Hey Kids - Here is the unedited version of my shorter article written for the Sept. edition of the Bridgeport International. Print copies can be found at Trinity, the Coffee Shop, and Maria's.
I’m angry with my neighbors. They have loud parties early into the mornings and leave garbage around the yard and street. I’m also concerned that these neighbors are involved in gang activity. No one on my block is friendly and with the police so busy fighting “real crime” I feel alone in solving this problem. What would you suggest?
My favorite Christian Theologians talk about the concept of sin like this: Sin is that which is made manifest in broken relationships. If we think about sin this way, we find that breaking rules—even religious rules—is less of a problem than fracturing relationships. The goal of ethics is mutual, neighborly, brotherly and sisterly love, between people and people, people and creation, and people and God.
In the Bible, Jesus is criticized by the orthodox of his time for breaking the Sabbath. That is, breaking religious laws. But he's justified, in that in his act of transgression, people were fed and people were healed. Love happened when Jesus “sinned.” So it wasn't sin after all.
But love's not happening to you.
You have been sinned against.
Your ears, your sleep cycle, and your sidewalk have been transgressed, polluted, profaned.
What's a neighbor to do?
Jesus' most famous advice on dealing with conflict is the advice that he gives in the Gospel called Matthew (chapter 18). He says something like this: If a brother or sister sins against you, first go confront him/her alone, in private, seeking reconciliation. If that doesn't work, go back with two or three witnesses. And if he/she still doesn't listen, then bring the community. If that doesn't work, away with them. Don't let them waste any more of your time.
How does that translate into the twenty-first century?
First, don't go alone. Humans have guns and drugs now, and they've been known to use them simultaneously. Bring a friend, But definitely go. Talk to your neighbors. In person. Direct communication. No notes on the door or letters in the mailbox. No texts or emails or passive aggressive facebook status updates that they hopefully, maybe, might see.
Talk to your neighbors. In person. When they're not partying. When it is light outside. And after you've come down from your anger a bit. An herbal tea from Bridgeport Coffee Company tends to calm me down.
Use I statements, not you statements. I feel un-rested because the music was loud last night, rather than, You are loud and annoying every night, stupid-face.
If they hear you out: great! You've gained a brother or a sister (Matt 18:15).
If not, talk to your other neighbors. You say nobody on your block is friendly. That's sad, but they just might be mad about the same things you are. And nothing brings folks together like anger.
If your neighbors have no regard for the wishes of all your other neighbors, it may be time to bring your now organized neighbors to the landlord. Tell the landlord that you would like these tenants evicted. Ask the landlord to answer clearly, yes or no, and tell the landlord what the consequences will be if he or she doesn't comply. The landlord isn't going to evict someone just because you complain. You're not that special. There have to be consequences if he/she does not comply.
From exasperated local to community organizer. Way to go, E.L.
Or you could just buy some earplugs.
Rev. Tom Gaulke
Pastor, First Trinity Lutheran Church, Bridgeport