I wanted to read this book after hearing an interview with John Green on the Hugh Hewitt show. After hearing of Deacon Green’s amazing ministry, I just had to read his story.
Streetwalking with Jesus was an amazing read. The most amazing part, perhaps, is how this book will challenge you in your own spiritual life. You will be forced to reevaluate your own way of living the Christian life. Deacon Green presents a modern-day example of Christ reaching out to the most vulnerable in our society.
Deacon Green’s call to ministry began in 1986 when he worked in New York with Covenant House. It was there that he learned the value of direct ministry to the poor and outcast. He parlayed that experience into what became over the following decade Emmaus Ministries, a group that ministers to male prostitutes. In today’s society, male prostitutes are a forgotten entity. Driven to prostitution for myriad reasons, these men often develop other issues like drug addictions or just spin out of control. The end of that tailspin is often the street, where men add homelessness to the hurdles they must leap over to get back on track. But often there is no reason for them to dig themselves out. There is no hope.
It is there, at the nadir of their suffering and desperation, that Deacon Green and the other Emmaus members meet these men to provide hope, friendship, support, and love.
The book is, at base, a lengthy mediation on the Prophet Micah’s admonition: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8-9)
Deacon Green certainly lived out this passage, walking humbly with God and those made in His image with loving mercy. Yet, mercy is tempered with justice, just as love must be tempered by Truth. Emmaus Ministries fulfills a critical need in our society, serving those among us who are easily forgotten. As one benefactor noted, he fails to give more because there is no “bang for the buck.” No, not in temporal terms: many men relapse into their former ways of life, going in and out of rehab three to five times before reaching a place of healing. Yet, Emmaus keeps giving and keeps serving.
But through it all, Deacon Green and the others are not just giving these men a handout. Emmaus is not designed to provide a one-time band-aid fix to these men’s problems. Like the Gospel story that inspired its name, Emmaus ministers by walking with them wherever the journey takes them. And just as Emmaus is not interested in a quick fix, it is interested in loving these men in light of the Truth. In one passage, Deacon Green explains just how hard it is to love in Truth:
For the third time in a week Shawn came by our ministry high and on the very edge of being out of control. I finally had to tell him he couldn’t stop in anymore unless he was serious about getting clean and sober. He left and didn’t return for a few days. Then he showed up at our door bleeding from a head wound.
* * *
“Shawn, do you want to stop using and get into a detox?” I asked.
“No, I just want to get cleaned up and I’ll be out of your way.”
“I’m sorry, Shawn. I can’t help you.” With that I shut the door in his face. Spur-of-the-moment judgment calls like that hold my gut in a vice. But my instincts told me that the most loving thing I could do for Shawn was to show him a clear, consistent, tough love.
Deacon Green’s “tough love” is nothing more than love tempered with Truth. He loved Shawn enough to give Shawn what he truly needed, not what he wanted to hear, and not a quick fix that helped only for a moment. Living this way is the only way to help these men–and all of us, really–break the cycles of sin in our lives.
Today at Mass, the priest went on and on about the modern “virtues” of sincerity and authenticity. I had a professor who used to rail against these false virtues. Sincerity and authenticity are merely fancy code words to justify living as a relativist. That is, as long as you are “sincere” in your beliefs (whatever they may be) and “authentic” about your life (you live in accord with your beliefs), then you have reached a certain level of virtue. In reality, these false virtues are justifications people use for living untethered from the Truth. For true sincerity and authenticity, we must look to Christ. We must strive to be sincere in our Christian beliefs so we can be authentic witnesses to the Truth as revealed to us.
Deacon Green knows that the false virtues promoted by our society are empty. He has seen the destruction caused by people living according to their own set of morals and their own rules. He seeks to fill that void with the truth and light of the Gospel, to be “an explosion of grace in the lives of these young men on the streets.” Deacon Green has been that explosion of grace in their lives, and in ours. And we are blessed to have him tell us about it in this wonderful book. I encourage you all to read it.
This review is written for The Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program. In exchange for an unbiased review, the author receives a complimentary copy of the book. For Streetwalking with Jesus and other great Catholic books and gifts, visit The Catholic Company.