On Sat. July 11, the JLM Abundant Life Community Center, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd. — the worship facility of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church — hosted the standing room only, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed funeral service of 7-year-old Amari Brown, the youngest victim of Chicago’s deadly Fourth of July weekend. Roughly a thousand people packed the church’s gymnasium/auditorium, while hundreds more stood in the parking lot.
On Tue. July 14, the facility’s lower level sanctuary, which seats about 90 people, was filled to capacity with clergymen and residents from throughout the city to launch a new faith-based initiative designed to ward away the demons of a city possessed.
The Rev. Michael Eaddy, the pastor of People’s Church of the Harvest Church of God in Christ (COGIC), wants to blanket Chicago with red door knob hangers to deter the death angel of gun violence — that smoggy serpent that snakes through the streets, choking the lives of children like Brown.
“We have been plagued with violence and we have participated at every imaginable level — law enforcement, public schools, health service providers, homeland security — we’ve been everywhere,” said Eaddy,
He had pondered the violence, had thought about the world’s futile attempts to stop it — then he heard the voice of God, he said.
“The Lord said to me, what the faith community has failed to do is to present the spiritual remedy, because this violence is a spiritual matter. It is satanic. It is demonic,” Eaddy said fervently to a growing call-and-response — deep, guttural groans of affirmation; shouts of Amen; excited hands fanning his way; outstretched arms; fellow pastors standing up in visceral agreement.
“Jails are not locking it up and counter bullets are not killing it. You can’t even educate it out of them,” Eaddy said. “You can’t educate a demon out. The Lord came to me and said, ‘When I brought the children of Israel out, I gave them a simple remedy. I told them to slay a lamb, take the blood of that lamb and put it over the door post.’ He said, ‘When the destroyer comes through this land, I’m going to be looking for the blood and when I see it, I’m going to pass over.’ And God said, ‘Replicate that.'”
Eaddy said God’s instructions, his voice, was conducted through Brown’s death. Eaddy announced the launch of his initiative, which he is formally calling a Preservation of Life Campaign, at the 7-year-old’s funeral.
“The trumpet blew when Amari Brown was killed,” Eaddy told the July 14 gathering. “That was the cry of the baby. His name is Hebrew. It means, ‘He tells.’ Amari tells. And he has told the church it’s time to go.”
Eaddy plans to print the hangers in quantities of 50,000, which costs about $2,400 to do, he said. In total, his phase one goal is to blanket the city with 500,000 hangers, a $24,000 chore. And that’s just the first phase of printing, he said. He hopes there will be many, putting the number of hangers in the millions.
He said his message has already appealed to some sponsors — the popular Austin restaurant MacArthur’s, along with Joe’s BBQ and Fish, have both pledged to contribute $5,000.
Many of the ministers in attendance, among whom were the heads of some of the most prominent churches in the city, pledged donations that seemed to range from $200 to $2,400. Apostle John Abercrombie, pastor of Truth and Deliverance International Ministries in Austin, pledged a wholesale purchase of at least 50,000 of the hangers and was poised to write the check on the spot.
Abercrombie, who said he has many Jewish friends, pointed out that Eaddy’s idea was similar to the Hebrew tradition of Mezuzah — a small bit of parchment enclosed in a glass case that “designates the home as Jewish, reminding us of our connection to G-d [sic] and to our heritage,” according to a website run by the American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE).
“Every Jew has this over their doors and it symbolizes the blood of Jesus,” Abercrombie said. “What you’re doing is allowing us to see what God is calling us to do,” Abercrombie said, addressing Eady. “This is something spiritual. When I go to my Jewish friends’ houses, they have this on their homes. Why do you think there are no shootings in their neighborhoods?”
“Because they feed their people!” interjected outspoken Austin community activist Mark Carter, who stood coolly in the back of the room, a dimension removed from the preachers’ excitable reverence.
“I don’t have a disagreement with the premise of what they’re doing,” Carter said later on. “But my thing is, there’s an economic system in place in the Jewish community. There’s not a real economic system in place that gives jobs and opportunities to a lot of our youth.
“These children are the result of the drug epidemic that was waged on our community — the chemical and biological warfare that was waged between 1983 and 1993. A lot of people have written them off. You can’t take these kids [from that era], write them off and think there’s not going to be a negative response. That’s what we’re dealing with.”
Besides Carter’s proviso, Abercrombie’s parallel may not have been particularly accurate. In its online description of Mezuzah, AICE seems to anticipate interpretations such as Abercrombie’s.
“As many people incorrectly believe, the mezuzah is not a good-luck charm nor does it have any connection with the lamb’s blood placed on the doorposts in Egypt; rather, it is placed to serve as a constant reminder of G-d’s presence and His [sic] commandments to the Jewish people.”
But that’s quarreling in relatively insignificant things. Rev. Pervis Thomas, pastor of the New Canaan Land MB Church in Englewood, had bigger problems.
“I need 2,500 by next week,” he said. “I got 2,500 gang members in one parking lot.”
Thomas has been organizing the Battle of the Blocks Peace Tournament in Englewood annually for the past eight years. He said he brings dozens of rival gangs into the community for the basketball tournament in an act of conciliatory recreation. The tournament will be held from Aug. 10 through Aug. 15 this year. He’s rarely had an incident of violence, he said. He wants to keep it that way.
Eaddy said that the hangers, each of which currently reads “Black Lives Matter” (he said, eventually, some will be printed that read, “All Lives Matter”) are to be passed out by church congregants and people who believe in the blood’s power to homeowners across the city.
“You can’t just go putting them on people’s doors — this is not a political campaign,” he said. “This is a spiritual campaign. When you go to their houses, if they say they believe, you pray for them right there and [we’ve printed out] street scripts that you can use, modify or not use at all. When you grab their hands, pray for them, then give them the door hanger and let them, in faith, hang it on their own door.”
Indeed, beside even the basic religious belief on which it is premised, the campaign runs on faith, on trust — that the door hangers will actually work as deterrents to the violence; that the churches, preachers and ministries in which donors will seed their monetary donations use the money for its ostensible purpose; that this whole campaign is more than quackery, more than the religious equivalent of a fad diet.
“You are all going to have to trust that you can write [out checks] to People’s Church of the Harvest,” Eaddy told his fellow clergymen. “I’m an honorable man. I have been out here for 36 years.”
As if to vouchsafe the campaign, Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, who was seated in the front row, said she was present at the launch after reading about it in the Gospel Tribune Chicago.
“I felt the anointing in what Pastor Eaddy was talking about today,” she said. “I can tell the Lord is truly in this. All elected officials, not just of faith, should be part of this, because we are accountable and responsible. We need to step up as well.”
Eaddy said he had talked with Aldermen Jason Ervin (28th), Walter Burnett (27th) and Michael Scott, Jr. (24th) about the idea before he went public with it. Ald. Ervin, a member of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, was also in attendance.
“Our Mayor [Rahm Emanuel] has embraced this. [Cook County Commissioner] Richard Boykin even wanted this to be beside his 7-point [anti-violence] plan,” Eaddy said.
Howard Brown, an associate pastor at Eaddy’s church, also vouchsafed the plan. Brown said on April 17, 1998, he and his wife witnessed their 17-year-old son lying in the street. He had been gunned down.
“Ever since that moment, not one day goes by that I don’t feel that piercing arrow [lodged] in my heart,” Brown said. “God has allowed Pastor Eaddy to take that trumpet and blow it. We know that God is going before us and he is going to get the job done,” he said, before quoting a Bible verse — 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
At the meeting’s end, all of the clergymen in attendance mobilized a phalanx around Eaddy, shielding him from what some anticipate will be an array of attacks against him by the devil. They surrounded him as Bishop Willie James Campbell, pastor of St. James Ministries COGIC, prayed.
When the prayer was over and the phalanx dispersed, Rev. Tyrone Crider, pastor of the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and the publisher of the Gospel Tribune, pointed out, to the crowd’s astonishment, something that seemed to indicate that Eaddy’s campaign had been vouchsafed by a greater authority than any politician can muster.
“We’ve quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14,” he said. “I just wanted you all to know that today is 7/14.”