Washington, D.C. is a city of paradoxes:
- A city that has been named one of the 10 most-educated (it’s No. 3, in case you’re wondering), is also burdened with a 50 percent graduation rate among high schoolers.
- The population named for the phrase “Chocolate City” is now in the minority, ever slowly being pushed to the edges of the District by new condo developments and posh dining.
- A city where more than three percent of its residents is infected with HIV, a rate that health experts deem an “epidemic”, is comparable to the infection rate of some developing countries.
It baffles me that one can live in a city so diverse, so rich with history and opportunities, and yet so many live a one-sided existence. Danny Harris is a perfect example of someone who realized this and decided to do something about it. Like many, he moved to DC for a government job and found himself in the organic grocery aisle, headphones in, yoga mat slung over his shoulder. An existential crisis set in: everyone in the store was doing the exact same thing. This lonely realization propelled him out of isolation and into his neighborhood. He started The People’s District, a blog dedicated to telling the stories of Washingtonians.
Like many, he moved to DC for a government job and found himself in the organic grocery aisle, headphones in, yoga mat slung over his shoulder. An existential crisis set in: everyone in the store was doing the exact same thing.
I see Harris’ blog as part of the toolkit of peacemaking, of bridging difference, of learning from and loving neighbors.
While I speak from the perspective of a young professional in Washington, D.C., these two thoughts can apply to Christians living in community anywhere.
1. Live out your faith boldy, but with a humble spirit
I offer Christians in DC one more paradox to consider: We must live our faith boldly, but with a humble spirit. As my friend Rachel said, “Partially due to the youth of the city, there is a desire to question standard assumptions and practices and explore how faith could be lived out differently. And due to the academic nature of this city, I find many more people who want to really dig deep in the Bible and theology. I think our weaknesses come in that we don’t want to be labeled, ever, even when it could be a helpful thing.”
Labels can cause division, but labels are also important to our identity. I believe we can identify as Christians in this city without compromising. The spotlight shines brightly here for politics and national events. Yet the Bible says we must be “in the world but not of it.” We have a presidential election on the horizon. It’s not about who is left, right, or wrong. It’s not about who is a Christian, Mormon or Muslim.
Blogger Tim Challies says sanctification is a community project. I definitely agree—as would John Wesley—and I would add this: sanctification is a community effort not because we are all the same, but precisely because of our differences.
2. Build bridges and willingly learn from others
As Christians in the nation’s capital, I believe we must fight the urge to self-insulate, to hide in pockets around the city. It’s so easy to self-select into a political party, social scene, and even a church. Amy Sherman suggests that self-insulation translates to isolation from the wider world: “Cut off from people with entirely different life situations, we fail to learn how God gifts and graces those in circumstances unfamiliar to most of us.”
As Christians in the nation’s capital, I believe we must fight the urge to self-insulate, to hide in pockets around the city. It’s so easy to self-select into a political party, social scene, and even a church.
Nearly 15 percent of DC’s population is made up of “young people.” This group has such an incredible opportunity—and responsibility—to make a difference, to be the light of Christ. We should be praying for DC as the nation’s capital, but also for DC as a diverse community of neighbors—professionals and natives, white collar and blue collar, Salvadoran and Korean—and everyone in between.
Pray for Guidance
We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to order our footsteps and light the way in the culture conversation. We are His ambassadors, but we must be so humbly. He is making all things new, he is bringing restoration to the people in this city—in all levels of power and influence—and to the people they represent.