Gang activity in America is on the rise once again. According to a recent
story in USA Today, gang-related homicides and violence is surging
not only in the larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and Washington,
D.C., but in smaller cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Durham, North
While America has been focused on the dangers outside her borders, an
equally deadly threat has been increasing within. "We had a chance to
pull the weeds out of our communities for good a few years ago," USA
Today quotes the Director of Gang Prosecutions in Denver. "We
didn't do it; we got distracted. Now, the weeds are back."
Certainly, gang violence is an ugly, troublesome issue. But we must not
look at the people involved in gangs as "weeds" that simply need to be
uprooted and discarded.
Many criminal investigators point out that the first and most important
factor in stripping away a person's inhibitions against committing a
crime -- including robbery, rape and murder -- is the ability to
depersonalize the victim. Criminals must distance themselves
psychologically from their victim's humanity. Their disrespect for the
possessions or the lives of their targets depends on their ability to
ignore or deny another person's integrity or sanctity. Violent gang
members justify their actions by redefining their victims as an object,
not a sacred human being. (Sadly, in my opinion, the casual attitude
toward the termination of the unborn through abortion is likely fueling
the devaluation of human life.)
Conversely, those of us who are in a position to help redirect the lives
of those involved in gangs must not fall into the same trap of
depersonalizing those gang members as objects (as in "weeds"). This is
especially true for those of us in church and ministry positions. We are
taught that every life is worth redeeming; therefore, we must maintain an
attitude of hope and love, even toward those who appear to be hopeless and
Consider one Tulsa man cited in the USA Today report that police
arrested for drug possession. "He told officers that he was through with
gang life," the article says, "primarily because none of his fellow
Crips visited him in prison."
Imagine the difference that could have been made in that young man's
life had a counselor, friend or other compassionate person visited him in
prison, listened to his hurts and offered him hope and direction for his
life. There are several individuals and organizations, such as Chuck
Colson's Prison Fellowship, doing this, but more caring people are
needed to meet this pressing need.
Our inner cities and prisons are filled with people looking for a better
way to live. Unless someone shows them the narrow way to peace and
fulfillment, they will likely walk down the broad road of destruction,
despair and violence.
People matter. Every life is worth saving, whether it's in Iraq or
Indiana. While we fight against the external enemies of our
country, we must not forget to fight for the future of our
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 500
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE
Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host
of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes. For
more information, log on to www.lifetoday.org.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org
Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for
complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.