Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Vindicating New Orleans

Ancient cities had a way of disappearing.

Many factors could be responsible for the demise of a city in biblical times. Famine, war, pestilence, invasion and captivity, to name a few.

During the period of Babylonian exile, Jerusalem basically disappeared.

Oh, there were a few stalwart souls who managed to evade their captors. Some weren't wanted for the journey to Babylon. Others came along later to take up residence in the abandoned city. Squatters and boudoins.

But, for all practical purposes, Jerusalem disappeared for about two generations beginning in the 6th century B.C.E.

The last third or so of the book of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah is devoted to hope-filled words about urban renewal in the abandoned city of David. At least two distinct voices seem to take up the cause of championing the rebuilding and renovation of the ancient city left in ruins.

As I listened to my preacher on Sunday reading from Isaiah 62, my mind moved quickly to my recent observations of New Orleans, America's lost city.

The words of the prophet provided me a vision of hope.

Maybe if you read the words with my modern adaptation thrown in for good measure, you'll see what I mean.

"For New Orleans' sake I will not keep silent,
and for New Orleans' sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out
like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.

"The nations shall see your
and all the world leaders and politicians your glory;
and you shall be called by a
new name
that the mouth of the Lord
will give.

"You shall be a crown of beauty in
the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand
of your God.

"You shall no more be termed
and your region shall no more be
termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight
Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.

"For as a young man marries a
young woman,
so shall your builders marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices
over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice
over you.

"Upon your city limits, O New Orleans,
I have posted sentinels;
all day and all night
they shall never be silent.
You who remind the Lord,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes New Orleans
and makes it renowned
throughout the earth." (Isaiah 62:1-6)

Like Jerusalem, New Orleans can be vindicated if at least three things happen.

1) People of vision and faith must take courageous, risky action for the now "forsaken" and "desolate" city. Had people of vision and faith not taken action, Jerusalem would not have been re-populated or renewed. New Orleans waits for brave leaders to step up and take over.

2) People with power, influence and political and economic capital must invest sacrificially in the city's renewal. Again, in the case of Jerusalem, had the powerful of the day not taken decisive action, the city would not have come back.

3) People who love the city must become engaged at the level of the heart and soul. In other words, New Orleans will not be vindicated nor given a new name (read "lease on life" and "new identity") unless people who recognize the power of the spiritual get involved.

I am praying for the vindication of this great city.

I invite you to do so as well.


Charles said...


Was Isaiah referring primarily to a physical place or the home of a spiritual nation? While New Orleans is suffering from politics and apathy, I'm still not convinced rebuilding a city in a dangerous area is best even for the residents and the history.

btw, you commented a few posts ago that you and your wife had been discussing the merits of renting. Every one I've ever talked to, especially in the church, says owning a home is the only responsible thing to do if I can afford it. Are there reasons I'm missing on the pro-rental side?


Larry James said...

Charles, thanks for the post.

I'm not sure from Isaiah's point of view there was any difference. Christans read back into the text their meanings, but Isaiah has in mind a physical city with deep and important spiritual significance.

All cities are that way it seems to me.

As to the danger, there is a way to rebuild this great city so that danger is minimized--repairing the levies and protective barriers, building back and avoiding the worst and lowest areas (by the way, parts of the 9th Ward, including parts of the Lower 9th Ward contain some of the higher elevations in the city--but have been populated by very poor people). Many important American cities are situated in vulnerable locations.

As to renting versus owning, I am sure from an investment standpoint most of the time owning is the better decision. But, there are other things to consider depending on what you want to do with your life and your assets that would make renting a good option for a number of reasons.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...


This article claims they are not planning to rebuild the public school system, and are looking at charter schools instead:


First of all, do you know if that is true? What do you think would be the solution?

Charles said...


That's what I'm asking for - what are the considerations that make renting a serious option?


Larry James said...

Anon, thanks for the post. From my recent trip to NO it seems this story is true. The plan is to "farm out" various schools to charter groups and then the State plans to take over the remaining schools. This will be no better or no worse depending on the plan, the leadership and the funding.

Charles, renting is likely not the best approach if you are concerned for equity investments. Of course, that could be achieved in some other way. Renting for us would be attractive because of its simplicity, lower immediate out-of-pocket costs and then, of course, the ability to support one of our projects in the city. Thanks!

Charles said...

Thanks, Larry. It's just good to hear someone connected to the church saying that some things are more important than equity investments, even from people who also give of their time and resources.