Archive for the ‘Gangs and God’ 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.”

Here’s an interesting article on the relocation of gang members by churches. Something to think about. What do you think?

http://www.streetgangstyle.com/street_gangs/editorials/im-church-relocation-gang-members/

A Gangster’s Prayer (adapted from Gangstyle)

If you have come to the point where you want to make a change in your life you may feel it’s time say the prayer below. Having said this prayer you are committing yourself to change and to live a life in line with the Bible.

Three things you must do to become a Christian and inherit eternal life.

1. You must recognize that you have sinned and ask God to forgive you. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

2. You must repent of your sin. To repent means to turn away, to change your direction. The Bible tells us, “Repent and be converted that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

3. You must believe in and receive Jesus Christ into you heart. The Bible promises, “For as many as received Him, He gave the power to become son of God.” Even as you read this Jesus is standing at the door of your life and asking you to let Him in. Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door I will come in.”

One way to open the door is a simple prayer like this:

“Jesus, come into my heart. I know that I am a sinner, but I thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. I ask you to forgive me and cleanse my sin. Be my personal Lord and Savior. Help me now, from this day forward, to follow you.”

If you prayed that prayer sincerely, Jesus Christ will come into your life and begin to change you from the inside out.

Take a moment to let us know of your decision so we can encourage others. We’re also willing to talk with every one of you that has decided to follow Jesus, as well any of those of you who have questions or need to talk. Would you like someone from our team to contact you?

Here are a couple of useful web sites to help you in your walk:

If you do not have a bible you can go to www.crosswalk.com and access their bible study program. Chap D recommends getting started by reading the book of John and also reading from the book of proverbs. You can also go to the top of this page and look under “Studies”  for  the One 2 Won Crosstraining Studies put online by Men at the Cross. These are basic studies about what it means to follow Jesus.

To find a church near you www.american-churches.com they carry a directory of churches nationwide. Choose carefully, find a Bible believing church that you feel comfortable with and preaches the Word.

A message from a pastor who cares:

Dear friend: Please know that there is a God in heaven that loves you and is offering you a better way. He alone has the power to take the anger away from you. Jesus Christ is the person who came from heaven to make all the wrongs right in this world. It will not happen over night, it will take life times and more. But, Jesus Christ will come through for people like you and me. We may be in different places in life, but Jesus is the one that is able to make the difference and He is with you now. Invite Him into your life and He will come in. Go to a pastor near your home and ask one how you can live, don’t be afraid, He will tell you how to connect up with God and show you that He will protect you. I want you to know that only God can tell the future, no man has the power to do that. Listen my new friend, if you believe that Jesus died on a cross for you and rose up from the dead and you want to follow Him the Bible says that you will be saved.

Life is hard and we go through many things that we don’t understand. Begin to trust Jesus Christ to help you and He will. He is in the business of changing futures.
Pastor Marc P.

Gangster Quotes’

“If I could take it all back, I would. I would have died a hundred times over to let my brothers and sisters live… but i cant. All I can do now is promote an anti-gang message…drop your flag. Start your life over… it’s neva too late.'”

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Hey Gs. This is just a reminder. Tomorrow is Gsus Day or, as other’s call it, Easter. This is the day we celebrate how Gsus rose from the dead and conquered death for you and me. That conquest of death means that every G can have a new life of freedom, hope, love, joy, and peace, not to mention the best thing ever, eternal life with God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be at Willow Creek Chicago for the 9 am Gsus day service (there is also a 11 am service if you sleep in). That’s at the corner of Wabash and Congress in the Auditorium Theater. A great place for church! If anyone wants to join me there, I’d be happy to talk and show you around.  Ask for Ron Gorny if you come. There will be coffee and donuts when you get there. I’m usually in the right balcony of seats. If you let me know, I’ll save you a seat! If we don’t connect, let me know you came and I’ll come talk with you wherever you are.

Happy Gsus Day

This is a brief talk by Nicky Cruz who was the leader of the infamous Puerto Rican Mau Mau street gang in New York City. Nicky’s story is portrayed in books such as The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and in his own book, Run, Baby Run.  It was through reading those two books that my own life changed and because of what happened to Nicky, I went to Chicago to work for Teen Challenge. That’s when I got involved with the Latin kings and all the other sets I got to know at that time. I even had Nicky come to Chicago back in the early 70s where he had an open meeting for north side street gangs in Humboldt Park. Nicky is just one of many examples of how Christ CAN change a life, even in the worst of circumstances.  jesus can do the same thing for you that he did for Nicky. Think about it. See what Nicky has to say about his life in the Mau Mau street gang and what happened to him when he met Jesus.

http://www.streetgangstyle.com/street_gangs/video/gangs-god-nicky-cruz-testimony/

For more on Nicky Cruz Outreach, go to:

http://nickycruz.org/

Hey Gs~

This is an invitation to every G out there who is wondering is God is real. Come find out what the Gsus Nation is all about. The Church in the Hood is open for Easter. Come join us for Gsus day at Willow Creek Chicago. We’re located in the Auditorium Theater on Congress and Wabash. Service are at 9 and 11 am on Easter (This Sunday). Let me know if you’re coming so I can meet you. Coffee and donuts are offered before and after the service. Dress any way you want, but come and join me in “Section G” for the 2011 Easter service.

Ron

Tedashii at Blacktown 2008:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F34oEiUsrog&feature=related

Lecrae at Blacktown 2008:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y7IKrkQSyA&feature=related

Here is the second part to Big D’s story of how and why this Mexican Mafia leader became a Christian:

http://www.streetgangstyle.com/street_gangs/video/big-dformer-prison-mafia-leaderborn-againpart-2/

Here are some important thoughts if you are about to leave a gang:

http://www.streetgangstyle.com/street_gangs/editorials/leaving-gang-2/

Hey guys-

I’m getting hits on this website from guys in the Insane C-Notes. I don’t know anyone from that set, but would like to get some time to talk with you guys. Let me now if any of you want to talk, as a group or individually. You have my ear, so holler at me if/when you think Crossfire might be able to help.  

Ron

Why? That’s the question I’ve received on several occasions when I told people I was working with guys and gals in the Chicago street gangs. Why would I want to do that? The implication is that there are better things I could do with my time than work with a group that most people only want to ignore and stay away from. The underlying premise of that question is that these people are not worth it. Well, I believe they ARE worth it. To my way of thinking, however, it seems only logical to offer myself as a means of reaching out to a group that matters greatly to God. These are guys and gals that are smart and have a set of gifts that God has given them. The gifts may not yet have been used for what God purposed them, but the gifts are there and God wants them put to a better more worthy use. These young men and women are important to God, so they are important to me. They are so important, in fact, that God has asked me to go to them with the message of his love and forgiveness. So, I go out of my own love for these people, but out of a love that is really born in the heard of God. It’s a love he’s given me to share with them. So, knowing what God has done for me, how can I refuse to do what he’s asked me to do. If I don’t do it, he’ll find someone else to do it, but I want to be part of what he’s asked me to do. It’s there that I will find real peace, and its there that a lot of Gs will find what they are really looking for. Here’s a song that talks about this:

I Refuse by Josh Wilson: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1Lv8k5pEc

Dismanling Racism by Joseph Barndt, Author.  Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Books, 1991.Here is a book about racism in America, written “for white people and about white people . . . by a white person.”Joseph Barndt, defining racism as “prejudice plus power,” asserts that efforts against racism have often been incorrectly focused on minority populations rather than the majority. “The cause of racism is in the white society. The effects are felt in the communities of color,” he writes. Rather than attempting to soften the effects, we need to attack the cause.

The book examines individual, institutional, and cultural racism, and includes a section on racism and the church—with particular attention to the European American traditions inherited by white congregations, which Barndt refers to provocatively as a contemporary “circumcision crowd.” The author asks congregations to incorporate multicultural aspects in its worship before the congregation becomes multicultural and to work to achieve a pluralistic, not racist, witness to the world.

and consider that…

 “At the center of the Christian faith is the reminder that the time is
always right to do the right thing,” Turner said. “The church can and must
provide moral leadership that helps move the world’s nations into people of
transformation. The church has the capacity to transform itself to be an
agent of change, but this only happens when the church is engaged in the
struggle for justice.”

                                                                                                            -Rev. Otis Turner, 1996

 

As many of you know, the first week in march is traditionally known among the Latin Kings as King Week. Its a time of celebrating the power, history, and lore of the ALKQN.  As I was thinking about this and talking to people I know in the Kings, I was reminded that the real author of power,  as well as  of freedom and basic human rights, is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. It’s to him that ALL power is given, that ALL respect is due. That’s because he took “the great violation” for all gangbangers when he was nailed to the Cross. When gangbangers talk about power, that talk contains only a small hint of what real power is all about. Let me give you a description of what real power looks like. In two passages of the Bible we get a description of God handing over power to his Son Jesus Christ, the one who will return to collect his own and to judge the rest of the world.

In the Old Testament we find the Prophet Daniel giving us this description of power being handed to Christ (Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14):
9″As I looked, thrones were set in place,  and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow;  the hair of his head was white like wool.  His throne was flaming with fire,  and its wheels were all ablaze.  A river of fire was flowing,  coming out from before him.  Thousands upon thousands attended him;  ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  The court was seated,  and the books were opened.

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

**********************

A similar portrayal of Christ is found in the New Testament (I Thessalonians 4: 16-17):

 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.

In both cases, we see Jesus as a coming king, the ruler of all things and the judge of all men. This is all made possible because Jesus was “violated,” not for what he did, but for what you did. Because he was blameless and took that “violation” for you, God has made him the sovereign king of all creation and the final judge of all men.  It doesn’t matter if you are ALKQN, NAACP, WASP, all of us must answer to Christ for the life we lived and ultimately answer the question, “How did you respond to my Son’s invitation to open your heart to My eternal plan of forgiveness?” For those who can respond that they accepted the grace of God, repented of their sins, and followed Christ, there is eternal life with the one who saved us from our sins. If our trust is in the nacion, the country, the President, or some organization, then we will have failed to put our trust in the right place and the cost is eternal separation from God. So, my brothers and sisters in the nacion, please spend some time this week reflection on what the Word of God, the Bible, has to say about God, love, truth, and forgiveness. Kingism is one of many philosophies that try to address the issue of man’s relationship to God, but only the Bible has the full truth of God’s love and of the King of Kings, the one who gave himself to not only set us free from sin and its results, but to give us the abundant life that God always planned for us to enjoy. This is all summed up in four short words, TRUST IN THE CROSS.

More than 1.7 million children across the USA have a parent in U.S. prisons, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of children with a father in prison grew by 77% from 1991 through mid-2007. And those children are two to three more times likely to wind up behind bars themselves, says Christopher Wildeman, a University of Michigan sociologist who has studied the effects of imprisoned parents.

To try to snap that trend, Angola and other prisons across the country sponsor two programs aimed at reconnecting prison dads with their children: Returning Hearts, a day-long carnival-like celebration where inmates spend eight hours with their kids, and Malachi Dads, a year-long training session that uses Bible passages to help improve inmates’ parenting skills. To find out more, see the links below:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-06-17-prison-dads_N.htm?csp=34news

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2008/summer/12.13.html

http://www.pfi.org/cot/prison/offender/spiritual-care/lifeline-malachi-dads-awana-usa/?searchterm=None

http://awanalifeline.org/

Hi all-

You probably know, but I’ve posted a lot of raps, songs, and testimonies on my Vodpod account. You can access them through the Vodpod widget on the left side of the website. People don’t seem to be finding that resource, so I’m posting some of the things I liked from Kre8tor here for easy access. Enjoy!

The Battlehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXVTkmLGklY&feature=related

My Letterhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GV3nxWvWnQY&feature=related

I’m sorryhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr5D4JRXcso&feature=related

You Can Do Thathttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6xM8Bt0BtI&feature=related

Ain’t Scaredhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krxp188Hpgs&feature=related

Don’t Matter Who You Arehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW8Jmaf8qfs&feature=related

More of this can be found on GodTube and YouTube