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.