Culture Friday: Chicago violence


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 24th of August, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Here’s a sad story. The Chicago Tribune has a weekly updated shooting tracker. There’s a heat-map indicating where shootings occur. It separates fatal and non-fatal shootings.

There are pie charts showing the distribution of shootings by season, by day, by hour, so you can see the most dangerous times in Chicago. Summer months, weekends, between 8:00 pm and 1:00 am.

There’s a line graph, where you can compare year-to-year statistics. Right now, shootings in Chicago have returned to 2015 levels, after big spikes in 2016 and 2017.

Then, there was the first weekend in August.

AUDIO: As you may be aware, the city of Chicago experienced a violent night.

EICHER: Chief Fred Waller, Chicago Police Bureau of Patrol.

AUDIO: Incidents of either random or targeted shooting on our streets is totally unacceptable. They underscore the real problem of violent criminals who use illegal guns in some of our communities without the fear of consequences of their actions. We have an environment where people do not feel any repercussions for using guns to commit violence and thus these weapons flow freely onto our streets.

EICHER: The first weekend of August, 75 people were victims of a shooting. Twelve people died.

In the aftermath, the mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel made some comments that have gotten him into some hot water.

I looked all over to find audio and I couldn’t.

But here are some of the quotations. I’ll have to read them.

“This may not be politically correct, but I know the power of what faith and family can do. Our kids need that structure. I am asking that we also don’t shy away from a full discussion about the importance of family and faith in helping to develop and nurture character, self-respect, a value system, and a moral compass that allows kids to know good from bad and right from wrong.

“If we’re going to solve this we’ve got to have a real discussion. Parts of the conversation cannot be off-limits because it’s not politically comfortable. We are going to discuss issues that have been taboo in years past because they are part of the solution. We also have a responsibility to help nurture character. It plays a role. Our kids need that moral structure in their lives. And we cannot be scared to have this conversation.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

It’s Culture Friday and John Stonestreet joins me now. John is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Good morning, John.

STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick.

EICHER: John, you mentioned this on Breakpoint and the criticism is that Emanuel’s blaming the victim. But Chicago has pretty draconian gun-control laws and they don’t seem to matter much. As Chief Waller say, there’s no fear of repercussions. Doesn’t the mayor therefore raise the single most important issue here?

STONESTREET: Well, he didn’t even say it was the single most important issue.

I certainly think it is.

I think a lot of people do think it is, that you can’t really have a conversation about the breakdown of society without also talking about moral formation and the institutions that bring moral formation like family and faith.

But he just said it needed to be part of the conversation and he was accused of victim blaming and he was accused of kind of buying into a racist sort of mindset and that he was ignoring the real problems, which as one of his critics — I think the one, the individual who now holds former President Obama’s former senate seat said it’s not about morality at all, it’s just about the lack of social programs.

What I talked about on Breakpoint was, to me, really interesting, which is I think Mayor Emanuel knew when he said these things that it was going to have that sort of pushback.

The reason I think that is because years ago, a friend who is a Chicago resident, who happened to run into the mayor at an event, asked him if he’d ever been tempted, in light of the violent reputation of Chicago, to just bring in the National Guard. And Emanuel said to him something that blew my friend away, who’s really kind of a diehard conservative, he said that — the mayor said that it doesn’t matter how much police you have, if you don’t fix the family and the moral compass of these young men, you can’t have enough police to fix the problem. And he then went on to say to my friend after he showed great surprise that this liberal icon was saying something that he agreed with politically, he said, well, I could never say that out loud because I’d get crucified.

And that’s exactly what happened.

When I heard this story, too, Nick, I was reminded of something that Chuck Colson used to refer to over and over and over again when we traveled together and spoke, he would often point to the example of two Harvard secular researchers who really did deep work and analytics on the cause of crime. And, really, Chuck was interested, obviously, because of his work with Prison Fellowship, also just that the typical explanations for crime that come from the progressive left, things like racism, structural institutional-level racism, poverty, the lack of education, that this didn’t ring true with those he met that were behind bars. And so these two Harvard researchers, secular Jews who looked at this question, their results were the same. That it wasn’t the typical answers that you hear from the progressive left, but they concluded that the reason that people commit crimes is the lack of moral formation in the morally formative years.

So, it goes right back to what Mayor Emanuel said, which is we have to take seriously the question of faith and family as part of that conversation. And, look, if you say that that can’t even be part of the conversation, then you’re no longer dealing with reality because when you have multi-generations who have never had a family in the home, have never had exposure to any institution that leads to moral formation, you can’t be surprised—to kind of paraphrase C.S. Lewis—to castrate the gelding and then be surprised that it’s fruitless.

EICHER: Well, John, speaking of moral breakdown, I think we need to talk about clergy sexual abuse.

This week, we spoke on this program with Boz Tchividjian. He’s a former prosecutor and he deals with clergy sexual abuse. We asked him about the shocking grand jury findings about the Catholic church in the state of Pennsylvania.

And let’s listen to what he had to say.

AUDIO: I can tell you—because I’ve dealt with this for over 20 years—the issue is no less prevalent within the Protestant world, it’s just harder to detect because we’ve got many denominations and most of those are decentralized.

EICHER: WORLD has reported on some of this and we are always working on these kinds of stories. They’re very difficult to tell and we have to document very, very carefully.

But, speaking generally, how surprising is this that we’ve arrived at this moment of reckoning? And how do you hope this all resolves?

STONESTREET: Well, I’m not overly surprised that we’ve arrived at the moment of reckoning. I think there’s something worth mentioning, which is what Boz actually says, that this is not something you can highlight just in the Catholic church and then pretend it doesn’t exist in other churches or, for that matter, in other institutions of society. We see similar rates of abuse and there are different versions of these numbers, but they’re all in the same ballpark whether you’re talking about churches, youth groups, or public schools, whether you’re talking about youth organizations or youth ministries. This is part of what we see in the human condition.

Now, that in no way undermines the horrific nature of this report, specifically, to the Catholic church. One might say, well, what about all the other institutions where this exists and that’s a good question.

But, let’s be honest, the fact that we see similar rates in other institutions doesn’t change the fact that, first of all, it’s horrific. Secondly, lives have been completely ruined. And third, that the Christian institutions should be better. We shouldn’t have similar rates of this sort of abuse, but that’s what we have seen. And we’ve seen it systemically and we’ve seen the same sort of tendency to protect the institution at the cost of the individual. We should never sacrifice individuals on the altar of institutions, that the reason institutions matter is ultimately because people matter, because they’re made in the image of God.

And the institutional reckoning that the Roman Catholic Church now is facing is a reckoning that we’ll see in other institutions, no doubt. We saw it, in fact, at Willow Creek just recently. And, God, bring that judgement to us because as the scripture says judgement must begin in the house of the Lord. And if we have the same numbers as everyone else, well, that’s not a great testimony to the changing power of Jesus Christ.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, tough conversations, but thanks for being here to walk through it with us.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.


(Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP) Police investigate the scene where multiple people were shot Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, in Chicago. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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