Monthly Archives: July 2010

Who Decides when Enough is Enough?

Cover article from a recent Chicago newspaper

Like many other large American cities, Chicago has been rocked by incidents of violence on such a regular basis that many residents simply seem to have tuned it out.  Sure, every now and then some report of recent violence will raise the collective eyebrows of the masses but, for the most part, most seem resigned to suffer the violence of this grand city or unmoved because this violence has yet to affect them or their community.

With the recent shooting of Michael Bailey, a well-loved police officer who was due to retire in a few weeks, many Chicago-ans are being reawakened to the crisis.  The reports say that many have simply had enough.

Many others, though, had enough months or years ago…  And even now, with the renewed interest and political power of a population that is half frightened and half outraged, it isn’t clear that a solution to the epidemic of violence is any nearer.

Eulogizing at the funeral services for Bailey last Friday, Father Michael Pfleger spoke passionately about the need for the transformational involvement of citizens rather than passive by-standing that stems from fear and indifference.  Pfleger, a friend of the Bailey family, combined a moving remembrance of the slain officer with inspiring and resolute words calling people to individual and communal action.  Not one to let the chance to make a point slip by, Father Pfleger also broadened the focus by citing public policy issues like the ease of handgun availability and a proposed law that would title handguns like states title automobiles.

Continuing a familiar theme that seems consistently to fall upon deaf ears, Pfleger restated his conviction that violence in America has reached epidemic levels: “People dying in the streets of urban America is a national emergency!”  (ABC currently has footage of the entire eulogy on their website)

What remains to be seen is if the lament and outrage of cities like Chicago, overwhelmed with violence and fed-up with things seeming only to get worse, will lead to the awareness and urgency that leaders like Pfleger are calling for.

Will the outrage over the recent shootings of three Chicago police officers (3 in 2 months) be strong enough to spark the transformation that the shootings of Chicago Public School students (508 shot in 16 months) couldn’t?


Advanced Latino/a Theological Education

ALTE students engage in bilingual discussion

One of SCUPE’s newest programs has hit the ground running with great success!  In the past year and a half, ALTE has established itself as a premiere program for Latino/a Theological Education in America.

Immigration Theology and Changing Demographics

Immigration Theology and Changing Demographics class

ALTE is a program that seeks to assist Latin@ church leaders in the United States (with a focus on three states: Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana) in their theological preparations as they work to meet the diversity of challenges faced by the church and community.  ALTE’s curriculum is developed from a Latin@ perspective and is taught in the community by nationally known bilingual instructors, such as Dr. Daniel Rodriguez-Diaz, Dr. Samuel Solivan, and others.

In addition to the excellent classes which are a part of its curriculum, ALTE also hosts a slew of important workshops throughout the year.  This August, ALTE is hosting a workshop in Elkhart, IN in conjunction with the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.  The workshop is entitled “Christian Education in the Latino/a Church”/“Educación Cristiana en la Iglesia Latino/a” and will be taught by AMBS professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling Daniel S. Schipani.

For more information on the workshop: 8-14-10 Workshop – Dr. Schipani (pdf. format)

For more information on the ALTE program: Advanced Latin@ Theological Education (website)

Dr. Jose D. Rodriguez

Dr. Jose D. Rodriguez teaching on immigration theology


McDonald vs. Chicago – Supreme Court Decision pt. 1

The Chicago pseudo-newspaper/tabloid RedEye released graphics mapping Chicago’s 2010 homicides in today’s issue.  The statistics are disheartening enough when put in terms of numbers, 217 homicides in 6 months, but when you see it on a map it’s downright overwhelming.  You can visit RedEye’s interactive homicide map and even though the view is by month I will link, eventually, with the map for all of 2010 so far.

RedEye Homicide Map 2010 Through June

This perspective revealing the scope and embeddedness of violence in Chicago comes little more over a week after the United States Supreme Court ruling that effectively makes Chicago’s 28 year-old ban on handguns null and void.  While the city has countered by enacting various restrictions to help counter the rulings potentially disastrous outcome for Chicago an unavoidable feeling that there is less and less citizens and local governments can do in the face of this relentless American gun culture.

We can look to the proliferation of Conceal & Carry as evidence that guns are becoming more and more “available” around our nation:

“All but two states have legalized at least some form of concealed carry,
with most allowing any citizen who qualifies
(no felony criminal record, meets a certain age requirement,
and can qualify with a firearm) can get a permit.”
– conceal carry.org

Those who are not quick to believe that “more guns means more safety” are being backed up against a wall where the  foolishly simple solution of more guns is increasingly becoming gospel truth.  I use that word gospel quite seriously.  The brilliant Gary Laderman article “Hate the Sinner, Love the Gun” proposes that America’s love of their guns is more than even culture… it is religion… and “the gun is the religious object par excellence”.  While the article will probably provoke some readers by its boldness it does do the essential task of translating a stale, vapid, dumbed-down debate into a deep and rich new terrain.

This is the intention of the upcoming 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry, to engage with the violence in our culture in a multi-faceted, multi-leveled manner that doesn’t ignore the complexity of social realities.  We not only believe that the problems we face are complex but that the gospel of Jesus can challenge, heal, and redeem these complexities.  Even as we await with Eschatological hope the coming reign of the Prince of Peace we strive to reawaken and re-emphasis the peacemaking that is inherent in the Way of Jesus in every good day given to us.

Daley at the '68 Democratic National Convention

One good piece that has helped give depth and breadth to my wrestling with issues of handgun-control is the two WBEZ produced shorts on the history/evolution of Chicago’s handgun ban.  As well as being incredibly informative, the presentation is remarkably even-handed.  Wherever you stand on issues of handgun-control I am sure you will appreciate the complexity they engage because,  as I recently overheard at lunch in a busy restaurant, “Wherever there is a large complex problem there is a short simple solution… that is wrong”.

Oh, and seriously, read that Laderman article!


Art of Prophetic Preaching in the Urban Context

Dave Frenchak

“Don’t preach to me”!  Which one of us have not heard that expression or perhaps said those words.  What does this plea tell us about the image of preaching?  Certainly it is not a positive image, and while it may be based on a stereotype image of preaching my fear is that stereotype is, all too often, lived out from pulpits every Sunday.

When I was in high school I won a regional speech contest by memorizing Jonathan Edwards’ fiery sermon, preached during the Great Awakening, entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“.  I was so proud with myself for winning but now I am aghast at the destructiveness such a presentation has on the image of preaching.

What is that image?  Preaching is seen and understood as someone in authority telling them others what they should or should not be doing related to a particular issue or agenda.  Even worse, preaching is telling others what they are now doing or have done in the past is bad and wrong and not only do they need to stop, if they do not stop they are damned.  No one, I repeat no one, likes to be preached at in this way.

The image of preaching needs an overhaul and those of us who preach need to assume responsibility for transforming the image.  While we are all sinners in the hands of God, we are not in the hands of an angry God but a loving God.  That is good news!  That is preaching.  If our sermons are not grounded in good news not only are they not good sermons it is not preaching; call it something else.  Preaching is the proclamation of good news!

– Dave Frenchak

Dave Frenchak introducing the Art of Prophetic Preaching

Each April, Dave Frenchak teaches a graduate level SCUPE class on the Art of Prophetic Preaching in the Urban Context.  The class focuses on freeing up the prophetic imagination from within the preacher by releasing inhibitions in favor of creating space for the Holy Spirit, by celebrating the unique gifts of each individual, and by connecting with vital skills and perspectives that bring social context and biblical Word together in the preached moment.

In resent years the class has been co-taught by the Rev. Otis Moss III from Trinity UCC in Chicago.

Otis Moss III teaching on the opening weekend

You can hear an excerpt of Otis Moss III teaching on the opening weekend of the class: the Priest and the Prophet.