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: