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Tagging our Streets with Faith, Hope, and Love (Part 2)

July 17, 2012

Back in May, I wrote the post I copied below.

I’m posting it again because the most recent tagging in our neighborhood (on our block) reminded me that not everyone shares a vision for shalom and peace to be present in our neighborhood.

Whether it’s just one person or a group of people, there is a visible presence in our neighborhood that prefers to communicate using violent insinuations and fear-inducing rhetoric. One only need walk down past one of our street corners to see an ugly message of fear and hatred scrawled in a sloppy spray of paint.

And I’m asking again, because I’m genuinely interested and curious to hear and learn from others:

How do you respond to violent neighborhood rhetoric?

What would it look like to tag our streets with faith, hope, and love?

—–

I love our neighborhood. Our neighborhood is loud and it can be pretty dirty. We have our fair share (and maybe part of your neighborhood’s fair share) of nefarious activity on our block, but I love our neighborhood and am grateful we’ve had three years to live, move, and breathe the life of our neighborhood.

Tagging is nothing new on our street. We’re in urban Los Angeles, and gangs are a bit of a reality for this city and our neighborhood. But lately I’ve noticed an increase in the frequency our street gets tagged by the local gang.

Seeing tags, signs, and evidence meant to propagate a particularly narrow and often violent vision of community and neighborhood – designed to establish boundaries and exclude others – is a good reminder:

  • that we are called to pray
  • that we are called to be a “contrast community”
  • that we are called to live a new kind of reality in our neighborhood and with our neighbors

It’s a reminder that we’re called to tag our neighborhood and our streets with faith, hope, and love.

So, in light of messy, violent, and gang-tagged streets in need of restoration and renewal, here’s a riff on one of Saint Francis’s prayers:

Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is intimidation, let us sow welcome.
Where there is fear, courage.
Where there is crime, peace.
Where there is selfishness, generosity.
Where there is struggle, reconciliation.
Where there is exclusion, embrace.

Where there is tagged violence, hatred, and fear, let us tag faith, hope, and love.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew Wright permalink
    July 17, 2012 9:33 am

    I wrote this on your FB wall, but this is a dissertation from Dr. Jude Tiersma-Watson at Fuller. I think its relevant. This is cut and pasted from Fuller’s Proquest..

    Reading the writing on the wall: Missional transformation through narrative in postmodern Los Angeles

    by Tiersma, Judith Margaret, Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary, School of World Mission, 1999 , 245 pages; AAT 9951150

    Abstract (Summary)
    This dissertation deals with the transformational nature of narrative as related to a case study of graffiti writers. The study uses narrative as a way of doing theology on the way, leading to missional transformation of persons, neighborhoods, and cities.

    Life history and interviews are used to look at youth who are part of the hip hop scene and write their names up on city walls. The three questions guiding the project relate to what can be learned from graffiti–the writing on the wall. It asks what graffiti says about the graffiti writers themselves, about the city in which they live, and what it says to the urban church.

    The narrative methodology is central to the dissertation, as the study does not so much discuss missional transformation through narrative as model this through the methodology. The narrative methodology integrates the relationship between process and content, and between subject and object.

    The current epistemological shift is examined through objective analysis, seeking to understand “the other” hermeneutically, and looking at the interaction between scholar and subject. The question of hermeneutics of the city is considered key to the understanding of urban mission in Los Angeles. Los Angeles, as the context for the study, is considered in light of the shift from modernity to postmodernity. While theorists of the modern city did not know how to categorize Los Angeles, in recent years the term “postmodern urbanism” has been used to describe L.A.

    After looking at the macro context, Los Angeles, the study moves to a micro view of a particular immigrant neighborhood within L.A. where many graffiti writers live and write. Then it moves to the network of youth who write graffiti, especially asking what causes them to write on walls. The study then focuses in further to the life history of one graffiti writer, telling his story in his own words.

    The life story is followed by biblical reflection and an overview of narrative missiology, and ends with some suggestions for missional action.

    • July 17, 2012 9:35 am

      Thanks man – this looks like something I’ll try picking up from the library – very much appreciate Jude’s work in this area!

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