Sunday, November 14, 2010

CitySquare: theological reflection

After spending well over a year on the creation of our new "brand identity," I began to reflect on the new name, CitySquare, from a theological/biblical perspective.  Subconsciously I think our new name jumped out at me when I first saw it among a number of other choices that we had before us. 

If you scroll down to my post last Sunday, November 7, 2010, you'll see my thoughts on the struggle of Job and how his entire life seemed wrapped up in the city or public square where the witness of his life worked itself out. 

Today I'm thinking of the time of Nehemiah. 

Consider the following account of the reading of the Torah to the captives now returned to their city, Jerusalem: 

All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.  They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1-8).

Note the key phrase as to the location of this event:  "in the square before the Water Gate." 

A city square is a place for values clarification, for law and for the understanding of custom, rules, justice and public policy.  Part of our work will always involve this matter of pouring our values and our standards into the mind of the larger community. 

CitySquare--it's a name that contains much meaning and it's working for us.


Dallaswatchdog said...

Hello to all. We are new here, but offer a few humble comments. We are happy to see the word "Ministries" omitted from the "CitySquare" name.The earlier "Central Dallas Ministries" name was very disingenuous as it gave the impression of a Christian ministry. We of course recognize that CDM had done many fine works in its tenure, for social and political reasons, often cloaked in a political theology. We also believe that the CitySquare organization has the support of several radical left groups. organizations and individuals in spreading their philosophy.

Larry James said...

Dallaswatchdog, one is tempted to hit "delete" on your comment, but I decided to let it pass to the page. As my various posts explain, the name/brand change has to do with geography and approach. We took ministry out of our name simply because we do not and have never made the belief system of anyone seeking our help or assistance a condition of receiving our support. We remain a Christian, fatih-based organization--nothing has changed about our heart, soul or vision. We haven't done anything for political reasons. We do believe our faith leads us into the public square to work for justice and equity in a spirit of compassion.

The notion that CitySquare "has the support of several radical left groups, organizations and individuals" is truly laughable! I can assure everyone that such is not the case. Please name the "radical left groups, organizations and individuals" you have in mind and I will gladly tell you if, when and how much these groups have contributed to our work across the past 22 years. This comment and suspicion is so far off the mark as to be absurd. Again, I invite your inquiry, as I will be pleased to answer your questions. LOL is all I can say!

Dallaswatchdog said...


Larry James said...

Thank you, Watchdog. Let me be perfectly clear: we have never received one cent nor any direction or support of any kind from Jim Wallis or Sojourners or Mr. Soros. So, while I hate to disabuse you of your mission and your conspiratorial worldview, your suspicions are all misplaced. Sorry to disappoint you so badly I am sure. LOL!!!

Larry James said...

BTW--people concerned for the poor stand in very good company if you come at the matter from the perspective of faith: the Torah, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, Jesus, early church, etc. Do you consider these sources "left wing radicals"? LOL

rcorum said...

Larry, I believe that the comment from Dassaswatchdog was totally uncalled for, but I have wondered where your support comes from not that I am expecting to see contributions from the descendants of Karl Marx, but I am more interested in the breakdown of individual gifts as opposed to corporate and government grants. Is that information available?

For those of you who would consider yourself to the right of Larry like myself. Please do not pass judgement on the work of CitySquare until you do a little homework. Take a little time and look up his salary and the ratings from various watch dog groups for charitable organizations. Larry is a good man who has done more to help the poor in one week than most of us will do in a life time. I don't often agree with his politics, but have we gotten to the point where we believe that if we disagree with the politics of a person they then become incapable of doing good? My words in defense of Larry are far less powerful than the open evidence of the good work CitySquare does every day. If by "philosophy" you mean that Larry's life revolves around fighting for those with no voice then I am sure he would plead guilty. I am sorry I got a bit carried away, but we have to learn to disagree without the presence in innuendo.

Larry James said...

Thanks so much, RC. While I can't list the hundreds of persons who support us, I can say the profile is clear: good, conservative for the vast majorIty, people of faith. The idea that we receive support from radicals of any stripe is absolutely absurd. If caring for the poor beyond the limits of charity is "radical," we are in real trouble as a people.

JBS said...


I invite you to spend some time with the amazing folks who make up City Square. These people are authentically people of faith who choose to put their faith into action in the city square everyday.

The only thing "radical" I have experienced at City Square is a radical commitment to living out the values of God in the world. Such a commitment is a threat to any political ideology that chooses to deviate from God's vision of a just and peaceful world in which communities live together in shalom.

I have never seen City Square "cloak" a political theology. Rather, they are openly political in the sense that they believe private faith should express itself in public ways. However, City Square is not "political" according to your definition...they do not exist to further an agenda of a certain political party.

Please take the time to visit the various ministries of City Square and see how faith is fuel for this special community. You will see that it is affiliated with some radical folks...those who believe faith should make us participants in God's Kingdom coming and God's will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

You are going to love meeting these wonderful people.

Barecycles said...

OK, here's my 2 cents. For the past few years money has been tight so my charitable giving is spread pretty thin but it has had a serendipitous result. It has afforded me more opportunity to volunteer! Ever since I signed up to help out at CDM/Citysquare the question of "where does the money come from?" has never surfaced among the folks I associated with during volunteer projects. At the risk of sounding corny it seems those doing the work out there for Larry's group are more concerned about the "least of these" than the money source.

Thanks Larry, to you and all those that do the grunt work of MT 25:40.