The homicide epidemic among young black men on Kansas City’s east side is leaving a generation of grieving teens in its wake, and some in the crime-fighting community feel black churches need to change their message to better help these young people deal with their loss.
At a community meeting at the Lucile H. Bluford library at 31st and Prospect on June 2, KCUR’s Peggy Lowe learned about efforts to introduce therapy from professional counselors to help teenage siblings of murdered victims.
Alvin Brooks, founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, is a veteran anti-crime activist and an ordained minister. In a follow-up interview, Brooks said the black community needs to change its attitude about therapy if it wants to serve young family members who have lost siblings.
But he also pointed a finger at black churches. Historically, a mourning family turns to the church for support and consolation. To maintain this tradition among youth, Brooks said the message from pastors needs to change. Sometimes they do more harm than good while trying to provide comfort.
“We have to be very careful when we speak with young folks, our youth, who don’t have a religious foundation,” Brooks said. Sometimes, traditional eulogies leave youngsters confused,” he said.
“I heard a pastor say once ‘God has reached down and plucked the most beautiful rose and brought him home.’ If he’s talking about your sister or brother that raises more questions than it answers,” Brooks said.
During the community meeting, Brooks told the young people not to take those eulogies literally. A young person may question his or her own self-worth if told “the most beautiful rose” — their sibling — has been sent to be with God, he said. In a confused emotional state, Brooks said it would be natural for the surviving sibling to wonder ‘Why was my sibling chosen by God? What does that say about me?’
Additionally, to tell a teenage brother or sister that a sibling has been “called home” to God begs the question: what kind of God would do that? Brooks said this can disillusion young people with the church at a time they need it the most.
Source: KCUR | LAURA ZIEGLER