“Huberis, racial tension, myopic politicians, and the woeful auto industry brought this iconic American city to its knees.“So begins the one-year TIME magazine project back in 2009 titled Notown chronicling “A Year Long Look Inside the Once and Future Detroit.” “ . . . the city that was once the living proof of American prosperity . . .” declared the opening piece written by Detroit native Daniel Okrent.
Big D’s population was almost 2 million in the 1950s. It was the 4th largest city in the U.S. Times were good, neighborhoods were bustling. In 1960, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the U.S. I Heard It Through the Grapevine.
Flash forward. Population is halved. The city’s economic engine sits on blocks in an abandoned backyard. More than half of Detroit’s land is now vacant. 78,000 homes sit abandoned or falling apart. Unemployment is 28.9%. In 2013, the city had $18 billion in liabilities. 34.5% of households in Detroit are on food stamps.
All this despite billions of dollars in public and private investment over the past 20 years, including two stadiums, a river walk, three new casinos, thousands of new hotel rooms and loft and apartment units, and the $50+ million to fight the blight by demolishing more than 4,000 vacant homes. Then there is the $100 million in federal funding from troubled asset relief program Hardest Hit Fund. Ain’t That Peculiar?
Under the headline DETROIT BANKRUPTCY – “This is what happens if you vote Democrat for 51 years,” Tim Stanley opines in the Telegraph “bad policy, i.e. the unions helping to price the local car workers out of the global market as a big contributing factor to Detroit’s demise.” Is it Just My Imagination? Or is it just The Way You Do the Things You Do? And let’s not even get started about the state of public education in Detroit. It’s the Same Old Song: Democrats, unions, humanists, all superintended a system meltdown.
Does anybody want to talk about the breakdown of the family as a contributing factor to the overall demise? At the end of 2012, of the 264,000 households in Detroit, only 24,000 or 9% were married couple families with children under 18. Another 78,000 households, or 29% of the total, are families headed by women with no husband present, Of these, almost 44,000 have children under 18. 75% of the babies born in Detroit were born to unmarried women. Nowhere to Run.
Hughey Newsome, in the Daily Caller (7/24/2013) chronicles racial rhetoric used to conceal ongoing corruption. Just Can’t Help Myself. To all my “Save America” friends, I ask: If Christianity cannot save Detroit, why do you think it can save America? To those who think “Detroit? Good riddance!” I point you to
God’s determination regarding Jonah and Nineveh. Where Did Our Love Go?
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jesus cried” Things were not great, but they were about to get terrible. In 70 A.D., Titus brought its complete destruction. Jesus mourned Jerusalem’s demise. What has the Christian response been to Detroit’s deterioration? What has been the American Christian response to the demise of cities across America during the last half of the1900s? Has this response been biblical? Has it honored God? Has it glorified Christ? Can we preach the message of Christ without the heart of Christ? Should we not mourn the various expressions of depravity’s march?
Michael Carter, a member of our church, grew up in Detroit living there into young adulthood. He watched disheartened as the middle class, and then the working class, left. Families moved to the suburbs, city services deteriorated. His parent’s house never broken into in 30 years was broken into 3 times since 2003. Growing up in the great Tabernacle Baptist Church under the pastorate of the famed Dr. Frederick G. Sampson, Michael witnessed his church lead in preaching and living the gospel, providing education and support for families with early childhood programs in various community empowerment efforts. Carter grieves the condition of his home city.
“Oh Detroit, Detroit.” Haman Cross has pastored Rosedale Park Baptist Church in Detroit for over 30 years. Smack dab in the middle of the perfect storm of 50 years of political corruption and economic sea change, he watched the city sink in a deep blue sea. Is anybody, anybody, Living for the City?
Born and raised in Motown, Cross draws a parallel between the experience of those in Jerusalem during the time of Jeremiah and others of the exiled generation and those in Detroit. There was a remnant in Jerusalem. The city was not just their home, it was their heart. They also knew the city to be the heart of God. Cross is among a remnant grieving over the city of his heart. When there was opportunity to return, he points out, Nehemiah was determined to go back and rebuild. He cites a dozen or so young people from his own congregation who now have Masters or Doctoral degrees who have a burning desire to be a part of the rebuilding of Detroit. Here is one man who believes Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Like determined dandelions bursting out of cracked pavement, a new Detroit is sprouting. To what degree will God’s people be a part of the unprecedented opportunities?
Charles W. Lyons, Senior Pastor
Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60647