For the better part of 50 years, when I thought about Camden, N.J. — if I thought about the city at all — I’d envision driving as quickly as possible through a blighted urban wasteland to get across the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia.
I didn’t envision young people building boats in a deconsecrated church, or designing websites in a beautifully remodeled house whose walls are covered with original art, or being guided by caring adults through the traumas they’ve experienced and into health, wholeness, and academic achievement.
What a gift, then, to be reintroduced to the city through ministries that bring Camden’s human vitality to the surface, where it shines far above the daunting statistics upon which the city’s troubled reputation is built.
If we who are Christians participate in the political process and in the public discourse as we are called to do — the New Testament tells us that we are to participate in the life of the polis, in the life of our society — the principle on which Christians must vote is the principle, Does this look like love of neighbor? If it does, we do it; if it doesn’t, we don’t.
We evaluate candidates based on that. We evaluate public policy based on that. And that has nothing to do with whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, liberal or conservative. It has to do with if you say you’re a follower of Jesus, then you enter the public sphere based on the principle of love which is seeking the good and the welfare of the “other.” That’s a game-changer.
I don't know if you know much about Camden, N.J., but it's one of the cities in our country that wrestles with a myriad of social issues. There are a number of incredible people there that work tirelessly to improve the living and social conditions. Mission Year has spent a number of years living and working beside neighbors and friends in this city. The people there are very committed to things like improving housing, education, and tackling food desert issues, and they have very little resources with which to work.