Month: July 2013

The Soapbox: Correcting the sins of our fathers

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“We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. … We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything we’ve done. … You cannot play God and then wash your hands of the things you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things you’ve done anymore.” — Edward James Olmos as Cdr. William Adama, Battlestar Galactica

North America was built on the backs of slaves and the disenfranchised, brought to this continent by its European forefathers to work the land.

It is a difficult reality to face, but it’s the truth, and something that most people have owned up to in one sense or another in the centuries since.

Slavery has been condemned, its practitioners for the most part chastised, and the practice abandoned. But the grim fact remains that settlers from England, France and other nations abducted men and women from their homes in Africa and the Caribbean and moved them here against their will to work without compensation.

It is one of this content’s darkest moments. Coupled with the treatment of the First Nations people in Canada and south of the border, it paints a very clear picture of the horrors of colonialism in a time when the rights of human beings had not fully been established or acknowledged.

But times have changed. The bulk of the Western world now lives in nations built on the tradition of a constitution, in which the rights of every man, woman and child are protected.

The same cannot be said for many of the nations from which those slaves were taken.

This is the assertion of Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the Huffington Post, Gonsalves has been spearheading an effort by more than a dozen Caribbean nations to demand recompense and apologies from the three European nations responsible for much of the Atlantic slave trade: Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Though constitutions and promises and other measures exist to curb the impact of slavery at home, and there have been some efforts to restore nations whose economies were jeopardized by the practice, it holds true that the actions of those men who first settled North America — the slave traders who abducted innocent individuals — have echoed through the centuries.

The economic disparity, discrimination and disenfranchisement that entire segments of populations in the Caribbean and even within our own countries feel is a direct result of the practice.

“The apology is important but that is wholly insufficient … we have to have the appropriate recompense,” Gonsalves told the Associated Press.

He’s absolutely correct. No amount of money will fix the intangible damages done by the slave trade, but it could go a long way to helping these nations.

And a genuine apology just might reverberate within those European nations — and across the world.

The alternative? Let the disparity, discrimination and disenfranchisement continue.

Which seems the better option to you?

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Help Us To Know Your Ways

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John 13:7
The Message (MSG)
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped. Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!

Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great King Solomon. Can you see the majestic cedar? It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds! The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew. Birds have built their nests in its branches, weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms. And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!

We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled truck. Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground. We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature. We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen…!(Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.

We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram King of Tyre” (2 Chron.2:3) take it down the mountainside. From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean. And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God. As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the Almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting? The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house”(Hag.2:9)

So many people are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare, and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances. But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His heavenly Zion> And He says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God”(Isa.62:3). I don’t ask my cross to understand, my way to see-Better in darkness just to feel Your hand, And follow Thee.

1950, 1963,2013, What’s It Matter- We Still Hate

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What do the deaths of Sanford, Fla., teenager Trayvon Martin, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and former Marine Kenneth Chamberlain have in common? The fact that they are perceived as “the other” by mainstream society, due to the fact that they were not white (Martin and Chamberlain) or straight (Clementi). It is this “otherness” which compels people to dismiss their deaths as acts of racism and homophobia. Racism and other phobias have evolved into the demonization of “the other,” a reflection and byproduct of changing demographics, and the inability of those to adapt to these changes due to either fear or the wish to return to the “good old days.”These are not isolated incidents but a symptom of a new racism that is not perpetuated just by white but also by people of color, as in the case of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer who is of Hispanic descent. This new racism stems from the need to identify with the dominant ideal of being American, which in our society still means being heterosexual and white. These perpetrators have internalized the new racism (and homophobia) by seeking to be a member of the dominant society and targeting individuals whom they don’t consider their equals. Examples of this disturbing trend abound in the press and are highly influenced by socio-economic factors such as education and class. In the case of Clementi, it was a young man of Indian descent who felt it was right to harass his white roommate as he felt his alleged homosexuality was his “otherness,” an excuse to victimizing him. In the shooting of Trayvon Martin, it was the same “otherness” which compelled Zimmerman, a man of mixed heritage, to single out and target a young black boy perceived as “the other” assumes he was “up to no good.” Often people choose to believe hate crimes happen are isolated incidents and that they don’t reflect the feelings of the larger society. They prefer to define the criminal(s) as just “bad people” who are not necessarily racist or homophobic. But the reality is different and it reflects a still pervasive racism, or fear of “the other,” by mainstream, white and heterosexual society. These expressions of racism are not limited to actual killings. Every time a person thinks of the other as being less educated, or immigrants, or a from a different ethnicity, styles of dress or any reasons to justify the denomination of someone, this new racism is at work. Something we all should reflect as we see these hate crimes increasing in front of our eyes.

 

 

 

 

Racist polarization, promoted in theatrical fashion by the corporate media, distracts people from the real cause of class and racial division — an economic and social system designed for exploitation and predation by a hereditary elite. If we are feeding on each other, if we perpetually with the passing of each generation fall victim to class and racial warfare, we will never recognize the real criminal class victimizing us all.

 

What’s going on here? What are the figures in the picture of gummy bears thinking? [This guy’s different; why is he a different color? Why is she not the same as us; others seem to feel the same way; should we eat it?] What is the figure in the middle thinking? [Why are they surrounding me? I feel pretty uneasy here; why are they all pink? Where are my friends? Are they going to eat me? I wish I was at home in bed] Have you ever felt this way? Out of place. In the wrong place at the wrong time. In the minority? Surrounded by difference and the unfamiliar? Perhaps the object of derision? Perhaps a victim Today we’re going to be looking at three different things…three “ism’s”. Racism. Sexism. Classism. The reason for this is that, even though compared to our various class of people we may feel, as Americans, that we are pretty much ok regarding these three words…the reason is that these “ism’s” exist in our country, in our province, in our city, in our neighborhoods and, shockingly perhaps, even here…in us. Now we probably think of ourselves as a pretty tolerant people.

 

America prides itself on its diversity. Since the days of Immigrants migrating to America we have valued the fact that we’re a multicultural society. We’re multi-ethnic, multi-language, multi-faith, multi-everything people. There was an ad recently in the newspaper of a middle-eastern country that had encouraged radical fundamentalists to kill a Canadian. An Australian dentist, in response wrote the following to help define what a Canadian is, so they would know one when they found one. A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Jamaican, Romanian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, from the Islands, Korean, Guinean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux, or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian’s religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none. So, apparently, Canada is a pretty diverse country. Yet in all of its diversity I want to suggest that we are not immune from these three “ism’s”, among others. Let me ask you: What is racism? [The belief that differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.] What is sexism? [Discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women]. What is classism? [a biased or discriminatory attitude based on distinctions made between social or economic classes.] So these are biases. Prejudices. Boxes that we put people in. Decisions that we make about people before we know them…based on what they wear, what kind of money they have, or based on the color of their skin and based on being male or female. So…so what? Isn’t that just part of life? Isn’t it best just to accept this stuff and get on with the difficult business of living? And if these kind of attitudes show up in the church…well…what do you expect?…the church is made up of people just like everybody else…nobody’s perfect, right? Hmm. I wonder. Well…the church belongs to God, right? What does God have to say about all this? First, let’s look at a passage from James that pretty much hits the nail on the head regarding social equality. James 1:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. James, the brother of Jesus, is addressing a problem that was both a common practice in general and something that was going on in the early church in Jerusalem. And it’s something that happens today. The first thing James does is identify the problem: Favoritism. And then he explains what he means. An interesting little tidbit of information…this verse, or the issue that this verse addresses, is part of the reason CATM exists. You see, back before Church at the Mission emerged out of a merger between Alamo Community Church and Battle Street Mission’s Church on the Street at Lincoln Ave, and before Church on the Street existed, we had a problem. A great many youth and older folks who were coming to the mission on Battle Street became Christians. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was, we didn’t see ourselves as a church. So when people became Christians we would send them off to churches around the city. They would go, and they would feel extremely out of place. Extremely uncomfortable, kind of like our friends here. Maybe it was due to their clothing. Maybe it was due to the formality they found. Maybe it was their aroma. Whatever the reason, they would go to these churches and then they would come back to us, by the dozens, and say to us: “We are comfortable at the mission. We don’t fit anywhere else”. So we would go with them and try to coach them through connecting with a local congregation. They would come back to us by the dozen and tell us: “The mission is where we learned about Jesus. This is where we accepted Christ. This is where we are being discipled. This is where we are accepted for being who we are. This is where we were baptized. So…you…be…our…church”. We heard that about a hundred times and then we started to wonder: “Do you think God is saying something to us?” So, because our friends who were coming to Jesus were not welcomed and not made to feel accepted or comfortable at other churches, we started Church on the Street, which eventually merged with Alamo Community Church and became “us” today. That’s a little history for you. It’s important to know where we came from. So…back to James. The first thing James does is identify the problem: Favoritism. And then he explains what he means. James 1:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Notice here the way James sets this up. He’s observing a distinction between the way believers and non-believers act. The distinction, and why it matters, is based in Jesus. Those without a connection to Jesus, those who do not know Jesus as Lord, may act in an opposite manner as it suites them. But for us…for those who recognize the beauty and glory and majesty and Lordship of Jesus, there is a different standard. That standard is rooted in God’s attitude, most notably expressed in Romans 2:11 “For God does not show favouritism”. That seems pretty clear. James talks here about the way a person presents. Do we have nice jewellery? Fine clothes? Things that I want, that I have? “Hmm, you’re one of us…Oooo…please, please sit here and enjoy the best seat in the house. Let me tuck in your bib”. Why might that approach be less than desirable to God for His people? [Superficial preference; it’s about our comfort with familiarity over being welcoming to others] Or, “Do your clothes need a wash? Are they worn? Do you mind standing, it seems we’re short of chairs. Or better yet, sit on the floor by my feet and I’ll toss you some bread”. What’s going on there? [Superficial preference; viewing people’s worth through their clothing, status] Unspoken Scripture on PPT: “1 Sam 16:7b The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Now we might think that we’re just accustomed to feeling comfortable with people who dress like us, who have what we have. We might be inclined to say: “It’s only natural”. But James, in his rather blunt way, says: “No. That’s not it. Don’t be deceived. “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” Ouch. So what I consider “natural” social difference, “normal” distinctions, perhaps I would even like to frame it as a type of positive ‘discrimination’, James is saying; God is saying: These are evil thoughts. Thoughts that are not of God. Social class distinctions are counter to the Kingdom of God. They separate us when God is about unity. They divide along superficial lines when God’s intention is to unite all people in Jesus. James goes on: 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. James hits on a profound truth that’s been true for a very long time. Wealth…where we live and how much padding is in our bank account…insulates us from suffering but also from each other. And the privileges of wealth tend to hide from people their neediness. If we’re not aware of physical hunger, we may not be able to identify spiritual hunger. If we’re not tuned into the neediness in the depths of our stomachs we may have a great deal of difficulty tuning into the neediness in the depths of our souls. Of course it’s natural to want to be safe. To have enough. To have what is necessary to live. To avoid suffering at all costs. There’s a built in problem here though. I sometimes hear people responding in shock to the experience of suffering, when it happens to them. When a loved one dies or a child develops diabetes or we find ourselves less-able that we use to be in some fashion. We can quickly question God. Where were You when my child died, God? Where were you when my brother died? When that child was abducted? When I was suffering and going through hell? And I have to ask something…why wasn’t I asking that same question when a hundred other children were suffering? When someone else’s brother or sister or mother or father was dying? Why wasn’t I upset enough to question God then…Why did it take my own suffering to make me wonder, to make me ask my questions? Wealth insulates you from my suffering, if you’re wealthy. My wealth prevents me from entering your pain…enough to really care for you, enough to be enraged at the injustice of life. Enough to be close to the suffering of others, in part so that when I suffer personally…when my child is in hospital or my brother is dying…I have a connected perspective. Suffering is not new to me, because I have dared to be close to others who are suffering. The Bible’s condemnation of classism is nothing more or less than a rejection of the notion of people separating themselves along lines that DO NOT matter. God’s intention is that the church be a place where all people come as equals under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are other lines that DO NOT matter. There are other ways that people distinguish themselves from each other which are counter-Kingdom. Paul talks about some of these lines. Galatians 3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. TNIV An American couple adopted a son from Korea and named him Eric. Several years went by. Eric was now five years old. The family was having lunch in a restaurant, and Eric made conversation with a boy at the next table. The boy asked Eric, “Why don’t you look like your mom?” Eric replied, “Cause she’s a girl.” This passage of Scripture from Galatians is about what family Christians belong to, and what Christians look like. We look like our father. Galatians 3:26 says, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Briefly, Paul’s main concern as he wrote to the Galatians was the fact that there were some within the ranks of the Galatian church who said that the ritual of circumcision had to happen before a person received Christ. They were locked into the notion of fulfilling this requirement of the Old Testament law. If you didn’t agree, you were second-class at best. This of course was a serious threat to the gospel. Paul counters this argument effectively in many ways earlier on in the letter to the Galatians, but here…here he gets at the heart of the matter. Differences between people that used to matter…racial differences– being a Jew or a Gentile (a non-Jew)…does it matter any more in Christ? No! Are there differences? Of course! Do they matter enough to separate us? Of course not! Class differences-Paul uses the biggest class difference of his day and a terrible, unavoidable reality of his day-Paul use the biggest class difference he could think of to illustrate his point– If you were a slave or a free person…does it elevate or diminish you in God’s Kingdom, in the church of Jesus Christ? Of course not! And what about gender differences? Are there differences between the sexes? Of course! Do they matter so that those differences should impact our communal life together? Of course not. But why? Why don’t obvious differences make any difference to God? V.26 “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…” We have “clothed ourselves with Christ”. And this most important thing that we have in common…we are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone…this similarity dwarfs and actually eradicates any other difference. And this does not just apply to salvation. Some would say that Christ unites us across racial lines and class lines and gender lines for salvation only, but that for things like leadership in the church and elsewhere, those lines still have relevance. The only problem with that is Paul is not separating salvation and function in his statement. Slaves in the church were precise equals with free-people. A slave was as likely to be an elder in a church as someone who was not a slave. People of different classes were to be precise equals with each other. A poor person was just as likely as someone wealthy to be a deacon or elder. And men were to be precise equals with women. That’s why we have examples in the Scriptures of women who were in key leadership roles like Priscilla, Dorcas…and one of them – Junias sometimes translated Julia – was, as Paul said in Romans 16: “Outstanding among the apostles”. A female apostle!?! Hmm! That’s why in a society in which women were not counted as full members of a Jewish congregation and were discouraged from studying the law, Jesus taught women along side men. Christ is the One who breaks down barriers and blurs distinctions. There are no such lines of discrimination in Christ. The reason the Word of God speaks out against racism and classism and sexism is those things are all AGAINST LOVE. And it is love to which we are called…to live lives of love among one another and in our community and more profoundly toward God. And as profound as love for God can be and should be, God truly, truly cares about how we treat one another. And God has made it very, very clear that we are to treat one another as equals, as fellow children of God. We talk about these things because we believe in the value of understanding the Word of God and one another. We believe in regularly challenging our attitudes to make sure they line up with the Word of God. So when the world comes to the door of this mission…when every tribe and every tongue shows up here at CATM, we can welcome one and all with open arms. When leaders in the church emerge from every grouping, we can celebrate our unity in Christ in the midst of our racial and ethnic and economic diversity. When you see pastors standing before you, male or female…you have the liberty to celebrate that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Amen? Amen!!!

 

 

Been There, Done That, Now What?

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Ethical Culture (also sometimes called Ethical Humanism) is the name of an evolving body of ideas that inspires Ethical Societies. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity (Humanist Manifesto III). For Ethical Humanists, the ultimate religious questions are not about the existence of gods or an afterlife, but rather, “How can we create meaningfulness in this life?” and “How should we treat each other?”

Ethical Humanism is clear about the essential role that ethical principles play in human relationships. Despite how uncertain we might feel about our personal standards–or how best to apply them–for an Ethical Humanist, there are unquestionably acts that are good and evil, right and wrong. In order for human beings to have good lives, love must prevail, truth must be respected, honesty esteemed, justice secured, and freedom protected. Learning how to realize these ideals in personal and political relationships is the purpose of Ethical Societies.

I am not surprised by the moral decay of our leaders in congress nor the church, we are humans. There has been contingencies made by our “Ancient of Old” He gave his only Son for us to have life more abundantly. We are called to pray for our human community, the lost and regenerated. I remember not long ago I practiced serving my own desires. I thank God His spirit convicted me today of the thoughts I entertained to go back to that vomit He delivered me from. These men are no different than you and I. Use your God given discernment and not judgment to learn from these public officials that had it not been for the grace of God, there go I.

This is a generation with unparalleled opportunity:
We have travelled further faster than any people before us.
Any area we cannot visit in person, we can virtually experience via the technology of video.
Our music is replayed from Compact Discs providing fidelity unimagined twenty years ago. The next techology, DVD’s that provide higher highs and lower lows.
Immediate world-wide communication is available via the internet. I can begin plumbing the research depths of some of the world’s most outstanding libraries within five minutes of sitting down at my computer.
Education is available in any method you want to receive it.
Knowledge is doubling every seven years.
Somehow, in spite of, or perhaps because of some of these things, we have become a jaded people. It is hard to excite us. We are a set of phlegmatic personalities. We have seen too much, been too many places, dome too many things. In the words of young people who refuse to admit being outdone by one of their peers – Been there, done that!

Partied all night – “Been there, done that!”
Man, I had a hang over like you wouldn’t believe – “Been there, done that!”
Spent the night with her, (or him) – “Been there, done that!”

I. The jaded face of “Been there, done that!” – Drugs and Alcohol
A. In the U. S. 1) 70% of high schoolers have tried marijuana; 2) 62% of teens believe drinking is bad, but continue to drink.
B. Teenage drinking, to use of the words of the Surgeon General, is “out of control.” Statistics from his office show that of the 20.7 million middle school and high school students nationwide, eight million of them drink alcohol at least once a week. Nearly 18% of them admit that they “binge” (take five or more drinks at one sitting) every week.
C. About 9% of the babies born each year (375,000+) have been exposed to illegal drugs in the womb. U.S. News & World Report, Dec 13, 1993
D. Cocaine was used by about 6 million Americans in the month before a survey was taken by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
E. Each year some 375,000 babies (approximately ten percent of all newborns in the United States) are exposed before birth to illegal drugs, most commonly cocaine. Some hospitals in major cities like New York and Los Angeles report that 20% or more of their newborn patients suffer from prenatal exposure to narcotics. “Innocent victims” by Anastasia Toufexis. Time, May 13, 1991. Pages 56-60.
F. The drug problem in America has become a national scandal. It is believed that use of marijuana, LSD, and heroin are no longer the major problem. Rather it is the 4 to 6 million regular users of cocaine, especially in its easy to use form called crack. Cocaine addiction and use knows no social or economic boundaries. A high lasts only 5 to 20 minutes from one dose, and is followed by an immediate crash.
G. “Crack is cocaine fast food.” It has been processed to a ready- to-smoke stage. When smoked, it can produce a full-blown high in less than 10 seconds. But the high doesn’t last long, and addiction may occur after one binge; with depression following. The setting for these binges centers around crack spots, where crack is sold for take-out, or crack houses where a high can be bought and experienced.
H. The problems most often addressed in company-sponsored employee assistance programs, according to The Wall Street Journal, are: substance abuse, dealt with by 99% of companies surveyed; . . .
I. Drunk drivers are responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people on U.S. highways each year, and another 300,000 are injured in alcohol-related auto accidents. In addition, 90,000 Americans die from alcohol-related conditions (cirrhosis of the liver, certain types of cancer, etc.) annually. Each year 5,000 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking drives the crime rate higher, too: 49% of all murders or attempted murders, 52% of all rapes and sexual assaults, and 68% of all manslaughter convictions involve alcohol. Friends Journal, Sep 1993
J. Church leaders seem blind to the drug problem within their congregations. 92% of pastors surveyed said drug abuse was a problem in their communities; only 18% saw it as a problem in their congregations. Yet, surveys of churched and unchurched youth don’t bear out that optimism. 80% of churched youth reported drinking beer as compared to 88% of the unchurched; 38% of the churched have tried marijuana, while 47% of the unchurched have done so. 22% of the churched have tried amphetamines/barbiturates with compared with 28% of the unchurched. 11% of the churched have used cocaine in comparison to 14% of the unchurched. “The church’s drug of choice” by David Lynn. Eternity, Nov 1988. Page 20.
K. In negotiating a new seven-year, $1 billion contract to televise its basketball tournament, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decided to limit the playing time of beer commercials to 60 seconds per hour. NCAA officials said university administrators identify alcohol abuse as the number- one problem on campuses across the country
L. At 14, star actress Drew Barrymore had been in drug/alcohol abuse treatment twice. Group, Apr 1989. Page 12.
M. Almost 50% of U.S. college students are binge drinkers, according to a nationwide survey of 17,592 students, the results of which were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Washington Post Weekly, Dec 12, 1994
N. “An estimated 10.5 million Americans are alcoholics, but that is only a fraction of the number of people affected by the disease.” Approximately 67 million Americans (43% of adults in the United States) have had to cope with alcoholism in their families.
O. The economic costs of alcohol abuse, currently some $128 billion a year, are projected to hit a whopping $150 billion by 1995. “Everybody loves a drunk” by Joe Schwartz. American Demographics, Mar 1992. Page 13.

II. Sexuality –
A. 60% of 16-18-year-olds have had sex.
B. 1.1 million girls will become pregnant this year; about 400,000 will abort their babies.
C. Almost 33% of births are to an unmarried mother.
D. The median number of sexual partners for the American male is 7.3, according to a survey of 3,321 men aged 20 to 39. The study also found that nearly one out of four said they had had more than 20 sex partners, and slightly more (28%) reported having had only one to three partners. Single Adult Ministries Journal, Issue 99, 1994

III. We are a “Been there, done that!” generation. “If it feels good, do it, is the adage of our day.” We have become hard to shock, we have seen it all, heard it all, done it all. My question for this evening – “What happens when you’ve been there, done that and none of it has brought you satisfaction.” There are two individuals in the scripture who can give testimony.

IV. One is Solomon, the son of David. He is the writer of the book of Ecclesiasties. It is a virtual history of his life. Let’s listen in on Solomon’s quest for satisfaction in life.
A. Eccl 2:3 (KJS) I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what [was] that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. {to give…: Heb. to draw my flesh with wine} {all…: Heb. the number of the days of their life} . . . 2:10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

B. Wine – Solomon could say, “Been there, done that!” Now listen to his testimony. I’m sure yours will agree.

C. v. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all [was] vanity and vexation of spirit, and [there was] no profit under the sun.

D. Now listen to his testimony concerning promiscuous sexuality, the free-love of our age – Eccl 7:25 (KJS) I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason [of things], and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness [and] madness: 26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart [is] snares and nets, [and] her hands [as] bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

E. So Solomon, you’ve “Been there, done that, now what?” Eccl 12:13 (KJS) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.

V. Woman at Well
A. John 4:13 – Married five times, now living in adultery
B. John 4:13 (KJS) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

VI. When your “Been there, done that” is religion.
A. Nicodemus – John 3:
B. John’s Disciples – Acts 19:1-6
1. Baptized 20+ years ago
2. Received a revelation.

VII. The thing they both discovered could satisfy them – God

Thankfully, the Lord treats all of us alike, and He wants us to treat each other the same way.
In matters not what race or gender,
Rich or poor or great or small,
The God who made us is not partial;
He sent Christ to die for all.
Bribery displays partiality; love displays justice.

When Will I See “We Shall Overcome” In America?

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Are African Americans part of the “Lost Tribes” mentioned in the Bible? Discover the true 10,000 year history of Black people — and why others tried to erase it! What happened to the doctors, writers, scientists, builders, educators and spiritual leaders from Africa’s Golden Age? And who did they really capture and sell into slavery? Are all African Americans suffering from mental illness because of this conspiracy to hide the truth? Read Psychic Trauma, and take the test on page 22 of this book and find out!

I speak today for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in this cause.

At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, United States. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many of them were verbally assaulted. Many blacks have fallen in this part of the country without reprisals.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Sanford, Florida. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our Democracy in what is happening here and now. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government–the government of the greatest nation on earth. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country–to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man. In our time we have come to live with the moments of great crises. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression.

But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for African Americans is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, “what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

There is no Black problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here today as Americans–not as Democrats or Republicans; we’re met here as Americans to solve that problem. This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.

The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal.” “Government by consent of the governed.” “Give me liberty or give me death.” And those are not just clever words, and those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty risking their lives. Those words are promised to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom. He shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.

To apply any other test, to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race or his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice, it is to deny Americans and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom. Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish it must be rooted in democracy. This most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of the right to all of our people.

Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote, the equal right to life and liberty and prosperity. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of those rights. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to insure those rights. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting and simply walking the streets and working simply because they are Black.

Every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny these rights. The Black citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law. He may even be asked for Identification and the most ingenious new question, “Are you a felon”? All of which have been devised to oppress a tribe of people that only want equality.

And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin. Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. The “Stand Your Ground Laws” Disenfranchisement laws for equality to work for felons and let us not forget the NRA’s secretive believes such as “WWB’ and BWWH.(walking while black or Black wearing hoody) laws that allows all blacks to be open season for those who care to get a stab at the American dream of book deal after the senseless murder of black humans. No law that we now have on the books, can insure the right to vote, work or live or co-exist with a white supremacy agenda when local officials are determined to deny it. In such a case, our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting or equality because of his race or his color.

And we shall overcome.

A century has passed–more than 100 years–since equality was promised, and yet the Black is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American. For Blacks are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How many white families have lived in stark poverty? How many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we wasted energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

And so I say to all of you here and to all in the nation tonight that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future. This great rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all–all, black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor.

And these enemies too–poverty, disease and ignorance–we shall overcome.

Now let none of us in any section look with prideful righteousness on the troubles in another section or the problems of our neighbors. There is really no part of America where the promise of equality has been fully kept. In Chicago as well as in Los Angeles, in Sanford Florida as well as Washington, D.C., Americans are struggling for the fruits of freedom.

This is one nation. What happens in Sanford and Chicago is a matter of legitimate concern to every American. But let each of us look within our own hearts and our own communities and let each of us put our shoulder to the wheel to root out injustice wherever it exists.

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“Right-wing conservatives and left-wing radicals here in the U.S. must be willing and able to sit down at the same table, look across the table at each other and see not an enemy, a target or a statistic, but a brother, a sister, a fellow American, another child of God. We must expand our hearts and enlarge our identity beyond ‘my people’ to include and embrace all of Creation.”

You don’t have to teach people how to be human. You have to teach them how to stop being inhuman.
Eldridge Cleaver

I feel that I am a citizen of the American dream and that the revolutionary struggle of which I am a part is a struggle against the American nightmare.
Eldridge Cleaver

What America demands in her black champions is a brilliant, powerful body and a dull, bestial mind.
Eldridge Cleaver

The “paper tiger” hero, James Bond, offering the whites a triumphant image of themselves, is saying what many whites want desperately to hear reaffirmed: I am still the White Man, lord of the land, licensed to kill, and the world is still an empire at my feet.
Eldridge Cleaver

I have always said that the basic problem in America is confusion. I know I am an American; I am an Afro-American, which means that I’m Afro and I’m American. I know the American people, and I know the ideals that are instilled in one. I know how they are imbedded in the heart, you see. You have to look at the process of the formation of the American character structure, look at the children in American grammar schools, the high schools and look at the ideals that are implanted in them there. The children of America are the ones I consider to be the citizens of the American dream. First this foundation, all these ideals–the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Rights of Man, the Lord’s Prayer, all of these things that no one can really attack, these things that have inspired people everywhere–are implanted in the hearts and minds of the children of America. (Conversations With Eldridge Cleaver, 1970)

Eldridge Cleaver, convict and black activist, wrote Soul on Ice, his memoir to illustrate his view of America’s black population prior to and during the 1960s. America, the staunch supporter of liberty, yet the vehement condoner of slavery, had its paradox hurled at its face. The nation awoke to grim reality—America’s innards, the basis of 200 years of political action, were being ripped to shreds. Realizing that the nation was on the highroad to political equality, Cleaver plunged into a reverie of self-discovery. At first, he loathed the white man, showing his hatred by raping white women because he felt compelled to avenge his black sisters raped by white slaveholders. Then, he joined the Black Muslims, who followed Elijah Muhammad and his racist gospels. However, the revolutionary zeal of the white youth snared at him, and he was soon arm in arm with Malcolm X and his acceptance of white civil rights supporters. Revealing America’s racist innards inside its façade of equality and fraternity, Cleaver’s Soul on Ice communicates the militant and disgusted mindset of black power supporters.

Cleaver first grew aware of his status as a Black American at San Quentin prison. He instantly hated the white oppressors and America’s elevated slavery. Resenting “how the white man…used the black woman” in the days of slavery, Cleaver rapes a white girl, spitting on the white man’s laws, and reaping pleasure from “defiling his women.”1 He repudiates the notion that black men find white women attractive; rather, the white supremacy drills its idea of beauty into the black man simply by its omnipresence. From their youth, blacks were forced “to see the white woman as more beautiful and desirable than his own black woman.”2 Thus, the rape was a rebellion—a way to get back at the overlords. Cleaver’s fellow black convicts feel the same way about white women and would do the same thing. This vehement anger and resentment turns slowly to Cleaver’s loneliness. With passionate rhetoric, Cleaver longs for a woman’s company to feel warm and radiant once more, and Beverly Axelrod, his lawyer, fills that need. They fall in love, and correspond. Cleaver believes this is unusual: the convict does not “hold on [to] the ideals and sentiments of civilization,” because all society “shows the convict its ass” and expects him to “kiss it.”3 Although it was strange for a convict to fall in love with such a mindset, the fact that he feels this love towards his lawyer makes the situation astonishing. No matter how bizarre the relationship, Cleaver claims that she was the beacon that pulled him out of dark, slow death.

Cleaver dives into a passionate recalling of “the Christ”, the man who taught him to be tolerant of other races. “The Christ,” whose actual name was Lovdjieff, refused to grade Eldridge Cleaver’s paper because it was racist, and forced him to entertain the thought of unity with the white race. The next few pages follow Eldridge Cleaver through his day at Folsom prison, where the librarian refuses to give him books about sex or controversial issues. Eldridge Cleaver comments on the Watts revolution, and expresses the pride of several of the black prisoners: “Watts was a place of shame,” but blacks soon exclaimed, “I’m from Watts, Baby!”4 The uprising at Watts had made the blacks proud because they saw a usurpation of the American social order.

The black people were an ignorant bunch. Cleaver claims that in the 1960s, most of them were afraid of General Motor, and in the dark as to how to get their share of money. Most blacks “have no bank accounts, only bills to pay.”5 The poverty of the black people limit them from rising to any kind of economic power level that might influence politics. The police also subdue blacks as well. As the armed “guardians of the social order,” they are the only serious threat to the black population’s march for freedom. Cleaver states that there is a great sense of property amongst Americans as seen through the soldier in Vietnam is only following orders like a mindless toy, like he belongs to someone else. It’s this property mindset that keeps the black people in constant humiliation—they have nothing.

Cleaver sums up the rest of his memoir with passionate letters to Miss Beverly Axelrod, his lawyer, and an analysis of sexuality in society’s classes. The “Omnipotent Administrators” prefer mind over body: “he is markedly effeminate and delicate by reason of his explicit repudiation …of his body.”6 These men are of the elite, and their women, the “Ultrafeminine,” abdicate their domestic functions to become, in contrast to weak elite men, more delicate. Ultrafemininity bathes in the envy of the women of the lower classes. The Ultrafeminine reject the domestic apparatus of the female hemisphere, and thrust it onto the women of the lower classes: the Amazons. The Amazons envy the Ultrafeminines. They are attracted to the power embodied in the elite man because he is the mind, while the “Supermasculine” Menial, men of the lower classes, are the body. Power, the primeval envy of the Amazon, attracts her to elite men, but “she is also attracted to the body of the Supermasculine Menial,” for physical strength.7 Thus she is lost between two worlds. Cleaver explains that men and women of the elite and lower classes are opposing sides of a Primeval sphere, which for the reasons of strength and power—physical and mental—pull one toward the other.

In harsh, unforgiving tones, using key events of the Sixties as examples, Cleaver hurls accusations at the white race and reveals the mindset of many Black Power activists of the Sixties. Muhammad Ali vs. Floyd Patterson, the confrontation between the rebels and the “Uncle Toms,” rocked America’s foundations. Ali “was the first ‘free’ black champion ever to confront” the “Uncle Toms,” black suppressors of the Negroes. Consisting of movie and sports celebrities, Uncle Toms cooled the revolutionary masses down in the name of the white overlords, promising extensive reforms and quoting any minute civil rights bill. The Uncle Toms were the white man’s slave: Floyd Patterson “reflected a desire to force the Negro …back in his ‘place.’”8 When Muhammad Ali knocked Patterson out, the older generation received a concussion to its head. America was a land of paradoxes with no common ground in between. The differences therefore had to be kept separate and the ugly sides to the land of freedom had to be buried. This odd paradox existed because of the notion of white superiority. In order to justify slavery and segregation, the white man “elaborated a complex and pervasive myth which at one time classified the black man as subhuman beasts of burden.”9 With the guiding star of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, both forged by white men, he believed justice was bestowed upon all; the white received the privileges since they possessed the intellect clearly seen on the plantations, and the black received what the pea-brained, good-for-nothing slave justly deserved in white eyes. On the plantation, it was easy to differentiate the black and the white; the white did the thinking and gave the orders, the black did the work. This practice created the myth of white man’s superior intelligence.
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Attorney General Eric Holder blasted “stand-your-ground laws” in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin—saying such laws cause more violence than they prevent.

Mr. Holder, speaking to the NAACP Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., not far from where Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted last week, took direct aim at stand-your-ground laws, which say a person can use force in self-defense without first attempting to retreat from the situation.

“Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention, it’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods,” Mr. Holder said, according to his prepared remarks.

In speaking out publicly against such laws for the first time, Mr. Holder is taking aim at the gun-rights groups that promote such laws and linking them to the death of Trayvon Martin.

Twenty-five states, including Florida, have adopted some version of stand-your-ground laws. While the law was a factor in the initial investigation of the Martin shooting, lawyers for Mr. Zimmerman didn’t base their defense on the law, arguing instead that their client had no option of retreat, and therefore the stand-your-ground principle didn’t apply.

The speech marked the second day in a row that Mr. Holder spoke publicly about the Martin killing. Mr. Zimmerman over the weekend was found not guilty of all charges in the case, a decision that sparked protests across the country, and some rioting in Los Angeles Monday night.

Mr. Martin, a black teenager, was walking to his father’s house in Sanford, Fla., from a nearby convenience store in the early evening when he was spotted by Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer who thought Mr. Martin was suspicious. Mr. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, called 911 and began following Mr. Martin, leading to a confrontation in which the 29-year-old Mr. Zimmerman shot the teenager.

Mr. Holder’s Justice Department is investigating Mr. Zimmerman to see if he should be charged with federal hate crimes or civil-rights violations, but legal experts say the chances of such charges being filed—or won in court—are small.

Mr. Holder’s remarks echo comments made by gun-control advocates following the Zimmerman verdict, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has said “stand your ground” promotes a “shoot first” approach to public confrontations.

“These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” Mr. Holder argued, saying pre-existing self-defense law allowed the use of deadly force if no safe retreat is possible. If a person is attacked in their own home, there is no duty to retreat.

“By allowing—and perhaps encouraging—violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety,” Mr. Holder said. “We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”

In his turn of the century treatise, The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote,

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. How does it feel to be a problem?”

Everyone has problems. It is the human condition. No amount of wealth. No racial privilege. No righteousness of purpose and action leads to a life without problems. Everyone has them.

But Du Bois was pointing to something different. Not just having problems, but being a problem. How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children to be assume to be criminal, violent, malignant.

How does it feel to be trapped on the roof of your home as the flood waters rise and be called a refugee?

How does it feel to wear the symbol of your faith and be assumed to be a terrorist threat to your own nation?

How does it feel to have the president who looks like you demanded to produce proof of his citizenship?

How does it feel to know that when you speak the language of your parents, you will be assumed to be illegal?

How does it feel to know that if you marry the person you love, some will say you are destroying the very fabric of the nation?

How does it feel to fear sending your son to the 7-Eleven for a bag of Skittles on a rainy night?

Du Bois wrote of black men,

“He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face. This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius.”

This is the dream that will guide us as we continue the struggle.

Another African American Experience

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President Obama Joins the “I Am Trayvon Martin” Chorus

President Obama reminded the world that he is a black man in America. Who knew? At a surprise appearance on Friday at the White House, Obama spoke for the first time on the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Obama reminded the world that the African-American experience in America, particularly for men, creates a set of circumstances where black men are used to being feared and accustomed to the disparity with which they are treated by the law.

Obama personalized the experience of the black man in America by saying he too knows what it is like to have drivers lock their doors and women clutch their purses in his presence. Obama echoed the experiences of Eric Holder who recently said that he too had experienced what it was like to be a target simply because you are a black man.

Obama brought the bully pulpit to bear in describing the imbalance of justice afforded black men in America. In so many ways, he gave America a taste of the “conversation” that Holder spoke about having with his 15-year-old son and that Geraldo Rivera talked about having with his sons.

It is that conversation that fathers of minority children have when explaining how to deal with a biased criminal justice system in a day-to-day existence. It is a conversation with a goal of providing pragmatic advice to combat a system that targets and arrests black men at higher rates than any other ethnicity in America.

In Obama’s speech he basically recounted what we know already. The rules of the game, based on past and current history, are stacked against black men. We already know the statistics. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that one in 15 African-Americans are incarcerated and one in three can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime. Black men are profiled at alarmingly higher rates than others in America. They receive longer sentences for similar crimes holding constant for age, criminal history, and location. Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project, notes that a Department of Justice report on racial profiling found that “black people are three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop, twice as likely to be arrested, and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.” The Sentencing Project found that African-American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prisons. The Department of Education found that African-American students are arrested more than white classmates. Black men are arrested at four times the rate of white men for possession of marijuana, even though usage rates among blacks and whites are numerically equivalent.

Scott Rasmussen wrote, “There’s a reason most black Americans believe our justice system is out to get them.”

When, Trayvon Martin was murdered, Obama gave a speech where he said if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. Today he reminded the world that he looks like Trayvon too.
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A recent article on PolicyMic in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict sparked my interest, not because of the contents of the article itself, but because of the comments that followed. The young white woman in the video that the article linked to claimed that middle-class whites who take up the “I am Trayvon Martin” rallying cry are, in fact, deluding themselves if they believe the cultural education that they have received doesn’t teach fear of black people. Most of the white commenters responded angrily, denouncing the video and claiming that they were never taught to be racist. I could not adequately respond in the comments so I decided to write a letter and publish it here.

Dear White People of America,

I know you weren’t taught to be racists. Your parents were/are good people who worked hard and never hated anyone. You went to decent schools and have lived in diverse places. You publicly espouse tolerance for everyone. I know you weren’t taught to be racists. But somehow many of you have absorbed, if not racist attitudes, then certainly prejudiced ones.

Though I know that it will be viewed as such in many quarters, I don’t intend this opening to be inflammatory. What I want is to spark a real conversation around race, privilege, and perception, a conversation that has been sorely lacking in America and which is not happening in any meaningful way even in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. Whites, blacks, and other minorities keep talking past each other regarding race. If we are to prevent the tragic deaths of more children, then this has to stop.

America’s current issue with race is not the problem of old. The KKK doesn’t roam the streets looking for people to lynch anymore. Nooses no longer adorn trees, dangling “strange fruit” as a warning to black people to stay in their place. Governors don’t stand in school house doors proclaiming the never-ending reign of segregation. Our current problems are deeper and much harder to talk about. They are as deep as our thoughts, and few alive today were taught by any authority figure in our formative years to actively hate. But somehow, we have absorbed the lesson that we should actively fear.

That’s what George Zimmerman did. He actively feared a young black kid walking home from the store in the dark. Why? Zimmerman’s father was a judge, someone dedicated to upholding a colorblind law. I seriously doubt that he taught his soon that black people were a threat. So who did? Why did George Zimmerman, and why do so many of you, so actively distrust and fear black youth that laws that could justify the killing of such youth are allowed?

How did this irrational fear creep into our national culture and indoctrinate us? I have no real answers to that question. I suspect that it has something to do with media portrayals of black people coupled with the realities of minority poverty. Shows that portray white criminals tend to do so in a sort of fantasy of storytelling. Who is likely to meet an Italian mobster in their everyday life? Conversely, shows like The Wire and Oz purport to portray a “slice of life” in black neighborhoods. We are much more likely to meet people like those characters, black men with a violent streak. Hip-hop has, for years, been one-dimensionally viewed as violent and disruptive. And who makes hip-hop? Black males. The murder statistics out of Chicago are appalling and splashed all over the news. Black kids are shown as dropouts and dope dealers, gang-bangers and thugs. With so many violent and negative portrayals, it’s no wonder that many of you unconsciously think of black men as a threat.

Here is a painful admission. I, a black man, harbor much of this fear as well. I too have been indoctrinated to fear black males. My heart rate quickens and I begin to look for possible avenues of escape when I see an unknown black man approaching on the street, especially if he is wearing “thug clothes.” I roll up my windows when a black person pulls up next to me in a jacked-up Cadillac blasting rap.

If I can own up to the fear, white people, I think you should too. Let’s all stop hiding behind the “I’m not a racist” excuse and admit that we do fear the Other, especially if the Other is a black male. Let’s look at what we consume in the media and how our culture shapes us and admit that it just might be affecting how we think about minority males.

White people, I know you weren’t taught to be racist. But if the effects are the same — if innocent kids can be gunned down and the killers can get off and even be defended by whites as “being within their rights,” if you can still pass laws that disenfranchise and impoverish minorities without protest, if you can carry on as if everything is OK when black people are dying in the streets of our cities — then how am I to tell the difference? I’ll take you at your word that you’re not racist and weren’t taught to be so. But until you can admit that many of you harbor an irrational fear of black men, then we can’t really begin the process of making all of us safer.

Sincerely,

A Black Man

FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT

Nationally, an estimated 5.85 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions. Felony disenfranchisement is an obstacle to participation in democratic life which is exacerbated by racial disparities in the criminal justice system, resulting in 1 of every 13 African Americans unable to vote.

Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the civil rights movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.

President Obama, whose election as the nation’s first black president was cited by critics of the law as evidence that it was no longer needed, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summarized her dissent from the bench, an unusual move and a sign of deep disagreement. She cited the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said his legacy and the nation’s commitment to justice had been “disserved by today’s decision.”

She said the focus of the Voting Rights Act had properly changed from “first-generation barriers to ballot access” to “second-generation barriers” like racial gerrymandering and laws requiring at-large voting in places with a sizable black minority. She said the law had been effective in thwarting such efforts.

The law had applied to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data. But the chances that the current Congress could reach agreement on where federal oversight is required are small, most analysts say.

http://nyti.ms/148VK31

True Rewards Of A Committed Life To Jesus

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commitment


2 Chronicles 16:9
The Message (MSG)
7-9 Just after that, Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said, “Because you went for help to the king of Aram and didn’t ask God for help, you’ve lost a victory over the army of the king of Aram. Didn’t the Ethiopians and Libyans come against you with superior forces, completely outclassing you with their chariots and cavalry? But you asked God for help and he gave you the victory. God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him. You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help. Now you’re in trouble—one round of war after another.”

Wow!!, God is looking for men and women whose hearts are firmly fixed on Him and who will continually trust Him for all He desires to do with their lives. God is ready and eager to work more powerfully than ever through His people, and the clock of the centuries is striking the eleventh hour. The world is watching and waiting to see what God can do through a life committed to Him. And not only is the world waiting but God Himself awaits to see who will be the most completely devoted person who has ever lived: willing to be nothing so Christ may be everything; fully accepting God’s purposes as his own; receiving Christ’s humility, faith, love, and power yet never hindering God’s plan but always allowing Him to continue His miraculous work.

There is no limit to what God can do through you, provided you do not seek your own glory. George Mueller, at more than ninety years of age, in an address to ministers and other Christian workers said, “I was converted in November 1825, but I didn’t come to the point of total surrender of my heart until four years later, in July 1829.
It was then I realized my love for money, prominence, position, power, and worldly pleasure was gone. God, and He alone, became my all in all. In Him I found everything I needed, and I desired nothing else. By God’s grace, my understanding of His sufficiency has remained to this day, making me an exceedingly happy man. It has led me to care only about the things od God.

And so, dear believer, I kindly ask if you have totally surrendered your heart to God, or is there something in your life you refuse to release, in spite of God’s call? “Before the point at which I surrendered my life, I read a little of the scriptures but preferred other books. Yet since that time, the truth He has revealed to me of Himself has become an inexpressible blessing. Now I can honestly say from the depth of my heart that God is an infinitely wonderful Being. “Please, never be satisfied until you too can express from your innermost soul, ‘God is an infinitely wonderful Being!'”

My prayer tonight is that God would make me an extraordinary Christian in Jesus name..