Archive for the ‘Gang Addiction’ Category

Hi DP-

       I want to thank you for responding to the earlier posting on “Dismantling Racism.” I can understand your feelings on many levels. I have seen the harm done by gangs in Chicago and around the country. I could probably cite a dozen socio-economic reasons why gangs have grown into the current menace they have become. As a Christian, however, I want to do everything I can to undercut the reasons why these socio-economic disparities exist and to reclaim these Gs for Christ. I am all for social justice and for trying to alleviate the poverty, pain, and hopelessness that have created an environment where gangs can grow and prosper. There are, however, many programs and organizations that have attempted to do just that. Still, the gangs grow. Why is that? It’s because there is one underlying element in the human existence that breeds this sort of behavior and it’s not addressed by these programs. It’s called sin. It’s a love of self that works not only on the mob side of things, but on the civic side as well. They feed off of each other. It’s pure selfishness on both ends of the spectrum that creates the environment where gangs grow and prosper. Governing bodies for years have allowed a system of racism to exist which perpetuates stereotypes and fosters a climate that manifests itself across town in the form of greed, political corruption, and ‘gangsterism’. People in power usually think of themselves first, so what’s a kid in the hood supposed to do? They emulate what they see from the governing officials. It’s all about selfishness and self-love as opposed to what Jesus told us to do. In Philippians 2: 3-11 Paul the Apostle writes that we should:

    “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”      

       In other words, Jesus asks us to become servants. If we all put others ahead of ourselves, like Paul asks, the nastiness of the hoods would cease to exist. If we were students of servanthood instead of students of selfishness, we would be able walk through our neighborhoods in peace and security. If we had each other’s backs instead of trying to stab each other in the back, endless possibilities for mutual reconciliation and community building would exist. Instead, we put our own wants, needs, and desire first. This goes not only for gangbangers but for those of us outside of the “ghetto.” People tend to be selfish instead of selfless. We follow the example of another instead of the example of Jesus. Because of that, we pay a heavy price. We think of our own needs before we think of those around us. The inequalities that motivate the gang lifestyle are rooted in the selfishness of those who created a political system that dehumanizes those who are different; it sucks the hope right out of their souls.

       Now, don’t get me wrong. Gangbangers make decisions too, and they need to be held accountable for their decisions. They are where they are at because they (not their fathers) chose to do the things that gangbangers do. When things get too hot for them, some of them do take advantage of organizations that try to help, like the church. They are selfish and in need of change, just like you and me, and that is what I am aiming for in this ministry, total transformation. That’s also why Jesus came. He came for the sick and not the healthy. He came for me and he came for the gangbanger wanting to change but not knowing how. He came to transform us. When we become transformed into servants as Jesus taught us, there would be more hope, trust, and possibility in this world.   

       There are many reasons why gangbangers decide to “drop their flag.” One of them is when they see that what they’re doing doesn’t work. Remember that they did not create this system. They are only the latest installment of a system that has failed them on a personal, familial, and communal level. These guys are smart, however, and they can come to the realization that what they have been espousing is just plain bad. The problem is that by the time that they recognize this, they have long rap sheets and couldn’t by a job if it was for sale. This drives even the most well-intentioned G back to the streets with jarring consistency. Gangbangers make bad decision, decisions that are contrary to God’s will and local laws. These decisions harm their communities. Admittedly, they are not commonly served by the socio-political community that they call home, they often lack the familial infrastructure that teaches them how to live, and yes, they suffer because they make their own selfish decision too. Choices are made and those choices are most commonly based on sin, giving in their own wants and desires with little or no regard to the community they live in.      

       Other reasons why a gangbanger may want to chance is out of fear of retribution from another gang, fear for his family, a fear of going back to jail, a desire to rid themselves of the drug and alcohol abuse that commonly accompanies gang life, the fear of injury and death, and, finally, pure exhaustion from that lifestyle. While some Gs may have the best intentions, one must understand that the gang lifestyle is addictive and no matter how good the intentions of the gangbanger are, they often relapse into the gang lifestyle because of the addiction. That’s why mentors who see these guys as creations of God and who are willing to serve them are so vitally important to changing the gang culture.      

       We sometimes think that a bad ending to a gang lifestyle is inevitable because we see it so often. Change is possible, however, both on an individual level, as well as on a communal level. It doesn’t happen often because we tend to look at gangbangers as neighborhood sludge, but when we understand that these are men and women that Christ loved and when we look them in the eye and understand that he loved them so much that he died for them, it changes everything. You realize that change is possible because that’s God’s business. He changes lives, or better yet, he transforms lives. When one gangbanger’s life changes, that change impacts the lives of everyone around him. The life of Nicky Cruz (as portrayed in the Cross and the Switchblade and Run, Baby, Run) is just one example. The problem is that, because there are not enough men going into the streets to reach them, there are not enough of those changed lives to point to as examples and, in the end, Satan turns out more Gs than we can reach out to. We need more servants willing to walk across the street and show a Gs what the love of Christ is all about. That’s how neighborhoods change, one life at a time.

       Change comes, contrary to political opinions, not from some powerful individual such as Barack Obama, but from God. We must understand that the gang problem is a spiritual battle and has to be fought on the spiritual battlefield. That’s the only way to change the “ghetto.” There are plenty of battlefields scattered across the world that were once desolate places of death and destruction, but have now returned to nature and are beautiful places to behold. That’s the way the “ghetto” will be. It’s a battlefield full of death and destruction, but some day, the Humboldt Parks of the world will be reclaimed and once again become beautiful sights to behold. That will only happen, however, when we fight the battle on the enemy’s territory and free the world from the sin of selfishness that rests at the center of all racism, hatred, pain, and gang activity. Keep in mind, gangs don’t run the city. Satan does. The Bible calls him “the Prince of this world” (see earlier post called “Asking the Wrong Question”). Gangs, however, represent just one face of Satan in a world gone wrong.    

       Truth be told, there are different forms of ghettos in Chicago. We most easily talk about the ones portrayed in pictures as deteriorating, dilapidated, and dirty blocks of crumbling apartments, but there are other ghettos that we don’t often think about, places where men and women are bound by greed, sex, and self, places where their souls are dirty and deteriorating. Sounds familiar right, but you would never recognize these places as “ghettos.” One definition is that a “ghetto” is an:

Environment of isolation: an environment where a group of people live or work in isolation, whether by choice or circumstance.”

       I know it’s stretching the definition a lot, but bear with me. These “ghettos” present an “environment of isolation” and are located in places with big fancy houses, like Barrington, and in beautiful apartments along Michigan Avenue, places where people are bound and isolated by their pride and inflated perceptions of self-worth. There are also university “ghettos” where men and women wear their accomplishments as commendations on their own self-worth. Yeah, these are ghettos too. They’re just prettier ghettos. Fancier, more respectable “ghettos.” They’re just places where people are bound to a lifestyle borne out of pride and sin where they think too highly of themselves and not nearly enough about God. So, when you talk about gangs, keep in mind that they are just one manifestation of a larger issue. Gangs are part of a spiritual battle going on for the hearts and minds of men’s souls all across this city, in Humboldt Park, at the University of Chicago, along the “Magic Mile”, and in affluent suburbs such as Kenilworth. The suburban “ghetto” may seem cleaner, more affluent, and more respectable, but they can be just as deadly to a man’s soul as any south side or west side “ghetto” you can describe. Sin is sin, no matter where it occurs. Souls are being lost in all of these places. Satan’s modus operandi is different from place to place, but just as deadly. In one he tricks people into thinking they have no hope because they are living in what seems to be perpetual poverty. In another he tricks them into a false sense of security based on the lie of accumulated wealth. In a third, he gets people to trust in their own intellect for knowledge about the universe and their own “salvation”. In each of them, however, people act out of pride, greed and selfishness. And don’t think there’s no connection. If you read your history books, you’ll find that the Black ghettos or Puerto Rican ghettos are just as much a product of selfishness in city hall and white America as it is of the gangbangers who can’t find jobs and tear apart their neighborhoods with violence. Truth be told!

       In the end, I know that this may not be the answer you wanted to hear from me, and the reality of the situation is that the answer is a lot more complex than I alluded to in this response. The truth I wanted to get across in all this is that life is all about spiritual battles, whether we talk about gangs or businessmen, scholars or truck-drivers. So if you think you haven’t had a fair chance, you have to ask yourself, “How am I faring in this spiritual battle? How close is my walk with God?” The Bible says that “If God is for us, who can stand against us” and “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” Never forget, God IS in control of this broken world, not only in the larger world picture, but also in your life, if you will allow him to be. That’s something that the gangbangers may not want to admit but which each of them will one day have to confess before Christ himself. The same truth, of course applies not just to gangbangers, but to you and me, and everyone who has ever lived. And eventually, we will hear God pose the question, “How have you used your talents to further my Kingdom here on earth?” May we be able to say, along with Jesus, that we used those talent so that “your kingdom will come, so that your will may be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

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Crossfire is in the process of beginning some Gangs Anonymous groups. if you’re trrying to deal with gang-related issues and could use some help in sorting through things, Gangs Anonymous may be able to help. The actual places that we will meet is dependent on the numbers of guys wanting to attend in various neighborhoods and the presence of someone to lead the groups. Groups will be available for men or women. If you are interested in being part of Gangs Anonymous in either of those capacities, please let us know by calling me at 773.294.8849 or e-mailing me at:

 rlg2@uchicago.edu

Cravings

Ever drive by the local White Castle restaurant and see the sign reading “Crave Pack?” It refers, of course, to a pack of sliders that’s meant to satisfy your late night craving for a burger. A craving is, as you know, an insatiable desire for something that we don’t have; something that we just can’t get enough of, that we can’t get along without.

What are your cravings? I have them.  Gangbangers have them too. Gangbanger cravings, however, can be dangerous, if not lethal. Those include a craving for drugs, a craving for sex, a craving for blood, a craving for power, a craving for thrills, and a craving for respect.  We could add more. These are cravings that you will do anything to satisfy. They’re also called addictions.

Cravings and addictions don’t spring out of nowhere and just appear one day. They are rooted in our normal needs for things such as love, safety, respect and accomplishment.  God’s original plan was that he would meet our needs as part of a two-way relationship between him and us. That plan, unfortunately, is often thwarted by the individual’s rejection of God and his role in our lives life.  When that relationship is broken and our pride spins out of control, it actually encourages our basic needs to become addictive and controlling. Since we can’t meet those needs ourselves, and we don’t allow God to meet them, we look or a third party to meet those needs. Satan subtlety moves in with his alternatives and the perversion of normal need into an addictive behavior begins.

 So, acknowledging that we do have needs, how do we address the normal needs that are built into our lives without allowing those needs to become addictive and all-consuming?  God tells us that there is a higher craving that can free us from the desires and addictions of this life. Want to be free from the craving for drugs? Want to be free from the addiction to sex? Want to be free from the lust for power? Want to be free from the need for the things of this world? What if we have allowed ourselves to become addicted to thoughts, feelings, desires, and needs that we were never meant to be enslaved to? What if we develop cravings for things that will ultimately destroy us?  What do we do?

As we noted above, we all have built-in needs in our lives, but Satan works hard to turn those needs into addictions that control our lives. God admonishes us for letting these needs become addictions because he desires to provide for our legitimate needs in a healthy productive way. How does that work? Here’s a verse from the Bible that may get you thinking.  Matthew 6:33 reads:  

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 This is an interesting verse in many ways. In the first place, it’s a promise from God to meet the needs that we as people in this world may require in order to survive and prosper. I find it interesting, however, that the words “Seek first his kingdom” really don’t do  justice to the verse. They do not get at the real root of what Jesus is talking about. The Greek word that underlies the English word “seek” in this passage really means “crave,” so the verse in its original really means:

“Crave after his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

I think this understanding gives our relationship with God a whole new perspective.  And its not the only place in the Bible where this idea is found. In Psalm 63:1-3, for instance, King David wrote:

You, God, are my God,  earnestly I seek you;  I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you  as one who longs to quench his thirst in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

Now that’s a craving! And it’s also an example for us. May our prayer be that, like King David, that we will crave after God. May our heart and mind be addicted to his love and purpose to the extent that I would be willing to do anything humanly possible to satisfy that craving for the one person who can give my soul peace, satisfaction, and rest from the addictions of this present life. So, the next time you see the White Castle “crave” sign, think of it as a reminder to keep craving after God!

the G’sus Nation is a community of believers drawn from gangs and the gangster lifestyle. Those who make up the G’sus Nation come from as every gang, ethnicity, and nationality. What they have in common is Jesus, the saviour of the world.  It is a group of men and women who are transformed (not perfect) by the act of love  that took Jesus to the cross to take the blame for our own broken and messed up lives. This is a Nation that is grateful to the one who took on himself the great “violation” of the cross for our violence and addictions, but one who also walks with us through our pain, hopelessness, and shame. The G’sus Nation is a living “church in the hood” where believers are “born again” into a new life of hope and grace. It is a community of believers who take the Gospel of Christ to every hood and every city in obedience to Christ’s great commission to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Our mission field is found in the neighborhoods of Chicago where gangs rule and gang life have stolen the promise of so many young men and women. The G’sus Nation is composed of young men and women who have experienced God’s grace, gangsters who follow Jesus instead of the mob. That’s not easy because other nations want to keep you down and hold you back. They lock you in chains and violate you in every way imaginable. Jesus breaks those chains and gives you freedom by being violated on the cross for you. Jesus not only makes you free, but he makes you one in the G’sus Nation. Taking a little liberty with what Paul the Apostle wrote, we learn that:

  Here (in Christ) there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, (and we might add, no Latin Kings or Latin Disciples, no Vice Lords or Gangster Disciples, no Folks and no People; no Bloods and no Crips), but Christ is all, and is in all.

                                                                                                   ~Colossians 3:11

We who have committed our lives to Christ are truly one in the Spirit. God has called us to take the message of grace and forgiveness to our brothers in the hood. It’s a big task, and dangerous, but “if God is for us, who can stand against us!” Join the G’sus Nation. Jesus wants you! Pray and ask God where he wants you to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He will lead as he builds the G’sus Nation through you.

Let me know if you want to learn more.

The tragic real-life story of a Southside Chicago gang member.

http://chicagoist.com/2010/11/23/yummy_focuses_on_the_tragedy_of_gan.php

A sobering view of what it means to be a Christ follower in this broken world we call home. While not specifically gang-oriented, this page should have a strong impact on how we view our mission to marginalized and broken people looking for love and acceptance in the gang lifestyle.

http://www.reasons.org/judging-jesus-his-followers

A very interesting Christian “12 Step” form of recovery program that has applications for recovering gang members. CR has developed 8 principles that are based on the Beatitudes. They are as follows:

CELEBRATE RECOVERY’S EIGHT RECOVERY PRINCIPLES
The Road to Recovery
Based on the Beatitudes

Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1)

“Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.”

Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2

“Happy are those how mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3)

“Happy are the meek.”

Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps  4 and 5)

“Happy are the pure in heart.”

Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7)

“Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires”

Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9)

“Happy are the merciful.”  

“Happy are the peacemakers”

Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11)

Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12)

“Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”

Find the larger website at:

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

The Open Table provides an interesting model for helping to restore individuals and communities and could have specific applications for turning around the lives of gang members in those communities. Find their site at:

http://theopentable.org/

A wonderful site that discusses the addiction and cures for the gang lifestyle.

http://www.angelfire.com/id/CGAnonymous/

An interesting article from Will Okun’s blog

http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/guns/

For the entire blog contents go to:

http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com./author/will-okun/

Good stuff on gangs and related issues at:

http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=6399

What’s Gang Life REALLY like? Find out here…

http://www.gangstyle.com/gangs_live_and_learn.php

from Gangstyle.com

Testimony of a LA gangster who gave his life to Christ:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35fqE7kgCCc

Advice from Gangstyle about getting out of a gang can be found at:

http://www.gangstyle.com/gangs_getting_out.php

Here’s an article from Newsweek magazine that talks about getting out of the gangs. Access it at:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/183677

As you know, it’s not an easy process. Please pray for these kids!