Redeeming Detroit


So after the progressive improvers come and leave, someone has to clean up. For years we Michiganders have silently, or not so silently, wept over the plight of Detroit. But as new life sprouts in the ashes after a forest fire, so too there are signs of new life in Detroit. Precisely because of the depth of its difficulties it has become an interesting place for people who want to reimagine urban life. Not surprisingly, Christian non-profits, as shown in this story in Christianity Today, have taken a leading role in bringing Detroit back to health. From the story:

“We Christians need to be at the forefront of being imaginative, creative, and innovative in bringing economic viability for cities that are hurting,” he says.

The key for Christians, though, will be doing so in a way that rightly remembers their city’s history—and their neighbors.

“Newcomers come in without a sense of history and act as though Detroit is a blank canvas,” notes Mark VanAndel, pastor of discipleship at Citadel of Faith. Pastor Carey remembers watching Detropia, a new documentary about postindustrial Detroit. “One interviewee said, ‘I’m an artist and could never afford to live like this anywhere else; if this doesn’t work out, we don’t lose anything because we’re at the bottom.’

“When he said that, it was like a knife went through me,” says Carey. “This is ‘the bottom’? You can’t imagine the grief a person feels when this is the place that is home.”

“I didn’t realize how deeply I’d be offended when other people, even Christians, would joke about Detroit,” says Foster. “It’s like they were making fun of my kid.”

Carey and Foster say that as Detroit adjusts to a new set of migrants—those with hope, creativity, and incredible privilege—Christians in Detroit must keep a city with a battered soul spiritually intact.

“Who advocates for Grandma, who has worked here forever, who loves this city but is unable to fix her roof?” says Carey. “What about the young man who has gone through the public schools and still can’t read and is now approaching 20 with no source of income? Who speaks for them?

“We can’t let businesses or the government be responsible for the soul of the city. That’s what Detroit is known for—its soul.”

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