Father Mike Pfleger of Chicago

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the shooting that wounded former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, CNN hosted a town hall with President Barack Obama on the topic of guns in America.

The live audience, at George Mason University, in Virginia, included people whom CNN had flown in: gun owners, gun sellers, survivors of shootings, and relatives of victims.

The first three questions came from skeptics of greater gun control—the widow of a Navy SEAL, a rape survivor from Colorado, and a Republican sheriff running for Congress in Arizona.

Then the Reverend Doctor Michael L. Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest dressed in a black jacket and a white collar, took the microphone. “I happen to be from one of those cities where violence is not going down,” he said. “There’s been eleven killed in seven days in Chicago.”

For forty years, Pfleger has worked and lived at the Faith Community of St. Sabina, Chicago’s largest African-American Catholic church. His neighborhood, Auburn-Gresham, is ninety-eight per cent black.

Pfleger is white. At sixty-six, he has heavy eyes and side-swept brown hair that has not changed much in color or style since the Johnson Administration. “It’s easier to get a gun in my neighborhood than it is a computer,” he told the President, adding, “For many years, nobody even cared about Chicago, because the violence is primarily black and brown.”

In Chicago, Pfleger is a showman of the first order. He usually preaches with an eight-piece band, a choir, and a troupe of dancers, all arrayed beneath a painting, twenty feet tall, of a young black Jesus wearing a white robe.

His parishioners once nicknamed him Cecil B. De Pfleger. At a funeral that I attended for Vince Clark, his assistant and friend, Pfleger concluded the eulogy by putting on one of Clark’s signature fedoras and downing a shot of rum, the deceased’s favorite drink. He drew a standing ovation. Continue reading


  • The New Yorker, an article by Evan Osnos, a staff writer who covers politics and foreign affairs.
  • Image: ABC News
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News category: Features.

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