In the Civil Rights era, we had the theological resources to address the injustices that people were suffering. People with social, cultural, and economic power were simply afraid of what would happen when the barriers built by centuries of racism were torn down and the hurting people on the other side were allowed to mingle freely. What we face now is a similar (though not identical) circumstance wherein we have physical barriers and distance between those who have material resources and social capital and those who need both in order to climb out of poverty. The Gospel has the potential to be the gravitational center for hope. Churches in places like Sandtown are abundant and many would welcome people who are willing to take the time to sit and listen.
This is not simply a matter of the rich and powerful sacrificing for the sake of people in poor urban communities. It is also not a matter of poor urban communities since many rural places and even many suburban places need more good neighbours working with local churches. But we need to come to terms with the fact that exercising ourselves in service and challenging ourselves by frequent, intimate exposure to another culture’s expression of faith is a means of discipleship. It also a testimony to the watching world that Christ’s sufficiency transcends our cultural impetus to protect ourselves from “those kinds of people.” We don’t need an elite corps of radical Christians, we need faithful believers with power and privilege to simply spread out and join with brothers and sisters who don’t have the same resources we do.
Matthew Loftus in Sandtown, Baltimore