Saturday, August 4, 2018

Detroit Church Beset By Break-ins

In the movie Leaves of Grass a gentle religious character explains her belief that the world is broken, but that it's up to us to fix it. In his works The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion the devout Catholic J.R.R.Tolkien imagined that the force of evil had permanently marred the material world as far back as creation. 

In his Perelandra trilogy Tolkien's friend C.S. Lewis similarly posited an evil force that dominated the planet, had perverted humanity, and if left unchallenged would ultimately destroy human kind. Theodicy is a question that has never been resolved as far as I can tell. Not only can we not agree on why evil exists, but we can't really agree on what to do about it.The Bible has contradictory advice. God told us that accounts would be and should be settled.
And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Jesus told us to resist not evil, turn the other cheek and don't attempt to get our stolen goods back.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 
But Jesus never lived in Detroit...

They don’t want to flee from Detroit. They’d like to continue the work they came here to do. But the devil is doing his best to stop them. “I just wanted to make a change, man,” said Apostle Michael Beasley, the 55-year-old pastor of Total Life Change Ministries on the city’s west side. 
Just a few years ago, he had a nice home and a successful church in the suburbs. Then, he said, he heard the voice of God tell him to move to Detroit, buy this massive school and help rebuild a neighborhood. He followed the call. And his church has been beset by thieves and robbers ever since.

Over and over, someone keeps breaking into the building, methodically stealing the copper pipes and copper wiring, leaving the church without water or power. Once, faced with barricaded windows and doors, the thieves just sledgehammered their way through a wall to get in.

“I don’t get it,” said Elder Jakenya Robinson, 38, the church administrator and pastor's sister. She noted the programs they’ve offered in their few years here, including free breakfasts and lunches for neighborhood kids, a summer jobs program for teens and block parties for the neighborhood, all of which were canceled this year because of the damage to their building. 

And now the congregation must decide whether it’s time to just give up and go. “I want to stay, but I gotta be able to secure this better, and I don’t know how,” Beasley said. “We’ve got steel doors; that didn’t stop them. We’ve got the iron nets on windows, drilled holes in doors to put chains inside, put two by fours. We’ve come up with all different methods to keep them out. And they always find a way.”

“Let me put it to you this way — what Dan Gilbert is doing downtown — he’s doing a lot down there, employment and training and all of that — that’s what I wanted to do here, because everyone says everybody leaves out the community,” Beasley explained.

One street to the east of the church, almost every house is a fortress with iron bars on the doors and windows. Two streets to the east, almost every house is gone. After the first wave of thefts began in 2015, there was a lull for about a year. Members of the church paid thousands of dollars to replace all the stolen copper. But this year the break-ins began anew, and the dwindling, long-suffering congregation is faced with another high bill for repairs that might not be worth paying for twice. 
Read the whole article here

Unfortunately the only way to stop whoever is doing this is to put someone in the church who will at the very least hurt the thieves so badly that a decade later people on the street will still be whispering about the person or persons who got caught breaking into the Beasley church and/or wondering where they're buried. Nothing else will make a lasting impression upon people who are violent and lack respect for you and your property. Ask the people who burgled Chicago Outfit's Boss Anthony Accardo's home if they did it a second time. Maybe the police will give more priority to this case now that it has some media attention. Maybe. Maybe not. Beasley is a former prison guard. Maybe this is someone who knows him from back in the day and is trying to settle a score? I don't know. The ironic thing is that I'm betting the thief or thieves would get more from asking for help than he or they would by stealing.

I thought this story was interesting because it shows some of the dilemmas faced by middle class (or at least what passes for middle class) Black people who want to simultaneously help their less fortunate brethren while doing better. I commend and admire people who give of their time and resources in mentoring, teaching, networking, working at domestic violence shelters, volunteering at soup kitchens, helping out the homeless, tutoring, and doing a million other things that are often unpaid or underpaid. That said Detroit is still a very dangerous place. I don't think, Jesus' words notwithstanding, that anyone ever owes their property or life to those who would steal it. I don't see anything wrong with trying to stay safe. If I were Beasley I would move the church someplace safer.

What's your take? 

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