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Affluent Ghettos

In the 1500’s Jewish citizens of the Italian city of Venice were expelled—in yet another persecution by Christians—and made to live on a swampy island where once a crude foundry smelted pig iron and slag.  The term for slag is something the Venetians called, “ghet” and hence the term “ghetto” was created.

A ghetto is usually poor section of a city inhabited primarily by people of the same race, religion, or social background, often because of discrimination.
Curiously, the term has been turned inside out.  Not only are there poor ghettos, but you can have well-off ghettoes, too.  There are suburban ghettos, where the privileged live in communities that have restrictions, a homogenous population and the experience of exclusion and fear.  They fear what others will bring to their door, so they create gated communities and maintain sets of rules—which are often unwritten, but generally understood.  It sounds odd, doesn’t it, that there would be such a thing as a rich or exclusive ghetto?

More disturbing is the understanding that churches can become exclusive communities of people who are relatively homogeneous in values, beliefs, habits and practices.  I’m not comfortable with the notion that church can be likened to a ghetto experience, but it appears to be so.  Such ghettos are not concerned with keeping people in a certain area, like the Venetians did so long ago, but rather, they keep people out.

- Robert Cook, "Preaching to the Unbaptized," sermon of 1/9/11, Christ United Methodist Church, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania