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What the Gospel Means for Portland

What the Gospel Means for Portland

What Christ might say to the City of Roses.

We've come a long way as evangelicals since the left-of-center Willamette Week's feature in 2004 titled, "The J Crew: Meet Portland's Evangelicals." The subhead read, "Portland's Christian soldiers may seem queer, but they're here. Get used to them." You'll find bumper stickers in town stating "Keep Portland Weird," and one of the weirdest things is the alliance in key quarters between a liberal city and conservative church. In some beautiful ways, many of us evangelicals have moved from indifference, wariness, and fear to a loving solidarity with the city.

Over the past several years, John M. Perkins has challenged a number of evangelicals in Portland—churches, nonprofits, pastoral and lay leaders, students, and others—to love our city, wondering if we really did so. Even in their laments and prophetic rebukes, the prophets of old like Jeremiah loved their city. While Portland is not Jerusalem, it has been affectionately referred to as Jesus' "favorite city." For one, there are the alliances between churches, Christian organizations, and City Hall on matters pertaining to the poor and homeless, among other issues. One might also draw attention more generally to what evangelicals would call creation care. With its bike-friendliness, farmers markets, and communal focus on sustainable living, Portland is one of the greenest cities in the world. That's a really good thing, and a good challenge to us as evangelicals, who have been relatively slow to engage this sphere of kingdom justice.

But although Portland is green, its central city is becoming increasingly white. This is an area of grave concern. Although some may wish to label this as simply an economic reality, race and class often track with one another in the United States as much today as in days past. While ethnic minority numbers are decreasing in the central city, this liberal town (including its churches) has never really been known for caring structurally for those of ethnic minority status. As one urban studies professor said about urban renewal in Portland, "For many African Americans, urban renewal equals Negro removal." This was and is the response of many in the black community, as city landmarks, stores, cafes, bistros, and art studios have arrived in the heart of predominantly black neighborhoods and business districts, including the Rose Quarter and Alberta Neighborhood. Regardless of how the rest of us might perceive it, that's the interpretation of many African Americans' experience.

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Comments Are Closed

Displaying 1–5 of 14 comments

Bruce

December 21, 2011  1:36pm

I have lived in Portland for four years and found urban Portland to be very difficult. I have dealt with anti-religious attitudes to outright hostility. What hurts the most is the outright isolation and having the religious communities shut their doors on me. I believe Portland is a nice city and things are changing but the city must open itself to new ideas and ways of looking at things.

Derek C

November 04, 2011  3:55pm

What a sobering challenge it is to live out faith. This is good stuff, thank you.

Brad Harper

November 01, 2011  11:40am

Thanks, Paul, for reminding us that God heals broken people by entering into their brokenness. May we be willing to do the same thing out of love for him.

Matt Spears

November 01, 2011  11:39am

I just read the article you wrote for Christianity Today and wanted to tell you I really enjoyed it. It’s interesting that you touched on the importance of partnership in ministry, it seems I’ve heard that same thing from more than a handful of individual sources over the past couple weeks.

sheena

October 31, 2011  7:43pm

God has tought us to love not hate. However we should love our own heritage and who we are as a people or our own community and pass on those traditions to our children. christian concepts

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