“There’s never been a paper bag”
Genesis 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the orchard.
This first quote comes the “The Wire”‘s 3rd season. It is a reference made by one of the characters. A veteran police commander who gives a morning speech to his officers regarding the situation that police had when it became illegal for alcohol to be consumed in public places. If officers let it go, then they would be open to all kinds of taunts and disrespect. However if they cracked down on every person with a .40 in their hands then no one would be around for what they call “real police work.”
The end result was what was called a “brilliant moment in civic compromise.” The problem was solved when one day some nameless so and so comes out the bar and put his just bought bottle into a brown paper bag. This single action allowed the corner boys to have their drink in peace and gave the police the freedom to focus on doing what they said was police work that mattered. Since officers could not see that alcohol was in the bag, they could not arrest a man for drinking it.
During this season the police had been under pressure to get the crime rate down in Baltimore. With the issues that the city currently had going on, in addition to a war that was going on between two drug crews, the situation seemed bleak. So what happens next is one district commander by the name of Colvin, made a paper bag for drugs. He rounded up all the mid-level dealers in his district and moved them off the corners to an area of vacant houses away from most of the public. He placed officers on the perimeter of the area and created an open-air drug market where dealers could sell freely without police retribution so long as there was no violence. It was named “Hamsterdam” by the dealers after misunderstanding the word Amsterdam. In addition to the drug dealing was open drug use and prostitution. Later on he brought in public health people to distribute needles and condoms to all who needed them. By making a maneuver of this nature, the result was a decrease in crime in the district. Sounds like the plan worked out right?
Eventually a reporter got wind of the situation from one of Colvin’s officers who was opposed to this experiment. The major, fearing the leak to the public decided to tell his superiors about Hamsterdam. This led to Colvin’s demotion and forced retirement as well as the closing of this free zone and a return of the drug dealers to spread out over the city.
One of the central themes that “The Wire” presents is not whether something is right or wrong, but rather if you do wrong then you need to do it the right way in order to avoid the consequences. The same appears to hold true for Christians. After eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knew the wrong they had committed and went to hide their shame. They acted as if God had not known what they had done and that they could hide from him.
As Christians we at times try to do what Major Colvin did and try to devise a paper bag to cover up our wrongdoings. We put these paper bags on, and then act like everything is business as usual. The problem comes from the fact that a lot of times no one notices another person’s paper bag covering them because they have one of their own that they are wearing. As brothers and sisters in Christ we should act as if we were brothers and sisters by blood. If people noticed my actions were not in line representing the actions of Christ I would want them to call me on it. I am quite sure I would not like it. Almost anyone would not like it because we feel everyone is “in our business.” But anyone who claims to know Christ will not want to see a fellow person fall to side.
Adam and Eve made two mistakes in the garden that day. First, they ate of the fruit which God commanded that they did not eat. Second, after eating and gaining the knowledge of their situation, they tried to hide their “shame” literally and figuratively behind fig leaves. They thought that they could hide from God, the one who created them. Maybe it was fear, but let’s be honest, when we call ourselves trying to hide from God we use a bunch of flimsy excuses and it’s more arrogance than fear. God saw it, so how can you hide it.
In the show, the Hamsterdam experiment began to fail when a murder was committed within the restricted area. This lead to everything coming apart at the seams. Remember that you’re only trying to hide yourself with a simple paper bag. Let’s think about a paper bag and all of its attributes. It’s weak, it can wrinkle, crumple, it can get wet and it can be burned. But perhaps the most important physical attribute of a paper bag is, no matter how big the bag can get, the bottom will always fall out when the contents inside of it get too heavy. And why is that? It all falls because a bag, no matter how strong you design it for can not hold more that it can bear. God created us and he has promised us that he would not put more on us than we can handle. This holds true for every situation you have come across during your life. Whether it’s your childhood, teenage years, college life, peer pressure, relationships, career satisfaction, or the loss of a loved one. If God gave it to you then you are capable to deal with it.
As I conclude this segment, I would like to leave you with this thought. Remember folks, there might never had been a paper bag for drugs, but this is Salvation people, there ain’t no paper bag for it.
Walking the Spiritual Wire
If I were to describe myself it would have to be “media-centric.” I grew up watching many movies, reading many books and viewing loads of television programing. In my 26 years there have been many tv shows that I have enjoyed viewing, but there has been only one show that must be experienced rather than viewed. That show is “The Wire.” For those who are unaware, “The Wire” is a drama series that aired on HBO from 2002-2008 for 5 seasons. At first glance one would think this show is a crime procedural, but this is no CSI or NCIS. Personally, I think “The Wire” is the greatest show ever to air on television. The show is not just a drama, it’s life. The setting might be Baltimore, Maryland, but you could place the scenes, the stories, the people anywhere. It really is a marvel of storytelling. I’d like to take some of more thematic elements of the show and apply them to some of the elements that make us proper Christian. First a little context.
Each episode opens with a quote spoken by one of the characters at some point during the episode. There are 60 of the epigraphs, one for each episode. The focus here will be only 5, one from each season. I have researched and found a scripture that I feel best matches the essence of the quote. Then I shall apply the theme of that quote and the dealings of the episode to that of our walk as believers in Christ.
I have returned and I have some new material for everyone. I am to give the message at my church’s Men’s day prayer breakfast in October and I am working on it right now. Here is the introduction to Walking the Spiritual Wire