This is the second in an occasional series titled Chiraq.
On “Bloody Sunday” in Chiraq, where was “the church”?
What were her prayers? Her hopes for those who dwell amid the gunfire and bloodshed here that has turned some neighborhoods into war zones?
Did she cower in the shadows of the crosses that hang in the sanctuary, behind the safe confines of the walls, out of harm’s way? Did the church spill into the streets by the thousands armed with the Gospel message of hope and peace?
Or did she sit silent, complacent and complicit amid the mounting carnage of this human rights atrocity occurring right underneath the church’s nose, near its front doorsteps?
What was the church’s travail on Bloody Sunday morning a week ago today — as news and headlines smoldered with the toll of those already wounded or slain in holiday weekend violence? What were the topics of morning sermons last Sunday, Bloody Sunday, which would record reportedly at least 21 separate shootings and four homicides?
Has the news of about 80 wounded in shootings over four days last weekend, at least a dozen of them fatally, yet stirred the church from its sleep and slumber in Chiraq?
Chiraq — a moniker for the city that has become a gang-war-torn metropolis, where homicides and shootings are commonplace. Half Chicago, half Iraq. Chiraq. A city where gunfire in some neighborhoods resounds more loudly and frequently in the bloodstained streets than the prayers of the faithful.
But where is the church? The body of believers who purport to know firsthand the transformative, matchless power of God to intercede and intervene in the affairs of men?
Where is the faith community? The body of believers who might confront this plague rooted in spiritual darkness that partly can be traced to familial dysfunction, to the absence of fathers, a moral void, the loss of community and respect for the sanctity of human life? To the spirit of Cain.
Does the church even mourn? Or is it instead engaged in hallelujah services, obsessed with praise & worship extravaganzas, consumed by faith conferences, preoccupied with church meetings, where the agenda remains focused on minutiae rather than on the myriad major critical issues afflicting our communities?
In the words of the old Gospel song: “Oh Zion, what’s the matter now?”
Where are the voices, crying in the wilderness, calling out to the lost, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted? Where are the voices that speak truth to power — not beholden to government, to political favor and financial fringe benefits, or fear of reprisal?
What ails those who say nothing? Is it apathy? Complacency? Or is it spiritual laryngitis?
Why has the church — in general — abandoned the poor, the widowed, the orphan and forsaken the fundamental call to be transformers?
Has the church lost her light?
Is there no balm in Chiraq? And if the faith community has lost its heart, willingness, ability and the credibility to lead in the pursuit of peace, justice and equality for all humankind, what then is our hope?
This much I believe: That where there is no vision, the people perish. That the church needs a paradigm shift. And that the church must invest at least as much on affecting change beyond its walls as it does erecting them.
“It was yesterday that we lost it,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was quoted telling reporters at a press conference Monday.
Some wondered aloud, “Where were the police?” But I couldn’t help but wonder: “On Bloody Sunday, where was the church?”