Mike Ramey; Gang Bangers VS. The Modern ChurchColors, Signs, & Worship Of Trouble… : ThyBlackMan

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Mike Ramey; Gang Bangers VS. The Modern ChurchColors, Signs, & Worship Of Trouble…

May 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Talk, Misc., News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) As I sat down to write this column a few years back, I remembered that I paused to reflect upon an exhausting week.

First, my wife informed me that the teenaged son of a dear family friend sat locked up in our county juvenile detention center. His crime? Hanging out with ‘a buddy’ who had been engaging in a drug transaction…and was arrested by police. Second, I had just finished a closed-door teaching on the dangers of street gangs to a select audience of school administrators from  one area of my home city. Finally, I had the opportunity to watch a portion of Ving Rhames’ production of the movie ‘Animal’, a no-holds barred drama about the struggle of a former criminal who was sentenced to prison for his crimes associated in the ‘perfecting’ of his ‘craft’ of ‘street thuggsterism’…only to wind up eventually shot to death by the son he had left behind. The son had chosen to ‘follow’ in his father’s footsteps as the terror of the neighborhood, even though the father–now returned from prison a changed man–tried to prevent the son
from repeating his mistakes.

THE GAME IS STILL ON–AND DEADLY:

It is not my intent to ‘reinvent’ the wheel when it comes to the subject of street gangs. There are reams of information, dozens of websites and hundreds of articles on the Internet about ‘gangbangers’ (or ‘bangers’ as I prefer to call them), the different ‘crews’ and ‘cliques’ round the country, the various colors, hand signs and gestures, and the impact of the current culture on ‘spawning’ a highly intelligent modern generation of bangers. It IS my intent to help as many parents, schools and churches as possible to avoid being labeled as ignorant when it comes to this subject.

Much of my series will be aimed at the REAL problems associated with Modern Street Gangs (MSGs) as they are spiritual first, and criminal second. Yes, I will be talking about the church house, because what is NOT happening there has spilled out into the streets.

Church sponsorship and use of gun buy backs programs, prayer vigils, community rallies, commissions, slogans, and moving bangers from one part of the country to the other will not deter gangs from sowing their deadly oats.

Soul winning, street evangelism, an emphasis upon repentance and holiness, plus encouraging many young Black folk to rebuild their homes and marriages in biblical fashion coupled with a new realization that bangers of ALL races and sexes need salvation will do wonders to neutralizing their worship of money, mayhem, and muscle to make gang voices heard.

In short, it will take a spiritual solution to confront this spiritual problem.

That’s right…I did say ‘a spiritual problem.’

In the world of the gang, their ‘religion’ is spelled out in broad, fleshly terms: “If one can put it in a pocket, around a neck, in a blunt, worn on one’s back or take for a drive down the street, it is worth worshiping. In the gang culture, there IS no such thing as sexual discrimination. Young women can serve to pleasure the males in a gang, or, they can go out and practice the art of the beat down in their OWN gangs. In my home city of Indianapolis, Indiana, there have been at least eight girl gangs identified by local law enforcement authorities as far back as 2004. In other major cities girl gangs are NOT an accident, they are a way of life. Many teen females want to get in on the ‘fun’ of banding together to right perceived wrongs and ‘handling their business,’ just like their male counterparts.

Locks in socks have replaced lip-gloss as a daily accessory in more than a few girls’ purses and handbags in some schools. A beat down given by a group of girls against one girl is just as dangerous and hurtful as a group of boys doing the same thing to one boy. Now, with the ‘new trend’ of flash mob activity serving as gang initiations on the Internet, here is one more reason why the public discourse in our communities must come FROM a spiritual problem and not just a crime problem.

HOW SERIOUS IS THE PROBLEM?

The ONLY way to stop MSG activity is a three-pronged approach: A strong law enforcement presence, coupled with a strong church presence and a no-nonsense community of determined people ready to regain control over their homes and streets.

Please keep in mind that there are many who do not WANT the problem to get better in order to ‘maintain’ their own perceptions of ‘community visibility’ and power. After all, a ‘barking’ watchdog gets more press than a ‘doing’ watchdog. In addition the visible people also give a perception that they are ‘concerned’ about the problem. This, plus the power to command state and federal monies rather than expending their own resources adds to their visibility, but does nothing to solve the real problem.

Case in point: In the last few years, we are seeing more gang recruiting taking place in ELEMENTARY schools by juveniles as young as seven years old. More and more articles and police reports are showing second, third and fourth graders being ‘caught’ with guns, drugs and other ‘goodies’ in their book bags IN elementary schools.

Think this is a bad dream? It’s a certified nightmare!

JUST HOW DO GANGS WORK?

As one who has spent the better part of one career or another involved in the areas of crime and justice, I am no stranger to the destructive and cunning nature of street gangs. It is no accident that these predatory organizations can–and have–been beaten back on occasion. Unfortunately, like a strong patch of weeds, gangs will lie dormant and rise again…sometimes MUCH stronger than their original version.

Today’s street gang is not like the gang model many are familiar with from movies like “West Side Story”. Many modern gangs are no longer ‘segregated’ by race, language, communication, location, or sex. Thanks to the wonders of high technology, teens of different races and backgrounds can learn, model and belong to gangs whether they are in Oshkosh, Phoenix or Indianapolis. ‘Wannabe’ bangers (and this term is rapidly disappearing) can have web pages on teen-oriented sites such as MySpace, FaceBook and other social media site–complete with their favorite slogans, signs, symbols and affiliation. It matters little ‘which’ gang may be dominant in the headlines. They ALL operate on three basic principles:

*Power: Modern Street Gangs bring a lot of muscle to the table IF they are allowed to gain in strength. Let a gang loose in one school and they could be in all of the schools of a school corporation. Let a gang spread their graffiti on one side of town, and you will have the murder rate and drug traffic increase at an alarming rate. Some gangs have ‘front’ businesses established to launder money and put on a good front for the media. Others have quietly been able to turn their power into capital to finance political campaigns and turn out the vote movements. Still others have taken their power into seemingly ‘upright’ social organizations dedicated to recruiting new members.

*Fear: There is nothing quite like a few dead bodies on the six o’clock news to frighten an area into silence. A few injured community activists who are against the gang drug trade will prevent others from coming out against the gang in their prevailing neighborhood. A few well-placed threats against a preacher and his family will have many a pulpit quiet on Sunday morning when sin NEEDS to be exposed. A few high profile kidnappings will cause even the best community leader to quake when the clock strikes twelve late at night. Trust me; many bangers quickly push themselves up the criminal ladder past the shaking down of kids for lunch money.

*Ignorance: Of the three, this may be the deadliest of the trio. While some teachers, police officers, and counselors may understand the signs and symbols of the gang scene, many more do not. Roughly every 3 to 6 months, bangers change their signs. The elementary or middle school child who will doodle some seemingly innocent names, symbols, and lyrics onto her notebook cover or have airbrushed onto the back of his sneakers is not just practicing creative expression; the child is ‘reaching out’ to evil. They are seeking out potential gang members by ‘hoisting a flag’…letting gangs know of his/her interest in joining a gang. Unfortunately there is always a risk that a rival gang may spot the child’s intent and correct his efforts with a beating–or a bullet.

Just how bad is it in schools? Think of a juvenile completing a standardized test using a common gang symbol–and it slips OUT of the school to a processing center. This HAS happened!

THE CHURCH HOUSE REMAINS SILENT:

Since many churches have determined that the necessity of soul winning, coupled with street evangelism are out of date by modern standards, the message of the gospel and the power of the scriptures have become muted in the marketplace. This is an interesting phenomenon especially when one considers the religious trappings associated with gang activity. A ‘Banger’s Bible’ is the constitution and bylaws of their respective gang. Many signs and symbols, numbers and prayers are modeled after what gang members have seen modeled in many churches. Even the initiation process could be likened to one coming forward and being ‘re born into’ street gang life–complete with official nickname. Make no mistake about it. Gang bangers regard their gangs and turf as a church, their crimes and collections as forms of worship and have members programmed to be quite willing to die to protecting gang secrets.

It takes a willing church and congregation to preach and act against the sin gangs represent, firmly confront the wrongs that they are doing in a community, and reprogram young minds into the intricacies of good religion, a strong work ethic, and a needed education.

Taking a stand against bangers is not for the weak.

In some cases, church congregations are going to have to go up against single (and some married) parents who don’t see gang membership as that big a deal–until their son or daughter winds up on the six o’clock news being carted off to jail, prison, or the morgue.

We have already seen the church’s weak stands against divorce, homosexuality, and out-of-wedlock children. Yes, many gang members and their families attend church without fear of correction or confrontation. Thus some church members may be wearing gang colors under their youth choir robes while presenting a good ‘front’ to the congregation and the pulpit. However, either the gang is going to win, or the church.

WE have to make a choice and declare whom our children will serve.

Remember, the young man who is ‘sagging and bagging’ in the church house today, stands a good chance of being in a prison jumpsuit on the six o’clock news tomorrow.

A SAD STUDY:

The church MUST get back into the rebuking and repentance business. Yes, gang members must be made to understand there may be some repentance; but TRUE repentance involves a change of heart and a change of direction in one’s life. Repentance means that one determines NOT to commit the same sin again. However, the church also must stand strong and remind gang members there also may be some jail time IF the weapons and drugs are not put down and they walk away from the gang scene.

The good news is that American cities have not become ‘overrun’ by street gangs. There are still far too many young people who are going to school, getting their homework done, and graduating to take their rightful places in society. Yes, some of them do go to church, and even more of them still view the teachings of scripture as being relevant in their lives. The thing concerning those who work in the juvenile justice system is the fact that the ‘good’ students have remained relatively silent when it comes to confronting, or even correcting their wayward classmates. If the truth were told there is a lot of interaction and below the surface communication within the average U.S. high school. Students themselves often know the ‘ins and outs’ of who is in what relationship, and who is in which gang. Sadly, they oftentimes have to sit idly by; cowed into silence by the very young people they could be helping.

While attending a law enforcement training on gangs a few years back, my group was presented with a national study of 2,000 teens involved in the gang scene. It highlighted some eye-opening information on how young people are quickly sucked into this life:

YOUTH FIRST MEETS A GANG MEMBER–AT 8.9 YEARS OLD

YOUTH PERFORMS FIRST GANG ACTIVITY–9.2 YEARS OLD

YOUTH EXPERIENCES PUBERTY–9 TO 10 YEARS OLD

FIRST TIME INTIMIDATED A PERSON AT SCHOOL–10.4 YEARS

FIRST TIME DISCHARGED A FIREARM–11.3 YEARS OLD

FIRST TIME OBSERVED A DEATH/INJURY RESULT FROM GANG ACTIVITY–11.3 YEARS OLD

FIRST TIME JOINED A GANG–12 YEARS OLD

FIRST TIME ARRESTED–12 YEARS OLD

FIRST TIME HAD A WEAPON FOR PERSONAL USE–12 YEARS

FIRST TIME TATTOOED–13 YEARS OLD

THE CHURCH HOUSE NEEDS TO CORRECT THE PROBLEM!

Sunday after Sunday, teens enter churches not only full of the world’s knowledge of how to be a better negative, they recognize teens–and some adults–who appear to have gotten away with “it”, meaning their dual identities of street thug and church member. Once more, they actively see the double standard of encouraging young women to dress for success, and allowing young men to exist in their mess–complete with sagging and bagging.

Let me be as upfront as I can at this point: Sin spreads not only by people engaging IN the activity, but people who know better AND give their silent consent! With the arrival of ‘casual’ Sundays on the church scene, teen members have taken this to mean ‘wear your own colors’. Inside (and outside) of many a church on a Sunday morning, those young men and young women who have experienced a ‘flutter’ with gang life PROUDLY wear the colors associated with their favorite ‘nation’ or ‘set’ AND may ‘flash’ a few signs to rival members, or the general public without fear of public rebuke. Add to this the fact that some televised national ministries feature pastors and preachers appearing in the pulpit in casual dress with the ‘be like them to win them’ mentality, and one better understands how far the ‘modern’ church has fallen.

How may a church in a city regain the upper hand when it comes to the spread of gangs? Let me dare say again that this is a spiritual problem that must be dealt with via spiritual means. This is not an arena for the faint of heart. A pastor and a church must realize that this is an ongoing conflict that must be bathed in prayer.

One will be shocked to find how far the arms of gang life ‘stretch’ into the average congregation. More than a few congregations are clearly seeing second or third generation bangers who are between 12 to 17 years old and who are usually on probation or parole. Many of these young men and young women know their gang signs and affiliations better than their ABCs. Second–as in dealing with those who may be trapped in cult or occult activity– pastors and churches must realize that they have to regain control of the language of the debate, in order to rescue the individual.

Take the use of the word LOVE. Many Bangers have clearly stated to parents, social workers and teachers that they only know of ‘love’ as members of a gang. In truth, how can a group expert in inflicting pain, and engaging in criminal activities show an individual member LOVE? If a group of people are hurting you, asking you to lie, cheat, and steal, or coercing you out of your virginity ‘for the good of the gang’ is showing LOVE, then the church needs to ‘take back’ and define this word–and others–in biblical terms, clearly and unashamedly explained from the point of view of the Holy Scriptures. Lastly, churches and pastors must acknowledge that they are in need of training as to what is going on out in the streets of our communities. As a Gang Specialist, I do provide training through workshops and seminars. However there are many others in congregations who can bring local teachings to their church as to how gangs function,
operate, and flourish. Search them out and ask them!

Gangs are nothing new to many communities. However, it is up to those who call upon the name of the Lord to go about the Father’s business and take those out of the kingdom of darkness and bring them back home. Many young people DO have the prodigal story committed to memory. All they are waiting for is for some courageous Christian man or woman to show them the way out of the darkness, before it not only bites them…but also devours them.

Staff Writer; Mike Ramey

This talented writer can be reached at the following address; manhoodline@yahoo.com.


Comments

One Response to “Mike Ramey; Gang Bangers VS. The Modern ChurchColors, Signs, & Worship Of Trouble…”
  1. Frank says:

    This has always been a serious problem in the black community and the black church should and can do more. Years ago many churches did become involve and took a stance against negative behavior, today many churches turn a blind eye to these problems. The obstacle to this is that today most churches are profit oriented, it’s all about the money. Greedy black preachers today view the church as their personal wallet and believe initiating various community projects to help blacks with their troubles will take money out of their pocket.

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