I Don’t Love Beaver Falls

Image

I came to the realization today that I don’t love Beaver Falls as many of my fellow Geneva Alums, or community activists do. Please don’t get me wrong, I like Beaver Falls a whole bunch and I root for her success daily. Here are a few reasons 1. I as an American, like underdog/success stories 2. I have a vested interest in Beaver Falls, due to the fact that I live here; I want to see her do very well. I want to see more jobs, social equality, racial reconciliation and spiritual transformation for the home of the Fightin’ Tigers. I’m just not sure that I could say that I love Beaver Falls as many others do.

An occurrence that I have seen among many from my peer group and beyond is a deep spiritual/economic patriotism for this particular city/school district. I have heard many disparaging statements about people who chose to move their families out of the area for the “greener pastures” of the sprawling suburban landscapes of Chippewa or Brighton Township. Many people I know have been deeply criticized for not “buying downtown” more often. I for one eat at Athens because they have great Gyros, I get my car worked on at Bender’s because they find ways to get my struggling Subaru to pass inspection and I buy obscene amounts of youth group pizza from Jimmy at Pizza Joes because he treats me right. However, I buy most of my groceries at Chippewa Giant Eagle and eat at Chippewa Applebees every Thursday with my students. My bank is in Chippewa and sometimes I even go to Chippewa Walmart. I go where I like to go; I support the establishments that offer the best services regardless of location.

I’ve even witnessed people getting shamed because they rooted for Aliquippa over Beaver Falls in the local football game. This argument is hilarious due to the fact that the communities the teams represent are almost mirror images of each other. Just for the record I rooted for BF in that game, I can’t stand the Quips football team; they are too good too often and they beat me all four years in High School when I played for Center back in the early 2000’s. My senior year a sophomore Darrelle Revis ran me over on his way to a fourth touchdown. I hate Quip football.

I’m trying to find in Scripture where Jesus was deeply, spiritually committed to one specific regional area over the other ones. Did Jesus get mad at people who didn’t buy their fish from the Zebedee and Sons Fishing Company or those who earned enough money to move to Jerusalem so that their children could receive a better rabbinic education?

It seems that every time a violent act occurs in town people react in polarizing fashions on social media and otherwise. I hear statements along the lines of “that’s it, I am selling this house and getting out of here, moving to the country” or “sacrifices must be made for the good of the community, everybody must stay put and invest in the people to show them that violence isn’t the answer.” I understand and agree with both arguments to an large extent. Personally I know that the question of staying or leaving is a very tough one. I grew up on a farm and at times I ardently desire to be reunited with the sprawling fields and pastures of semi-rural life.

On a Sunday morning at 9am about 3 years ago I heard gunfire on my street. I ran upstairs to access a higher vantage point and saw a man wearing a white shirt, shooting a gun in the air. I saw a tiny red dot around his neck that grew larger and larger until it soaked his entire garb in crimson. I called 911 to frantically reported a shooting as I was simultaneously huddling my wife and newborn baby into a corner of the bedroom, trying to avoid a stray bullet.

A half an hour later as I was at my church preaching, my hands were shaking, my voice quivering. Every time I closed my eyes I could see the crimson stain expanding.

I also called 911 after I saw the aftereffects of a woman being assaulted by a large man who punched through the window of a car to try and strangle her. There was blood and glass all over the sidewalk in front of my house when the police arrived.

I was attacked by an unchained pit bull while walking home from Pizza Joes with my 2 year old son on my shoulders and my wife by my side. The owner just laughed when as he lethargically yelled for the attack dog to saunter back inside his apartment. When I drive past that road to this day my son says “Bad Dog.”

I still live here, yet I won’t judge anybody who wants to leave.

I understand being passionate about regions, towns and cities. For quite some time Enon Valley had been laid on my heart because of the high volume of youth group students that were attending from that area. I’ll admit that when one of my former students was kidnapped, tortured and afterwards eventually “hung himself” (I still believe he was murdered) in a barn months later, I lost hope in the collective redemption of towns.

I still believe in the redemption of people no matter what town they live in.

I believe that we need to be creative, that we must be united and that economics and social issues need be addressed, however if I were on the Titanic I wouldn’t be the guy trying to figure out how to save the ship (not my giftedness) but I would probably be the pastor in the water praying with those who don’t know Jesus as the cold icy depths send both of us into the presence of the Almighty.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “I Don’t Love Beaver Falls

  1. Bethany

    “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

    I agree with you that not all people are called to the same place. I also agree with you that Christians should never condemn their fellow Christians for not having the same calling. But, I am going to challenge this perspective you have presented. Before I start, let me be clear, I do not believe that it is inherently wrong to shop, live or work in Chippewa, Monaca, Robinson, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Houston, Los Angeles, or Beverly Hills. I do not believe that the people who live in Chippewa have less of a heart for the widows and orphans than the people who have committed to living next door to the areas in which they are not hard to find. And I do not believe that living in a low-income area makes you more of a Christian than those who do not.

    I do believe, however, that we are in exile which, by definition, means “to expel from home or country, esp by official decree as a punishment.” Because of sin, Man was cast out of the Garden (which was his rightful place designated for him by God). As a result of the Fall, mankind now lives in a constant state of displacement. Therefore, regardless of where we live in this world, our punishment was, in some ways, to never feel “at home” anywhere because we do not live in God’s intended place for us. The desire for comfort and stability in life is and always will be a futile cause for Christians (and really all of mankind) because we are painfully aware of the consequences of our sins and the separation from God that it caused in every aspect of life.

    Even so, God has called us to live well in this life of exile. He calls us to a life of creativity, construction and beautification of this world when He says that we should “build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…” He has called us to bring others into this life of exile to assist you in this calling (“Marry and have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.”) He calls us “to seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” – wherever in this world that might be. And finally, He has told us to pray for the place in which we live and the people by whom we live because in their prosperity, we too will flourish (“Pray to the Lord for it [the City to which He has carried you], because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”).

    It is easy to see that God is not only committed to the redemption of His people but also to the places in which they live as well. God has used specific people in the history of the world to step into the middle of economic crises to fight for peace for His people – Nehemiah, Joseph, and Daniel to name a few of the multitudes. If we are made in God’s image and God’s nature is to make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5), it follows that we should have an innate desire to transform and seek redemption of that which is broken. God does require us to take care of all of the poor, widowed and orphaned among us as He did the Israelites in Deuteronomy 15. So, correct me if I am wrong, direct involvement in economically distressed communities (be it Beaver Falls or Aliquippa or anywhere else) is the obvious answer if those are the places the Lord has carried you to live in spite of the sin encountered there.

    It may metabolize differently to each Christian, but the fundamental truth of who God is speaks volumes to who we should be in the work of redemption of His creation. He has called us to build, create, live and prosper in the places in which we are all exiled – which means that, yes, we are called to seek the “collective redemption of towns” as well as their residents even if we have lost sight of hope for such things.

    I’m not asking you to change your mind on Beaver Falls in particular. I only think it wise not to excuse all people from the responsibilities God has given us as tenants of this place because of our preferences for unattainable things like comfort, ease and belonging in this sin-soaked world.

    Reply
    1. davidjhardie Post author

      Bethany,
      You give a fantastic response; this is exactly the type of dialogue I am rooting for! I believe that we agree on 99% and the 1% is negotiable (however I could be mistaken).
      A few points in response:
      1. I like your “Exile Theology” and don’t find it to be heretical. However I find using short clips from Israel’s history to justify a contemporary theological argument tenuous. What if we looked at the Exodus from Egypt instead? God calling all of His people out of a region. Or what if we look back a tad further to Sodom and Gomorrah when God literally destroyed two cities for being wicked. If we isogete those passages we could rationalize leaving “evil cities” all-together (I am not advocating this at all). It’s hard to take a prophetic text given for a specific time period and make it apply to all people at all times.
      2. I’m usually really, really narrow minded and hard on people when it comes to them shirking their responsibilities before God. I get angry when youth pastors leave their post and when Christians don’t tithe, love Christ’s Bride and defame His name. I’m just not sure that we are all called to Beaver Falls or areas like BF and I don’t know that we can back up our City-wide pride biblicaly.
      3. I am thrilled when people serve BF. I ARDENTLY LOVE ministries like Aliquippa Impact and Tiger Pause! LOVE! But not everybody is called to that and I think to a very large degree we need to be ok with this.
      4. I believe if people are scared and they don’t feel called and they can move away that they are allowed to do so. I pick up hitch hikers all the time, but never with anybody else in the car because I won’t make that decision or risk for them. I think that same logic would apply here.
      I love your heart and your passion, please keep serving Jesus, People and Beaver Falls!

      Reply
  2. ajf412

    Since this was posted on Facebook recently, I don’t think this is necroing a thread. (if you’ll pardon the expression)

    We definitely have to keep in mind that different people are called to different ways of serving for different reasons. We are told that we are all members of the body of Christ, and as such we each have our own area of responsibility. I cannot serve in an area like Beaver Falls or downtown Pittsburgh, because my wife suffers from severe anxiety in such places. To do so would be to torture my wife. I don’t feel like I’m casting anybody off by doing so, because I know that God is using other people in those places. He has given me somebody in my life that I am responsible for, while striving to find a ministry that I can serve him in. There are many times that God calls people out of a dangerous area and into a safer one. Jacob and his sons left their God given lands to escape famine, and lost it so much that when Israel returned they had to go to war to reclaim it. Herod was killing all the boys under two years old, and Mary and Joseph were told to take the Son of God himself out of Israel and into Egypt. David didn’t stay in Saul’s courts, he fled and lived in the wilderness. Abram left the land of Ur to go and settle where God told him.

    The very passage in Jeremiah above is given to those exiled from Jerusalem and sent into Babylon. They all looked forward to returning to Jerusalem. In the very next chapter we read, “Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shell eat them as common things. For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God… Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth… a great company shall return thither.”

    I’d have to say, it’s not about where you are, but about where you are called to go.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s