Monday, July 6, 2009

under the overpass

Every Sunday we get to spend a few hours in solitude with God. Yesterday I was planning to ride my bike down to the riverfront via a converted rail trial. But I entered the trail too early, so it was just a little-used dirt track along the old rail line, which was dug into the ground. All the roads across were overpasses. There was a lot of cool graffiti art down there, along with evidence that people sleep under the overpasses, especially where buildings are built along the sides.

I came to a chain link fence, and I could see that on the other side, probably 50 yards farther south, the actual paved path started. I decided to stop under the last overpass and spend my solitude time there.

Here are some things I wrote, which include some of the experiences I had. They tell the story of some of the things I'm learning and thinking.

O God, what does the church mean here? How do we live the gospel in a place like this? I'm sitting under an overpass where a rail road used to run. Now it's home to some of the most beautiful graffiti I've ever seen. It reminds me of the subway in Rochester, except a little more above ground.
I made it to the fence, and a little farther south they turned the RR track to a nice bike path. But up here I passed the homes of the homeless. Here lies the remnants of a hing and a broken life amidst the crying buckets and trays and rusty cans that bring momentary life -- artistic expression of a real human being somewhere beneath this corrosive concrete.
Jesus preached a gospel that made the kind of people who live and breathe in places like this flock to him. He went to them. He touched the lepers. Then he had to preach from a boat so they didn't overwhelm him. That's my Jesus. I want to be like him. Let's preach a gospel that throws parties for prostitutes and dealers. This is a very uncomfortable gospel.
It makes me want to preach. Someone give me a pulpit! God, put a fire in my belly for the radical gospel, a gospel of individual righteousness and cooperate justice.

God, how do I as an individual and we as a Body reach this place? How do we bring hope under the overpass? It seems so big, so crazy. How many places just like this one exist right here in Detroit! Help me to believe and act on the truth that nothing is impossible with you.

Middle aged bikers from Grosse Point (super-rich white suburb) just back from London and Paris. Up from the paved path to see the "poetry of desolation." For once, it feels great to be on the other side of the fence. I'm in the right place.

God, I repent of the ways I have neglected the poor. I have fed into a system of oppression that cries for cheaper products at the expense of the poor around the world. I have lived in a disconnected, classed and racialized world without regard for who and what might be on the other side, not even knowing that the other side existed.

How do I really repent? How do I change. I've begun to think more in "we"s and maybe that's a start, But maybe not. Do I come down here with food and my guitar and start singing praise songs, Abuna Samaan style? Do I try to introduce myself to some of the residents? I haven't actually seen anyone yet, accept a guy on the way in collecting metal and glass. And a frightened pheasant.

On the way home:

Norman and Kevin are painters that I met. I moved to Detroit cause God said so. Teaching jobs are hard to find, unless I go to the suburbs.

Black smoke and sirens. I watched a two-story house burn to ash, bricks and all. The firemen stood by, laughing and joking and spraying nearby trees. The water first out of the hydrant was brown. The neighbors talk how much has changed in a generation. It was their hood, now it's a prairie divided by an asphalt grid and a pile of ash where a family lived.


Chops said...

Good post, inos. The parallels with the Brave Saint Saturn song "Under Bridges" are overt.

On the economics: why blame the search for cheaper products? Cheap products help the poor in obvious ways (who shops at Walmart?). And cheap products leave you with more money to give away after you've satisfied your own needs.

You have a limited budget: you could spend more of it on organic foods, free trade coffee, or even a Toyota Prius. Or you could give that same money directly to the poor. Which is likely to help them more?

Erik said...

in reply to Chops, we have become so obsessed with cheapness that we have forgotten the reason that it is so cheap. If the workers who cheaply produced our goods recieved a larger share of the profits I would feel better about myself. Over and over we have heard about how hard people need to work to make such a small wage.

The poor in our own country would be considered well-off in most of the slums of the world. If we want to create a sustainable economy we must take of the workers first. After the goods are sold 10-15% of the profits should go to the workers, then to pay the costs of production, and only then as profit to the owner.

I do have a limited budget, but I would still prefer to spend my money on Free Trade coffee or sweat-free clothing. Whatever I have after I am done with my purchases I can give away and I may not be able to donate as much to the poor in the USA, but atleast I can sleep without a guilty conscience.