In one form or another, we are all members of a gang. Jesus was in a gang. He was the first leader of my gang. Please drop the self-righteous indignation. Our gangs may not be violent but they are still gangs. The rioting in Baltimore was both atrocious and reprehensible. There is no excuse. It’s the expected rapid political polarization and the language of “gang” involvement that has piqued my interest. Gangs (such as the Bloods and the Crips) making treaties, gangs working for peace, gangs working for violence, the stories have been too numerous to count. It’s hard to follow the rumors from here.
What I do know is this, everyone is in some kind of gang. We may not use the term but it’s a distinction without a difference. Not all gangs use physical violence. Some use emotional violence. Some bully people from afar. Others are implicated in systematic violence. I am in the American gang. I am in the white gang. I am in the Protestant gang. I’m implicated, solely by my birth, in a gang that has practiced systematic violence against African-Americans in this country for over four hundred years.
Other gangs simply identify themselves around a common vision and purpose. Persons then enter gangs by rituals and ceremonies designed to set them apart from the wider world. This is the basic definition of a gang. By this most simple standard, the Christian church was one of the original gangs. Many non-denominational Christians eventually constitute themselves as a collective nondenominational gang. Political parties are gangs. Alumni associations are gangs. I’m in a middle class white person gang called United Methodism. Of course, we don’t use the term “gang”. We say “denomination”, “group”, “class”, “church” or at TED conferences “tribe”. We’re still a gang and we’re still angry. You should read the comments I receive. The gangs to which I refer use hurtful and destructive words that can emotionally destroy a person. As I said, violence can take many forms. Again, I repeat: somehow, someway, we are all in a gang. So before you board your emotional high horse and start to say, “how could ‘these people’ ” do this or that”, take a look in the mirror. We’re all these people, we’re all sinners, in clear need of God’s love and grace.