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What Created the Inner City?

March 4, 2010

As we get closer and closer to finally making the Skainos vision become a reality on the Lower Newtownards Road, I’m gettingt he chance to do some reading, and found this.

“A lack of personal responsibility did not build the inner-city. Instead, a historically accurate understanding of the inner city requires us to see inner city neighbourhoods as created by institutional racism, economic exclusion and adverse political determinations. A theologically serious approach to the inner city requires us also to draw on the biblical categories of injustice, structural sin and the powers that be.”
Mark R Gornik, “To Live in Peace:biblical faith and the changing inner city” p50

Whilst Gornik is talking primarily about Baltimore, this makes for uncomfortable reading not least because it forces those of us with access to resources to face up to the fact that we have played a role in the creation of the exclusion of those who live in such places. Far easier to demonise women, particularly single mothers or criminalise men, particularly young men, and thereby shift the blame onto their shoulders. While all the time ensuring that the economy, the education and health systems and all those other structural realities that make my life so comfortable remain accessible to me where I’m at, which often means the suburbs, and inaccessible to those most excluded, which most often means the inner cities (or outer ring housing estates).

Later Gornik writes,

“Conversion and spiritual rebirth are central to the transformation of the inner city, not because the sins of the poor caused the sorrows of the inner city (they did not), but because these transformative experiences free all who have been ‘captive’ for participation in God’s liberating order. A change of heart is necessary because it is the way to enter the kingdom which Jesus proclaimed and through which he is changing the world (Mark 1:14-15; Gal 1:4). And without discipleship in line with God’s new order through faith in Christ, liberation will not be enough to stay free of every form of oppression (Luke 11:14-28; cf Gal 5:1,13). Christ crucified brings personal and social healing and release from the powers, facets of God’s pardon and grace in the midst of the twisted structures of sin and death” p61

It’s not clear from how he says it hear, but I assume he means that conversion, rebirth and discipleship are also required for those who prop up the twisted structures, not just for those who suffer most under them.

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