pens and taught to hate the other side without ever evaluating the shepherd’s motives.

Dr. King observed this same lack of serpent tough-mindedness manifests in people’s submission to baseless superstitions and pointed out the root of the soft mind is the fear of change. “The softminded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” King acknowledged that this soft minded fear of change often invades religion and causes the church to sometimes reject truth “with a dogmatic passion.” Reverend King noted that some in the church view any historical or literary criticism of the Bible as blasphemous and that such members have revised the Beatitudes to read, “Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God.” Dr. King further argued such ignorance has led to a perceived conflict between science and religion instead of viewing the respective methods as complimentary of each other.

Always advocating for equal rights, Reverend King commented it is the toughminded who examine facts before reaching conclusions and the softminded who are prone to believe that minorities are inferior because they frequently “lag behind in academic, health, and moral standards” rather than recognizing such symptoms as products of discrimination. While Dr. King faced an overt racism in the South, an institutional racism continues to pervade our society, bureaucracy and economy offering different opportunities to folks based on their “pedigree” and appearance.

Dr. King declared that a “nation or a civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.” But the success of a nation is not solely based on the “cultivation of a tough mind” as King reminded us that the Gospel “also demands a tender heart.” Dr. King reflected that to be toughminded but hard hearted leaves one “cold and detached” never truly loving and never experiencing the “beauty of friendship, because he is too cold to feel affection for another and is too self-centered to share another’s joy and sorrow. He is an isolated island.” King continued that this tough minded but compassionless soul “gives dollars to a worthwhile charity, but he gives not of his spirit.”

Jesus frequently condemned men of such character and I am ashamed to find myself in this group, perhaps able to think critically, but frequently without an intimate relationship and showing little desire and effort in developing such. Dr. King wrote that to “have serpentlike qualities devoid of dovelike qualities is to be passionless, mean, and selfish” and I have certainly spent a large amount of time in this state. But God is infinitely good and is helping me to move toward the dovelike, slowly but steadily growing in the pattern of a tree, toward combining and bearing these “strongly marked antitheses.” In part, this is why I majored in and now work in social work, hoping that through practice I could become a more empathetic son of the King.

Dr. King pleaded that tough minds and tender hearts must be brought together “if we are to move toward the goal of freedom and justice.” While speaking specifically of racial division a half-century ago, King’s words remain relevant today as he stated we cannot “trade the future of our children for our personal safety and comfort. Moreover, we must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.”

However, for MLK, the means and methods in which Christians stand against injustice is just as important as the stand. He did not condone violence but pointed to Christ’s teachings for the motivation to build a non-violent resistance. “Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace.”

Dr. King continued, “Through nonviolent resistance we shall be able to oppose the unjust system and at the same time love the perpetrators of the system. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for full stature as citizens, but may it never be said, my friends, that to gain it we used the inferior methods of falsehood, malice, hate, and violence.”

The Reverend begins to wrap up his sermon by noting that “The greatness of our God lies in the fact that he is both toughminded and tenderhearted… God has two outstretched arms. One is strong enough to surround us with justice, and one is gentle enough to embrace us with grace.” This word imagery reminds me of Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son” in which Rembrandt illustrated the Kingdom’s duality of strength and compassion by depicting the Father with one masculine hand and one feminine hand.

Dr. King proceeded by saying God “is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.”

King ends by proclaiming, “When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice which will lead us through life’s dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfillment.”

Amen.

In November 2009, I was blessed with an opportunity to participate in a weekend-long “School for Conversion” hosted by the New Monastic communities in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. I had learned about the communities through reading Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” in 2006 and desired an opportunity to interact with and learn from the folks there from that point on. My hope was made tangible for three days last November, when I saw to a great extent what it looks like to actually live out the Good News of Christ. The entire weekend was, and continues to be, formative for us as we develop our orthodoxy and orthopraxis for church planting. But, especially moving was the capstone of the weekend; attending Mass at the Sacred Heart Parish in Camden on November 22, 2009, which marked the last Sunday in the church calendar.

Never having been to a Catholic Mass, aside from weddings and wakes, I was struck by this church’s passion for shining the light of Christ in the darkest parts of their city and their eagerness to do so as a part of their Sunday Mass. As the following Sunday would mark the beginning of Advent (the Christian season of expectation and anticipation in preparation for the coming of Christ) and a new year for the church, Sacred Heart chooses to use the final Sunday of the liturgical year to remember all of those who have been murdered in the city of Camden over the previous year. During the service, I learned 37 people had been murdered in Camden from November 23, 2008 through November 22, 2009.

Sacred Heart’s pastor of over thirty years, Father Michael Doyle, read the name of each one of the victims aloud, followed by their age and cause of death. Each name called was met by a family member of the deceased, with their loved one’s name around their neck and a candle in hand. As the family member walked forward, the Easter Candle lit their own and they remained standing at the front of the church. For victims without family present, a surrogate family member was appointed by the church and they too would walk forward, light the candle of remembrance and stand up front. The majority of the relatives who had lost someone to a violent death were not members of the church, but were present this Sunday because of the church’s invitation to remember and honor their brothers and sisters.

I vividly recall how badly my heart wanted to shut down and stop empathizing with the families as the pain felt too great. I could only listen to three or four names called consecutively before beginning to weep. I would then block out the next few names out of necessity, before forcing my spirit open to become present again in the shared suffering. Particularly grievous were the names of the teenagers killed by gun violence and the names of the women and one elderly man whose lives were prematurely ended by violent beatings. The sight of those 37 people with lit candles silently and visually embodying the dead is an image seared in my mind.

I decided then I would pray for the city of Camden faithfully over the next year and specifically that the number of murders would be less in 2010. I prayed every day upon returning home. For about a week and a half. Then the Holidays preoccupied my time and my petitions to God became increasingly more sporadic until my Camden experience grew further away and my passionate prayers flickered out.

Clara primes a pump on the Delaware with Philadelphia in view across the river

Over this past summer, I began praying again as I relayed my experience at Sacred Heart last Fall to a brother in Christ and we spoke about the possibility of meeting up in Camden in November 2010 to expose our own families to the spiritual and physical realities of the city hoping to again light the fire. Jaime was on board as she had sacrificed to allow me to go to Camden last year and had not had a chance to experience the beauty of God’s work in Camden. We decided we would bring the kids, despite the anticipated eight hour round trip drive. I contacted the incredible family I stayed with in 2009, who live across from Sacred Heart in Camden, and they confirmed that the church would again be facilitating their annual candle lighting ceremony on November 21, 2010.

We got up at 5:30 am on the morning of the 21st, packed the kids in the car and made good time on our morning commute, arriving in Camden in just over three hours as traffic was nearly non-existent on this Sunday before Thanksgiving. Since we arrived ahead of schedule, we stopped at a little park on the Delaware River with a view of the Philadelphia skyline and let the kids get some energy out before church. Both kids had a great time running up and down the fishing pier where a water pump was discovered and utilized to bring up mucky river water endangering all church outfits.

We checked in with our friends Timothy and Cheryl and their 17 month old daughter, the inspiring Mennonite family who were my gracious hosts last Fall, and then we embarked on a walk around the block before church. We stopped by the Poet’s Walk on Jasper Street where a small brick alleyway has been laid bearing the names of beloved authors and poets. In the center of the small courtyard stands an elevated millstone containing an actual brick from James Joyce’s home in Ireland. The piece is a part of the James Joyce Seats of Learning project which plans to place 63 small monuments incorporating a brick from Joyce’s home in public locations all over the world. I was particularly endeared to a small rock on the millstone on which “Shalom” was inscribed, proclaiming for all the neighborhood God’s conciliatory work of recovery and restoration occurring in Camden. Though the American Empire has largely abandoned Camden, God’s presence is felt here in the community gardens and outdoor frescoes created by His church and intentional communities of His people. A people committed to being active in God’s present Kingdom, the light meeting the dark.

Shepard makes his own rock contribution to the James Joyce Seat of Learning in Camden.

We then headed over to Sacred Heart to the alarm of at least one parishioner who saw Jaime, 31 weeks pregnant at the time, and feared we had mistakenly come to visit a week early as the first Sunday of Advent is reserved for the blessing of expectant mothers. Quite a different experience and service from the heartbreaking goodbyes to the deceased we were about to experience. We assured the young usher that we knew what we were in for and found seats as well as some familiar faces from last year’s service.

Father Doyle opened the Mass by noting that this past liturgical year saw 38 murders in Camden, an increase of one over last year, as two more victims were tragically murdered in just the previous week. Father Doyle expounded upon the injustice in Camden, reporting that in 2010 thus far, London, a city of 7.7. million, has recorded 11 murders, while Camden, population 79,000 has a death toll of 34. The vast majority of Camden murders are a result of gun violence as the tough New Jersey firearms laws are superseded by the ease in which handguns can be purchased in bulk in Philadelphia and trafficked into Camden just across the river.

An annual study released by the CQ Press perennially lists Camden among the most dangerous cities in the United States, topping the list in 2003, 2004 and 2008. The 2010 list, released on the day of our visit, cited Camden as the second most dangerous city in the US over the past year based on FBI crime statistics tracking the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents (St. Louis, Detroit, Flint and Oakland round out the top five, while New Haven and Hartford checked in at numbers 18 and 19 respectively). While Camden’s violent crime rates actually decreased slightly in most categories over the past year, little comfort can be taken as the city is currently considering laying off half of its 375 police officers in the coming year due to economic difficulties.

Father Doyle again read the names, ages and causes of death of the murder victims. Rather than attempting to further explain, I decided to provide the list of people violently killed and challenge you not to skip over it, but to read each name. Can you imagine 38 people being murdered in the city where you live this year? Neither can I.

1. Rashon Graham, 33, 12-8-09, Shot to death
2. Marcus Corbett, 33, 12-13-09, Shot to death
3. Rashan Brown, 24, 12-14-09, Shot to death
4. Brian Gaither, 12-30-09, Shot to death
5. Nakeith Selby, 31, 1-1-10, Shot to death
6. Lemuel Robinson, 22, 1-14-10, Shot to death
7. Jamal Burgess, 33, 1-20-10, Shot to death
8. Maurice Crowley, 35, 1-26-10, Shot to death
9. Kathyleen Trimble, 35, 2-9-10, Strangled to death
10. Muriah Huff, 18, 2-25-10, Beaten/Strangled to death
11. Michael Hawkins, 23, 2-25-10, Beaten/Shot to death
12. Anthony Ross, 16, 3-7-10, Shot to death
13. Jamil Burks, 23, 4-25-10, Shot to death
14. Simere Peoples, 20, 4-27-10, Shot to death
15. Brandon Robinson, 22, 5-1-10, Shot to death
16. Eric Laws, 31, 5-30-10, Shot to death
17. Eric Cabrera, 18, 5-31-10, Shot to death
18. Avner Daniels, 32, 6-5-10, Shot to death
19. Geovany Vasquez, 32, 6-11-10, Shot to death
20. Dajuan Calloway, 26, 6-16-10, Shot to death
21. Seneca Brown, 31, 6-27-10, Shot to death
22. Kevin Archie, 50, 6-30-10, Shot to death
23. Lawanda Strickland, 31, 7-10-10, Strangled to death
24. Kory Johnson, 18, 8-1-10, Shot to death
25. Daryn Kelly, 26, 8-3-10, Shot to death
26. Joshua Mendoza, 33, 8-9-10, Shot to death
27. Usama Eason, 25, 8-9-10, Shot to death
28. Julius Davis, 47, 8-20-10, Shot to death
29. Bryasia Pitts, 16, 9-10-10, Shot to death
30. Earl Clary, 29, 9-27-10, Shot to death
31. Tyree Thomas, 24, 10-1-10, Shot to death
32. Bernadette Teamoh, 29, 10-1-10, Stabbed to death
33. Marcell Young, 25, 10-26-10, Shot to death
34. Antonio Harvey, 23, 10-30-10, Shot to death
35. Tyree Strickland, 20, 10-31-10, Shot to death
36. Lou Lytle, 36, 11-2-10, Stabbed to death
37. David Bolding, 57, 11-15-10, Shot to death
38. Julio Arroyo Jr., 24, 11-19-10, Shot to death

The average age of the victims was 28. Five of those killed this past year were teenagers. Four out of the six people not killed by handguns, were female and died from severe beatings, strangulation and stabbings. I couldn’t help but think of a recent training I completed at work on domestic human trafficking and how girls coerced into prostitution have an average life expectancy of just seven years from the time they begin working.

I did not become as emotional this time around, in part because I was attempting to watch Clara and Shepard throughout the Mass, both of whom did well but became antsy toward the end of the service. Upon thinking of the blessings of my wife and kids and the positive changes we have experienced over the past year, including the expectation of our third child in January 2011, I was re-energized in my goal to pray for Camden and for God’s healing of the city and ask for your prayers as well.

The Fishers were not the only ones to experience blessings of change over the past year, as one couple from the Camden community welcomed their first child in the Spring and a couple from the Simple Way community in Philadelphia recently announced their engagement. It was a breath of fresh air to interact with the brothers and sisters in the communities and to experience their passion for God as well as their practical advice for ministering in an inner-city environment. In was encouraging to hear that despite the many difficulties that continue to face these families, that their young children have been an asset to their ministry, opening new avenues to other young parents and children in the neighborhood.

But questions still remain and the work ahead has no end in sight. Camden was once a booming industrial town during World War II, but white flight and the loss of jobs handed down environmental disasters in superfund toxic waste sites, polluted air and contaminated water. The physical state of Camden is illustrated well by the following statement from a seventh grade Camden student immediately following 9/11, “I’m not afraid because if the terrorists fly over Camden, they’ll think they have done it already.” Can these young New Monastic families continue to raise their kids in such an environment? In a community with rampant handgun violence? Would I be willing to do the same if called by God to do so? These families do not claim to have all the answers, but do believe Camden is the type of place Jesus would hang out and so they stay, they work, they pray, they serve. And it’s a beautiful thing, this living the gospel out in all of its tension. They consistently claim Christ as Lord in their actions, not just their words and I find I cannot learn enough from them. Road trip anyone?