I see gentrification sure enough. I see young white people moving into cities and pushing to get jobs, internships, fellowships, etc. I see them living pretty much normal middle class jobs, or attempting to break into business, education, or government careers. Is that radical? I thought it was just attempting to maintain the status quo, and in that I see very little prospect of Kingdom witness, let alone transformation of the cities, especially among the poor.
Not that I despise these young Christian adults who want to make a cultural impact on the city, or the world. Not at all, it is just that I would love to see them become part of churches that really want to include the poor in their church life, which is to say to include them in their economic, social, and cultural lives. I would love to see the average, normal, middle class urban Christian be part of a church that makes the poor part of their family life, and not simply a service project.
Of course to do that one has to have a vision beyond one's self, beyond the "normal" way of doing church or doing life. One can be as isolated from the poor in the cities as in the suburbs. It is not a new piece of data to realize the place with the fastest growth of poverty is in the suburbs, or at least selected suburbs. Where else are the displaced supposed to go if no one has fought to provide a place for them to stay in the cities close to the services they need but now can't reach?
Market forces aren't the only thing that can determine where people can live, sometimes vision that goes beyond a fast profit, that includes set asides, that includes preserving communities can actually create new circumstances. I think the poor need the middle class, and they don't just need them to move in and be a good neighbor. Loving your neighbor as yourself is absolutely essential, but the poor have always needed a more aggressive love than that since their lives have become so dysfunctional. Preaching the Gospel to the poor creates certain relationship implications. That is one reason churches of thirty something middle class people who move into poor communities with no overall church strategy or vision to do mercy and development with wisdom and care invite their members to become exhausted. The really poor are too much for them, if they just live "normal" lives among them. The end result can be a new callous detachment, and a cynical fatigue by being overwhelmed by systemic issues and problems.
I would like to be a Biblical person myself, in the whole counsel of that idea. Intensely pious in my love for Jesus, broken in my need for mercy and grace, loving in my relationship with all men and especially my brothers in the Faith, and full of faith and action when it comes to mercy and justice. I want to be as extreme as Jesus in calling people to follow him, since I take it I am an just an echo of his call. I expect to have to pull my own weight, to get an education, to hold a job, to support my family, to participate in my local church, to be a good citizen. I also expect that I, and all who name Jesus as Lord, would seek those good works to do which he has ordained for us to do, and not just assume that caring for myself and my own is all that Jesus asks for me to do. That would take a forced deafness, a determined distortion of Scripture, and an all too selfish agenda.