How Does Kinship Work?
I am in Los Angeles with my wife Leslie this week. However, as far as we may be from NYC, news of a driver running down people on a Westside bike path came quickly. Even PDA reached out to me here. What euphoria that erupted here on Halloween with the Dodgers victory in LA or Dia de las Muertes, I feel sadness and compassion for the victims in the city I call home. The commentaries that speak to this tragedy will console, frighten, aid understanding, and reinforce existing viewpoints or prejudices to different people. Geographic distance here, even my wearing my New York cap today, elicits a different response here.
While in LA, I am witnessing in places visited how present and past narratives play out. I stopped by the Home Boy Cafe in City Hall, one of the many Home Boy Industry sites to be served by former gang members (male and female) now running a business in downtown LA. Daniel, one of the employees, told me to be sure to visit the main site. Father Gregory Boyle started HBI because gang members most wanted jobs and had enough of gangbanging. In stories that resemble biblical parables, he describes in his book "Tattoos on the Heart," this slow work of God that brings these members to experience God's compassion, gladness, and a new sense of self-understanding and kinship. Neither the "demonizing" model, nor the "romantizing" model of peace deals among rival gangs, works as much as the recovery model of individual gang members he has pursued over three decades, saving the county over $100 million in costs of policing, judicial sentencing, and jail time. He tells stories of healing, recovery of resilience, and redefining of the self that occurs in each as they discover who they are in God's eyes. Rival gang members learn to work side by side in HBI. Violence on the inside ceases as new attachments begin to shape lives in neighborhood districts formerly set up to avenge rivals.
In light to this week's tragedy in NYC, these stories come home when I wonder how does kinship work amid those persons and places where avenging becomes the norm of success. Where do we so demonize others that their lives, if destroyed, do not matter? What are the consequences when kinship is limited to valuing only one's own group or religion or ideology? Avenging behaviors have harmful and enduring consequences. How do we engage what is evil and destructive without its power consuming or influencing us? Conversely, do we believe in and follow a God so who walks with us with a boundless love and compassion that overcomes everything that seeks to divide or destroy us? Boyle's ministry gives evidence that in following Jesus we have a lot yet to learn of God's ways if we want to see wider kinship particularly among persons who are set to take out their rivals.
May God have compassion on the victims of such rivalry, their families, and friends; and call us to the harder effort to walk with those who still carry enmity and hatred toward their rivals to find the kinship God still is creating even among rivals.