Monday, October 27, 2014

On Living Between Suburbia and the Ghetto

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I live on the border of suburbia and the ghetto. North of my house is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in my city. South of my house, at the end of my street, you will hit a literal fence that divides this affluent neighborhood from "those people." You know, "other side of the tracks" people. Except it doesn't.

People who live in the sought after suburb want what most Americans, lulled by the American Dream, are taught to want. Safety, white picket fences, comfortable (in this case multi-million dollar) homes. Because my "neighbors" are so closely located to "bad neighborhoods" they have chose to insulate themselves from the problems around them. They have put up fences, both literal and figurative. An instead of keeping the "bad" out it has done something of the opposite.

Crime is an increasing concern in this area. The fences are hurting rather than helping. People who have the means to alleviate poverty, become fathers to the fatherless, love and serve those in need, have chosen to wall themselves up in their American Dream. They have turned their backs to the hungry, the hurting, the addicted. Instead of extending the hand of generosity to those who need it most they have had meetings, hosted ridiculous social media threads, and called 911 on every pedestrian they don't recognize.

This has made them both unfriendly and fearful. They don't wave at a young couple walking their dog. They firm up their faces and their defences. They serve the needy when it is sociably acceptable (ie. during the holidays or when a local school has a food drive) but they don't live lives of service, love, and consideration of their neighbors.

Hear me out. We have lived in an urban area for over five years. We have had legitimate needs to call 911. Those instances do exist. And I am not saying that charity, service and love would eliminate all crime in our neighborhoods and cities. What I am saying is that safety and security is a myth. The Kool-Aid of the American Dream has caused us to put ourselves first with disregard for those suffering around us. Our approach of building fences and walls, installing the most advanced security systems and walling ourselves in against the world has done little to alleviate the root of our society's problems.

I believe we could truly change the world if we practiced Jesus' way of hospitality. If we invited strangers and friends to share our tables. If we were more aware of the woman behind us in the grocery store than our to-do list. If we looked at people as brothers and sisters instead of inconveniences. How would our lives and communities be different if as Jeremy Courtney says we "love first and asked questions later"?

I'm joining with She Reads Truth for a study of Biblical hospitality. You can join us here.

My friend, Lori, lives in the hood and extends radical hospitality to hard people everyday. If you want to read more on this topic I highly recommend her blog here.

I'd love to hear about your neighborhood and how you extend Biblical hospitality in the comments below.


  1. Oh Joy, this makes my heart hurt so much. I feel like we've completely programmed America into this fear-based society that is so much more terrifying then anything I've seen before. This one's been heavy on my heart this year and I love seeing you address it in such a beautiful way!

  2. I agree. I constantly feel the tension between what I believe to be true and the messages we're bombarded with.