Worth Fighting For

Boston. A young man fleeing two pursuers with automatic weapons ducks into a church during a worship service, believing he will be safe there. His assailants don't even pause at the church door as they rush in and open fire. The choir stops singing, the preacher dives under the pulpit, and the congregation crouches beneath the pews as the sanctuary is sprayed with bullets.

Later, at a press conference, church leaders indignantly decry the blasphemous violation of holy thresholds and sacred space. But Azusa Christian Community's Eugene Rivers, an African-American street pastor, offered a different and prophetic word: "If the church won't go into the streets, the streets will come into the church."

Washington, D.C. All the Sunday morning talk shows focus on out-of-control violence in the United States. Nobody is safe, says a worried-looking David Brinkley. Desperate politicians and police chiefs talk crime bills and gun registrations and the president speaks of the breakdown of work, family, and community. What's most clear is that the political and media elites haven't got a clue as to what to do. Sunday night, the children living in the capital of the world's last remaining superpower go to bed to the sound of gunfire.

Palestine, eighth-century B.C.E. The prophet Isaiah delivers oracles to the children of Israel and to the neighboring Egyptians about the plight of their societies:

Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. And so the people are humbled; and everyone is brought low.

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Sojourners Magazine February-March 1994
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