Tuesday, January 08, 2008
I Like Mike!
I like Mike! (no, not that Mike, more on him later) I’m talking about Michael Nutter the new mayor of Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter was elected with well over 80 percent of the vote meaning that he pulled overwhelming support from the vast majority of city neighborhoods and voting public. In a city usually defined by our divisions Mayor Nutter did very well among all demographic groups. Blacks, white, the well to do and those not doing so well have marked Mike as our man for at least the next four years. Hyzone was sworn in yesterday and gave a stirring address regarding the problems, challenges and opportunities the City of Brotherly Love faces as the last years of the first decade of this new millennium drain away.
And what challenges they are. Like most large American cities Philly is plagued with violence, corruption, poor schools, dated infrastructure and an entrenched bureaucracy. Those however are just the symptoms of a city whose sense of hope, unity and optimism seemed to be in a deep freeze the last several years. In my pastoral prayer this past Sunday I prayed for our mayor and also those of us who populate the speed bump between N.Y. and D.C. I prayed that we would realize that Mayor Nutter is the mayor, not superman or a savior. That he’s one man and that this is our city and therefore we have a responsibility to get connected, get involved and do our part.
Praying for Mayor Nutter reminded me of the church’s witness within a city, community and region. Just how should we respond to a city struggling with a 45% high school drop out rate, senseless and random murder among our youth, an economic system that seems tilted to the well heeled and well to do, and politicians who many times seem more interested in a photo op than in tackling the issues of their constituents? How does the church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ intersect with our ministry to the city? How far do we go in working with those who don’t believe in or acknowledge Jesus Christ? I voted for Mr. Nutter in the primary and general election. Does my responsibility end there? I also voted for our new councilman (we needed a new one since our old one just became the mayor) and am thinking of organizing a community meeting where he can come and address the issues of our neighborhood. In fact if I had the time I would seriously consider Mayor Nutter’s call to public service. The mayor has asked anyone who wants to submit his or her resume and take a position working for his administration. The position could be paid or unpaid and would involve working on the behalf of the city.
While some might argue that this is not my place I would beg to differ. God has ordained the institution of government and politics for the protection of the poor and powerless and the general order of society. Is the political process flawed? Of course it is. Politics along with every other human institution is populated by fallen, sinful, selfish people. However that doesn’t mean that believers must opt out of politics completely. And contrary to popular belief the church cannot and for the most part has no intention of really seeing to all of the needs of the dependent poor. It’s therefore superfluous and disingenuous of us to say that government should get out of the business of addressing the needs of the poor so that the church can do so even as we pour our resources into sound and light systems costing tens of thousands of dollars. Is government the answer to all our social ills? Not it is not. As I said before Mayor Nutter is neither superman nor savior. As such he needs both the church’s prayers and participation.
To Him Who Loves Us…