Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Exploring urban entrepreneurialism

As Christians we must hold to fundamental economic principles.  Work is good, we were made for it.  Freedom is crucial, it allows us our ability to conduct the work we were intended to do.  Creativity is a must. . . it is an essential part of our expression of the "imago Dei" stored within us from the creation.  

As an urban ministry we've begun looking carefully at what it means to support, encourage and teach entrepreneurialism and the creation of free, creative work as an element of what it means to bring renewal. . . shalom. . . well-being. . . redemption. . .  to the urban environment. 

Today I had the privilege of listening in as one of our students, Brittany Fisher, competed in a semi-finals business plan competition.  It was great.  Brittany did a classy job of writing and presenting a plan to start her own resume consulting business.  We were and are really proud of her. 

As an organization we are considering plans for a coffee shop, a T-shirt production company, and 3 other businesses.  So this meant that hearing the plans thought through was actually really encouraging.  I mean, what types of businesses would thrive here?  What sort of work in the city would express freedom and creativity?

We got to hear some other ideas as urban kids expressed their visions for businesses.  One was an online music magazine fusing R&B and Funk.  Another was an organic coffee shop.  Then there was the urban clothing line for pregnant teens. . . and the company that creates organic pouches that fit into "any standard sized bra" for those who prefer not to carry a purse.  

These were some true urban perspectives~!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why we need Caris Pregnancy Centers.

I had a chance to listen to a presentation by the Executive Director of Caris Pregnancy Centers today.  As someone who is strongly pro-life, yet feel like my view of pro-life has widened beyond the normal view held within the evangelical community, I was wondering how I would react.  

My personal tension has been in hearing the discussion about the subject of abortion become one in which a sense of panicked yelling about unborn children is the primary means of communicating about it.  The woman doing the presentation started by saying that our normal discourse in the past few decades has been "if you love the woman your are pro-choice, and if you love the child you are pro-life."  Perhaps an oversimplification yet it did ring true to me.

So she suggested that we start by realizing the God loves them both and so should we.   Our rhetoric, our discourse and our demeanor has often not communicated this in the Christian community public discourse.  (Remember the standard Paul sets up for an elder?  that he is viewed as respectable in the eyes of unbelievers? I think this is an apt comparison for considering how we are viewed as believers on the whole as we interact on this issue.  Does the pregnant teen think we love her, while she is considering ending her pregnancy?)  

She suggested that they worked with about 2500 women last year and 2/3 of them carried their children to term.  There were about 20,000 abortions in cook county last year.    She also indicated that as the economy worsens, abortions tick upward. Their vision is to work with 10,000 women annually by 2011.

Most women who find Caris do so through the internet . . .  people search the internet in response to traumatic news such as unplanned pregnancy.  So normal things like billboards don't really work.  Yet among the highest rates of abortion are lower income communities and they have the least access to technology.  (I suggested they optimize their internet pages for mobile searches).  They indicated they are increasingly counseling via text messages!

Planned parenthood reports that the reasons given for abortion are most often a lack of emotional/social support and lack of practical resources. . . this happens to be exactly what Caris focuses on.  

Their 3 core mission aspects are: Commitment to the woman and her child, Counseling, and Connection to resources.  

One of the most amazing things she said was that virtually every women at some point says "I'd like to keep the child if. . . . ".  that presents great hope for working with women, supporting them and their children. 

Only 1% consider adoption nationally so while we like to talk about that, the reality is that it is almost a non-starter for women considering abortion.  Most women consider abortion in the 8-10 week window, most women opting for adoption don't consider it seriously until the 3rd trimester.  

She framed this as a justice issue which really resonated for me.  Justice for the child, but also for the mother.  I would add that we must frame it as a grace issue.  If we as believers don't love and fully understand the grace of God in our lives we will not be able to tolerate all that it takes to actually love women by providing them the emotional support and practical resources they need.  It is far easier to rant on facebook about our government policies than it is to provide all of the emotional support and practical resources needed to an actual woman and child.

I think we have an interesting crisis of conscience when we agonize over the number of abortions yet have no sense of concern for the mothers.  And that concern means loving sexually promiscuous mothers who are sometimes irresponsible, have other children, have had other abortions and such. In other words grace to the mother is very messy business that I fear we don't want to get caught up with.  

Here is the interesting thing:  the church thinks that Caris needs the churches money to go out and reach out to girls and women of all ages who are in crisis (remember when they were called crisis pregnancy clinics?).  As I listened I couldn't help thinking that it is we the church who need Caris!  We need them to teach us to love the unlovely, the broken and those whose unrighteousness is just like ours. . . except theirs is exposed. (What would I look like if my sin hung on my like a 9 month pregnancy?)

I think we have no business suggesting that we love the child and must speak up on their behalf if we can't love the mother.