This week I attended a meeting organized by the faith community of our southwest part of Minneapolis (Ward 13) in support of North Minneapolis (Ward 5). In case you’re reading this as a non-Twin Citian, north Minneapolis (which is really a quadrant of the city, separate from the Northeast section) is the portion of the city most afflicted by poverty, crime, and all the things we associate with urban blight. Although there are other neighborhoods that are poor and/or mostly non-white, north Minneapolis has historically been the most isolated from the rest of the city’s prosperity by geography (the interstate cut it off from other areas) and lack of major institutions.
In the past 6 months Minneapolis has had 30 homicides – HALF of those took place on the north side (which, again, is not half the city – more like ¼). 50% of this neighborhood is under 18, but its schools receive less in the way of resources than others in the district. In this same 6 months there have been two killings – one downtown, one in Uptown, not far from our home—that have received disproportionate attention from the press and from the public. You guessed it, both of those “high-profile” victims were white men.
Having lived in neighborhoods like the northside for part of my 20’s, I do not come to these discussions with the same fear that many do, but there is no denying that I contribute less to solving problems of the urban core now that I do not live there anymore. I could argue that I do work on the problems in other ways – using my pulpit, my much-better-than-my-20-something-income, and the clout I now have with my address. But I don’t live with the gunshots out my window or the persistent detritus of drug and alcohol abuse tossed into my front yard (white collar alcoholics recycle their trash). I can ignore the other side of the city when I choose to. I don’t have to go there.
But I do. Mark’s gospel for tomorrow is about disciples who get into the boat to go to the other side of the lake with Jesus. The other side was where the Gentiles lived. The other side was not where many would have thought Jesus should be doing his ministry. Some of what the disciples may have feared going there was simply their prejudice at work. It’s easy for us from our 21st century hindsight to scorn the ethnocentrism that kept people a mere lake’s distance apart from associating with one another. But the gospel also justifies that fear, a bit. When they get there, Jesus has to cast out so many demons from one man that a whole herd of pigs is needed to contain them.
But they do go into the boat with Jesus, and the passage across the lake turns out to be perilous in itself. They are terrified, and Mark doesn’t give us reason to think they’re blowing this storm out of proportion. It’s a genuine whirlwind, a real “act of God” as our insurers would say.
But Jesus is not afraid, and does not expect them to be either. He’s in the boat with them, and they are going where Jesus’ mission is taking them. What is there to fear?
One of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting was a man who moved to the north side after years in the suburbs to work at a local Catholic parish in their outreach programs. He did not mince words about the daily realities of their lives there. But he did say he was not afraid, because “the safest place in the world is inside of God’s will.” They know why they have moved to the “other side,” and they know Jesus is with them.