One of the more interesting things about visiting Chicago last week was that I was staying in a neighbourhood previously known as Cabrini-Green. This was the real wild side of Chicago. The Wikipedia entry for the area (it’s worth reading the whole article) notes that, “Though Chicago has had a number of notorious public housing projects…Cabrini–Green's name and its problems were the most publicized, especially beyond Chicago. Cabrini–Green often gained press coverage for its chaotic New Year's Eve celebrations when gang members fired guns into the air causing police to block off nearby streets every year.”
Over the past few years the old “projects” have been demolished, making way for what is now a desirable location for urban professionals. While I was there, demolition of the last high-rise was underway, and I found it extremely poignant to walk around the cleared lots, with their piles of ground up rubble. Looking into the shattered remains of that last high-rise, I tried to imagine the kind of human misery that those graffiti covered walls had witnessed.
Now it is an area reborn. You don’t have to worry about getting shot anymore. And it is a great place to live – just a few blocks from downtown, an easy walk, or a quick ride on the El to the Sears Tower.
Most of the people who used to live in Cabrini-Green – the pimps, the prostitutes, the dealers, the addicts, the gang bangers, the victims – simply got moved out to other areas of Chicago, taking their problems with them. The neighbourhood has been born again, but the wreckage of individual lives continues.
This is how it is with human solutions. As that other Chicago resident, Bill Hybels, puts it, human agencies “can only move the markers on the playing field of life; they can’t get to the heart of the problem.”
Today, Good Friday, as we consider the cross of Christ, our hope is for something better than this. In Christ we look not merely for the demolition and relocation of our problems, but for the crucifying of our sin. At the cross, all the wreckage of human experience was carried and killed in the body of Christ. The best hope for us all – the crack addict and the city slicker – is found on Calvary’s tree. It is because of the cross that all things can truly be made new.