It’s a violation, we are all impacted, we are all feeling a sense of betrayal. The Mayor has little to add to the conversation, what can he say really? Another protest march against violence, what it will accomplish really? Tamar Jackson was interviewed on TV the day of the shooting spree. She expressed what many of us know to be true. That an entire generation is likely lost to violence. It is hard to say this. We don’t want to think it. As Christians it runs counter current to the idea of salvation and redemption.
Just a short time after the spree a band struck up and people wanted their Second Line to go on. I am not sure what that says but it needs to be looked at. Silence IS violence. Further, simply moving on in a hopeless sense of “this is simply the way it is” cannot be accepted nor acceptable. We say things have to change in our neighborhoods but they seem to stay the same. Are we a valley of dry bones that cannot be brought to life?
Two days before the spree of wanton violence violated us all on Mother’s Day I was at a film showing of Shell Shocked, a documentary about violence in New Orleans. I was with a panel that was supposed to field questions. Some of the questions were broad like, “What’s THE church going to do about this?” More often than not they were not questions but rather a desire to talk about what they were doing or to complain (without a question) about what was not being done. The collective reality was scattered. Why? Because the phenomena is BIG; too Big – almost.
I am not sure how, we as a city can begin to be collective in our thoughts, hopes, and desire to see an end to violence being the norm. I am not sure how, we as a community, can galvanize ourselves into active participants in redemption but I can say that we must and we will. If not this city that by many standards is recovering and prospering will die. It’s very soul will become so blighted by violence and the acceptance of violence that it will die a slow death of it’s very soul.
What might redemption look like? For some, it may be sacrificing your need to be recognized and loved and simply finding an effective mission to children to financially support. That gift can be $1.00 to $100,000. It’s an investment in redemption. For others, it might be seeking, actively seeking out a youth driven partner to hook up with and donate some time; make and deliver some sandwiches; do a little mentoring or teaching. That will be redemptive work.
Is there a collective of bright young motivated tech types and activists that might establish a central site so that all of the dozens if not hundreds of outreach programs can form a real collective if only in communications. As an example there was a peace march today. The Mayor was there and several others were there, BUT, the collective like Anna’s Arts for Kids, Murder Board, other vested organizations were simply not in that loop. So, how about for once the collective at least talk and communicate. Our organizations compete rather than compliment each other. Redemptive work must widen it’s circle in New Orleans and not be so vested in “my way” or “our church” or “our program”. The redemptive work in New Orleans MUST start with language based on “us” and “we” and “together” not “them”, “they”, or “those people.”
What other sins must we confront in order for these dry bones to see new life. Racism? Absolutely, but in a real way; black v. white – check; black v. brown – maybe not so much; light skinned v. dark skinned – we don’t talk about that; creole v. black – no that is our culture; Protestant v. Catholic – em we’ve co-existed but really not cooperated. How about sexual orientation? Sin? I don’t think so but you might But, in this collective we set that argument aside and see humanity as precious no matter what our ‘orientation’ is. Because if we start from a perspective of hate, rejection, or intolerance how can we live the dream. Yes, you remember the dream…Martin’s dream…where we are judged not on the color of our skin [orientation, shade of skin color, economic location, sex, or nation of origin] but ON THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER. When we begin to include everyone in the collective, even those we mistrust because of our own cultural, social, or historical norms and experiences THEN we begin the work of Redemption.
It is said that New Orleans is a city of resilience. Does that resilience include the ability to come back from the darkness of our past and see the hope and light of the future throwing off the shackles of intolerance and segregation? I mean all segregation: Ward segregation, economic segregation, social segregation, racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and political segregation! We can and we must. How does it start? Go to “their” meeting without agenda. Join “their group” and listen. Put that fear in a box and put it away and know that from this priest perspective the divine, given a chance, can heal, prosper, and begin our work of redemption for us.
It was a violation, that Mother’s Day melee. How long will we violate ourselves before we seek and become vessels of redemption?