Supping in the Shadow of the Superdome

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The Mercedes Benz-branded Superdome appeared like a giant roadside psychotropic mushroom. Funny. I haven’t realized the mark of unparalleled luxury dominating the side. M-B got the naming rights in 2011. Well after the Dome supplied emergency shelter to poor victims of Hurricane Katrina.

I look out on the Dome from my Hyatt Hotel room. The 2005 Katrina blew out most of the windows of the Hyatt. The hotel only just reopened in 2011.

There are numerous studies tracking the long term psychological effects on low income blacks who were most immediately swept up and displaced from their 9th Ward homes.  PTSS is a common long term problem.

But for me, walking around the area these last two days, I see the reconstruction of the big and the continued devastation of the small. The dome is…well, super. The HYATT and other dominating buildings are important steps in revitalization. Just like the mayor said.

But the lower 9th ward (which I hope to tour by bike today) seems to be, if possible, even more at the mercy of nature today than it was that day in August 2005. City government is calling the lower 9th “a green space” and the overgrown lots merge into large tracks of wild urban forests. Complete with feral cats and dogs that are dropped off from all over the city.

The most common visitors the remaining lower 9th residents see are ecologists and geographers from the few field of “catastrophe studies”.

But here we are. A group of 3,500 of so committed to community redevelopment and the building of the kingdom of God on earth. And I have to wonder, wasn’t it our responsibility to do more? Especially for the poor and the weak?  Aren’t they to be the first in our sight line? Or are we to construct ourselves to take care of the big players first? 

It’s not a parallel, but I found myself thinking about the warning James gives in 2:2, For if a person comes into your assembly with gold rings and fine clothes, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes …and say to the other ‘sit here at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 

I understand economic development is complicated. I also understand something about our human evil.  Here is the hope: from Tatian the Assyrian, a 2nd century theologian: “Die to the world by renouncing the madness of its stir and bustle. God created nothing evil. It is we who brought forth wickedness. Those who brought it about can also do away with it again.” 

Today. May we begin to do away with the evil we have done. And may we have a renewed focus on the small, the little, the mustard seed. That’s where the kingdom begins.

2 thoughts on “Supping in the Shadow of the Superdome

  1. Before you feel sorry for the people that got stuck in Katrina, you should first realize we that live on the gulf coast are all too familiar with hurricanes. We understand their power. But God blesses us on the gulf coast with the warnings of impending disaster. These are no longer the days where hurricanes come out of nowhere (Galveston hurricane of 1900) to level everything and everyone in their path. The current procedure in the Galveston area is for the police to go door-to-door of those who choose to stay to give one last warning to leave, and if they choose to stay, the police ask them to write their Social Security id # on their arm for quick identification when they wash up. God cannot help those who won’t help themselves.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m from central Florida so we’ve seen our share of hurricanes. I think my brother made a small nest egg when Andrew hit Miami in the early 80’s. Remember that one? He and some buddies hightailed it down with some tools in their pickup to immediately begin re-roofing job.

    I too, used to think the same thing about God cannot helping those who cannot help themselves. Until I saw people who simply couldn’t leave. They didn’t have a car by which to get anywhere. And if they could go, they had no place to go and no money to simply stay in places once they arrived ‘there’.

    Certainly there’s personal responsibility. No argument there. I’d love to hear some thoughts on how that’s balanced with the real plight some folks find themselves in. And whew…SSN on the arms? Yikes. Pretty gruesome.

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