The Other War:
Fighting Violence and Despair Within

07/22/2004


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 Carolina.

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 unlovable.

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 neighbors.

 



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.