By Chinta Strausberg
When 77-year-old Rev. Dr. Leon D. Finney, Jr. was â€œstuck upâ€ outside of his South Side home last Tuesday night after visiting his dying father-in-law at a nursing home, he was caught off guard but not afraid, he confirmed late Monday night but in the spirit of forgiveness, he wants to help the robber find God.
As pastor of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community church for 22-years and a former Marine who was once a criminal investigator working in counter-intelligence, Finney was completely surprised when a gun-wielding man, he described as around 35-years-old, demanded his money.
The incident happened last Tuesday when Finney had just left his father-in-law who was dying at a nursing home. Finney had completed other chores and around 11 p.m. headed for home.
â€œI was going into my apartment building and unfortunately the vestibule light was out,â€ Finney told this reporter. â€œI went in the first door and the gunman slammed the door in my back. I fell to the floor.â€
When the robber demanded his money, Finney told him, â€œNo problemâ€¦take the moneyâ€¦in fact take the whole walletâ€ which he did. The robber then asked for his car keys and warned him to be quiet and not to move. â€œI told him I wonâ€™t move, my friend, donâ€™t shoot.â€ The robber took his $40.00, credit cards, his car keys and left. His father-in-law died the next day.
â€œWhy should I be exemptedâ€ from crime,â€? Finney asked. â€œNobody is exemptâ€ from this violence that is plaguing Chicago. â€œThis is the first time I was stuck up ever.â€
Finney said all the time he worked with the Black Stone Rangers and other gangs where at times he was in â€œvery difficult situationsâ€ he never had a problem involving his safety. â€œI was a criminal investigator with the Marines working with counter-intelligence, but he caught me off guard.â€
Explaining, Finney said, â€œI had just left a senior home where my father was expiring. If I had not have been dealing with the expiration of his life, I probably would have noticed this 35-year-old man and would have behaved differently. I probably would have been able to disabled him mentally.Â He took me by surprised. This is the kind of stuff I was trained to handle.
â€œIt was unfortunate. I consider myself fortunate, and I am praying for this young man. I have to forgive him for what he did.â€ Finney did make out a police report, but he has extended an olive branch to the robber inviting him to his church for redemption and prayer.
Asked what would he say to him, Finney said, â€œI would tell him there is a better way and I would offer to help him. I would figure out a way to get him employed. I would invite him to my church because the Lord in in the forgiving business. He deserves a second chance.â€
Referring to South Carolinaâ€™s church shootings where nine people were killed, Finney said, â€œI think the Emanuel church taught us all a lessonâ€¦forgiveness.â€ Finney was referring to the survivors who publicly said they forgave the shooter. â€œI want to give him a second chance,â€ said Finney referring to the man who robbed him at gunpoint.
â€œI would love for him to come to my church. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to help him.â€
Finney, who was born in Louise, Mississippi, has dedicated his life to the ministry and to the civil rights movement.
He has headed The Woodlawn Organization and the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation.
Finney, who has a talk show every Saturday on WVON, has taught at several universities including the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, the Lutheran School of Theology, the University of Chicago, the Presbyterian College of Korea and the McCormick Theological Seminary where he taught African American Leadership Studies. There, he was also executive director of the African American Leadership partnership.
Very active in the community, Finney is the chairman and principal for the Lincoln South Central Real Estate Group and has held several municipal board related positions including vice chairman of CHA, chair of the Monitoring Commission for School Desegregation for the Chicago Public Schools and was a board member for the Chicago Planning Commission.
Finney is married to attorney Georgette Greenlee Finney.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.