The Assumptions Underlying Racial Profiling
Defenders of racial profiling argue that it is a rational response to patterns of criminal behavior.
In the context of street-level crime, this argument rests on the assumption that minorities—used in this context to refer to African Americans and Hispanics—commit most drug-related and other street-level crimes, and that many, or most, street-level criminals are in turn African Americans and Hispanics. Thus, the argument continues, it is a sensible use of law enforcement resources to target African Americans and Hispanics in this context. This assumption is false.
The empirical data presented in Chapter III (A) of this report reveal that “hit rates” (i.e., the discovery of contraband or evidence of other illegal conduct) among African Americans and Hispanics stopped and searched by the police—whether driving or walking—are lower than or similar to hit rates for Whites who are stopped and searched. These hit rate statistics render implausible any defense of racial profiling on the ground that African Americans and Hispanics commit more drug-related or other street-level crimes than Whites
Well, the problem is that the profile many people think they have of what a terrorist is doesn’t fit the reality. Actually, this individual probably does not fit the profile that most people assume is the terrorist who comes from either South Asia or an Arab country. Richard Reid didn’t fit that profile. Some of the bombers or would-be bombers in the plots that were foiled in Great Britain don’t fit the profile. And in fact, one of the things the enemy does is to deliberately recruit people who are Western in background or in appearance, so that they can slip by people who might be stereotyping.
Is suffering for Christ always going to be a part of being a follower of Christ?
The Bible talks a lot about suffering for the sake of Christ. In the era in which the New Testament was written, followers of Jesus were often ostracized by their own families and communities. Some of the worst persecution came from the religious leaders (Acts 4:1–3). Jesus told His followers, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). He reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).
Second Timothy 3:12 says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” As in biblical times, many Christians today have found that making a public declaration of faith in Christ can result in imprisonment, beatings, torture, or death (Hebrews 11:32–38; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 3:8; Acts 5:40). Often those of us in free nations shudder at the thought, but we feel relatively safe. We understand that there are thousands who suffer daily for the sake of Christ and are thankful we don’t have to. But is there only one kind of persecution?
Jesus stated clearly what it means to follow Him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23–25). Our modern understanding of the phrase “take up their cross and follow me” is often inadequate. In Jesus’ day the cross always symbolized death. When a man carried a cross, he had already been condemned to die on it. Jesus said that, in order to follow Him, one must be willing to die. We will not all die martyrs’ deaths. We will not all be imprisoned, beaten, or tortured for our faith. So what kind of death did Jesus mean?
Paul explains in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” To follow Christ means we die to our own way of doing things. We consider our will, our rights, our passions, and our goals to be crucified on the cross with Him. Our right to direct our own lives is dead to us (Philippians 3:7–8). Death involves suffering. The flesh does not want to die. Dying to self is painful and goes against our natural inclination to seek our own pleasure. But we cannot follow both Christ and the flesh (Luke 16:13;Matthew 6:24; Romans 8:8). Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Paul suffered more than most for Jesus’ sake. He said this to the Christians at Phillipi: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:2). The wordgranted here means “shown favor, given freely as a gift.” Paul does not present suffering as a curse, but as a benefit.
Suffering can take many forms. By choosing to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, we are setting ourselves at odds with the world. Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (NASB). By closely adhering to the teachings of the Bible, we set ourselves up for rejection, mockery, loneliness, or betrayal. Often, the cruelest persecution comes from those who consider themselves spiritual but have defined God according to their own ideas. If we choose to take a stand for righteousness and biblical truth, we ensure that we will be misunderstood, mocked, or worse. We need to keep in mind that no threat of suffering deterred the apostles from preaching Christ. In fact, Paul said that losing everything was worth it “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10, NASB). Acts 5:40–41 describes the reaction of the apostles after they received another beating for preaching about Jesus: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
Suffering in some form is always going to be a part of being a true follower of Christ. Jesus said the path that leads to life is difficult (Matthew 7:14). Our hardship is also a way of identifying with His suffering in a small way.
Jesus said if we deny him before men, He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9). There are many subtle ways to deny Christ. If our actions, words, lifestyle, or entertainment choices do not reflect His will, we are denying Christ. If we claim to know Him but live as though we didn’t, we are denying Christ (1 John 3:6–10). Many people choose those forms of denying Christ because they do not want to suffer for Him.
Often our greatest suffering comes from within as we battle for control over a heart that must die to its own will and surrender to Christ’s lordship (Romans 7:15–25). In whatever form suffering comes, we should embrace it as a badge of honor and a privilege that we, like the apostles, have “been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
“We feel pain as an outrage; Jesus did too, which is why he performed miracles of healing. In Gethsemane, he did not pray, “Thank you for this opportunity to suffer,” but rather pled desperately for an escape. And yet he was willing to undergo suffering in service of a higher goal. In the end he left the hard questions (“if there be any other way . . .”) to the will of the Father, and trusted that God could use even the outrage of his death for good.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, the Bible says. It is a lesson about pain that we all can agree on. Some of us will not see pain as a gift; some will always accuse God of being unfair for allowing it. But, the fact is, pain and suffering are here among us, and we need to respond in some way. The response Jesus gave was to bear the burdens of those he touched. To live in the world as his body, his emotional incarnation, we must follow his example. The image of the body accurately portrays how God is working in the world. Sometimes he does enter in, occasionally by performing miracles, and often by giving supernatural strength to those in need. But mainly he relies on us, his agents, to do his work in the world.We are asked to live out the life of Christ in the world, not just to refer back to it or describe it.We announce his message, work for justice, pray for mercy . . . and suffer with the sufferers.”
We have gathered in my home today still trying to make sense of what happened in Harris County, Texas , still trying to process the unprocessable. We come together in this place, as a Christian community, partly because we know of no better place to bring our questions and our grief and partly because we don’t know where else to turn. As the apostle Peter once said to Jesus, at a moment of confusion and doubt, “Lord, to whom else can we go?”
In considering how to begin today, I found myself following two different threads. The first thread is what I would like to say, the words I wish I could say. The second thread is the truth.
I wish I could say that the pain you feel will disappear, vanish, never to return. I’m sure you’ve heard comments like these from parents and others: “Things will get better.” “You’ll get past this.” “This too shall pass.” Those who offer such comfort mean well, and it’s true that what you feel now you will not always feel. Yet it’s also true that what happened on July 21, 2015, will stay with you forever. You are a different person because of that day, because of one troubled young man’s actions.
I remember one year when three of my friends died. In my thirties then, I had little experience with death. In the midst of my grief, I came across these lines from George Herbert that gave me solace: “Grief melts away / Like snow in May / As if there were no such cold thing.” I clung to that hope even as grief smothered me like an avalanche. Indeed, the grief did melt away, but like snow it also came back, in fierce and unexpected ways, triggered by a sound, a smell, some fragment of memory of my friends.
So I cannot say what I want to say, that this too shall pass. Instead, I point to the pain you feel, and will continue to feel, as a sign of life and love. I’m feeling the same pain as the whole community of mourners across America today. because of our broken hearts from all the death and devastation of blacks in the most power nation in the world. For the first few hours of intercession in behalf of our country and communities that suffer from this atrocity I refuse to not let the crucible of life’s pain to not be felt because I wanted the host of gathers to see my pain so I could hear their response to it. My wife May r kept probing, moving my limbs, asking, “Does this hurt? Do you feel that?” The correct answer, the answer both she and I desperately wanted, was, “Yes. It hurts. I can feel it.” Each sensation gave proof that my limbs had not been severed. Pain offered proof of life, of connection—a sign that my body remained whole.
Love and Pain
In grief, love and pain converge. I don’t want to render or pass judgement on the arresting officers or the Texas police, but I don’t see any signs of them feeling any grief behind Sandra Bland’s death the video shows they felt no love for her. You feel grief because you did have a connection. We as human beings of color are very connected Some of you had closer ties to the victims of police brutality, but all of you belong to a body to which they too belonged. When that body suffers, you suffer. Remember that as you cope with the pain. Don’t try to numb it. Instead, acknowledge it as a perception of life and of love.
Sandra Bland’s death has officially been ruled a suicide, according to an autopsy conducted by officials in Harris County, Texas. Warren Diepraam, a prosecutor for Waller County, Texas, where Bland was arrested and later died in police custody, laid out how this cause of death was determined:
“There were no bite marks or other injuries on her face, on her lips, on her tongue, which would be consistent with a violent struggle,” he said.
If there had been a violent struggle, the prosecutor said, examiners would most likely not expect to see a uniform and consistent mark around Bland’s neck — which is what they, in fact, observed. They also did not observe damage to her trachea and esophagus, which they might expect to see if there had been a violent struggle, he said.
Diepraam also mentioned cuts on her wrists and back, which could be consistent with how she was handled during her arrest, or that she tried to harm herself. The prosecutor also mentioned that Bland had marijuana in her system, which could’ve been a factor in her suicide.
Medical students will tell you that in a deep wound, two kinds of tissue must heal: the connective tissue beneath the surface and the outer, protective layer of skin. If the protective tissue heals too quickly, the connective tissue will not heal properly, leading to complications later on. The reason my home and other ministries around the world offer counseling and hold services like this one we are holding is to help the deep, connective tissue heal. Only later will the protective layer of tissue grow back in the form of a scar.
We gather here as Christians, and as such we aspire to follow a man who came from God 2,000 years ago. Read through the Gospels, and you’ll find only one scene in which someone addresses Jesus directly as God: “My Lord and my God!” Do you know who said that? It was doubting Thomas, the disciple stuck in grief, the last holdout against believing the incredible news of the Resurrection.
In a tender scene, Jesus appeared to Thomas in his newly transformed body, obliterating Thomas’s doubts. What prompted that outburst of belief, however—”My Lord and my God!”—was the presence of Jesus’ scars. “Feel my hands,” Jesus told him. “Touch my side.” In a flash of revelation, Thomas saw the wonder of Almighty God, the Lord of the universe, stooping to take on our pain.
God doesn’t exempt even himself from pain. God joined us and shared our human condition, including its great grief. Thomas recognized in that pattern the most foundational truth of the universe: that God is love. To love means to hurt, to grieve. Pain is a mark of life.
The Jews, schooled in the Old Testament, had a saying: “Where Messiah is, there is no misery.” After Jesus, you could change that saying to: “Where misery is, there is the Messiah.” “Blessed are the poor,” Jesus said, “and those who hunger and thirst, and those who mourn, and those who are persecuted.” Jesus voluntarily embraced every one of these hurts.
So where is God when it hurts? We know where God is because he came to earth and showed us his face. You need only follow Jesus around and note how he responded to the tragedies of his day: with compassion—which simply means “to suffer with”—and with comfort and healing.
16 But I say, vwalk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify wthe desires of the flesh. 17 For xthe desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, yto keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are zled by the Spirit, ayou are not under the law.
This love is not optional. It is commanded. And it is very radical: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we are called in our freedom to desire and seek the happiness of others with the same zeal that we seek our own. But if you take this command seriously, it is so contrary to our natural inclinations that it seems utterly impossible. That I should get up in the morning and feel as much concern for your needs as for my own seems utterly beyond my power. If this is the Christian life — caring for others as I care for myself — then it is hard, indeed, and I feel hopeless to ever live it out.
Paul’s answer to this discouragement is found in Galatians 5:16–18. The secret is in learning to “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16). If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. People who try to love without relying on God’s Spirit always wind up trying to fill their own emptiness rather than sharing their fullness. And so love ceases to be love. Love is not easy for us. But the good news is that it is not primarily our work but God’s. We must simply learn to “walk by the Spirit.”
So I want to build today’s message around three questions: What? Why? And, how? What is this “walking by the Spirit”? Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? And, how, very practically, can we walk by the Spirit?
What Is Walking by the Spirit?
First, what is this “walking by the Spirit”? There are two other images in the context which shed light on the meaning of “walk by the Spirit.” The first is in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” If Paul had said, “If you follow the Spirit you are not under law,” it would have been true, but in using the passive voice (“If you are led”) he emphasizes the Spirit’s work, not ours. The Spirit is not a leader like the pace car in the “Daytona 500.” He is a leader like a locomotive on a train. We do not follow in our strength. We are led by his power. So “walk by the Spirit” means stay hooked up to the divine source of power and go wherever he leads.
The second image of our walk in the Spirit is in verse 22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.” If our Christian walk is to be a walk of love and joy and peace, then “walk by the Spirit” must mean “bear the fruit of the Spirit.” But again, the Spirit’s work is emphasized, not ours. He bears the fruit. Perhaps Paul got this image from Jesus. You recall John 15:4–5: “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So “walk by the Spirit” means “abide in the vine.” Keep yourself securely united to the living Christ. Don’t cut yourself off from the flow of the Spirit.
So in answer to our first question, What is this walking by the Spirit? we answer: It is “being led by the Spirit” and it is “bearing the fruit of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit is emphasized, yet the command is for us to do something. Our wills are deeply involved. We must want to be coupled to the locomotive. We must want to abide in the vine. And there are some things we can do to keep ourselves attached to the flow of God’s power. But before we ask how to walk by the Spirit let’s ask . . .
Why Is It Crucial to Walk by the Spirit?
Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? The text gives two reasons, one in verse 16 and one in verse 18. In verse 16 the incentive for walking by the Spirit is that when you do this, you will not gratify the desire of the flesh. The RSV here is wrong when it makes the second part of verse 16 a command instead of a promise and says, “Do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” All the other major versions are right to make it a promise because this particular Greek construction has that meaning everywhere else in Paul. The verse should be translated, for example with the NASB, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” So the first reason we should walk by the Spirit is that when we do, the desires of our flesh are overcome.
In recent messages I’ve tried to define the flesh as Paul uses it. Most of the time (though not always, see below) it does not simply refer to the physical part of you. (Paul does not regard the body as evil in itself.) The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness and uses the resources in its own power to try to fill it. Flesh is the “I” who tries to satisfy me with anything but God’s mercy. Notice Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Now compare with this Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” In 2:20, “flesh” is used in its less usual meaning referring to ordinary bodily existence, which is not in itself evil (“I now live in the flesh”).
But the important thing to notice is that in 5:24 the “flesh“ is crucified and in 2:20 “I” am crucified. This is why I define the flesh in its negative usage as an expression of the “I” or the “ego.” And notice in 2:20 that since the old fleshly ego is crucified, a new “I” lives, and the peculiar thing about this new “I” is that it lives by faith. “The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness but loathes the idea of satisfying it by faith, i.e., by depending on the mercy of God in Christ. Instead, the flesh prefers to use the legalistic or licentious resources in its own power to fill its emptiness. As Romans 8:7 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law.” The basic mark of the flesh is that it is unsubmissive. It does not want to submit to God’s absolute authority or rely on God’s absolute mercy. Flesh says, like the old TV commercial, “I’d rather do it myself.”
It is not surprising, then, that in verse 17 there is a war between our flesh and God’s Spirit. It is a problem at first glance that there is a lively war between flesh and Spirit in the Christian, according to verse 17, but the flesh is crucified in the Christian, according to verse 24. We’ll talk more about the sense in which our flesh is crucified when we get to verse 24. For now, let’s give Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume that both are somehow true, and focus on this war within: our flesh versus God’s Spirit.
God’s Spirit Conquers Our Flesh
Verse 17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you would.” The main thing to learn from this verse is that Christians experience a struggle within. If you said to yourself when I was describing the flesh, “Well, I have a lot of that still left in me,” it does not necessarily mean you aren’t a Christian. A Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit.
Conflict in your soul is not all bad. Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit; namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! Serenity in sin is death. The Spirit has landed to do battle with the flesh. So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!
But when you take verses 16 and 17 together, the main point is not war, but victory for the Spirit. Verse 16 says that when you walk by the Spirit, you will not let those bad desires come to maturity. When you walk by the Spirit, you nip the desires of the flesh in the bud. New God-centered desires crowd out old man-centered desires. Verse 16 promises victory over the desires of the flesh — not that there won’t be a war, but that the winner of that war will be the Spirit.
In fact, I think what Paul means in verse 24, when he says the flesh has been crucified, is that the decisive battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. The Spirit has captured the capital and broken the back of the resistance movement. The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms, and must be fought back daily. The only way to do it is by the Spirit, and that’s what it means to walk by the Spirit — so live that he gives victory over the dwindling resistance movement of the flesh. So the first reason why we must walk by the Spirit is that, when we do, the flesh is conquered.
God’s Spirit Creates Law-Fulfilling Fruit
The second reason to walk by the Spirit or be led by the Spirit is found in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” This does not mean you don’t have to fulfill God’s law. You do. That’s what verses 13 and 14 said, “Through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And Romans 8:3–4 say, “God condemned sin in the flesh in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Therefore, not being under law does not mean we don’t have to fulfill the law. It means that, when we are led by the locomotive of the Spirit, we cruise on the railroad track of the law as a joyful way of life and are not left to climb it like a ladder in our own strength from underneath. When we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the punishment or the oppression of the law because what the law requires the Spirit produces; namely, love. Notice verse 22: the first and all-encompassing fruit of the Spirit is love, which verse 14 says fulfills the whole law.
And to confirm that this is just how Paul is thinking, he ends the list of the fruit of the Spirit in verse 23 with the words, “against such there is no law.” In other words, how can you be under the oppression or punishment of the law when the very things the law requires are popping out like fruit on the branches of your life? So the second reason to walk by the Spirit is really the same as the first. Verse 16 says, do it because you get victory over the flesh when you walk by the Spirit. You nip temptation in the bud. Verse 18 says, do it because then you are free from the oppression and punishment of the law, because the fruit the Spirit produces fulfills the law. The Spirit is the fullness that overflows in love. Therefore it conquers the emptiness that drives the flesh, and it spills out in acts of love which fulfill the law.
How Do You Walk by the Spirit?
But the $60,000 question is, How do you walk by the Spirit? All of us have heard preachers say, “Let the Spirit lead you,” or, “Allow the Spirit to control you,” and have gone away puzzled as to what that means practically. How do you allow the Spirit to control you? I want to try to show you that the answer is, You allow the Spirit to control you by keeping your heart happy in God. Or to put it another way,You walk by the Spirit when your heart is resting in the promises of God. The Spirit reigns over the flesh in your life when you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you and now is working everything together for your good.
Here’s the fivefold evidence from Galatians. First, Galatians 5:6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Genuine faith always produces love, because faith pushes out guilt, fear, and greed and gives us an appetite to enjoy God’s power. But Galatians 5:22 says love is a fruit of the Spirit. So if love is what faith necessarily produces and love is a fruit of the Spirit, then the way to walk by the Spirit is to have faith — a happy resting in the promises of God is the pipeline of the Spirit.
Second, notice Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.” How do you wait for Jesus “through the Spirit”? “By faith!” When you keep your heart happy in God and resting in his promises, you are waiting through the Spirit and walking by the Spirit.
Third, look at Galatians 3:23, “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law.” The coming of faith liberates a person from being under law. But what does 5:18 say? “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” How, then, shall we seek to be led by the Spirit? By faith. By meditating on the trustworthiness and preciousness of God’s promises until our hearts are free of all fretting and guilt and greed. This is how the Holy Spirit fills and leads.
Fourth, see Galatians 3:5, the clearest of all: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing of faith?” The Spirit does his mighty work in us and through us only by the hearing of faith. We are sanctified by faith alone. The way to walk by the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh is to hear the delectable promises of God and trust them, delight in them, rest in them.
Finally, consider Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Who is the Christ who lives in Paul? He is the Spirit. As 4:6 says: The Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into our hearts. And how, according to 2:20, does the life of the Son produce itself in Paul? How does Paul walk by the Spirit of the Son? “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
Day by day Paul trusts the Son. Day by day he casts his cares on God, frees his life from guilt and fear and greed, and is borne along by the Spirit. How, then, do we walk by the Spirit? The answer is plain. We stop trying to fill the emptiness of our lives with a hundred pieces of the world, and put our souls at rest in God. The Spirit will work the miracle of renewal in your life when you start meditating on his unspeakable promises day and night and resting in them. (See also Romans 15:13, 2 Peter 1:4, and Isaiah 64:4.)
The Secret of Walking by the Spirit
Yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I was in Pasadena, California, standing in the kitchen of my beloved teacher Daniel Fuller talking to his wife Ruth. One of the things I will never forget about that kitchen is that over the sink are taped four tremendous promises of God typed on little pieces of paper. Ruth puts them there to meditate on while she works. That’s how you walk by the Spirit.
I keep a little scrap paper by my prayer bench, and whenever I read a promise that can lure me away from my guilt and fear and greed, I write it down. Then in dry spells I have a pile of promises to soak my soul in. The fight of faith is fought with the promises of God. And the fight of faith is the same as the fight to walk by the Spirit. He works when we are resting in his promises. George Müller wrote (Autobiography, pp. 152–4):
I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . . Now what is the food for the inner-man? Not prayer but, the Word of God.
George Müller learned the secret of walking by the Spirit: Meditate on the precious truths of the Word of God until your heart is happy in God, resting in his promises.
Hudson Taylor had learned it too. He received word one day of rioting near one of the inland mission stations. In a few moments George Nichol, one of his evangelists, overheard Taylor whistling his favorite hymn, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting in the Joy of What Thou Art.” Hudson Taylor “had learned that for him, only one life was possible — just that blessed life of resting and rejoicing in the Lord under all circumstances, while he dealt with the difficulties inward and outward, great and small” (Spiritual Secret, p. 209).
I say to you, brothers and sisters, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. You will have victory over temptation and know the guidance of the Lord if you keep your heart happy in God by resting in his promises.
Something caught my eye as I was reading newsclips from around the nation. A small item from the Watertown Daily Times (NY). It read:
A Watertown man was sentenced to state prison Thursday after admitting in Jefferson County Court that he violated his Drug Court contract. Paul L. Arndt Jr., 44, was sentenced to 11⁄3 to 4 years in prison for violating terms of the substance abuse rehabilitation program that is designed to serve as an alternative to incarceration. He was referred to the program in April 2009 after admitting he violated probation. He was sentenced to five years’ probation in August 2007 after pleading guilty in May 2007 to fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property for taking radiators that had been stolen from a Watertown business and selling them at a Syracuse recycling center. Information about how he violated Drug Court was not available.
Putting aside the issue of whether the probation violation in question was a particularly serious or dangerous one, I would suggest that sending a drug court participant to prison for a substantial term is almost never good criminal justice policy, good use of government funds, or good rehabilitation &/or treatment strategies . There are more than a few drug courts, that quickly fail drug court participants and spirit them away for substantial prison terms. It may be time to revisit the rationality behind such scenarios. Unless the new offense is one involving violence or the threat of violence, is prison ever a sensible response to a drug court violation?
Tipping Point 2015: Reentry Law Conference & Community Building Forum, Riverside, CA.
Specialized “reentry” courts provide a new tactic to reduce the number of repeat offenders and decrease the cost of handling offenders. In such courts, treatment is based in the community. Drug courts, mental health courts and veterans’ courts are examples of specialized docket courts. Over the last decade, these courts have been scrutinized by independent and governmental agencies and have been found to produce better results than traditional approaches, including incarceration.
Q: What is a reentry court?
A: Built on specialty courts research and experience, a reentry court is a specialized court for offenders who leave prison early and “reenter” society. Its purpose is to make the transition from incarceration to tax-paying citizen more likely.
prisons are at 133 percent of capacity and hold more than 51,000 inmates. Many prisoners have drug and alcohol issues. Unlike those diverted into other types of specialty dockets, those who are incarcerated have a higher risk of reoffending due to untreated emotional and family issues, as well as a lack of education or poor employment history. A significant number of inmates have not graduated from high school and many have learning disabilities.
Reentry courts use an individualized plan and work with each defendant to deal with the underlying issues. The program takes one to two years to complete and requires the offender to take full responsibility for his or her life.
Ninety-seven percent of those incarcerated will be released at some point, and that most will come back to the community where they were first arrested. When higher-risk offenders return to society on parole or post-release control, more than 40 percent return to prison. Overall, between 35 and 40 percent of prisoners released in Ohio, with or without supervision, will return to prison. Reentry courts were created in an attempt to reduce the number of offenders who return to prison.
Q: How does a reentry court work?
A: During the program, the offender is closely supervised by case managers and the court. In the initial phase, the participant reports to court once a week to inform the judge of his or her activities. Thereafter, the participant reports regularly and as necessary, appearing in an open court before the judge and the other program participants.
An offender who violates a program rule is expected to report to court without a lawyer. The offender must accept responsibility for the behavior and receive a sanction. Punishments progress in severity, ranging from community service or increased treatment to jail time or re-imposition of the prior prison sentence.
Q: How does the court determine who is eligible for a reentry court?
A: Not every person in prison will be judicially released into a reentry court. Each sentencing judge has the right to decide if an individual will be released early. Judges will consider efforts the prisoner makes toward improvement while in prison, as well as any write-ups or sanctions he or she has been given. Statements from victims regarding the impact of the crime also are considered. (These are called victim impact statements.) Judges are interested in using reentry courts for prisoners who appear ready to return to society and who have demonstrated good behavior in prison.
Q: Have reentry courts been working?
A: The purpose of reentry court is to intercept offenders before they enter the revolving door back to prison. Early judicial releases with traditional supervision return to the penal system about 45 percent of the time. In contrast, those who successfully graduate from the Summit County reentry court program have a recidivism rate of about 20 percent, based upon the statistics collected since the court was created in September 2006. The cost per participant is in the range of $3,000 per year, which is considerably less expensive than a prison bed, which costs more than $24,000 per year.
This week the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of same sex marriage in all 50 states. My friends, we are witnessing the end of federalism in our nation. In a single vote, 5 folks basically just told the states to “stick it.”
Furthermore, we are in effect nullifying the First Amendment.
Consider this: what happens when a gay couple goes into a church wanting to plan a ceremony and the pastor says no? We now have a conflict between the First Amendment and individual behavior.
Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia summed up his disgust with this ruling in a footnote on page 7 (note 22). He says, “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
With this ruling, the Supreme Court is essentially saying individuals have civil rights based on their sexual behavior, and setting up a monumental battle with the free exercise of religion. This could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – that camel being the up till now silent, passive Americans who have been cowed into “tolerating” societal changes that go counter to their fundamental beliefs.
As reported by the Christian Post in April, “The United States Supreme Court may soon liberate the biblically conservative church from old “prejudices” that should have long ago been “jettisoned,” forcing it into “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity,” in the words of a recent writer in The New York Times.”
“Homosexuality must be removed from the “sin list” and, according to an MSNBC commentator, traditional marriage proponents must be forced “to do things they don’t want to do.” Sadly, this crusade will be like the Marxist “liberation” movements that promised to “free” people, but really were about control and suppression. The culmination may come as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on same-sex marriage cases beginning April 28. By July 1 the Court possibly will issue an official ruling regarding the constitutional right to homosexual marriage. The Court’s decision may impact the form of biblically based churches dramatically. Churches that hold to a strict and conservative interpretation of the Bible’s teaching about gender and marriage may find themselves “Romanized”. The elites of first century Rome would not allow the church an institutional presence in society. “The Christian churches were associations which were not legally authorized, and the Roman authorities, always suspicious of organizations which might prove seditious, regarded them with jaundiced eye,” writes Kenneth Scott LaTourette.”
I found the statement “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity” as rather odd. And the comments from the MSNBC commentator of “traditional marriage proponents being ‘forced’ to do the things they don’t want to do” as somewhat threatening.
These statements by progressive socialists are indicative of a lack of regard and respect for the First Amendment right of religious liberty. Here is where I see an incredible philosophical battle looming. Now that SCOTUS has ruled there is a constitutional right to marriage – which I fail to see how that could be construed — and the radical gay left decides to push the envelope against churches, it will be a strategic miscalculation for the liberal left.
This is why the solution of civil unions should have been the solution. If the country is “forced” to accept something that goes counter to a traditional value, there will undoubtedly be push back. And that push back will result in a galvanizing issue which I do not believe the liberal progressive left fully comprehends.
t’s simple — in the 2012 presidential election there were some five to seven million evangelical Christian voters who sat it out. They were not inspired and therefore did not participate. However, I believe with this decision, the left has overextended itself — as it has already based on courts overturning electorate decisions – and you will see a social conservative issue that will have greater prominence. Some on the center-right will say, drop it, that’s a bad policy recommendation. This issue will not lend itself to dismissal and cognitive dissonance — there must be a solution. The social conservative issue of marriage will not be thrown upon the ash heap. It shouldn’t be the prominent issue, but it does have cross interest appeal.
The Christian Post postulated, “What happens if local churches that do not embrace same-sex marriage find their legal status shaky or non-existent, as well as parachurch groups, conservative Christian colleges, church-based humanitarian agencies, and all other religious institutions – Christian and otherwise – supporting the traditional view of marriage. Without state-recognized corporate status everything from mortgages and building permits to employment and hiring practices is threatened – all of them essential for institutional function.”
“Journalist Ben Shapiro notes that there is already a movement on the state level “to revoke non-profit status for religious organizations that do not abide by same-sex marriage.” The Supreme Court’s decision could make churches refusing to comply “private institutions engaging in commerce,” and therefore subject to laws already in place. Refusal to perform a same-sex wedding would put a church out of business. Current trends seem to flow against conservative religious institutions. All the elites that set and propagate cultural consensus are aligned in support of same-sex marriage – the Entertainment Establishment, Information Establishment, Academic Establishment, and Political Establishment.”
However, are the entertainment, information (media), academic, and political establishments truly representative of American culture? Or do they just have a more prominent position, making us believe they have a majority opinion?
There has been little talk about how, during the Obama wave of 2008, same-sex marriage ballot proposals in two states did not win as liberal progressives and the gay left had hoped – in Florida and California. The quiet point that no one wanted to comprehend was that countless droves of black voters swarmed to the polls. And as they voted for the “first black president” they did NOT vote to bring about gay marriage in their states. Why? Because of traditional biblical beliefs. Now, in 2008, Obama stated he didn’t support gay marriage — when he decided to flip flop — the hushed-up secret was the anger and disdain this caused with many black pastors and ministers. We all know the Democrats wholeheartedly depend on an obedient black electoral patronage — what if 25 percent of blacks say no? Click to view pt;2 Part 2
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong, the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.
Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway and we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
A Letter From Black America
Yes, we fear the police. Here’s why.
Last July 4, my family and I went to Long Island to celebrate the holiday with a friend and her family. After eating some barbecue, a group of us decided to take a walk along the ocean. The mood on the beach that day was festive. Music from a nearby party pulsed through the haze of sizzling meat. Lovers strolled hand in hand. Giggling children chased each other along the boardwalk.
Most of the foot traffic was heading in one direction, but then two teenage girls came toward us, moving stiffly against the flow, both of them looking nervously to their right. “He’s got a gun,” one of them said in a low voice.
I turned my gaze to follow theirs, and was clasping my 4-year-old daughter’s hand when a young man extended his arm and fired off multiple shots along the busy street running parallel to the boardwalk. Snatching my daughter up into my arms, I joined the throng of screaming revelers running away from the gunfire and toward the water.
The shots stopped as quickly as they had started. The man disappeared between some buildings. Chest heaving, hands shaking, I tried to calm my crying daughter, while my husband, friends and I all looked at one another in breathless disbelief. I turned to check on Hunter, a high school intern from Oregon who was staying with my family for a few weeks, but she was on the phone.
“Someone was just shooting on the beach,” she said, between gulps of air, to the person on the line.
Unable to imagine whom she would be calling at that moment, I asked her, somewhat indignantly, if she couldn’t have waited until we got to safety before calling her mom.
“No,” she said. “I am talking to the police.”
My friends and I locked eyes in stunned silence. Between the four adults, we hold six degrees. Three of us are journalists. And not one of us had thought to call the police. We had not even considered it.
We also are all black. And without realizing it, in that moment, each of us had made a set of calculations, an instantaneous weighing of the pros and cons.
As far as we could tell, no one had been hurt. The shooter was long gone, and we had seen the back of him for only a second or two. On the other hand, calling the police posed considerable risks. It carried the very real possibility of inviting disrespect, even physical harm. We had seen witnesses treated like suspects, and knew how quickly black people calling the police for help could wind up cuffed in the back of a squad car. Some of us knew of black professionals who’d had guns drawn on them for no reason.
This was before Michael Brown. Before police killed John Crawford III for carrying a BB gun in a Wal-Mart or shot down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park. Before Akai Gurley was killed by an officer while walking in a dark staircase and before Eric Garner was choked to death upon suspicion of selling “loosies.” Without yet knowing those names, we all could go down a list of unarmed black people killed by law enforcement.
We feared what could happen if police came rushing into a group of people who, by virtue of our skin color, might be mistaken for suspects.
For those of you reading this who may not be black, or perhaps Latino, this is my chance to tell you that a substantial portion of your fellow citizens in the United States of America have little expectation of being treated fairly by the law or receiving justice. It’s possible this will come as a surprise to you. But to a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have.
As Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness, puts it, “White people, by and large, do not know what it is like to be occupied by a police force. They don’t understand it because it is not the type of policing they experience. Because they are treated like individuals, they believe that if ‘I am not breaking the law, I will never be abused.’”We are not criminals because we are black. Nor are we somehow the only people in America who don’t want to live in safe neighborhoods. Yet many of us cannot fundamentally trust the people who are charged with keeping us and our communities safe.
As protest and revolt swept across the Missouri suburb of Ferguson and demonstrators staged die-ins and blocked highways and boulevards from Oakland to New York with chants of “Black lives matter,” many white Americans seemed shocked by the gaping divide between law enforcement and the black communities they are supposed to serve. It was no surprise to us. For black Americans, policing is “the most enduring aspect of the struggle for civil rights,” says Muhammad, a historian and director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. “It has always been the mechanism for racial surveillance and control.”
In the South, police once did the dirty work of enforcing the racial caste system. The Ku Klux Klan and law enforcement were often indistinguishable. Black-and-white photographs of the era memorialize the way Southern police sicced German shepherds on civil rights protesters and peeled the skin off black children with the force of water hoses. Lawmen were also involved or implicated in untold numbers of beatings, killings and disappearances of black Southerners who forgot their place.
In the North, police worked to protect white spaces by containing and controlling the rising black population that had been propelled into the industrial belt during the Great Migration. It was not unusual for Northern police to join white mobs as they attacked black homeowners attempting to move into white neighborhoods, or black workers trying to take jobs reserved for white laborers. And yet they strictly enforced vagrancy laws, catch-alls that gave them wide discretion to stop, question and arrest black citizens at will.
Much has changed since then. Much has not.
To a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have.
Last Fourth of July, in a few short minutes as we adults watched the teenager among us talking to the police, we saw Hunter become a little more like us, her faith a little shaken, her place in the world a little less stable. Hunter, who is biracial and lives with her white mother in a heavily white area, had not been exposed to the policing many black Americans face. She was about to be.
n the phone, she could offer only the most generic of suspect descriptions, which apparently made the officer on the other end of the line suspicious. By way of explanation, Hunter told the officer she was just 16. The police called her back: once, twice, then three times, asking her for more information. The interactions began to feel menacing. “I’m not from here,” Hunter said. “I’ve told you everything I know.”
The fourth time the police called, she looked frightened. Her interrogator asked her, “Are you really trying to be helpful, or were you involved in this?” She turned to us, her voice aquiver. “Are they going to come get me?”
“See,” one of us said, trying to lighten the mood. “That’s why we don’t call them.”
We all laughed, but it was hollow.
My friend Carla Murphy and I have talked about that day several times since then. We’ve turned it over in our minds and wondered whether, with the benefit of hindsight, we should have called 911.
Carla wasn’t born in the United States. She came here when she was 9, and back in her native Barbados, she didn’t give police much thought. That changed when she moved into heavily black Jamaica, Queens.
Carla said she constantly saw police, often white, stopping and harassing passersby, almost always black. “You see the cops all the time, but they do not speak to you. You see them talking to each other, but the only time you ever see them interact with someone is if they are jacking them up,” she said. “They are making a choice, and it says they don’t care about you, it tells you they are not here for your people or people who look like you.”
Question: “What is the key to victory when struggling with sin?”
Answer:The key to victory in our struggles with sin lies not in ourselves, but in God and His faithfulness to us: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth (Psalm 145:18; see alsoPsalm 46:1).
There’s no getting around it: we all struggle with sin (Romans 3:23). Even the great apostle Paul lamented over his ongoing struggle with sin in his life: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20). Paul’s struggle with sin was real; so much so that he cried out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).
Yet in the next breath, he answers his own question, as well as ours: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a). In this passage, Paul not only provides us with the very key to victory when struggling with sin, but explains the never-ending conundrum between our sinful nature and spiritual nature: “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25b).
Earlier, Paul said, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). Paul is comparing our sinful nature, our flesh, to a slave. Just as a slave obeys his master, so our flesh obeys sin. However, as believers in Christ, we have become spiritual beings under the law of Christ; our inner selves are under the influence and ownership of God’s grace and the life of Christ (Romans 5:21). As long as we are living in this world, our sinful nature and fleshly desire will remain with us. But we also have a new nature in Christ. This leads to a struggle between what we want to do and what we actually do, as sin continues to assault our earthly nature. This struggle is a normal part of living the Christian life.
It’s interesting to note that Paul, the greatest of the apostles, declared that, of all sinners, “I am the worst!” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul affirms the struggles we all have as we battle with sin and temptation in our lives. The struggles are real, and they’re debilitating. We grow weary from the never-ending temptations and in falling short of God’s glory. Paul, in essence, is telling us that we need not pretend that we’re untouched by our struggles. He’s been there. He understands. Though our efforts to do right seem desperate, we do have hope “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25;Hebrews 4:15). And He, in fact, is the key to our victory over sin.
A true Christian will war with Satan and his daily efforts to undermine us. The devil is the ruler of this world, and we are living “behind enemy lines” (Ephesians 2:2;Ephesians 6:12;John 12:31). With our focus on Christ, however, we will be able to cultivate a mindset that proclaims we’d rather die than do anything to hurt God. When we give ourselves to Christ totally (Matthew 16:24), Satan will flee from us. When we draw near to God, He, in turn, will draw near to us (James 4:7-8).
Our key to victory in our struggle with sin lies in the very promise of God Himself: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
As true believers in Christ, even when we “face trials far beyond our ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1:8), we can echo the reassuring words of Paul, who declares, “God has delivered us and will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Finally, the psalmist gives us these words of encouragement: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act” (Psalm 37:3-5).
What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes His boss, your mother becomes His mother, your pains become His pains? With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn’t change. Your circumstances don’t change. Your schedule isn’t altered. Your problems aren’t solved. Only one change occurs.
What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with His heart?
Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.
What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family – would they see something new? Your coworkers – would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ’s heart than from yours?
And you? How would you feel? What alterations would this transplant have on your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets differently? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you’d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? (Ouch, that touched a nerve.) Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?
Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours?
Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?
Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. He wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
God’s plan for you is nothing short of a new heart.
“You were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy” (Ephesians 4:23-24).
God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you to have a heart like His.
I’m going to risk something here. It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this:
God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.
If you think His love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are. To quote my wife’s favorite author:
God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn Him. Ignore Him. Reject Him. Despise Him. Disobey Him. He will not change.
Our evil cannot diminish His love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed.
When my daughter Parris was a toddler, I used to take her to a park not far from our home. One day as she was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached us. I purchased her a treat, and when I turned to give it to her, I saw her mouth was full of sand. Where I intended to put a delicacy, she had put dirt.
Did I love her with dirt in her mouth? Absolutely. Was she any less my daughter with dirt in her mouth? Of course not. Was I going to allow her to keep the dirt in her mouth? No way. I loved her right where she was, but I refused to leave her there. I carried her over to the water fountain and washed out her mouth. Why? Because I love her.
God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, honey,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.” And so He cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for the dirt over the ice cream. “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim. Which is true – we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to be just like Jesus.
Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.” You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.
Where did we get the idea we can’t change? Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Can you imagine a better offer?
The Heart of Christ
The heart of Jesus was pure. The Savior was adored by thousands, yet content to live a simple life. He was cared for by women (Luke 8:1-3) yet never accused of lustful thoughts, scorned by His own creation but willing to forgive them before they even requested His mercy. Peter, who traveled with Jesus for three and a half years, described Him as a “lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19). After spending the same amount of time with Jesus, John concluded, “And in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
Jesus’ heart was peaceful. The disciples fretted over the need to feed the thousands, but not Jesus. He thanked God for the problem. The disciples shouted for fear in the storm, but not Jesus. He slept through it. Peter drew his sword to fight the soldiers, but not Jesus. He lifted His hand to heal. His heart was at peace. When His disciples abandoned Him, did He pout and go home? When Peter denied Him, did Jesus lose His temper? When the soldiers spit in His face, did He breathe fire in theirs? Far from it. He was at peace. He forgave them. He refused to be guided by vengeance.
He also refused to be guided by anything other than His high call. His heart was purposeful. Most lives aim at nothing in particular and achieve it. Jesus aimed at one goal – to save humanity from its sin. He could summarize His life with one sentence: “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Jesus was so focused on His task that he knew when to say, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4) and when to say, “It is finished” (John 19:30). But he was not so focused on his goal that he was unpleasant.
Quite the contrary. How pleasant were His thoughts! Children couldn’t resist Jesus. He could find beauty in lilies, joy in worship, and possibilities in problems. He would spend days with multitudes of sick people and still feel sorry for them. He spent more than three decades wading through the muck and mire of our sin yet still saw enough beauty in us to die for our mistakes.
But the crowning attribute of Christ was this: His heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected His intimate relationship with the Father. “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me,” he stated (John 14:11). His first recorded sermon begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Luke 4:18). He was “led by the Spirit” (Matthew 4:1) and “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He returned from the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).
Jesus took his instructions from God. It was His habit to go to worship (Luke 4:16). It was His practice to memorize scripture (Luke 4:4). Luke says Jesus “often slipped away to be alone so He could pray” (Luke 5:16). His times of prayer guided Him. He once returned from prayer and announced it was time to move to another city (Mark 1:38). Another time of prayer resulted in the selection of the disciples (Luke 6:12-13). Jesus was led by an unseen hand: “The Son does whatever the Father does” (John 5:19). In the same chapter He stated, “I can do nothing alone. I judge only the way I am told” (John 5:30).
The Heart of Humanity
Our hearts seem so far from His. He is pure; we are greedy. He is peaceful; we are hassled. He is purposeful; we are distracted. He is pleasant; we are cranky. He is spiritual; we are earthbound. The distance between our hearts and His seems so immense. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus?
Ready for a surprise? You already do. You already have the heart of Christ. Why are you looking at me that way? Would I kid you? If you are in Christ, you already have the heart of Christ.
One of the supreme yet unrealized promises of God is simply this: if you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given Himself to you. He has made your heart His home. It would be hard to say it more succinctly than Paul did: “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
He has moved in and unpacked His bags and is ready to change you “into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul explained it with these words: “Strange as it seems, we Christians actually do have within us a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
If I have the mind of Jesus, why do I still think so much like me?
Part of the answer is illustrated in a story about a lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. She was quite wealthy but also quite frugal.
The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home.
Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?”
“Certainly,” she answered. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”
She’s tapped in to the power but doesn’t use it. Her house is connected but not altered. Don’t we make the same mistake? We, too – with our souls saved but our hearts unchanged – are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation. We occasionally flip the switch, but most of the time we settle for shadows.
What would happen if we left the light on? What would happen if we not only flipped the switch but lived in the light? What changes would occur if we set about the task of dwelling in the radiance of Christ?
No doubt about it: God has ambitious plans for us. The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart. His plan is nothing short of a total transformation:
He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. – Romans 8:29
You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. –Colossians 3:10
God is willing to change us into the likeness of the Savior.
Shall we accept His offer?
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What about you? Are you willing to let God have His way in changing you from the inside out into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about gaining a heart like Jesus’! ~ Devotionals Daily-Are you a tabernacle?-click to view…
Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
John Newton was a wild-living sailor and slave-trader who got saved and became a godly pastor and the author of many hymns, including the beloved, “Amazing Grace.” He said late in his life: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”
Even if your past is not as wicked as John Newton’s, you should be growing in your awareness of those two great facts. The longer I am a Christian, the more acutely I am aware of the exceeding wickedness of my own heart. I can identify with the hymn writer, Robert Robinson, who wrote, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” But, thank God, the more I see my own sinfulness, the more brightly God’s grace shines. As Robinson also wrote, “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!”
The story of Peter’s denials is recorded in Scripture to underscore these two great facts: the weakness and sinfulness of even the most prominent saints; and, the greatness and abundance of God’s love and grace toward those who fail. For those who are walking with the Lord, this story warns us to take heed lest we fall. For any who have fallen, the story holds out the hope of pardon through God’s abundant grace if you will turn back to Him.
Even when we fail the Lord badly, if we will repent God will restore us and use us again in His service.
Before he became a lawyer and prolific supporter of prisoner rights, Daniel Manville spent three years and four months in the slammer for manslaughter. Manville continued to study while incarcerated and eventually earned two college degrees during his sentence. He became enamored with the legal profession and went to law school right after his parole.
He finally passed the bar exams in Michigan and Washington, DC after waiting many years to be approved by the respective boards. Afterwards, Manville worked tirelessly to improve the prison system and represented various inmates and prison guards in civil cases. Nowadays, Manville teaches law at Michigan State University, where he hopes the insights he shares with students inspire them to someday help improve the system as well.
9.The Millionaire Ex-Convict
Uchendi Nwani lived a very Jekyll/Hyde existence during his college years. On the surface, Nwani—raised by his stepfather, who was pastor in one of Nashville’s largest Baptist congregations—played the role of exemplary student to his family and friends. However, Nwani hid a very dark secret underneath that shining exterior: He was a drug dealer, and a very notorious one at that. His greed got the better of him on October 15, 1993, when police caught a million-dollar shipment of cocaine while he was in the middle of an exam during his senior year.
He later turned himself in and did six and a half months of hard labor at a federal boot camp before he returned to finish his studies. To make ends meet, he cut hair at the university salon while living in a halfway house. After he graduated, he opened his own barber shop and school which later became a huge success. Nwani now travels around the country to show that he is living proof that, no matter how low you sink, you really can turn your life around if you don’t give up.
8.The World’s Most Flexible Man
While doing time in prison can be a hardening experience for most people, Mukhtar Gusengajiev used his time there to soften himself up. Gusangajiev was just 17 years old when he fell in with the wrong crowd and was ultimately sentenced to three years for partaking in a fight. While serving his time, Gusengajiev dedicated himself wholeheartedly to practicing meditation and flexibility exercises. After he was released from prison, Gusengajiev did a series of odd jobs before finally ending up in Moscow, where he performed as an artist at a government-owned circus.
Gusengajiev got his big break in 1995 when he was noticed by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who invited him to perform for his movie. Although that movie was ultimately scrapped, that invitation did get Gusengajiev to Las Vegas, where he later became famous for his mind-bending feats of flexibility. Since then, Gusengajiev has performed in several prominent events around the world and taught countless people that discipline can help them achieve their goals in life.
7.Chess Taught Ex-Convict The Right Moves In Life
Chess aficionado Eugene Brown made a lot of questionable decisions early on in his life. Classified as a high-risk youth, Brown frequently mingled with the bad eggs in his hometown of Washington, DC, ending with his participate in a failed robbery attempt and subsequent incarceration in a New Jersey prison. During his stay, Brown met his future mentor, a man named Massey with whom he often played chess. It was during one such game that Brown realized the practical applications of chess to everyday life and how he had been making all the wrong moves up to that point.
After he left prison and went back to his hometown, Brown taught his grandson—who was also experiencing behavioral problems—to play chess, with very positive results. Before he knew it, he had established his own chess club, which became hugely successful teaching young people the right lessons in life. As for Brown, he later became a thriving real estate businessman, but has continued to mentor his young wards in the game of chess and life. A movie based on his story will come out on 2014 starring Cuban Gooding, Jr. in the lead role.
6.From Cocaine To Cuisine
Prior to cooking delicious five-star cuisine, celebrity chef Jeff Hendersoncooked something else entirely dangerous—cocaine. As a teenager, he had manufactured and sold the drug in his native Los Angeles. By the time he was 19, Henderson was earning as much as US $35,000 per week. He was later apprehended and imprisoned for 10 years after one of his men was caught carrying a big shipment. It was in prison that Henderson discovered he had a natural flair for cooking and constantly practiced his culinary skills while on kitchen duty.
After he was released early for good behavior, Henderson worked in some of LA’s top restaurants before he decided to go for broke in Las Vegas. After experiencing many rejections due to his felonious past, Henderson finally managed to land a job at Caesar’s Palace. It was only a matter of time before he finally started getting recognition and awards, including best Las Vegas Chef in 2001. All the fame and success hasn’t gotten to Henderson’s head and he has continued to share his experiences with at-risk youth to show what they can achieve in life with the right choices.
5.The Jewel Thief Who Became An Honorary Police Officer
Most parents would have second thoughts leaving their child alone with the hulking and heavily-tattooed Larry Lawton. After all, he used to be one of America’s most notorious jewel thieves. At one point, he was on top of the FBI’s most wanted list on the eastern seaboard. However, the Lawton of today has entirely focused himself on another mission—to use his own experience in educating and saving young people from a life of crime and imprisonment.
Lawton attributed this incredible turnaround to one moment during his twelve years at federal prison. One of his new-found friends committed suicide in his cell, and Lawton—who was in solitary confinement at the time—felt helpless to save him. After he got out, Lawton established his program, Lawton 911, to help at-risk youth from committing the same mistakes he did. Lawton’s sincere efforts have not gone unnoticed—he wasrecently designated an “honorary police officer” by the local police, the first such ex-convict in the US to receive the honor.
4.From Prison To Poetry
Reginald Dwayne Betts was a classic case of a genius gone awry. Although he was an especially gifted student in his youth, his sass made him difficult to teach, and it was only when teachers gave him books to read that Betts would calm down. For all his smarts, Betts made a pretty dumb error at the age of 16 when he and a friend robbed a man and made off with his car. He was caught, tried as an adult, and sentenced to nine years in prison, where he witnessed the horrors that juvenile prisoners experience mixed in with hardened adult criminals.
To keep his sanity, Betts read almost constantly. He became fixated on poetry when someone slipped him a copy of Dudley Randall’s The Black Poets. After he got out, Betts completed his studies and became an active voice in reforming the juvenile justice system. He also established a reading club for the local young men in his area, which he uses to engender in them a love for reading and poetry.
3.The Founder Of The French National Police
It may surprise some to know that, at one time, the predecessor to the modern French National Police was founded and headed by an ex-convict. Growing up in Napoleon-era France, Eugene-Francois Vidocq lived a very colorful life that saw him charged and jailed for a variety of crimes, such as theft and assuming false identities. After a while, Vidocq offered his assistance to the police and worked as a spy in the criminal underworld. He became so effective in apprehending criminals and solving complex cases that authorities soon created the Surete Brigade, which was later expanded nationwide by Napoleon and renamed Surete Nationale, to assist him.
Under Vidocq’s leadership, the police reduced crime rates significantly. During his stint, Vidocq employed surprisingly modern methods of investigation and even maintained a forensics laboratory, something few precincts did at the time. Although Vidocq would ultimately resign and clash with the police again—largely because he had formed his own private detective agency—such were his legendary exploits that he later became the basis for popular fictional detectives such as Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
2.The Australian Danny Trejo
A lot of movie fans may have already heard about the criminal past life of perennial Hollywood bad guy and anti-hero Danny Trejo, but the Machetestar has a lesser-known Australian counterpart in the form of Mark “Chopper” Read. The Melbourne native grew up with a troubled childhood and started his criminal career by robbing drug dealers. He developed a reputation as a dangerous loose-cannon, accumulating tattoos all over his body and even having most of his ears cut off. He spent time in and out of prison for various offenses such as armed robbery and attempt to abduct a judge.
While in prison, Read wrote several crime novels based on his experiences which later became best-sellers. After his release, Read went on to become a notorious celebrity in the Australian scene, but it was a 2000 movie about his life starring Eric Bana that catapulted Read to worldwide fame. Even when he became clean after his prison time, Read never did let of his mad-dog image—shortly before his death from liver cancer in October 2013, he remarked that he didn’t care if he died as long as he didn’t bleed.
1.The Psychologist Who Received A Presidential Pardon
Noted forensic psychologist Paul Fauteck’s early life can be described as chaotic at best. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Fauteck was a mischievous boy in his youth. His schooling ended abruptly after he was discovered with the wallets of the other boys in the locker room. Afterwards, Fauteck continued to engage in questionable activities, including carrying a concealed weapon and smuggling his Mexican wife into the country. However, what really got Fauteck in trouble was when he joined a group of men who issued counterfeit checks. For that, he was sent to federal prison, where he frequently spent time in solitary confinement for bad behavior.
After a while Fauteck finally decided to go on the straight path, a decision galvanized by his father’s death just before he left prison. He later moved to Chicago, where he eventually ran an advertising agency while he finished his studies in psychology, having been told by his psychologist friend that he had a natural aptitude for helping people. In time, Fauteck became one of Chicago’s most respected psychotherapists. He also became a forensic psychologist for the local justice system, where he worked for more than a decade before he retired. The culmination of Fauteck’s long and arduous road to recovery came in 1992 when he received a pardon from President George H.W. Bush. Although retired at present, Fauteck continues to push for improved rehabilitation programs to give ex-convicts a better second start in life.
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God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.
“I love being Black. I love being called Black. I love being an American. I love being a Black American, but as a Black man in this country I think it’s a shame That every few years we get a change of name.
Since those first ships arrived here from Africa that came across the sea There were already Black men in this country who were free. And as for those that came over here on those terrible boats, They were called niggah and slave And told what to do and how to behave.
And then master started trippin’ and doing his midnight tippin’, Down to the slave shacks where he forced he and Great-Great Grandma to be together, And if Great-Great Grandpa protested, he got tarred and feathered.
And at the same time, the Black men in the country who were free, Were mating with the tribes like the Apache and the Cherokee. And as a result of all that, we’re a parade of every shade. And as in this late day and age, you can be sure, They ain’t too many of us in this country whose bloodline is pure.
But, according to a geological, geographical, genealogy study published in Time Magazine, The Black African people were the first on the scene, So for what it’s worth, the Black African people were the first on earth
And through migration, our characteristics started to change, and rearrange, To adapt to whatever climate we migrated to. And that’s how I became me, and you became you.
So, if we gonna go back, let’s go all the way back, And if Adam was Black and Eve was Black, Then that kind of makes it a natural fact that everybody in America is an African American.
Everybody in Europe is an African European; everybody in the Orient is an African Asian And so on and so on, That is, if the origin of man is what we’re gonna go on. And if one drop of Black blood makes you Black like they say, Then everybody’s Black anyway.
So quit trying to change my identity. I’m already who I was meant to be I’m a Black American, born and raised. And brother James Brown wrote a wonderful phrase, “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud! Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!”
Cause I’m proud to be Black and I ain’t never lived in Africa, And ’cause my Great-Great Granddaddy on my Daddy’s side did, don’t mean I want to go back. Now I have nothing against Africa, It’s where some of the most beautiful places and people in the world are found. But I’ve been blessed to go a lot of places in this world, And if you ask me where I choose to live, I pick America, hands down.
Now, by and by, we were called Negroes, and after while, that name has vanished. Anyway, Negro is just how you say “black” in Spanish. Then, we were called colored, but ****, everybody’s one color or another, And I think it’s a shame that we hold that against each other.
And it seems like we reverted back to a time when being called Black was an insult, Even if it was another Black man who said it, a fight would result, Cause we’ve been so brainwashed that Black was wrong, So that even the yellow niggahs and black niggahs couldn’t get along.
But then, came the 1960s when we struggled and died to be called equal and Black, And we walked with pride with our heads held high and our shoulders pushed back, And Black was beautiful.
But, I guess that wasn’t good enough, Cause now here they come with some other stuff. Who comes up with this **** anyway? Was it one, or a group of niggahs sitting around one day?
Feelin’ a little insecure again about being called Black And decided that African American sounded a little more exotic. Well, I think you were being a little more neurotic.
It’s that same mentality that got “Amos and Andy” put off the air, Cause’ they were embarrassed about the way the character’s spoke. And as a result of that action, a lot of wonderful Black actors ended up broke. When we were just laughin’ and have fun about ourselves. So I say, “**** you if you can’t take a joke.” You didn’t see the “Beverly Hillbilly’s” being protested by white folks.
And if you think, that cause you think that being called African American set all Black people’s mind at ease…..
Since we affectionately call each other “niggah”,
I affectionately say to you, “niggah Please”.
How come I didn’t get the chance to vote on who I’d like to be? Who gave you the right to make that decision for me? I ain’t under your rule or in your dominion And I am entitled to my own opinion.
Now there are some African Americans here, But they recently moved here from places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Zaire. But, now the brother who’s family has lived in the country for generations, Occupying space in all the locations New York, Miami, L.A., Detroit, Chicago- Even if he’s wearing a dashiki and sporting an afro.
And, if you go to Africa in search of your race, You’ll find out quick you’re not an African American, You’re just a Black American in Africa takin’ up space.
Why you keep trying to attach yourself to a continent, Where if you got the chance and you went, Most people there would even claim you as one of them; as a pure bread daughter or son of them. Your heritage is right here now, no matter what you call yourself or what you say And a lot of people died to make it that way. And if you think America is a leader on inequality and suffering and grievin’ How come there so many people comin’ and so few leavin’?
Rather than all this ‘find fault with America’ **** you promotin’, If you want to change something, use your privilege, get to the polls! Commence to votin’!
God knows we’ve earned the right to be called American Americans and be free at last. And rather than you movin’ forward progress, you dwelling in the past. We’ve struggled too long; we’ve come too far. Instead of focusing on who we were, let’s be proud of who we are.
We are the only people whose name is always a trend. When is this **** gonna end? Look at all the different colors of our skin- Black is not our color. It’s our core. It’s what we been livin’ and fightin’ and dyin’ for.
But if you choose to be called African American and that’s your preference Then I ‘ll give you that reference
But I know on this issue I don’t stand alone on my own and if I do, then let me be me And I’d appreciate it if when you see me, you’d say, “there goes a man who says it loud I’m Black. I’m Black. I’m a Black American, and I’m proud
Cause I love being an American. And I love being Black. I love being called Black.
From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control
Racial Disparities in Incarceration
African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
1 in 100 African American women are in prison
Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).
Drug Sentencing Disparities
About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)
Inner city crime prompted by social and economic isolation
Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
“Get tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies
Mandatory minimum sentencing, especially disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession
In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
“Three Strikes”/habitual offender policies
Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence; adverse affect on black children.
35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites
Effects of Incarceration
Jail reduces work time of young people over the next decade by 25-30 percent when compared with arrested youths who were not incarcerated
Jails and prisons are recognized as settings where society’s infectious diseases are highly concentrated
Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners will reoffend
Exorbitant Cost of Incarceration: Is it Worth It?
About $70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly
Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety
Second Chance Alliance will be a Building Capacity for and Reducing Barriers to the Inclusion of Underserved Black Youth and Families in Behavioral and Mental Health Patient-Centered Outcomes. Second Chance Alliance will be a faith-based mental health promotion network and Re-entry facility focused on African-American mental health and the reduction of disparities. Our team will build and engage a network of faith community leaders, caregivers, stakeholders, university researchers, providers, and patients. Our specific team-building tasks include hosting monthly meetings focused on 1) developing our partnership, 2) identifying the specific behavioral and mental health needs of our youth, and 3) developing a strategic plan to address the stated needs via submission of a Tier II award. Based on individual efforts to date, our local communities trust that we care. Our compassion has opened up dialogue, especially among teens, who feel comfortable asking questions about life outside their circumstances, inspiring hope for creating a healthier environment.
Please take away my pain and despair of yesterday and any unpleasant memories and replace them with Your glorious promise of new hope. Show me a fresh HS-inspired way of relating to negative things that have happened. I ask You for the mind of Christ so I can discern Your voice from the voice of my past. I pray that former rejection and deep hurts will not color what I see and hear now.
Help me to see all the choices I have ahead of me that can alter the direction of my life. I ask You to empower me to let go of the painful events and heartaches that would keep me bound. Thank You for Your forgiveness that You have offered to me at such a great price. Pour it into my heart so I can relinquish bitterness hurts and disappointments that have no place in my life. Please set me free to forgive those who have sinned against me and caused me pain and also myself. Open my heart to receive Your complete forgiveness and amazing grace. You have promised to bind up my wounds Psa 147:3 and restore my soul Psa 23:3 .
Help me to relinquish my past surrender to You my present and move to the future You have prepared for me. I ask You to come into my heart and make me who You would have me to be so that I might do Your will here on earth. I thank You Lord for all that’s happened in my past and for all I have become through those experiences. I pray You will begin to gloriously renew my present.”
― Sue Augustine, When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present
“Nevertheless, should you have any doubts that we are stating sound doctrines, look up the references and see exactly what the Bible says and believe it in preference to any man. You cannot go wrong with this kind of advice. But in doing this, be sure you adhere to what is written, and that you do not let preconceived ideas cause you to be biased on any point. Do not try to make the Bible conform to your ideas. Always reconcile your ideas to the Bible. Let the plain language of the references given be read and understood in the same literal way that we would understand similar statements in any other book”
― Finis Jennings Dake, God’s Plan for Man
“There is no excuse for anyone to misunderstand God’s Word if he will, like a child, accept the Bible for what it says, and be honest enough to consecrate himself to obey it. He must accept the Bible as God’s Word. He must believe that God could not be honest if He sought to hide from man the very things He will judge him by in the end. He must accept the Bible as the final Court of Appeal on its own subjects, and forget man’s interpretations and distortion of the Word. He must believe that God knows what He is talking about; that He knows how to express Himself in human language; that He said what He meant, and meant what He said; and that what He says on a subject is more important than what any man may say about it.”
― Finis Jennings Dake, God’s Plan for Man
Here is something that I want to share with you: Are you aware that ninety percent of the national and international problems facing our world today are the result of either government or religion? Keep in mind, this includes global hunger, health epidemics, wars, terrorism, racial and ethnic conflicts, segregation, nuclear tension and economic uncertainty.
Focus Point: Now the need for government and order is inherent in the spirit and is a manifestation of a divine mandate given to mankind by the Creator God. Remember, man was created to be a governor and ruler, and therefore, it is his nature to seek some authority mechanism that would bring order to his private and social world.
Constitutional Scripture: Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Focus Point: Keep in mind, that man’s need for some formal government structure is an outgrowth of his need for social order and relationship management. This need begins in the smallest prototype of society, the family, and extends all the way to the manifestation of national expressions of constitutional order.
Keep in mind, that the mandate of the Creator God for mankind was rulership and dominion, not another religion to be added to the many religions that already exist. Therefore, the first command given to man by the Creator was to establish a “government” on the earth to destroy chaos and to maintain order.
Focus Point: Government is God’s solution to disorder.
Focus Point: Remember this one thing: Some governments are better than others, but all are inferior to God’s government–the Kingdom of Heaven.
Question 1: “Ninety percent of all national and international problems that is facing our world today are the result of either government or religion” Have you seen this to be true in this world, from your observation? Take a minute to think through current events and see if 90 percent is attributed to the government or religion.
Constitutional Scripture: Romans 8:18-21 Paul stated: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19) For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21) because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Question 2: Have you ever known anyone who did not respond to order and government at all? Do you believe that “government and order is inherent in the human spirit”? If this is true, who do you think we sometimes rebel against?
Question 3: How does the need for social order manifest itself in your life? Do you find your relationships are comfortably managed for the most part or do you see them as being more chaotic and unpredictable?
Question 4: Where do you think national pride or patriotism come from in terms of man’s need for government and social order? Does this explain why we can have patriotism despite the failings of our government? Why or why not?
Question 5: Do you think your dominion or rulership is an option? How would you answer those who say some are followers and some are leaders?
Please note: It is the theocratic order of a King over kings as partners in governing!
“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.”
― Bill Cosby, Fatherhood
Fathers and Sons
Being a father is life’s fullest expression of masculinity. But for many males, life consists of a search for the lost father. My son Aaron and I have had a intricate time being together and bonding due to the complexities that once plagued my life. I was given another day that wasn’t promised to me. My morning started at 4;30 am with me screaming at the top of my voice with the words NO!!!NO!!!, sweating and shaking with thoughts that sounded like this, what if something happens to me before I get my relationship with little Aaron right? My dad died in February without our being able to reconcile our father son relationship and I know that’s why this matters so much to me.
We know that raising children is the central experience of life, the greatest source of self-awareness, the true fountain of pride and joy, the most eternal bond with a partner. We know that being a father is life’s fullest expression of masculinity. So why did so many men forgo this for so long, and will the current crop of post-patriarchal fathers fare any better?
FOR A COUPLE OF hundred years now, each generation of fathers has passed on less and less to his sons–not just less power but less wisdom. And less love. We finally reached a point where many fathers were largely irrelevant in the lives of their sons. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater, and the pater dismissed with the patriarchy. Everyone seemed to be floundering around not knowing what to do with men or with their problematic and disoriented masculinity.
In addition, over the same 200 years, each generation of fathers has had less authority than the last. The concept of fatherhood changed drastically after the Industrial Revolution. Economics suddenly dictated that somebody had to go out from the home to work. Men were usually chosen, since they couldn’t produce milk. Maybe they would come home at night or just on weekends.
As a result, masculinity ceased to be defined in terms of domestic involvement-that is, skills at fathering and husbanding -and began to be defined in terms of making money. Men stopped doing all the things they used to do. Instead, they became primarily Father the Provider, bringing things home to the family rather than living and working at home within the family.
This gradually led fathers to find other roles to fulfill when they visited home after working somewhere else: Father the Disciplinarian: “Wait till your father comes home!” and Father the Audience: “Tell Daddy what you did today.”
FATHER THE PROVIDER
I always made it the excuse to why I clung to the streets and the games I played outside my home while trying to provide a higher life for my kids. I worked, I hustled and I paid the price for all of the unnecessary things I did because of greed. My kids are still somewhat distant, but most of them have forgiven mom and dad for having to leave them for a number of years.
If all father’s functions were economic, if all his status was measured by how well he provided, the rich and economically powerful father became a potential tyrant; but the father who wasn’t rich and famous was an inescapable failure, a disappointment, a buffoon. The father’s position in the family was no longer determined by how well he functioned as a father, but was scored by his status in the eyes of the world, in a set of economic contests in which there were few men winning by being the richest of them all, and most men losing.
Once a father had moved out of family life and became part of the work crew, family values ceased to be his primary definers of himself. He adopted instead the values and job descriptions of the other workers. His work ceased to be something he did for the sake of his family and became work for the sake of work.
He didn’t slow down when he’d achieved a level of sufficient comfort; instead, he strove even harder to get the approval of his fellow workers and to earn glory in their eyes. He worked because he worked; that was what he did because that was what he was. He was no longer paterfamilias, he was homolaboriosus. In the endeavors and identity dearest to his heart and heaviest on his schedule, he was a working man, and his family should understand that their claims on his time came second best.
In his mind, he had moved out. He had gone to conquer the world.
FATHER THE SUCCESS
When society decided that raising children was women’s work and that making money was the single-minded point of men’s lives, fathers became too busy for their children and boys began to grow up without fathers. That would not have been critical if there were uncles and cousins and grandfathers and older brothers around to model masculinity for boys. But our ideas of mental health and the goals of the housing industry required that families trim themselves down to the size of a married couple and their children.
Reducing the family to such a tiny, isolated, nuclear unit made it mobile enough for the purposes of industrial society. Workers were no longer rooted in the land or community. Now nothing came between a man and his job. Companies could extract the utmost loyalty from employees by making them a part of the family of work and cut them further away from the family of home. Men on the Daddy Track were severely penalized, much as women on the Mommy Track are now.
The children of this generation may grow up with the idea that a father’s life is his work, and his family should not expect anything more from him.
I recall one man, talking about the problems of his son, saying, “I don’t know what Betty could have done wrong raising that boy. I know it wasn’t anything I did, since I was busy working and left it to her. I barely saw the kid so I couldn’t have done anything wrong.”
Life for most boys and for many grown men then is a frustrating search for the lost father who has not yet offered protection, provision, nurturing, modeling, or, especially, anointment. All those tough guys who want to scare the world into seeing them as men and who fill up the jails; all whose men who don’t know how to be a man with a woman and who fill up the divorce courts; all those corporate raiders who want more in hopes that more will make them feel better; and all those masculopathic philanderers, contenders, and controllers–all of them are suffering from Father Hunger.
They go through their adolescent rituals day after day for a lifetime, waiting for a father to anoint them and treat them as good enough to be considered a man.
They call attention to their pain, getting into trouble, getting hurt, doing things that are bad for them, as if they are calling for a father to come take them in hand and straighten them out or at least tell them how a grown man would handle the pain.
They compete with other boys who don’t get close enough to let them see their shame over not feeling like men, over not having been anointed, and so they don’t know that the other boys feel the same way.
In a scant 200 years–in some families in a scant two generations–we’ve gone from a toxic overdose of fathering to a fatal deficiency. It’s not that we have too much mother but too little father.
THE MYTHS OF MASCULINITY
Our modern mythmakers are busy tackling the relationships between fathers and sons to find connections between pre-patriarchal and post-patriarchal consciousness, between the old fear of the too-powerful father and the new longing for a father to love and teach and anoint us.
The pain and grief and shame from the failed father-son relationship seem universal, as evidenced in the popular movies of the past few decades which had father-and-son themes that overshadowed anything going on between men and women.
Father-son myths attracted huge audiences in the 1970s and ’80s. Men feared being like their fathers, but they wanted desperately to bond with them even if they could never really please them enough to feel anointed.
In 1989, the film that set the tone for the Men’s Movement was Field of Dreams. Baseball, with its clear and polite rules and all its statistics and players who are normal men and boys rather than oversize freaks, is a man’s metaphor for life.
In this magical fantasy, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) tells us his life story: how his mother died when he was two so his father gave up his efforts to play pro baseball in order to raise his son.
Costner hears a voice from his cornfield telling him “If you build it, he will come.” He understands the message to mean that if he mows his cornfield and builds a baseball diamond, his father’s hero, Joe Jackson, will appear. He does. Then Costner’s dad appears in his baseball uniform, and father and son solemnly play a belated game of catch. Father and son don’t talk much, they just play catch with total solemnity. And it is quite enough.
What goes on between the father and son-and what does not go on between them–is surely the most important determinant of whether the boy will become a man capable of giving life to others or whether he will go through life ashamed and pulling back from exposure to intimacy with men, women, and children.
A NEW GENERATION OF NURTURERS
It takes the fulfillment of all these relationships for a boy to become a man who is able to live in peace and cooperation with his community and to give something back to his family. Fathering makes a man–whatever his standing in the eyes of the world-feel strong and good and important, just as he makes his child feel loved and valued.
Mercifully, parenting is not an efficient process–the old concept of “quality time” is a cruel cop-out. A father who gets to hang out with his children is reliving the joys of his own childhood. The play is the thing.
Becoming Father the Nurturer rather than just Father the Provider enables a man to fully feet and express his humanity and masculinity. Fathering is the most masculine thing a man can do.
Will this new generation discover the healing power of fatherhood? As I look at the young men coming into manhood now, I see many who are willing to risk being hands-on fathers in a way that was rare in my generation. My son and son-in-law and nephews, for instance, are yearning for children, not just children to have but children to raise.
They are not alone. I feel optimistic about the sort of fathering these guys will do. The trend is dear: the boys who got fathered want to be fathers, and the boys who didn’t fear it.
Care keep thee not from heaven and heavenly bliss.
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My suffering runs close to my passion. My diagnosed symptoms from combat to life experiences haunt me more than for a moment. Any news related to human suffering and injustice plagues my peace. I just “Care for the Souls” that are being vilified and killed.
They burned him alive in an iron cage, and as he screamed and writhed in the agony of hell they made a sport of his death.
After listening to one newscast after another rightly condemn the barbaric killing of that Jordanian air force pilot at the bloody hands of ISIS, I couldn’t sleep. My mind kept roaming the past trying to retrieve a vaguely remembered photograph that I had seen long ago in the archives of a college library in Syracuse.
Suddenly, around two in the morning, the image materialized in my head. I made my way down the hall to my computer and typed in: “Waco, Texas. Lynching.”
Sure enough, there it was: the charred corpse of a young black man, tied to a blistered tree in the heart of the Texas Bible Belt. Next to the burned body, young white men can be seen smiling and grinning, seemingly jubilant at their front-row seats in a carnival of death. One of them sent a picture postcard home: “This is the barbeque we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Joe.”
The victim’s name was Jesse Washington. The year was 1916. America would soon go to war in Europe “to make the world safe for democracy.” We as individuals have a duty to empower and educate our “YOUTH’, to protect our families and especially our women. I am involved with so many campaigns at present, but I must find time to embark upon another. I must engage the men of every pulpit I am familiar with to start clinics to introduce our men of color to tactics and behavior that will empower them with obedience to a higher calling than just revenge. We need to get active in the lower parts of our deprived communities and smaller churches to get this message out. We need to form a chain linked coalition of pastors, ministers, fathers and mothers, sisters and aunties. A message or cry of this type doesn’t get media attention or does it interest the common viewer of a website. In my hundred days of prayer for America and the church I will be entreating God for a miracle that includes me and my wife to begin a world changing movement outside of the walls of a church…..
I would come to learn, when local white folks still talked about Washington’s execution as if it were only yesterday. This was not medieval Europe. Not the Inquisition. Not a heretic burned at the stake by some ecclesiastical authority in the Old World. This was Texas, and the white people in that photograph were farmers, laborers, shopkeepers, some of them respectable congregants from local churches in and around the growing town of Waco.
Here is the photograph. Take a good look at Jesse Washington’s stiffened body tied to the tree. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. No witnesses saw the crime; he allegedly confessed but the truth of the allegations would never be tested. The grand jury took just four minutes to return a guilty verdict, but there was no appeal, no review, no prison time. Instead, a courtroom mob dragged him outside, pinned him to the ground, and cut off his testicles. A bonfire was quickly built and lit. For two hours, Jesse Washington — alive — was raised and lowered over the flames. Again and again and again. City officials and police stood by, approvingly. According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000. There were taunts, cheers and laughter. Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.”
When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart and the pieces were sold as souvenirs. The party was over. I am not sharing this to incite a riot. I want to share this because of the effects it still has in modern day America.
Define Yourself, Redefine the World Journal
Through empowering words, motivating experiences, and insightful quotes of wisdom, this journal will put you on a path of evolution. TheBlackManCan Presents Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Boys and Men of Color is a one-of-a-kind proactive tool that will help to propel any man, young or otherwise, to actively question the man he desires to be. It is a journal that will open your mind, strengthen your heart, and provide you with an outlet to release your thoughts.
There is no other journal specifically designed for boys and men of color, and this one takes a life-changing approach. Every quote and essential question will leave you feeling closer to your destiny. It explores topics related to education, spirituality, purpose, passion, career, leadership, culture, and fatherhood, all of which are vital concepts for your development.
TheBlackManCan Presents Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Boys and Men of Color can be used as a parent-child workbook, teenage journal, or even given as a Father’s Day gift.
The Journal specifically and effectively addresses the need for introspection during the transition from childhood to manhood for Black boys. The guide is a useful tool in offering something that is much needed during a critical stage of development. As a father of Black Boys I will add this tool to my toolbox to aid me in helping my sons become the best man they can be, while also allowing me to reflect on how I can improve as a man. ~Levy T. Gillespie, Sr. Father of Three
This is a brilliant idea! In a world where the concept of Black manhood is destroyed by faulty images of Black hyper-masculinity, this journal provides a space for men and boys to reflect upon their own ideas of masculinity in a healthy manner. In the true spirit of self determination, this journal provides an inspirational slate for boys and men to define themselves outside of the mass mediated controlling images they are bombarded with on a daily basis. I’ll be getting copies of this journal to share with my sons and the other men and boys I love…and I hope you do the same. ~Prof. Don C. Sawyer, III Quinnipiac University, Department of Sociology
Profound and essential for young men everywhere! After reading Define Yourself, I was impressed with the vision and content that Brandon has compiled for our young warriors. In a time where expression is often suppressed, this is one of the prescriptions to change our community-wide disease of uneasiness in communicating. Define Yourself will greatly impact students to learn more about themselves and ultimately enable young men to be an asset to himself and the community in which he resides. ~ Alfred Blake Author of The Students Handbook to Breaking All the Rules(www.alfredblake.com)
To me the phrase “No Justice, No Peace” is not so much a threat as much as it is a cry of the heart. It is not simply a call to protest, but also a naming of the powers and what those powers have done.
A lack of justice has resulted in a lack of peace.
So many of the people of color, in particular the people of African descent in my life went to bed on last night without a sense of peace. And I am not sure that some of my non-Black friends understand why.
There is a lack of peace because of the painful reminder that historically black lives are valued less than the lives of others. This painful truth is reiterated by the invoking of names like Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant III, and Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown,and now Walter Scott It is reinforced through disparities in legal sentencing, in execution rates, and in drug policing.
To view the many fallen people of color and others please click this link:
Heavy hearts now lack peace because of the lack of justice in our nation.
But there is a lack of peace also because of the very real fear that many of us parents who have children of color, will feel every time our kids walk to the store. It is the twinge of fear and lack of peace that I and other black men feel every time we are profiled just because of the way we look.
No peace because of no justice.
Soon after the story of Trayvon’s killing became national news I found that many of my white friends did not understand the hurt and anger that I and many others felt. Likewise after the verdict was read, I again received messages from friends who didn’t get the powerful response that they witnessed on social media sites. A lack of understanding is alright, but a lack of care, a lack of concern is not.
After the jury’s verdict came down I like so many others was stunned. Dumbstruck. Silently screaming. My first instinct was to go for a walk and cry. To be quiet. But there is a time for silence and there is a time to raise our voices. Mine is now raised in calling for justice, in calling for divine intervention, grace, and guidance, and in calling out to all of us to work for change.
So now that we see that there is neither justice nor peace, what is next?
We must work for both: To fix a broken justice system and a to fix the broken peace within our hearts and within our communities.
A lack of justice and a lack of peace is a call for action on two different fronts. This means organizing to change dangerous laws like the “Stand Your Ground” and the “Stop and Frisk” policies as well as heartless gun laws in our country. But it also means working to restore peace on an individual level. This is reaching out to those who are hurting. Preaching and writing about this not only prophetically, but also pastorally. It’s working not only to change laws, but to change a culture that is far too violent in the first place. It’s not only ensuring that the taking of black life is prosecuted just the same as when a white life is lost, but it is working to build abeloved community in which no lives are lost to unnecessary violence. Change laws, get guns off of the street, and change our culture.
The “WAR” on drugs is another bogus attempt to render Justice to our communities that failed. Here is a video and a case we are working with FAMM to overturn: https://youtu.be/C_ES5m4ovPM
Please watch Julie’s video, and share it with people you know. Because the fight for sentencing reform isn’t just about wasted money or prison over-crowding, it’s about real human beings.
Is your church worship more of the world or christian?
There is a great misunderstanding in churches of the purpose of music in Christian worship. Churches routinely advertise their “life-changing” or “dynamic” worship that will “bring you closer to God” or “change your life.” Certain worship CD’s promise that the music will “enable you to enter the presence of God.” Even a flyer for a recent conference for worship leaders boasted:
“Join us for dynamic teaching to set you on the right path, and inspiring worship where you can meet God and receive the energy and love you need to be a mover and shaker in today’s world…Alongside our teaching program are worship events which put you in touch with the power and love of God.”
The problem with the flyer and with many church ads is that these kinds of promises reveal a significant theological error. Music is viewed as a means to facilitate an encounter with God; it will move us closer to God. In this schema, music becomes a means of mediation between God and man. But this idea is closer to ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.
Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He alone is the One who brings us to God. The popular but mistaken notions regarding worship music undermine this foundational truth of the Christian faith. It is also ironic that while many Christians deny the sacramental role of those ordinances which the Lord Himself has given to the church (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) they are eager to grant music sacramental powers. Music and “the worship experience” are viewed as means by which we enter the presence of God and receive his saving benefits. There is simply no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God. This is a common pagan notion. It is far from Christian.
In his helpful book True Worship Vaughan Roberts offers four consequences of viewing music as an encounter with God. I will summarize them.
1. God’s Word is marginalized.
In many Churches and Christian gatherings it is not unusual for God’s Word to be shortchanged. Music gives people the elusive “liver quiver” while the Bible is more mundane. Pulpits have shrunk and even disappeared while bands and lighting have grown. But faith does not come from music, dynamic experiences, or supposed encounters with God. Faith is birthed through the proclamation of God’s Word (Rom 10:17).
2. Our assurance is threatened.
If we associate God’s presence with a particular experience or emotion, what happens when we no longer feel it? We search for churches whose praise band, orchestra, or pipe organ produce in us the feelings we are chasing. But the reality of God in our lives depends on the mediation of Christ not on subjective experiences.
3. Musicians are given priestly status.
When music is seen as a means to encounter God, worship leaders and musicians are vested with a priestly role. They become the ones who bring us into the presence of God rather than Jesus Christ who alone has already fulfilled that role. Understandably, when a worship leader or band doesn’t help me experience God they have failed and must be replaced. On the other hand, when we believe that they have successfully moved us into God’s presence they will attain in our minds a status that is far too high for their own good.
4. Division is increased.
If we identify a feeling as an encounter with God, and only a particular kind of music produces that feeling, then we will insist that same music be played regularly in our church or gatherings. As long as everyone else shares our taste then there is no problem. But if others depend upon a different kind of music to produce the feeling that is important to them then division is cultivated. And because we routinely classify particular feelings as encounters with God our demands for what produce those feelings become very rigid. This is why so many churches succumb to offering multiple styles of worship services. By doing so, they unwittingly sanction division and self-centeredness among the people of God.
Scripture is full of exhortations to God’s people to sing and make music to the Lord. Our God has been gracious to give us this means to worship Him. But it is important to understand that music in our worship is for two specific purposes: to honor God and to edify our fellow believers. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to grant music a sacramental power which Scripture never bestows upon it.
Developing a closer relationship with God is an admirable goal and reflects a heart that is truly reborn, for only those who are in Christ desire a closer relationship with God. We must also understand that in this life we will never be as close to God as we ought to be or desire to be. The reason for this is lingering sin in our lives. This is not a deficiency on God’s part, but on ours; our sin remains a barrier to the full and complete fellowship with God which will be realized once we’re in glory.
Even the apostle Paul, who had about as close a relationship as one could probably have with God in this life, still longed for a closer relationship: “Indeed, I count every thing as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:8-9). No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, we can always have a closer walk, and, even glorified in heaven, we will have all eternity to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
There are five basic things we can do to have a closer relationship with God.
The first thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to make a daily habit of confessing our sin to Him. If sin is the barrier in our relationship with God, then confession removes that barrier. When we confess our sins before God, He promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9), and forgiveness is what restores a relationship that has been strained. We must keep in mind that confession is more than simply saying, “I’m sorry for my sin, God.” It is the heartfelt contrition of those who recognize that their sin is an offense to a holy God. It is the confession of one who realizes that his sin is what nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. It is the cry of the publican inLuke 18who said, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” As King David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
The second thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to listen when God speaks. Many today are chasing a supernatural experience of hearing God’s voice, but the apostle Peter tells us that we “have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). That “more sure prophetic word” is the Bible. In the Bible, we “hear” God’s voice to us. It is through the “God-breathed” Scriptures that we become “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So if we want to grow closer to God, we should read His Word regularly. In reading His Word, we are “listening” to God speak through it by his Spirit who illuminates the Word to us.
The third thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to speak to Him through prayer. If reading the Bible is listening to God speak to us, speaking to God is accomplished through prayer. The Gospels often record Jesus secreting Himself away to commune with His Father in prayer. Prayer is much more than simply a way to ask God for things we need or want. Consider the model prayer that Jesus gives His disciples inMatthew 6:9-13. The first three petitions in that prayer are directed toward God (may His name be hallowed, may His kingdom come, may His will be done). The last three petitions are requests we make of God after we’ve taken care of the first three (give us our daily bread, forgive us our debts, lead us not into temptation). Another thing we can do to revive our prayer lives is to read the Psalms. Many of the Psalms are heartfelt cries to God for various things. In the Psalms we see adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication modeled in a divinely inspired way.
The fourth thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to find a body of believers with whom we can regularly worship. This is such a vital component of spiritual growth. Too often, we approach church with a “what can I get out of it?” mentality. We seldom take the time to prepare our hearts and minds for worship. Again, the Psalms show us many calls from God to His people to come and worship the Lord (for example,Psalm 95:1-2). God invites us, commands us, to come into His presence for worship. How can we, His people, fail to respond? Not only does regular church attendance give us an opportunity to come before the Lord’s presence in worship, but it also gives us an opportunity to fellowship with the Lord’s people. As we come into the house of the Lord in worship and fellowship with His people, we can’t help but grow closer to the Lord as a result.
Finally, a closer relationship with God is built upon a life of obedience. Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:23). James tells us that as we submit ourselves to God through obedience, resist the devil, and draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:7-8). Paul tells us in Romans that our obedience is our “living sacrifice” of thanksgiving to God (Romans 12:1). We must keep in mind that all biblical exhortations to obedience are presented as our response to the grace of God we receive in salvation. We don’t earn salvation through our obedience; rather, it is the way we show our love and gratitude toward God.
So, through confession, Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and obedience, we can develop a closer relationship with God. It seems rather simple, if not simplistic. But consider this: how do we develop a closer relationship with other human beings? We spend time with them in conversation, opening our hearts to them and listening to them at the same time. We acknowledge when we’ve done wrong and seek forgiveness. We seek to treat them well and sacrifice our own needs to fulfill theirs. It’s not really that different with our relationship to our Heavenly Father.
The drive to church is too far when compared to what I leave church with. I am to busy with activities that bring me great gratification when measured to success. My wife takes too long to get ready and I am frustrated with the financial strain it places on me trying to keep gasoline. I can go on and on why I sometimes find it hard to be faithful at a church that’s a distance from where I reside or local. This church is too worldly, it resembles a night club. The pastor is a comedian and I need dogma that is teaching holiness and the excuses go on and on……
“What is this one trend? It’s that your most committed people will attend worship services less frequently than ever in 2015. [Emphasis added.]
“What does this mean? Simply that people who use[d] to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month.”
Why are so many Christians choosing to spend less time with a community of believers on Sunday? Mancini suggests that there are many causes, but he specifically cites three:
Increased involvement in kids activities: parents eschew church to let their kids participate in club sports
More travel for work: more business “road-warrioring” means less time for church
Online church: people stay home and watch church on their tablets, Apple TVs, and phones
That doesn’t mean pastors and local churches should just go down without a fight. In particular, Mancini thinks this trend actually presents us with opportunities—if we know how to make an impact. He gives three pointers:
1. Add value not venues.
Instead of just adding more and more activities, find ways to beef up the value of what’s already there. Work with existing small groups to provide better training, for example.
2. Think training over teaching.
Your congregation can get inspirational teaching on the Internet. In fact, online churches often have better follow-up than some small congregations. What they can’t get is solid training that helps them grow in their faith on a personal level.
3. Design for ministry ends not means.
We have lots of programs, but not nearly enough discipleship. Doing more as a church doesn’t necessarily mean that people are growing. The trend toward less attendance may have much to do with us missing the point of what church is supposed to be about: helping people follow Jesus better.
On a recent post on ChurchPastor.com, Pastor Erik Raymond provided 3 keys for church survival that hit on the same notes as Mancini’s article:
“Jesus gave the command that ought to characterize everything the church does. This is her mission. Everything the church does is to promote people coming to know Christ and grow in him. As a result, the church must be intentionally involved in evangelism. This involves the church at large and the individuals within the church. The mood of the church needs to be evangelistic.“The church also must be a training church. People need to grow in their understanding and application of biblical truth. This comes in many shapes and sizes from preaching to classes to community (fellowship); but it must be there.”
Now, it’s your turn. Do you attend less frequently now days than you used to? If so, what made you stop going as much? Are you seeing less involvement? How has your church overcome this?
Here are just five measures of American religion reported annually by Gallup that each show the same thing: religion in America is on the decline.
One of the most important measures is the rise of the so-called “nones.” This is the growing segment of Americans you say “none” when asked what their religion is. Two decades ago, only one-in-twenty Americans said they weren’t part of any religion. Today, it is at least three times that level, with the “nones” becoming one of the largest religious groups in the country.
It’s tough to get Americans to accurately report whether or not they attend church. Regardless, even a measure that may over-report attendance is showing a decline. This graph shows the percentage who report attending more often then “seldom” or “never” (so, once a month or more). The average has moved from the low-60 percentages to nearly 50 percent (a twenty percent drop).
Both the decline in people identifying with religion and attendance is related to membership. Even people who never attend church may be a member of a religious community. Twenty years ago, seven-in-ten Americans said they were members of a church or other religious group. Today, it’s less than six-in-ten.
Ok, so maybe it’s not a decline of religion per se but a decline in “organized religion.” Gallup and other pollsters get around this by asking about how important religion is people’s lives. As with the other measures, this measure of religion is moving downward. It, too, has dropped about ten points since the early 1990s.
How about this measure: is religion relevant for today’s problems or is it out of date? The percentage of people who think religion is relevant for today is down from 80 percent to 70 percent.
There are more sophisticated ways of combining these measures, but here is combination that puts them into one graph. This is simply the average of all the measures for each year. In the early 1990s, this average was hovering around 78 percent. From 2000 onward, the measures have been in decline, reaching 69 percent last year.
The n-word is unique in the English language. On one hand, it is the ultimate insult- a word that has tormented generations of African Americans. Yet over time, it has become a popular term of endearment by the descendents of the very people who once had to endure it. Among many young people today—black and white—the n-word can mean friend.
Neal A. Lester, dean of humanities and former chair of the English department at Arizona State University, recognized that the complexity of the n-word’s evolution demanded greater critical attention. In 2008, he taught the first ever college-level class designed to explore the word “nigger” (which will be referred to as the n-word). Lester said the subject fascinated him precisely because he didn’t understand its layered complexities.
“When I first started talking about the idea of the course,” Lester recalled, “I had people saying, ‘This is really exciting, but what would you do in the course? How can you have a course about a word?’ It was clear to me that the course, both in its conception and in how it unfolded, was much bigger than a word. It starts with a word, but it becomes about other ideas and realities that go beyond words.”
Lester took a few minutes to talk to Teaching Tolerance managing editor Sean Price about what he’s learned and how that can help other educators.
How did the n-word become such a scathing insult?
We know, at least in the history I’ve looked at, that the word started off as just a descriptor, “negro,” with no value attached to it. … We know that as early as the 17th century, “negro” evolved to “nigger” as intentionally derogatory, and it has never been able to shed that baggage since then—even when black people talk about appropriating and reappropriating it. The poison is still there. The word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches and derogatory aspersions cast on black bodies. No degree of appropriating can rid it of that bloodsoaked history.
Why is the n-word so popular with many young black kids today?
If you could keep the word within the context of the intimate environment [among friends], then I can see that you could potentially own the word and control it. But you can’t because the word takes on a life of its own if it’s not in that environment. People like to talk about it in terms of public and private uses. Jesse Jackson was one of those who called for a moratorium on using the word, but then was caught using the word with a live mic during a “private” whispered conversation.
There’s no way to know all of its nuances because it’s such a complicated word, a word with a particular racialized American history. But one way of getting at it is to have some critical and historical discussions about it and not pretend that it doesn’t exist. We also cannot pretend that there is not a double standard—that blacks can say it without much social consequence but whites cannot. There’s a double standard about a lot of stuff. There are certain things that I would never say. In my relationship with my wife, who is not African American, I would never imagine her using that word, no matter how angry she was with me. …
That’s what I’m asking people to do—to self-reflect critically on how we all use language and the extent to which language is a reflection of our innermost thoughts. Most people don’t bother to go to that level of self-reflection and self-critique. Ultimately, that’s what the class is about. It’s about selfeducation and self-critique, not trying to control others by telling them what to say or how to think, but rather trying to figure out how we think and how the words we use mirror our thinking. The class sessions often become confessionals because white students often admit details about their intimate social circles I would never be privy to otherwise.
What types of things do they confess?
In their circles of white friends, some are so comfortable with the n-word because they’ve grown up on and been nourished by hip-hop. Much of the commercial hip-hop culture by black males uses the n-word as a staple. White youths, statistically the largest consumers of hip-hop, then feel that they can use the word among themselves with black and white peers. … But then I hear in that same discussion that many of the black youths are indeed offended by [whites using the n-word]. And if blacks and whites are together and a white person uses the word, many blacks are ready to fight. So this word comes laden with these complicated and contradictory emotional responses to it. It’s very confusing to folks on the “outside,” particularly when nobody has really talked about the history of the word in terms of American history, language, performance and identity.
Most public school teachers are white women. How might they hold class discussions about this word? Do you think it would help them to lay some groundwork?
You might want to get somebody from the outside who is African American to be a central part of any discussion— an administrator, a parent, a pastor or other professional with some credibility and authority. Every white teacher out there needs to know some black people. Black people can rarely say they know no white people; it’s a near social impossibility. The NAACP would be a good place to start, but I do not suggest running to the NAACP as a single “authority.” Surely there are black parents of school children or black neighbors a few streets over or black people at neighboring churches. The teacher might begin by admitting, “This is what I want to do, how would you approach this? Or, how do we approach it as a team? How can we build a team of collaboration so that we all accept the responsibility of educating ourselves and our youths about the power of words to heal or to harm?” This effort then becomes something shared as opposed to something that one person allegedly owns.
How might a K-12 teacher go about teaching the n-word?
At the elementary level, I can imagine bringing in children’s picture books to use in conjunction with a segment on the civil rights movement, because students talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Look at some of the placards [held by white people at 1960s civil rights] protests and see if some of them have been airbrushed or the messages sanitized. Talk about language, about words and emotion, about words and pain. Consider the role of words in the brutal attacks on black people during slavery, during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement. Consider how words were part of the attacks on black people.
Depending on how old the students are, a teacher might talk about the violence that involved lynching and castration, and how the n-word was part of the everyday discourse around race relations at the time. Then bring in some hip-hop, depending again on the age. If these are middle school students or high school students, a teacher can talk specifically about hip-hop and how often the n-word is used and in a specific context. … There are many ways that a teacher can talk about the n-word without necessarily focusing on just one aspect—like whether or not Huck should have used the n-word when he references Jim [in Huckleberry Finn]. Any conversation about the n-word has to be about language and thinking more broadly.
What should teachers keep in mind as they teach about the n-word?
Remember the case of the white teacher who told the black student to sit down and said, “Sit down, nigga.” And then the teacher is chastised by the administration and of course there is social disruption. He said, “I didn’t say ‘Sit down, nigger,’ I said ‘Sit down, nigga,’ and that’s what I hear the students saying.” I’m thinking, first, you are an adult, white teacher. Secondly, do you imitate everything that you see and hear others doing or saying? At some level, there has to be some self-critique and critical awareness and sensitivity to difference. Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean that I do it even if and when I surely can.
In my courses, I’m more interested in raising questions than in finding answers to them. I think the questions lead to potential self-discovery. It’s not about whether or not a person uses the n-word. I try to move the class beyond easy binaries—“Well, blacks can use it, but whites can’t.” That line of thinking doesn’t take us very far at all. What we are trying to do, at least the way I have conceptualized and practiced this discovery, is so much more. The class strives to teach us all manner of ways to talk about, think about and to understand ourselves, and each other, and why and how we fit in the rest of the world.
MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization based in New York City and Oakland, CA. MDRC mounts large-scale demonstrations and uses randomized controlled trials to measure the effects of social and educational policy initiatives.
The driving force behind MDRC is a conviction that reliable evidence, well communicated, can make an important difference in social policy.
People who have spent time in prison often have difficulties finding work and establishing independent lives after their release. MDRC is testing the effectiveness of programs to help former prisoners overcome barriers to employment and reduce their chances of rearrest.
MDRC is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation — from reducing poverty and bolstering economic self-sufficiency to improving public education and college graduation rates. We design promising new interventions, evaluate existing programs using the highest research standards, and provide technical assistance to build better programs and deliver effective interventions at scale. We work as an intermediary, bringing together public and private funders to test new policy-relevant ideas, and communicate what we learn to policymakers and practitioners — all with the goal of improving the lives of low-income individuals, families, and children.
Today’s blessings are the opportunities we embrace while in hot pursuit of performing ministry and acquiring full alignment with partners and other organizations who are caring about ex-offenders and their families. The many veterans who are displaced and substance abusers are apart of our focus groups as well. We are happy to share with you that Second Chance Alliance is not an all knowing entity, but we are a humble wanting to gain leverage in our approach to effective re-entry solutions in our present community. We are in a work group for the next two weeks called (CHAMPS)
Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees (CHAMPS) Evaluation
With 750,000 people released from prisons each year, there is a pressing need for rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of reentry strategies. Former prisoners face a range of challenges to successful reentry into the community, including low levels of employment and substance abuse problems, all of which impact recidivism rates. Although the prisoner reentry issue has attracted substantial attention and funding in recent years, very little is known about the components of effective reentry programs. It is unknown what in-prison activities are best able to prepare offenders for the return to the community, what works best to stabilize people after they are released, and what long-term efforts are needed to help former prisoners become productive citizens. One avenue for affecting outcomes may be through parole, but little is known about what parole practices are most effective for whom and how additional services aimed at improving offenders’ cognitive and behavioral functioning can complement the work of parole officers.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, in a collaborative effort with the National Institute of Corrections and the National Institute of Justice, is implementing an innovative parole-based intervention with a well-known cognitive behavioral therapy program as part of a Demonstration Field Experiment on prisoner reentry, known as Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees (CHAMPS).
The National Institute of Justice has selected MDRC and its partner, George Mason University, to conduct a multisite random assignment study to test this reentry model intended to: (1) improve offenders’ motivation to change; (2) address cognitive and behavioral functioning regarding crime-prone thoughts and behaviors; and (3) address core factors that affect offender performance while under community supervision following release from prison.
We are elated to be apart of this training group because it solidifies our platform to be successful model that will be in position to offer a comprehensive focus group of professionals to assist us in our vision objectives at Second Chance Alliance.
Agenda, Scope, and Goals
The overarching goal of this study is to test the effectiveness of parole supervision strategies and a targeted cognitive behavioral intervention to improve outcomes and reduce recidivism for parolees. The evaluation will use a random assignment research design to measure the impact of the following interventions:
The National Institute of Corrections’ Next Generation relationship and desistence model, which is designed to improve the techniques used by parole officers in supervising and interacting with offenders. The model stems from a relationship theory as well as risk-need-responsivity framework where services are recommended to address risk factors that may create problem behaviors for offenders. Selected parole officers will deliver this model after receiving training.
Cognitive behavioral therapy consisting of Motivational Enhancement Therapy sessions followed by Thinking for a Change sessions. Treatment providers, not parole officers, will deliver this intervention.
Despite progress on many fronts, young men of color still face many obstacles to success in American society and suffer disproportionately from economic and social disadvantage. In recent years, foundations and state and local governments have launched major initiatives to address this pressing issue. For example, in 2011, the City of New York created the Young Men’s Initiative, a $42-million annual program, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundation, to invest in the success of the city’s young men of color. In February of this year, the Obama Administration announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a multimillion-dollar push by the government, foundations, and businesses to “build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.”
In light of the momentum building to improve the fortunes of young men of color, Second Chance Alliance is engaged in taking a look at what is known about this population and highlight programs that are shown by rigorous research to be making a difference. Our research will first examine the special challenges and struggles of young men of color in the labor market, including problems related to their disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system and their experiences in the educational system. Young men of color have become increasingly disconnected from the positive systems, institutions, and pathways designed to help people achieve success — high school diplomas, enrollment in and completion of postsecondary education or training, and ultimately career ladders leading to well-paying jobs. Given these facts, the natural next question is: What can be done? Does this group of young men constitute, as some have labeled them, a “lost generation”?2 Or are there interventions that can provide real hope and real results? Is there, in fact, a way to move away from deficit-focused characterizations of young men of color to ones that recognize and build on their resilience and strengths?3 Policy interest in assisting young men of color has waxed and waned over the years, and not enough has been learned from past efforts to build better policies and programs. For instance, in the late 1970s, the Department of Labor funded the Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects (YIEPP), which guaranteed part-time and summer jobs to all young people in particular neighborhoods or cities as long as they stayed in or returned to school. The results were very encouraging: YIEPP virtually erased the large gap in unemployment rates between white and black youth.4 But the program was cut short in the early 1980s, when policy interest in this topic receded, and there was little follow-up. It is hoped that current efforts to improve outcomes for young men of color will include a robust documentation and learning agenda to ensure that the knowledge base of successful strategies grows larger. This stands the reason of our attempts to forge alliances and gain knowledge from all who are in this field of study so we can formulate best practices into information and models for our “YOUTHS”.
A recent Associated Press story on risk assessments, performed to determine the likelihood that someone involved in the criminal justice system will re-offend, contains several common misunderstandings. By taking a closer look at a few of these misconceptions, we hope to clarify some major points about risk assessment overall.
Misconception 1: Low Risk = No Risk
A common misconception is that people deemed to be at a low risk of reoffending have no risk of doing so. The AP report highlights stories of three individuals assessed as low risk who were ultimately rearrested for committing violent crimes. One story involved Milton Thomas, described by the AP as having been “in and out of Arkansas prisons since 2008 for nonviolent crimes, including check fraud.” Thomas told the reporters he had been evaluated low risk by the state of Arkansas.
Thomas is currently awaiting trial for the alleged sexual assault of a 70-year-old woman.
Assuming that Thomas actually was assessed as low risk (although the article seems to rely only on Thomas’s word only), it’s important to note that low risk does not mean no risk. In fact, we know with certainty that for every group of low-risk individuals, some portion will go on to reoffend, albeit at asignificantly lower rate than individuals in moderate- and high-risk groups. Risk assessments are absolutely, statistically better at determining risk than the old ways of doing things (e.g., basing decision on a “gut instinct”), which were often less useful than flipping a coin.
When risk assessments are performed on individuals, they really tell us what risk group someone belongs to, rather than their individual risk of re-offense.
Misconception 2: All Assessments Are Created (or Conducted) Equally
The AP story reports that “an Arkansas consultant said a majority of male parolees and probationers were classified as low risk by the state’s Department of Community Correction but 46 percent were rearrested within 18 months.”
Another common misconception is that all assessments are of equal quality and efficacy and are conducted with equal skill. If the AP story is correct and 46 percent of these low-risk individuals were rearrested, it is almost certain that the risk assessment tool is being used incorrectly or has not been validated on the population to which it is being applied. Or administrators may simply have set cut-off scores that are unlikely to create any meaningful distinction between low-risk and high-risk groups. There are many examples of states and jurisdictions where risk assessments are being used properly, are properly validated, and where low-risk groups have recidivism rates of 5 percent or less.
The AP story also states:
…before Thomas was released the parole board assessed him as a high risk to commit more crimes. But a second risk assessment, conducted by the state’s community supervision agency, found him to be a low risk, Thomas told the AP. Thomas said he has no recollection of answering questions from the lengthy survey.
Again, the story gets information directly from Thomas, but assuming the information is true, it seems likely the risk assessment was not conducted appropriately.
It’s important to note, too, that some assessments don’t measure general risk; rather, they measure propensity for specific types of behavior (domestic violence, for example). Because we don’t know much about the assessments Thomas underwent, it’s difficult to explain or verify what actually happened. Understanding that not all assessments are created (or conducted) equally, though, is crucial to understanding risk assessment overall.
Misconception 3: Risk Assessments Prevent Crime
Another frequent misconception is that risk assessments themselves prevent crime. The AP story identifies another extreme case in which a crime occurred despite the use of risk assessments, and they seem to suggest that risk assessments are somehow meant to prevent crime.
Had Vann scored higher on the Static-99R [a risk assessment], Texas would have sent postcards to the community where he was living—if he was living in Texas. But Vann moved to Indiana after his release.
About one year later, 19-year-old Afrika Hardy was found dead in a Motel 6 bathtub 20 miles southeast of Chicago.
Risk assessments by themselves do not prevent crime. And it’s a mistake to suggest not only that flawed risk assessments lead directly to tragic crimes, but also that sending postcards to a community—or any specific intervention—can directly prevent such crimes.
Misconception 4: Risk Assessments Are Responsible for Bad Data
It’s important to know that risk assessments are only as effective as the data being used to develop them.The AP story refers to a Florida teen who completed a risk-assessment questionnaire (the PACT) and was deemed low risk to commit another crime. One mitigating factor was the teen’s self-reported “good group of friends,” the story reads. But when a prosecutor took a closer look, she determined this group of friends had “attempted a drive-by shooting of [the teen’s] house because they said he owed them money.” The story continues:
The assessment “is completely flawed,” Schneider [the prosecutor] said in court. “They were obviously depending just on the information this young man was providing himself”…
The case is a perfect example of “garbage in, garbage out,” Schneider said in an interview. “I continue to see where the PACT does not reflect the reality.”
Schneider is absolutely correct in her “garbage in, garbage out” judgment. Yet, this doesn’t indicate that risk assessments themselves are flawed but that they can be fed bad data. Most structured assessments require the assessor to verify information in available records, including criminal history, disciplinary records from prison, assigned prison programming, past supervision, etc.
When jurisdictions are following best practices, bad data should rarely find their way into an assessment leaving us with increased confidence in the outcomes of these tools.
What The Story Gets Right
Despite containing several common misconceptions, the AP story still got a few things right. For instance, Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project, said:
“States and localities and all the jurisdictions that are working on risk assessment right now, they’re in different places with respect to their ability to implement a good risk assessment. But it’s absolutely critical that they do.”
He couldn’t be more correct. Not every jurisdiction that uses risk assessment uses it perfectly, but it’s crucial that every jurisdiction work toward that end. U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) told the AP:
“I think you ought to have some assessment and do the best you can and keep updating it based on the research. But you ought not be afraid of a system that’s working on average because of one anecdote.”
There will always be instances in which an individual judged to be low risk goes on to commit another crime—as mentioned above, we know this will be the case. This doesn’t invalidate risk assessment in general, though, which, as Rep. Scott says, are crucial components in a triaging system that does much good, though there continues to be productive discussion about how and where risk assessments can be best used.
Solomon Graves, the administrative services manager of the Arkansas Parole Board (not, as the report claims, a member of the state parole board), told the AP: “Over time the tools will become more dependable. ‘We’re never going to have a 100-percent predictive tool,’ he said. ‘We’ll never be there.’”
This is absolutely true: No tool will ever be 100 percent accurate. But Graves makes an important point—that continuing to improve assessments will only make them, and the system overall, better.
As parents, teachers, pastors,ministers and school administrators and mentors, it’s important we have as much insight as possible to understand why young people today might be interested in joining gangs so we can be better equipped to speak to our children. The following is a compilation of articles that address some critical issues, including:
Understanding Why Your Children Might Join Gangs
• General Reasons For Gang Membership
• Personal Reasons for Gang Membership
• Characteristics of Gangs
• Gang Recruitment Tactics
• Consequences of Gang Involvement
• Early Warning Signs
• What You Can Do
• Gang-Fighting Tips
• Parent and Teacher Intervention
• Helping Your Child Resist Gangs
• How To Discourage Them From Joining A Gang
• Gang-Free Homes
Try to Understand Why Your Children Might Join Gangs
Many times children feel they have no choice. They may prefer to not become a gang member but they cannot see any other way to avoid the situation. Children may be living in fear on a daily basis and see joining a gang as a solution to problems. The pressure to join a gang may be very strong. Parents must provide children with a safe loving home environment plus help them get to school safely. It is also the parents’ responsibility to seethat school is a safe place to learn and play.
Children may join a gang as a means of protection from rival gangs. Children may view their neighborhood gang as a solution to the torment and threats from other gangs. Parents must work to see that the neighborhood is safe place for their children to play, learn and live. Parents need to work together to monitor children and provide law enforcement with information to help keep the neighborhood safe. If children get into trouble with law, parents must let their children suffer the consequences for illegal behavior. Protecting children from the law does not teach responsibility.
Children often choose to join gangs if their friends or family members belong. In order to “fit in” with other gang members, children may also begin to wear certain colors or other types of clothing associated with gangs. They may wear distinctive hairstyles, use gang terminology, and get involved with gang activities. If a parent notices any of these indicators it is a signal that the child is interested in a gang or has already joined.
Children often have unsupervised time. If this becomes excessive, children will search for something to do to prevent boredom. Gang activities can fill the excess time. Parents should be involved in coordinating and sponsoring activities for their children. More activities and parental involvement will decrease the strength a gang has in the neighborhood. Parents should form community groups that are willing to supervise children’s activities. It is also important to know where your child is at all times. Make them accountable for their time and actions.
Gang activities appear exciting to children. Children, especially teens, like to take risks. Gangs provide many opportunities to take risks and find excitement. Make sure your children are involved in sports, clubs or other activities that provide healthy risk taking opportunities. Get children involved with community work to help make neighborhoods safe.
The appeal of obtaining money fast can be overwhelming for children. We live in a society that advocates immediate gratification at any expense. Gangs are involved in drugs and other criminal activities that give children opportunities to get money quickly. Children may be offered more money for delivering a package or being a lookout than their parents can earn in a week. Children must understand the risks and realize that consequences will be enforced. They must also realize that they are being used by older gang members who do not want to get caught.
Teach your children to have pride in their accomplishments and to legitimately earn money. Parents must encourage the system to be consistent and to support the legal system. Report related activities to the police. Encourage children to stay in school in order to be qualified for a job. Give children responsibilities around the house, encourage work ethics and encourage children to seek jobs in the community.
Children who feel valuable and important in the home will feel more comfortable with others. Parents need to teach children how to share, compromise and take turns, how to listen to what others have to say, and how to be a group member. Since the gang may be the most active organization in the neighborhood, parents must provide the opportunity for participation in youth organizations and athletic teams in order for children to practice group skills. If organizations do not exist in the neighborhood, parents must be willing to get involved to manage them. Also, set a good example for your children when you participate in group settings.
Children may feel that they do not have a sense of purpose in life and seek gang activities to reinforce their self-esteem. Parents must strengthen children’s sense of purpose by setting expectations for their personal behavior. Expect your children to have respect for others, to obey authority, to be honest and to do one’s best. Help children set realistic goals so they feel a sense of accomplishment. Challenge your children to expand their interests. Work with the school to determine what opportunities are available for children. Keep communications open with school authorities and teachers.
Children may join a gang to retaliate for personal injury or damage to friends or family. Parents must develop a support group in the community that can deal with children’s sorrow or frustration. If necessary there are agencies and school employees who are capable of helping children to deal with these feelings of anger.
General Reasons for Gang Membership
The primary age group of gang members ranges generally from 13 to 21 years. Interviews of gang members indicate that joining a gang is seldom understood by the gang members themselves, but can vary from brotherhood to self-preservation as listed below.
Gang members cannot achieve an identity in their environment, so they gain it in the gang culture. They often visualize themselves as warriors against the outside world, protecting their neighborhood.
Joining a gang in a community with several gangs offers considerable protection from violence and attack from rival gangs.
Studies indicate that a tight family structure is lacking in the home environment. Gang activity offers that closeness, that sense of family that is often lacking in the home.
Membership can become very dangerous at this level of “recruitment.” New members are forced to join by threats, violent beatings, and initiations in order to increase membership.
No ethnic group or geographical location is excluded. Unlike gangs in the past, we are seeing mixed ethnic and socio-economic groups making up gangs. There is an on-going struggle for territorial control and the lucrative drug market among gangs in our community. School personnel, parents and community members need to be aware of these dynamics in their schools, homes, and in the community at large.
Personal Reasons for Gang Membership
There are a variety of personal reasons for young people joining gangs.
These include: the excitement of gang activity, the need to belong, peer pressure, attention, financial benefit, family tradition, and a lack of realization of
the hazards involved. This also is a way students with poor self-concept increase their self-esteem. These young people seek to attain recognition for their activities, whether criminal or not. Gangs supply that extra pat-on-the-back that they might not receive at home or at school.
Parents need to be aware of what’s going on in their child’s life. If young people cannot communicate their concerns and problems to someone significant at home or at school, they could make a negative decision to join a gang, which would affect them for the rest of their lives.
Characteristics of Gangs
Characteristics in gang behavior can range from a poor general attitude to clear-cut personality disorders that can at times parallel the criminal mind. Caution is wise when thinking one can place all gangs into one behavioral category.
A gang member on his/her own “turf” in school or in the community may be openly hostile. Outside the turf, the gang member may seem likable, open and friendly. But he/she has his/her own code and sense of fairness and can easily turn on one when the code is violated. This can often result in sudden noncooperation, or worse, violent retaliation.
The gang member is a good con artist and can easily manipulate his/her environment as it suits his/her needs. Appearance can be very deceiving. But, a gang member can also display poor internalizing skills, be chronically angry, resentful of authority, and can be an accomplished liar.
The more violent gang member can be callused, remorseless, lack realistic long-term goals, be prone to easy boredom and have poor impulse control.
Today in many mature, modern criminal street gangs violence is often a means to an end. Material profit, through drug trafficking and other criminal activities, is the prime objective.
Studies in modern gang behavior indicate that violent gangs have a strong capacity to deal with fear and are therefore not easily intimidated by authority. They have cut fear off. They experience excitement at every stage of a crime, are concrete thinkers, have little interest in responsible performance or a display of ownership.
They consider themselves basically decent human beings, and therefore justified in what they do. Each gang member wants to be in charge, but often has poor leadership skills, is chronically angry and defensive, cannot be structured or do tasks for a protracted period of time.
Gang Recruitment Tactics
Gangs pressure kids into gangs by using the following methods:
• Peer pressure, offer protection.
• Threaten safety of friends or family members.
• Offer money for what appears to be simple activities.
• Challenge kids to take risks.
• Attend parties where gang related activities are occurring.
• Family members already belong to a gang.
Consequences of Gang Involvement
• In trouble with the law
• Drop out of school.
• Withdrawal from family.
• Risk of injury in a “jump-in” by your own gang.
• Drug trafficking/weapons.
• Involvement in “dirty-work.”
• Lose opportunity for education and employment.
• Spend time in jail or prison.
• Possibility of losing family and friends.
• Risk of personal injury.
• Risk your own family’s life.
• Endless amounts of threats, assaults and drive-by shootings.
Early Warning Signs
Graffiti is a clear marking of territorial boundaries which serves as a warning and challenge to rival gangs. It is also used to communicate messages between gangs.
Youth hanging out around public parks, high schools, fast food stands, convenience stores and other hang outs for teenagers. Frequent use of public phone booths by people who actually receive calls there.
Increase in crime – Gang related acts such as vandalism, assaults, burglaries, robberies, and even random drive-by shootings.
What Can You Do?
1. Get involved!
Become aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood and community. When incidents occur such as vandalism, loitering and drug activity, report them to the police immediately.
2. Get rid of Graffiti!
Graffiti serves as a territorial marker to gang members. When you see graffiti on block walls, houses and sidewalks, report it to law enforcement officials, and remove it immediately, after taking photographs.
3. Parental Intervention
Be aware of changes that occur with your children such as dress changes, selection of friends, truancy, violence and disregard for persons or property. Also be aware if your child has purchased new and expensive items or if your child has extra money that cannot be accounted for.
Changes in behavior and dress can be a normal part of adolescence or an indication of inappropriate identification and association. Know the difference by being an involved parent.
Parent, neighborhood and law enforcement involvement is the only way gang activity will be curbed. Remember, this is your community–not that of the gangs!!!
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)
We have confirmed our sponsors and ministry alliances today. There will be a coalition of churches in Menifee and Hemet California that will partner with Second Chance Alliance to perform evangelistic outreach and prison ministry in the inland empire. This meeting opened a vast amount of resources for us to make the public aware of our vision to empower our communities with assistance with re-entry services and disciple making for the Kingdom of God.
We’ve all been there. The business announces an exciting new project. You organize an implementation team. The team’s excited, the kick-off is great, the first stand-up meetings rock. Then, fast forward three months and the team is struggling. Decision makers are hard to find or uninvolved in the day-to-day. Business decisions still haven’t been made. Stakeholders are fighting for their political ‘must haves’ that were hardly mentioned at the start.
What happened? This is a team that was not set up to succeed at the start of the project.
When we talk about “setting up teams to succeed — from the start,” we mean it is crucial to build a common vision of project success. This is the strongest kind of business alignment there is. The better job we do on this, the better chance a project has to succeed.
Hanging on by a single thread?
Building common vision is like creating a shipyard rope. When you manufacture rope, you first spin fibers into yarns. Next, the yarns are formed into strands by twisting. Finally, you intertwine those strands further to create — Voila! — rope.
An individual fiber is easily broken when you pull it hard. Strands, while stronger, can be easily cut. By the time you have transformed those same strands into rope, however, you have created something exponentially stronger, capable of towing ships thousands of tons in weight.
A project vision owned by one person is like that individual strand. It is vulnerable to the stresses of the “project shipyard.” One person’s project vision doesn’t benefit from the diverse knowledge and perspectives brought by team members from different organizational areas. And, if that single person is absent, progress slows and decisions get second-guessed.
Compared with teams unified by a clear, common understanding of project goals, single-vision projects often miss key requirements, suffer from unpredictable project rhythms and often have difficulty adapting to change. Therefore, it is vital that the project sponsor actively engage with the team to help them take ownership for the project vision.
The strength is in the twisting
When done well, the process of building common vision meshes a team’s understanding of the initiative into a single narrative. This collaboration creates a clear story line that both leadership and team grasp because they all contribute to it. Because the vision belongs to the team, team members remind each other and reinforce the project “raison d’être,”(the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence)while overcoming the real world challenges that all projects encounter.
The process of building common vision encourages clarity and a consensus view of project success. For this reason, building a shipyard-tough project vision usually includes structured face-to-face discussions that ensure the tough questions are asked. Those most affected by the decisions can contribute their perspectives. The decisions the team makes based on these talks drive downstream requirements.
This is why we say building common vision is the best kind of alignment. Common vision connotes collaboration and transformation. For example, front-line staffers learn and internalize the reasons why the project exists in the first place. Abstract-thinking managers learn about probable customer or quality side effects of their envisioned change. Specialists contribute little-known knowledge that can make the difference between successful adoption and user avoidance.
Even the hard-driving project sponsor becomes sensitized to important nuances he may have overlooked. Together, team members work through and address each obstacle. The give and take builds a bond. The experience transforms the group in a way not easily replicated by going straight to the details of written requirements.
Is your project shipyard tough?
Ask these questions and you’ll know:
Has the project sponsor set out clear “must do” business outcomes for the project?
Have business members of the team articulated a vision of project success in non-technical language?
If you ask three project members to define the project’s success criteria, do you get the same answer?
Does the business understand what they are getting in a way that gives them insight into progress?
Has the business sponsor actively worked with the project team to discuss and address challenges and obstacles they see in achieving the project’s purpose?
The team with a strong common vision, like the shipyard rope, is resilient because its diverse interwoven strands bring the strength of diversity, but ultimately twist tightly in the same direction. Many strands melded into one become a strong, durable force for achieving a successful outcome.
Second chance Alliance has asked the tough questions for the overall project and we have asked the tough questions about short term projects for the coming months. We will be working in Beaumont Ca, with Our greenhouse and garden project at the Ray Strebe Center (home of Pass Resource Center and the Beaumont work center) – has blossomed this year and is now a small nursery offering over 32 varieties of tomatoes including black, green, yellow and orange tomato plants. The purpose of this endeavor is to raise public awareness about healthy eating and to present to the public our “Brand”. We will also be heading up a health clinic and free grooming and clothing outreach with ‘The Rock” church in Hemet and Riverside at Fairmount park in April and May for more information stay tuned to our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MayandAaronSecondchancealliance.
There is also in the planning a revival to offer families the opportunity to link up with our vision as volunteers and disciples for the common cause to build community and to advance the building up of the kingdom of God. We will be looking for professionals in the Mental Health field and substance abuse. We have a vast amount of early child care development specialist coming out of the Corner Stone church and the Rock church, but we desire community involvement with the same opportunities our partners and sponsors have aligned themselves with.
We will also be heading up a Community Culture consideration initiative that will offer our young adults the platform to speak out about what keeps them from engaging the ministry for support and family ties. All that participate will receive a twenty five dollar gift card to Target and a Second Chance Alliance tee-shirt or hat. The picture above will be used on the flyers. Please pray our strength and successful outcomes with all our ministerial aspirations.
More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
America has the world’s highest rate of incarceration, currently 738 per 100,000. Our nearest competitor for this dubious distinction is the Russian Federation with 607 and Cuba with 487. “The USincarcerates at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other western nations such as the United Kingdom,France, Italy, and Germany and up to 32 times higher than nations with the lowest rates such as Nepal, Nigeria, and India.”
Despite possible protestations that this is because we have the best law enforcement, my sense is that the reasons lie more in the system, than those who enforce it. No one ever lost an election in America because of the perception they “were tough on crime”. http://www.civilrights.org/publications/justice-on-trial
“Race: Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.”
These two sets of statistics when viewed together tell a terrible tale of how racial oppression still exists in this country despite our Black President and Black Attorney General. This Administration hasn’t caused of this problem, but they don’t seem to have made any progress dealing with it. We do know that there has been a widespread effort to play down the racial division that continues to plague this country. This continues despite Civil Rights Laws, Martin Luther King’s Birthday and TV beer commercials that always include at least one black male friend enjoying the camaraderie. Clearly there is a disconnect between how we Americans want to see ourselves and the reality for many Black males. I’m focusing on the problem of black males in this piece, rather than the general oppression of Black people, because the effect of this process is a function of the general racist climate of this country and is a major contributor to the continuance of this oppression. There have often been discussions on this blog about the devastating effects of the “War on Drugs” and this quote is illustrative of the tenor of theses discussions.“Nationwide, black males convicted of drug felonies in state courts are sentenced to prison 52 percent of the time, while white males are sentenced to prison only 34 percent of the time. The ratio for women is similar – 41 percent of black female felony drug offenders are sentenced to prison, as compared to 24 percent of white females. With respect to violent offenses, 74 percent of black male convicted felons serve prison time, as opposed to only 60 percent of white male convicted felons. With respect to all felonies, 58 percent of black male convicted felons, as opposed to 45 percent of white men, serve prison sentences”.
It is clear to me that racism exists today in America, despite supposed gains and that this disparity in the treatment of race is not only devastating to Black people, but its continuance is disastrous for our entire society. The degeneration of our political system during the last five decades may not be solely due to racial prejudice, but those who have helped bring it about certainly have used racism to empower their viewpoints, even as their rhetoric has shifted from overt to covert. I’m moved to write this because I believe that unless this problem becomes accepted in our public consciousness, there will be no escape from the downward trend of our nation towards political and economic disaster.
I’ve presented enough evidence of the racialist tendency of our system and the reader either will accept what it suggests, or substitute their own pre-judgments of what these statistics mean. My discussion focuses on how this reality impacts upon Black people in America and thus impacts us all, despite our race and/or ethnicity. What set me off thinking about this was a TV Program called “Our America” with Lisa Ling. The episode was entitled “The Incarceration Generation”. http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/our-america-video.html
Personally, this episode brought up an admixture of tears and anger as I watched. It showed the life arcs of some Black males about to be released from prison, the effects on their families of their incarceration and then by their release. The premise, which I endorse, is that this generation of jailed Black men will, and has already impacted on the coming generation of Black men. The message was we must somehow stop this cycle, but the solution to stopping the cycle is not clear macro-cosmically and too slow if change is measured person by person.
As much as I’m prone to pontification, I really can see only one way that this continued racism is ever going to change. To the possible delight of our more conservative and/or libertarian commenter’s, I don’t believe that the first step towards this change would benefit from government intervention via legislation or fiat. While the original issue decided in “Brown vs. Board of Education“, that Blacks and Whites were receiving unequal schooling due to segregation and unequal funding, the general judicial remedy which became School Busing was not only in hindsight a failure, but actually increased tension between races and diminished White support for Civil Rights. It was a decision that tried to solve the problem cheaply, rather than first ensuring that the funding for Black and White (indeed all) schoolchildren was equivalent. How much more elegant to have hoisted the segregationists on their own petard of “separate but equal”, than to have demanded and overseen that they indeed provided equal funding
and support to Black schools. I understand that this was not the remedy being requested in this suit, but looking back it might have been a far more effective strategy. All of the gains in White sympathy for the struggle of Black people for their Constitutional freedom, were negated when the sad results of hundreds of years of slavery was dumped upon the educational systems specifically of the working classes. It resulted in the “Southern Strategy” that got Richard Nixon elected, using code words in place of outright racist rhetoric. Fighting crime became the code for cracking down on Blacks and the upward spiral of the incarceration of Americans began with the inception of the ridiculous “War on Drugs”. When people are steeped in false, bigoted notions of the “other”, reinforced by a corporate media that finds sensationalizing crime garners profits, minds won’t be changed by legislation.
Certainly, steps must be taken to end the “War on Drugs”, to deal with racist law enforcement issues and to ensure that each American, regardless of skin color and/or ethnicity, is afforded equal rights under our Constitution. But first, before any palliatives are presented by our politicians, the problem of America’s continuing racism and its disproportionate effect on Black males must be brought into the open, discussed and hopefully acknowledged. Without that nothing changes since racism cannot be obliterated by enforcement, it merely morphs underground where it nevertheless festers. It is preferable to directly know ones’ enemies by their words, than to have those beliefs covered up.
Among the great ironies of modern America is how bigots have learned to couch their bigotry in terms that are inherently dishonest, yet provide them verbal cover when challenged. At times, among the less controlled public voices like Limbaugh or Beck it, their bigotry comes through, but even then they will cry foul if they are called on it and pretend that charging them with bigotry is absurd and bigoted in itself. When people are accused of “playing the race card”, the accuser is probably racist, knowingly or unknowingly. I think that many refuse to personally acknowledge their own bigotry, knowing rationally it is wrong, yet they find comfort and cover in the hypocrisy of code words and denial, from even themselves.
The other effect of incarceration of Black men disproportionately, is that it then becomes extremely difficult to obtain jobs after their release. As one man put it on the Lisa Ling show “Would you hire a former felon?”. We’ve set up a system where recidivism is the norm for all prisoners and this is mainly because after serving ones sentence, there are far less opportunities to find gainful employment. I know this from personal experience since my father served time for a “white collar” crime before my birth and his whole working/economic life was affected until his death 20 years later. He was White, had a massive vocabulary and a dynamic personality. He could never get credit and a family member had to co-sign in order to get a mortgage for our house. My father earned a good living as a car salesman, but his many attempts at starting his own business was affected by an inability to obtain adequate financing due to his prior incarceration. My father had many advantages over many black men with criminal histories, but the primary one was his skin color
When you perpetuate a system that incarcerates such a large swath of the Black male population, sentences them disproportionately to other racial/ethnic groups and prevents them from going straight after they’ve served their time, you create instability and chaos within the Black community. The evil history of slavery and racism remains with us today. Until we acknowledge the reality of how it perpetuates itself, it will never cease and our country will continue its’ downward spiral of economic disparity and debilitating racial/ethnic tension.
What you are about to see is happening in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural. It’s not fair. It’s not making us any safer. It’s wasting valuable resources. And it’s taking a toll on thousands of lives every year.
As federal and state correctional institutions steadily release record numbers of ex-offenders each year, the communities into which prisoners are released are unprepared to sustain the economic and social burden of the massive reentry movement. As a result, reentering ex-offenders lack the support needed to reintegrate themselves into society and to lead productive, law-abiding lives. This blog first explores political trends that account for the increase in incarceration rates over the last two decades and the resulting social, legal, and economic challenges of reentry both ex-offenders and their communities face. Only recently has the government begun to respond to these problems by establishing reentry courts that specialize in ex-offender transition, support, and supervision. After questioning the efficiency and institutional competence of reentry courts, the Article suggests two alternative ways in which the legal community might help to manage ex-offender reentry. First, public defender offices could evolve into a less specialized and more integrated role through which they could represent ex-offenders in a variety of matters related to reentry. Second, law schools could provide students with clinical opportunities through which to explore creative, non-traditional solutions to representation of ex-offenders. Ultimately, collaboration between lawyers and communities will be necessary to provide ex-offenders with the resources they need for successful reintegration.
The distance between a prison and an ex-offender’s home community generally can be traversed by bus. But this conventional form of transportation masks the real distance the ex-offender must travel from incarceration to a successful reintegration into her community. Indeed, in many ways, the space that she must cross is more akin to what one imagine takes place in time travel. The ex-offender, of course, remains the one constant throughout the trip across time. She/He possesses the personal strengths and weaknesses that she/he has always had. But because time has effectively stood still for her, she has no real frame of reference for the changes she will encounter. Armed with little more than her own instincts and innate abilities, she is thrust instantaneously into a world that is at once foreign and intimidating in its differences and complexities. Her home community barely resembles that which she left behind. Yet, more than physical changes await her. The community that she enters has undergone significant economic, technological, and social changes that perhaps its insider now takes for granted, but that will be all too apparent to our time traveler—the outsider. The insider will be familiar with the norms of conduct, the formal and informal structures that exist in this environment, and the relationships that govern how residents interact and thrive. The outsider will not know the rules. And yet, we will expect the ex-offender—the quintessential stranger in a strange land—to enter this dramatically different environment and simply fit in without information, without significant support, and without meaningful preparation. If she does not manage to succeed on her own, she must then face the ultimate consequence—a return to her own time, a return to prison.
Second Chance Alliance has two ex-offenders that have traveled this road. We are proud to say that having this testimony has afforded us the knowledge needed to assist others. We are well on our way to be a positive motivating force within our surrounding communities as a solution to the re-entry dilemma for ex-offenders. We have a series of work shops coming out in April to inform the chosen populous of individuals. We will be hosting hair cuts and clothing, food baskets for the individuals and families. We will also have several of our partners hosting dental screenings and health awareness workshops. There are several job referrals and educational initiatives for the offering also.
Community Emergency Shelter
Single Men & Women
This shelter is a 30-60 day program that serves adults by providing temporary housing along with assistance in obtaining important documents, job readiness, computer workshops, counseling, meals, hygiene supplies and bible studies. This program holds 129 beds for qualified single men and women with separate dormitories for each gender. This facility is managed by Shelter Director Toni Adkins, who leads a paid staff of 17 full and part-time employees to facilitate this year-round emergency shelter.
2840 Hulen Place, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 683-4101
Hours of Operation:
4:00 pm-8:30 am. Initial intake and screening Mon, Wed, Fri at 1:00 pm
Family Emergency Shelter
This 60-90 day program is offered to single parents with children, couples with children and single women. It offers a safe haven to help families move toward self-reliance, where case management focuses on rapid re-housing, employment and increased income. It is a dormitory setting with 50 beds. Proof of custody, social security numbers for all members and identifications for adults are required for entry. Clients are provided with life skills workshops, meals, showers and laundry facilities. Case managers can also assist with finding housing and employment, identifying income issues and starting a savings plan. This facility is managed by Shelter Director Toni Adkins, who leads a paid staff of 10 full and part-time employees.
2530 Third Street, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 275-8755 (951) 275-8755 Hotline
Hours of Operation:
4:00 pm-7:45 am
Single Men & Women
This 12-24 month program is designed to help men and women recover from homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and other dysfunctional behaviors. Its focus is a year of discipleship recovery with an optional additional year of “re-entry.” Using a biblical curriculum to help expose the underlying roots of addiction, the program brings healing and closure to the past and builds a new foundation for the future. Staff members provide reinforcement in the participant’s decision to change his or her lifestyle, requiring them to attend anger management, life skills and marriage/family counseling in a Christian-based 12-step program. There are 3 sober living recovery homes with a total of 60 beds. These programs are managed by Program Director Juan Salinas who oversees these homes with the assistance of each location’s live-in Resident Manager.
The men’s recovery home is located in Murrieta, CA, while the women’s home and men’s re-entry home are located in Riverside, CA
Hours of Operation:
24 hours a day
Path of Life is the only organization in the Riverside area offering healthcare services to the homeless. We offer our healthcare services at sites where homeless people congregate without regard to their ability to pay. These sites include shelters, soup kitchens, and drop-in centers. We also have a fully mobile RV equipped with two exam rooms we call ‘Health in Motion’. Finally, we offer a Street Medicine Program that sends a medical team straight to the locations that the most hard to reach and vulnerable homeless individuals congregate. We provide basic primary care, chronic disease management, cancer screening, laboratory services for testing, pharmaceuticals, eye care, and dental. Over 35 physician and nurse volunteers offer their services in this program, led by Medical Director Dr. Moses.
There’s a time in your life where you’re not quite sure where you are. You think everything’s perfect, but it’s not perfect… Then one day you wake up and you can’t quite picture yourself in the situation you’re in. But the secret is, if you can picture yourself doing anything in life, you can do it.
Crocked smile,round belly, ingrown toe nails, negative thoughts, pridefulness, stubbornest, jealousy, envy, over compulsion disposition,impatience,unforgiving,addictions to foods and other things not good for me or my temple. There are many more issues with me that I care not to be transparent about at this time.
Most of the world’s successful models are pencil thin and for ads in magazines and posters, their faces and bodies are touched up so that they look perfect. Sadly, millions of girls and women measure themselves against these impossible standards and come up short. We saw this recently in America the Beautiful, a documentary by Darryl Roberts. He notes that in 2004 alone, Americans spent 12.4 billion dollars on cosmetic surgery. Mothers are now putting children as young as five on diets or paying for breast implants for their 15-year-old daughters. In Korea, facelifts and other surgeries have reached epidemic numbers. These are but a few of the indicators of a worldwide obsession with physical perfection fueled by the fashion and entertainment industries.
During the Olympic Games in Beijing, we realized that the sports world is also fixated on perfection. Most of the stories focused on a few stars who managed to win Gold Medals with nearly flawless performances. We felt sorry for the other competitors who had worked hard and deserved their time in the spotlight just for showing up.
Is there another way of looking at all this? The Western ideal of beauty usually salutes things that are perfect, pretty, lasting, or spectacular. But in Japan, there is an emphasis on wabi-sabi, an aesthetic stemming from Taoism and Zen Buddhism that honors the simple and the unpretentious (wabi) and the beauty that comes with age or much use (sabi). In this view, simplicity, naturalness, and fragility are valued. Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, defines it as “a beauty of all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is the beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional.”
We all have objects in our home that are imperfect and beautiful: an old chair that has been with us for years, a faded tablecloth brought out for special occasions, a piece of jewelry that has been repaired. They all have wabi-sabi. In Dwellings, Linda Hogan recognizes the beauty of imperfection in an old rake:
“My own fragile hand touches the wood, a hand full of my own life, including that which rose each morning early to watch the sun return from the other side of the planet. Over time, these hands will smooth the rake’s wooden handle down to a sheen.”
What an incredible image of beauty: a rake handle worn down through use over the years. We think of other images that make the same point: cancer patients with bald heads, elders with plenty of wrinkles, a dog hobbling valiantly on three legs. We also salute groups of nonprofessionals who are far from perfect but whose spirit is carried in their performance: church choirs, amateur theater troupes, school bands, and local crafts groups. They are living examples of what poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen says in Stranger Music:
Ring the bells that can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
In many spiritual traditions, artists deliberately leave a mistake in a handmade object to signify that they know that they cannot make perfection; only God is perfect. We’ve heard this about Navajo rings and Persian rugs. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reverences the beauty in garbage. Following his lead, Barbara Ann Kipfer offers this gatha:
“In the garbage, I see beauty. In beautiful things, I see the garbage. One cannot exist without the other.”
The wabi-sabi things of our lives are spiritual teachers opening our eyes to our own impermanence and mortality. You probably have a teapot, a treasured ornament, or some other family heirloom that has been passed down through the generations. It has, as the saying goes, “seen better days,” but it still has the ability to touch your heart.
As a spiritual practice, take one of those items and reflect upon it. What makes it beautiful? Is it a shape, a color, a texture? Do you admire it because it is worn smooth with age? Or is it beautiful because it evokes certain feelings in you? Perhaps it reminds you of the person who gave it to you or shared it with you?
“Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else,” writes Koren. “Beauty can spontaneously occur at any given moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”
An experience of beauty can also usher us into an amplified appreciation of the divine presence, that “something more” in our existence. Yes, God’s handiwork is evident in the glorious vistas of nature and the beautiful people and things that literally take our breath away. But God is also evident in and through the imperfect, the humble, the modest, and the unconventional. Indeed, these things may be the most accessible samples of divine grace.
God selected Jacob and chose him to be His expression as a prince of God, and Jacob went through a long process of transformation and maturity to become one who not only wrestles with God but also is a prince of God, expressing God and representing Him on earth.
It is amazing to see in the life of Jacob how a supplanter and a cheater was dealt with and broken to become a prince of God, someone honorable, mature, and lofty. All his life, Jacob struggled: he struggled with his brother even from his mother’s womb, he struggled to get the birthright and the blessing, he struggled with Laban to get Rachel and was cheated by Laban, etc.
Outwardly Jacob was struggling with people and situations, but inwardly he was actually struggling with God. As one who struggled with God, Jacob was dealt with and broken to be transformed and become Israel, the prince of God (Gen. 32:28).
God’s purpose in dealing with Jacob was to transform him into Israel, one who bears God’s image to express Him and exercises His dominion to represent Him (Gen. 1:26; 32:28).
In our Christian life we also have many struggles – we struggle with people, situations, education, things, etc but actually we struggle with God. Our Christian life is a life of struggling with God to be transformed by God into a prince of God, a corporate man who expresses God with His image and represents Him with His authority (Rom. 12:2; 5:17).
God’s purpose in His selecting us, predestinating us, and calling us is to transform us (the pitiful sinners) into royal sons so that we may reign with Him as kings (Rev. 22:5). For this, we need to go through a long process of transformation to have the natural life replaced with the divine life of Christ by the continual dispensing of the life-giving Spirit into all our soul, so that we may be made in the same image as Christ from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
God doesn’t want us to have a change in behavior or outwardly correct our living but to metabolically transform us by the addition of the divine element to our being and the removing of our natural element so that Christ would be living in us!
It’s amazing how death will rob some people of vital core values and simple compassion for another human being. Having been raised by a man of tremendous “Pedigree” and ethics, I am very proud and thankful for his determination to em-plant honor and values within the woven fabric of my being and my siblings. It has been a month since his great sleep, but I am still trying to put pieces together from the painful ordeals that took place on this day of blessing for Johnny Pratt, but a tragedy for me. To see the behavior of my sibling really enhanced the death of my dad. Watching my brother have no honor in his conduct towards me and his Great God, who blessed him with a great Father was almost as horrible as watching my team of white brothers wearing a trident and American flag on their shoulders just like me, took the same oath and served with honor until one night while deployed they looked at me and said, now nigger who will protect you now?
My brother called me three days after my fathers passing, he wouldn’t even allow me to eulogize my father, nor would he. Our dad was a great man who instilled determination and education into our lives. He talked about being black in America and what’s expected of us during family dinners. As he would retire to the family den with us following close behind to have current events and synergizing talks he would always start with the pledge of allegiance and then state without fail that “honor” can be taken to eternity. He would remind us that no matter where we go in life that our conduct against racism will help those who hate and that it would allow them to see what a patriot of black culture looks like. My dad always spoke about having faith and trusting the only “Truth” there is and that is the Good News of the gospel.
Good news invades the dark spaces. Good news invades the bad spaces and sheds light where there isn’t any at all. This is the nature of the gospel. It’s what it does. On a thousand different topics, what the gospel does is invade brokenness, mistrust, anger, unforgiveness, hate, fracturing of relationships, and it enters into that brokenness and reconciles.
In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded the little nation of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia, knowing it would be next on Saddam’s hit list, called Washington and asked for help. Regardless of your political persuasion, you would have to agree on that occasion, then President Bush was at his best. Because President Bush picked up the phone and he called England and Canada and Spain and France, Italy, Turkey and numbers of other countries around the world and built the famous Coalition.
Men and women from different backgrounds, races, classes, cultures and personalities all gathered in the Gulf with one singularly focused agenda—to draw a line in the sand. To serve notice on this madman that not only could he not take more territory, he would have to relinquish the territory he had already taken. The Coalition was to serve notice on him that his days of rule in the Gulf were over.
Now there is another mad person in history and he’s called the devil. He’s come on territory that he has not created and does not own. He has brought with him death and disease and destruction. But God has responded by building his own coalition, made up of black people and white people and red people and yellow people; made up of tall people and short people; made up of people from various classes and backgrounds, to draw a line in the sand. To serve notice on this mad one that not only can he not take over more territory, he must relinquish the territory he already has. That coalition is called the church.
Our soldiers showed up with new, high-tech weaponry. Now, when Saddam looked across and saw five hundred thousand men and women with all this high-tech weaponry, you know his momma ain’t raised no dummy. He said, “I need a Plan B.” That’s when he launched scud attacks on Israel. His strategy was to draw Israel into the war in order to split the Coalition, believing that if he could draw Israel into the war his Arab brothers would not fight against another Arab brother alongside their archenemy, Israel. So he launched scud attacks to split the Coalition. Of course that’s when the heroes of the war showed up—Patriot Missiles. They were electronically released from their silos and met the scuds in heavenly places. And because the Coalition held, the war ended in just a few days.
You see, when you are in a war you don’t care about the color or class or culture of the man fighting next to you, as long as he is shooting in the same direction you are. If you know
Jesus Christ, you are in a war. This army that we are a part of is made up of people who are different from you, different from me. We may have all come over here on different ships but we are in the same boat now.
Modeling multi-ethnic community
The problem we face is that 11:00 on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America. The problem that we face is that the people of God are not holding the standard of God high enough. That society can see that God has created one body with a lot of different looking faces. Unless we are willing to transcend, unless we are willing to rise above the efforts and intimidations of the enemy to allow history, background, culture, class and all the other human idiosyncrasies to divide the common call of Christ, then we will never see the impact of the church in reclaiming the culture.
Make no mistake about it—it won’t come because of your political affiliation. For God doesn’t ride the back of donkeys or elephants. The solutions to our problems won’t be delivered on Air Force One. It reminds me of a story of Joshua when he was in battle array, ready to go to war, inJoshua chapter 5. He came across this man who was getting ready to go into battle himself. He was a huge guy. He was captain of a large army. Joshua looked at him and said “Whose side are you on? Before I go to war I need to know whose side you are on, because if you are on their side then we are going to lose. If you are on our side then we have help to win, so whose side are you on?”
The man looked at him and said “Obviously you are thoroughly confused. I am neither on your side, nor am I on their side. I’m captain of the Lord’s Army. I did not come to take sides. I came to take over.”
That’s God’s agenda. He did not come to distinguish between Baptists and Methodist and Episcopalians and Pentecostals. He came to take over. He came to set a whole new agenda that all of his armed forces must operate under. It’s amazing how when we come to a gathering like this, we can be one in the name of Christ. But when we leave, we go back into our own uniqueness, not understanding that there is only one army here. Not understanding that God has called a coalition to operate in his unified way. Because, brothers and sisters, the test of the power in this room is not measured inside this room.
Whether you are black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Baptist or Methodist … whether you have an outgoing personality or an ingrown personality, there’s only one color that matters. That’s the color red, the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Identifying the rot of racism
Peter was a man who had to come face to face with this problem. This problem of diversity. This problem of difference. This problem of unity. Peter was a staunch Jew. He was a super Jew. He was proud to be Jewish. Committed to being Jewish and was faithfully Jewish. One day while having devotions on the top of his roof, God gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all manner of food on it. Peter said, “Not so Lord. Not so. I can’t eat that unclean food, the food that the Gentiles eat.”
God then gave him a lesson of a lifetime. “Don’t call unclean what I call clean. Don’t use your past standards to govern your present actions. This is a new ballgame now. I’ve created a new entity called the church.” He was then sent down to the home of Cornelius, where he introduced Gentiles to the new reality of a King. This cross-cultural experience made such a great impact that he even went over to dine with the Gentiles on their side of town.
That dinner event is recorded for us in Galatians 2. Finally, he had the chance to eat Gentile “soul” food. So he crosses the railroad tracks and goes dining at the “Soul Shack” where the Gentiles were living. He’d always wanted to taste pig feet and hog moths and chittlin’s. He always wanted to know what fat back and pork chops and ham tasted like. There he had his opportunity, ordained by God.
And so we find him dining with the Gentiles. Finding out he could have fellowship with people who are different than he was. Finding out what all the hoopla was all about regarding their background, their history, their worldview, and their diet. What he was finding out was all the good cooking he had been missing in all of his years as a Jew. That’s what he found out.
And so in Galatians 2, we find him dining with the Gentiles, enjoying a glorious, sumptuous, marvelous, magnanimous meal. In fact, he had even brought some of his Jewish friends with him and they were all seated and dining together. But a problem occurred in verse 12. It says, “For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they came he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof fearing the party of the circumcision.”
Peter, the Super Jew, was there dining with his new brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gentiles. All was fine until some of his homies from the hood showed up. Some of the boys from the hood showed up. Some of his Jewish friends sent by James, who are castigating him for what he was doing. “How dare you, Peter, our leader!” “How dare you! Don’t you know we don’t do that in this neighborhood? Don’t you know that in this neighborhood we don’t fraternize. I know we are all one in Christ and all that, but that’s theology. Let’s get practical. In this neighborhood we don’t do that. How could you Peter?”
And Peter was afraid of the circumcision, the text says—he was afraid of what his other brothers in Christ thought. What the rest of the family of God felt. He disregarded the truth of the Word of God told to him in Acts chapter 10. And it says that he withdrew himself. Now you have to understand this is no small withdrawal. This is Peter really withdrawing.
Whenever you see the list of disciples in the New Testament, Peter’s name is always first. Because he was the leader of the disciples. So when he withdrew, it says in verse 13, that the rest of the “Jews joined him in his hypocrisy.” With the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. Peter is the leader. We all know that a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.
When he fails as a leader to lead centered on the Bible, his congregation follows. The great tragedy of our day is that our pulpits have failed to deal with the issue of diversity, so our pews don’t know what to do about the issues of diversity. Because the church has not come to grips with this issue, the people of God have failed to be inclusionary when it comes to the oneness of the body.
And he withdrew; the rest of the Jews went with him. It’s interesting that the text says, “Even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.” Not my boy Barnie. I mean anybody but Barnabas. You see, Barnabas was raised in Cyprus. Cyprus, of course, is a Gentile colony. So he was raised with Gentiles, went to school with Gentiles, played ball with Gentiles. That’s how bad racism is. It can take a good man and make him bad.
Calling sin what it is
Barnabas, the encourager, is now one of the ones to withdraw because of the pressure, the power, the potency of failed Christianity. Led by Peter, influenced by his own race. He would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for one thing. Paul wanted some pork chops too. The text in verse 11 says that Paul showed up and when “Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” He says in verse 14, “And when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of them, ‘If you being a Jew, live like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews.'” He says, “You’ve got inconsistent Christianity.”
Now, notice his response. How did he deal with racism, classism, culturalism, whatever the dividing issue is in the neighborhood where you live, the area where you minister? How did he deal with it? Did he have a workshop on race relations? Did he have a seminar on unity?
No. The text says, “When I saw him I opposed him to his face. I opposed him personally. I opposed him publicly. I opposed him biblically.” You see, we have failed to treat this issue as a sin. We called it a cultural orientation. We called it a historical backdrop. We have given it names of heritage in history, but we have not called it is, what Paul called it, “sin.
Martin Buber’s book I and Thou was an eye opening experience for me. The book is about two modes of existence, two ways of existing: I-Thou and I-It. Do you see how the I isn’t by itself?; it’s either partnered with Thou or It. Here’s the catch: partnering with Thou makes the I a certain kind of I, and partnering with It makes that I a certain kind of I. Thus, the I is like the shape water takes in a certain container, and the Thou and the It are different shaped containers. And just as water loses all its shape if not related to a container of some kind, the I loses its shape (its very identity!) if not related to either Thou or It. All I want to do in this blog is scratch the surface and whet the appetite, because there is so much more in the book than what I’m about to say. So, what are these modes of existence?
1. I/It – this is the mode of experience. This mode of experience is basically the scientific frame of mind, and you don’t have to be a scientist to have it. The experiencer objectifies what it observes. So, say, you experience and observe a human being. A human being is a species of mammal, homosapien, located at a certain point in space and time. Human being is now classified. Or, say, Einstein experienced and so observed certain data and came up with the Theory of Relativity. Anytime you tally or figure something or classify it or deduce it, you are in this mode. After you figure everything you need to know about it, you can use it for your own ends. After Marx figured out, say, something about how economy works, he was able use that to realize his utopia: humans can be reduced to social units in a class. This mode is necessary to survive and is probably the driving force behind what begot Evolution as not just a theory about our origins but a theory about what we essentially are as humans. It is the mode that begot technology as we know it.
2. I/Thou – this is the mode of encounter and relationships. Buber thinks this is the mode where we are really human. In this mode, you don’t try to know your data to master it, you open yourself to it to encounter it: this is done by relating to it. You can encounter anything: nature, humans, God, art, animals, plants, insects, atoms, architecture. When you encounter these things, you participate in them with every fibre of your self or soul or being. The effect is one of inner transformation, not just of you, but of what you’re relating to as a result. Buber brings up the concept of the dialogical, which is just another way of saying conversation or dialogue, because the encounter happens in the relation between you and the Thou you’re relating to, whereas experience (I/It) only happens within the I – here, you’re not wanting an answer from the It, a conversation with It: you just want to know about it to use it or master it for your ends. But in the dialogical, there is shared metamorphosis, just as the work of art and the artist change and morph and revamp as the work of art manifests. As a result, I don’t see the Thou as a point in the universe to be classified or used, I see the whole universe into and out of the Thou. Do you see how Buber turns the universe inside out through poetic slight of hand? The Thou becomes the universe for me within and because of the dialogical, the encounter, dialogue, conversation, relationship.
Another key difference is that encounter in the I/Thou is in the present, whereas experience in the I/It is in the past. Why? Because encounter, in turning the universe inside out, also turns inside out time and space of which the universe is made up. In encounter, you are released for the moment from the flow of time itself. The key, however, is to not notice it is happening when it happens: the minute you think about it, or reflect on it, you’re whisked back to the realm of experience. That is why these moments of encounter are so passing, so evanescent.
Therefore, Buber believes we can’t know God through this experience and reason, we can only know God through encounter, having a relationship with that which we desire to encounter with all our might. The down side is, because of the nature of what encounter is, you can’t break it down any more clearly using language. It is known by being awoken in consciousness through the encounter itself in a leap of faith. And it is awoken by that which is encountered in the leap with the resulting inner metamorphosis. This is why metaphor pervades Buber’s book. Metaphors aren’t literal language; they point beyond themselves to something other; but a pondering of the metaphor signals an encounter with that something other and the understanding of the spiritual truth is awoken in contemplation by the mutual transformation.
I felt compelled to share this gift with the world. I received this word for the soul purpose of interviewing for a assistant pastor position that I was fortunate to present to their board and a few of their young adults. I used this video along with some of my testimony to illustrate what it would look like on a Sunday or Thursday night with me as a instrument of God chosen to present the word. It went well, but none of my prerequisites were considered and so I still shine and move in my God to pursue our vision while He harbors us in His nailed scared hands until He exalts us into full operation.
If there is a God, as I believe there is, and if he rules the world in his sovereignty, as the Bible says he does, and if he will bring human history to a close according to his plan and appoint to every person his eternal destiny, as Jesus taught that he will, then two of the most important questions for any human being to answer are these:
1) What is God’s goal in creating and governing the world?
2) How can I bring my life into alignment with that goal?
For if we don’t know his goal and our lives are not in alignment with it, then we will find ourselves at cross purposes with God and excluded from his kingdom in the age to come. It is a fearful thing to be at cross purposes with your maker! But on the other hand, nothing inspires courage and endurance and pluck for daily living like knowing the purpose of God and feeling yourself wholeheartedly in harmony with it. Nothing has nourished the strength of my Christian faith like knowing God’s ultimate goal for creation and discovering how to bring my heart and my behavior into alignment with that goal.
God’s Goal in Creating Israel
So this Thursday sermon and next Sunday I want to talk about these two questions. First, What is God’s goal in creating and governing the world, especially in creating and overruling humanity? Then next Sunday, How do we bring our lives into harmony with that goal?
The text I have chosen to focus on is Isaiah 43:1–7. Let’s read it in context:
But now, thus says the Lord, your creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed even whom I have made.” (NASB)
The main point of the passage is to encourage God’s people not to fear what man or nature can do to them. This is the command repeated in verse 1 and verse 5. After each of these commands not to fear God gives his reasons why his people should not fear. In verses 1–4 God argues like this: You should not fear because what I did for you in the past proves my love to you and my care for you. “I redeemed you (from Egyptian bondage), I called you by name, you are mine!” (v. 1). So you can count on me to help you when deep waters and raging fire threaten to destroy you (v. 2). “I am the Lord your God, your Savior, you are precious to me.” Look, have I not subjugated other peoples in order to save you (vv. 3, 4)? So don’t be afraid of the trouble coming upon you.
That is the first argument why God’s people should not fear. Then verse 5 repeats the command, “Don’t fear,” and gives a new argument in verses 5–7. “I am with you! The judgment of being dispersed into captivity away from your land—this is not my final word. I will gather you again. For you are called by my name, I created you for my glory.”
What is it that at rock bottom moves God to help his people? Verse 4 says, “You are precious in my eyes . . . I love you.” Is that the answer? In a sense, yes. When John said, “God is love,” he no doubt meant that no matter how deep we probe into the motives of God, we will never arrive at a layer which is not love.
But this text lures me down, down, down into the heart of God. It raises a question. In order for Israel (God’s chosen people of that era) to be precious in God’s sight, they had to exist. I have three sons and they are precious to me and I love them. But they were not precious to me and I did not love them in 1970; they did not yet exist, they had not been planned nor conceived. So the deeper question is, Why was Israel even conceived or created? Why did God bring into existence a people whom he could regard as precious? What was his motive before there was even a people to love?
Verse 7 gives the answer: God created Israel for his glory. The existence of Israel was planned and conceived and achieved because God wanted to get glory for his name through her. Before we ask just what it is for God to seek his own glory in this way, let’s see if this goal of God has motivated more than just the election of the nation Israel.
God’s Goal from the Beginning
In one sense we can speak of the exodus out of Egypt as the birth of Israel as a nation. At this point God gave her the law to regulate her life as a nation, and this law and covenant have been the backbone of the nation ever since. But if the exodus was the birth of Israel, then the election and call of Abraham back in Genesis 12 must have been the conception of the nation of Israel, and the period of the patriarchs and slavery in Egypt would then have been the gestation period. So when it says God created Israel for his glory, I take it to mean that the purpose of God to be glorified in Israel was the purpose which motivated God at every step: conception, gestation, and birth.
If this is true then we are put onto an interesting link between the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and the call of Abram in Genesis 12, which will, I think, show us that God’s goal of glorifying himself did not originate at the creation of Israel but that this is what he was up to from the beginning.
Look at Genesis 11. The key phrase to show what caused God to become angry with these tower builders and disperse them comes in verse 4. “They said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.'” Ever since Adam and Eve had chosen to eat of the forbidden tree in order to be like God, independent of him and wise in their own right, the human race has been enslaved to a rebellious heart that hates to rely on God but loves to make a name for itself. The tower of Babel was a manifestation of that rebellion. They wanted to make a name for themselves and reach even to heaven, but God frustrated their designs.
But instead of abandoning the human race God starts a new thing in chapter 12 of Genesis. He chooses one man, Abram, and makes him a promise in Genesis 12:1–3. Listen to what God says and contrast it with what the tower builders said:
Now the Lord said to Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great.”
The people working on the tower of Babel said, “Let us make a name for ourselves!”. God chooses the father of the Jewish nation and says, “I will make your name great.”
Now, what does this show about the goal of God in the world? I think Moses is telling us, as he writes this primal history, that when ancient man refused to align himself with the goal of God, God set about a very different way of achieving that same goal. Man was made to rely on God and give him glory. Instead man chose to rely on himself and seek his own glory—to make a name for himself. So God elected one small person and promised to achieve his purpose through that man and his descendants. He would make Abram’s name great, so that he, and not man, would get the glory.
In other words, the goal of God in creating Israel, namely, for his glory, is not a goal that took effect only at that point in history. It is the goal that guided his creation and governance of man from the start. Man was created from the beginning in God’s image that he might image forth God’s glory. He was to multiply and fill the earth so that the knowledge of the glory of God would cover the sea. And ever since the fall of man into sin, people have refused to align themselves with this divine goal. But all God’s acts have been aimed at seeing it through.
So it is not just Israel but we whom God created for his glory. This is why the New Testament again and again calls us to do all to the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). This is not an admonition to do God a favor. It is a command to align our lives with his eternal goal. He created us for hisglory. God’s great aim in creating and governing the world is that he be glorified. “I created you for my glory. I formed you, I made you.”
What It Means to Be Created for God’s Glory
Now, what then does it mean to say that God created us for his glory? Glory is a very hard thing to define. It is like the word “Beauty.” We all can use it and communicate with it but to try to reduce it to words is very frustrating. It is easier to point to examples. A sunset seen from the top of the I.D.S.—that’s glory. Or the I.D.S. itself almost invisible, like crystal against a grey-blue sky—that’s glory. A perfect performance on the balance beam by Nadia Comaneci—that’s glory. A perfectly executed 30-foot jump shot with one second to go—that’s glory, too.
The glory of God is the beauty and excellence of his manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what God is like in his magnificence and purity. It refers to his infinite and overflowing fullness of all that is good. The term might focus on his different attributes from time to time—like his power and wisdom and mercy and justice—because each one is indeed awesome and beautiful in its magnitude and quality. But in general God’s glory is the perfect harmony of all his attributes into one infinitely beautiful and personal being.
Now when God says that he created us for his glory, it cannot mean that he created us so that he would become more glorious, that his beauty and perfection would be somehow increased by us. It is unthinkable that God should become more perfectly God by making something that is not God. It is a staggering but necessary thought that God has always existed, that he never came into being, and that everything which exists which is not God is from his fullness and can never add anything to him which did not come from him. That is what it means to be God; and it should humble us, O, how it should humble us, when we ponder his reality!
But this means that when God says he made us for his glory, he does not mean he made us so that he could become more glorious in himself. Instead whatIsaiah 43:7 means is that he created us to display his glory, that is, that his glory might be known and praised. This is the goal of God with which we must be aligned in our hearts and actions if we hope to escape his wrath at the judgment.
This becomes clearer as we page through Isaiah. Isaiah 43:20–21 says, “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 44:23says, “Sing, O heavens for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and will be glorified in Israel.” In response to her redemption Israel will join the skies and valleys and mountains and forests in singing praise to the Lord. The Lord’s glory will be known and praised and displayed to the nations.
But Isaiah 48:9–11 makes even clearer what it means for God to seek his own glory in creating and redeeming his people:
For My name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of My praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you but not like silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake I do it,
for how should My name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
What an amazing text this is! How wonderfully un-modern and anti-21st-century this text is! How ugly and repulsive it must appear to the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. But how sweet, how clean and high and bright and full of allurement to those who really love God above all else.
Even though this text deals with God’s Old Testament people Israel, we have seen that his motives do not change from era to era and so we can apply at least that aspect of this text to the people of God in our day—those who follow Christ as Savior and Lord. Two things cry out to be stressed in our day. First, our salvation is for God’s sake. “For My name’s sake I withhold my anger. For the sake of My praise I restrain it for you.” To be sure, God will save his people, he will bless us infinitely! But it is for his name’s sake, for his praise, for his glory that he does it. “For My own sake, for My own sake I do it, for how should My name be profaned.” Where this perspective is lost, and the magnifying of God’s glory is no longer seen as the great aim of redemption, pitiful substitutes arise—man centered philosophies that exalt human value in a way that distorts the work of redemption and belittles the primacy of God. And surely I don’t have to tell you in detail that this perspective of God-centeredness has been lost in our day, even in the churches. Man is the star in our contemporary drama and his comfort, his prosperity, and his health are the great goals. Of course God is there on the stage, but only as a kind of co-star or supporting actor to round out the picture for religious and cultural expectations.
What a world apart is Isaiah 48:9–11, and even more so Ezekiel 36:21–32. Parts of this text are very familiar promises of the New Covenant, but O, how we need to read what comes before and after these promises, lest we lose the biblical perspective of our salvation.
But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore, say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness, and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, that you may not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord God, “Let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!” (NASB)
That’s the first thing that needs to be stressed from Isaiah 48:9–11: our salvation is for God’s sake. He created us for his glory!
The second thing that needs to be stressed is this: God will not allow his name to be profaned indefinitely. Though he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, he will not tolerate forever those who do not give him glory, but instead regard something else as more glorious, more worthy of allegiance. “My glory I will not give to another.” That’s why I said at the beginning, it is a fearful thing to be at cross purposes with your maker. There is a judgment day and the issue for every one of us will be: Have we been with God in his great goal to glorify himself or has his glory been a matter of indifference to us or even animosity?
We are left with two great questions, which I am to answer next Sunday, if God wills. One is: How do we bring our lives into alignment with God’s goal to glorify himself? What sorts of things must we think and feel and do for God to get glory from us? Is it another weight to make us sigh or is it wings to let us fly? And the second question is: Why is it right for God to seek his own glory when he tells us in his Word we should not seek our own glory? How can it be loving and not selfish for God to create us for his glory?
But even before next week when I try to answer these two questions all of us here need to align ourselves more fully with God’s goal. And my assumption is that some are here who up until this very point in your life have lived it at cross purposes with God. I urge you, do not wait until next Sunday to be reconciled to God. Repent and give your life to God for his purposes now. Any help that I can be in that decision, let me know.
My cable company sent a postcard inviting me to check out its latest improvements in TV channels. The card indicated that I needed to contact the company to get the necessary new digital equipment and explained how to hook it up and activate it. After that, the ad said I was just to “sit back and enjoy the World of More.”
The card made me think of the “World of More” that Christians are privileged to live in. When God transports people from the darkness of sin “into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), a whole new life opens up.
Romans 5 tells us some of the more that we have in Christ: We have been “reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (v.10) and therefore have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1). We have access to God and His grace (v.2). Rejoicing in trouble is now possible because we understand that it’s an opportunity to grow in our character through trusting Him (vv.3-4). Additionally, the Holy Spirit, who has been given to live in us, pours the love of God into our hearts (v.5). And sin no longer has the same hold on us (6:18).
As Christians, we have unlimited access to a real “World of More.” Wouldn’t it be selfish not to invite others to join us in that special world?
The world seeks fulfillment in The pleasures they adore; But those who follow Jesus Christ Are given so much more.
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
Last year my wife and I fought a case that would determine our future. Not knowing that after we were separated and put into different sections in the same jail that God was working behind the seen just as the enemy was. God situated us near one another in the jail, one floor between us. I hadn’t missed a night in the bed with this woman for 3 years, not a night in the streets or practicing evil, but we were finally separated physically for six days, but we communicated through the toilets in the jail. We prayed still and meditated scriptures and shared our reflections daily still. We came home to a 13 month house arrest in a home we didn’t own. “BUT GOD”!!! He always has a plan to prosper and protect ;
They were living to themselves; self with its hopes, and promises and dreams, still had hold of them; but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for contrition, and had surrendered for it to be given them at any cost, and He sent them sorrow; they had asked for purity, and He sent them thrilling anguish; they had asked to be meek, and He had broken their hearts; they had asked to be dead to the world, and He slew all their living hopes; they had asked to be made like unto Him, and He placed them in the furnace, sitting by “as a refiner and purifier of silver,” until they should reflect His image; they had asked to lay hold of His cross, and when He had reached it to them it lacerated their hands.
They had asked they knew not what, nor how, but He had taken them at their word, and granted them all their petitions. They were hardly willing to follow Him so far, or to draw so nigh to Him. They had upon them an awe and fear, as Jacob at Bethel, or Eliphaz in the night visions, or as the apostles when they thought that they had seen a spirit, and knew not that it was Jesus. They could almost pray Him to depart from them, or to hide His awfulness. They found it easier to obey than to suffer, to do than to give up, to bear the cross than to hang upon it. But they cannot go back, for they have come too near the unseen cross, and its virtues have pierced too deeply within them. He is fulfilling to them His promise, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
But now at last their turn has come. Before, they had only heard of the mystery, but now they feel it. He has fastened on them His look of love, as He did on Mary and Peter, and they can but choose to follow.
Little by little, from time to time, by flitting gleams, the mystery of His cross shines out upon them. They behold Him lifted up, they gaze on the glory which rays from the wounds of His holy passion; and as they gaze they advance, and are changed into His likeness, and His name shines out through them, for He dwells in them. They live alone with Him above, in unspeakable fellowship; willing to lack what others own (and what they might have had), and to be unlike all, so that they are only like Him.
Such, are they in all ages, “who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”
Had they chosen for themselves, or their friends chosen for them, they would have chosen otherwise. They would have been brighter here, but less glorious in His Kingdom. They would have had Lot’s portion, not Abraham’s. If they had halted anywhere–if God had taken off His hand and let them stray back — what would they not have lost? What forfeits in the resurrection? But He stayed them up, even against themselves. Many a time their foot had well nigh slipped; but He in mercy held them up. Now, even in this life, they know that all He did was done well. It was good to suffer here, that they might reign hereafter; to bear the cross below, for they shall wear the crown above; and that not their will but His was done on them and in them.
The Department of Health and Human Services(HHS), in conjunction with other Reentry Council agencies and community partners, sponsored a two-day conference, “Meeting the Reentry Needs of Women: Policies, Programs, and Practices.”
The conference brought together researchers, practitioners, federal employees, and advocates to discuss how federal, state, and local systems can work to improve reentry outcomes for women.
In 2012 and 2013 the Department of Labor (DOL) funded grants to provide employment and support services to females involved in the criminal justice system using a comprehensive case management strategy. In 2012 nine grants were awarded—seven serving adults and two serving youth. , since 2013 eight grants serving adults were awarded.
Like males, females involved with the criminal justice system face a host of challenges when they leave jail or prison and return to their communities. However, the current systems do not always address the specific challenges faced by women, which, if unaddressed,
can contribute to women’s potential risk for further involvement in the criminal justice system. For example,
while many females involved with the criminal justice system struggle with both substance abuse and mental health problems—often linked to their history of physical or sexual abuse beginning in childhood and extending into adulthood—most state and local reentry programs
lack a significant trauma-informed behavioral health component. And while a primary consideration for many justice-involved women who are mothers is to determine when and how to successfully reestablish a relationship with their children when they leave prison, most correctional systems do not focus on this important aspect of reentry. These and many other factors point to the need to better identify effective strategies to help women overcome these challenges as they transition to their communities.
In honor of Annual Reentry Reflections month 2014 The Office on Returning Citizen Affairs is facilitating a Gender Specific Reentry Conference with a focus on understanding the differences in reintegration for men and women. ORCA is committed to providing quality service to help create a seamless transition back into the community. We believe that the experience of incarceration and reentry is different for women than it is for men and therefore the needs of female Returning Citizens are unique and separate from those of their male counterparts. Even though women are the fast growing group of people becoming incarcerated, they are only 10% of the prison population. In an effort to ensure that
women who are returning from incarceration are not neglected in the services that the District provides ORCA has launched the Female Reentry Initiative.
One of the goals of this initiative is to inform the public about how crime and incarceration affects women and how the reentry process for women needs to be specifically designed with gender responsive needs in mind. The Gender Specific Reentry Conference will meet the mission of the agencies in our network system by providing theoretical approaches and first hand insight on how to improve and increase the quality and range of support services for women. The Office on Returning Citizen Affairs hopes that you will join us as we explore this meaningful topic
and explore strategies to address it.
When: November 4, 2014 at 10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
Where: Judiciary Square 441 4th St. N.W. – Conference Room 1107
Please R.S.V.P NO LATER THAN Friday, October 14, 2014
If you need further information, contact Lashonia Etheridge-Bey, Staff Assistant, ORCA
How are reentry women similar to people that I’ve worked with and studied? My research participants domestic violence survivors and
people leaving “gangs— have also gone through a difficult life transition that involves leaving and reentry.These findings cut across groups:
Histories include neglect, victimization, exposure to drugs/sex/violence. Populations tend to have higher levels of complex developmental trauma, along with co-occurring conditions like mental illness and substance abuse. All three groups are going through “reentry.” Many are entering new, unfamiliar contexts for the first time (e.g., school, employment, new expectations, unfamiliar roles)
Similar developmental opportunities in all three groups:
Lack self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy.
Trust is an issue, insufficient communication skills.
Inadequately developed self-regulation, self-care, positive coping.
Difficulties with interpersonal attachments and intimacy.
Reality testing –need to develop realistic appraisal, planning, and problem-solving skills.
Difficulties-discerning the difference between love versus “use-based”relationships, may not expect to be treated respectfully.
Lack of adequate or “good enough” parents or parental role models.
Positive social support networks need to be developed.
Not “ready” to take on the practical demands of everyday adult life.
High levels of poverty, lack of education, job skills, and job experience.
Women in all three groups have experienced them selves socially and economically marginalized deemed insignificant
Women are aware of relationship challenges, e.g., family reunification; gender roles in intimate relationships but they are ill-prepared to resolve these during reentry. Social support systems in general are lacking, as is practical support. Many obstacles exist; these are real, not abstract. Reentry women experience a general lack of clarity /actionable plan to take on the overwhelming task of “moving on” and “moving forward”.
Reentry Council agencies have convened seven listening sessions across the country to hear from service providers and justice-involved women on the challenges and successes of returning to their communities and families. These listening sessions will provide input for materials being developed for service providers and women reentering the community from prisons and jails.
DOJ’s National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has developed a Gender Responsive Policy & Practice Assessment (GRPPA) model to assist jails, prisons, and community corrections to: (a) evaluate whether current policy, practice, and programs address the risk, needs, and strengths of women involved in the criminal justice system, and (b) develop strategies to improve both system and women’s outcomes.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is piloting a program developed specifically for women to help them identify, prioritize, and address their reentry needs throughout their period of incarceration. The challenges associated with reentry from jail are daunting—large in scale and
complex in task. Each year, U.S. jails process an estimated 12 million admissions and releases. That translates into 34,000 people released from jails each day and 230,000 released each week. In three weeks, jails have contact with as many people as prisons do in an entire year, presenting numerous opportunities for intervention.
According to BJS, there are 3,365 local jails around the country, processing an estimated 12 million admissions and releases each year. These 12 million admissions and releases represent about 9 million unique individuals, most incarcerated for brief periods of time, often only a few hours or days. As a result of this rapid turnover, the number of admissions is more than 16 times the 766,010 held in jail at midyear 2006.2
Unlike prisoners in state and federal institutions who are virtually all convicted and sentenced, more than 60 percent of the nation’s jail inmates have not been convicted and are awaiting arraignment or trial.
“I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.” “
Thirteen years ago today, the U.S. suffered a terrorist attack the likes of which it had never seen before. The incident set off a series of aftershocks with deep and far-reaching implications. Although the U.S. has struggled mightily to extricate itself from the tangles of terrorism, that prospect has become increasingly bleak with the rise of the Islamic State, a turn of events that has left the U.S. with no choice but to refocus its attention upon Iraq. In my opinion , there remain three major problems that have yet to be resolved over these past 13 years, the sum of which has exacerbated the situation even as the U.S. redoubles its efforts to fight terrorism.
Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I speak to you today on the war in the Middle East because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to speak about the war in Middle East because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.
First, there exist certain peculiarities behind why al-Qaida attacked the U.S. These qualities point to egregious flaws in Washington’s Middle Eastern policy and remain an area that the U.S. refuses to address.
The U.S. made the decision to provide financial and material aid to jihadi organizations such as al-Qaida. At the time, the U.S. needed these fighters to disrupt the Soviets in Afghanistan, and as jihadi embraced the idea that “all [Muslims] under heaven are one family,” they were naturally loathe to permit the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the expense of their Muslim brethren. In this way, as the U.S. propped up al-Qaida, it was simultaneously grooming its own future adversary. After the Soviet withdrawal, the choice was simple for al-Qaida to fix its sights on the U.S. as its next target due to the Western power’s rejection of the establishment of a Palestinian state in favor of Israel, an agenda that runs directly counter to the interests of Palestinian Muslims.
And so despite U.S. claims that it opposes all forms of terrorism, the measures that it adopts have often only bred further terrorist activity, as the U.S. is unwilling to thoroughly digest and understand the factors underlying the terrorist mindset, and therefore cannot properly eradicate the root causes of this disease.
Second, why were U.S. policymaking mechanisms unable to prevent the Iraq War? The U.S. touts itself as a democratic nation in possession of the most sophisticated and scientific policymaking systems on the planet. Iraq was not party to the 9/11 attacks, and when the U.S. launched its “pre-emptive” strike on Iraq in the spring of 2003, it found that the Middle Eastern state had not even developed weapons of mass destruction. Yet while obviously lacking evidence, the U.S. still decided to launch the Iraq War. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s shortcuts in its intelligence operations resulted in an inexcusable error on the weighty question of whether to go to war.
When the U.S. Senate voted upon the declaration of war, then-Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John McCain all made grave mistakes by giving their support. The three were all eventually to fail in their separate bids for the presidency, but setting the U.S. military on the path to invasion was an act of grievous irresponsibility to other countries, as well as to the U.S. itself. Regardless of whether a product of flawed judgment or pandering to the electorate, they all proved themselves unworthy of becoming president. Instead, it would be a state senator from Illinois who would go on to assume that mantle. That person, Barack Obama, opposed the Iraq War, was later elected to the U.S. Senate, and finally ended the war in his capacity as president.
Third, why has the U.S. not offered an apology for the damage done to Iraq? Although the U.S. military has since withdrawn, the war cost Iraqis dearly in personnel and property, as well as triggering a severe societal and economic crisis within the country. Despite this, the U.S. has yet to issue an apology for the invasion, hold to account those responsible for launching the war, or make recompense. The Iraq War not only backfired upon the U.S., but plunged the Middle East into chaos and shattered the stability of the region. Now, the Islamic State has proclaimed the establishment of a state in Iraq and Syria, fomented a widespread humanitarian crisis and forced the U.S. to take military action because of its violent inertia, all of which are inextricably linked to the initial U.S. war against terrorism. But is the feigned nonchalance with which the U.S. has responded the mark of a responsible power?
Thirteen years have passed since the attacks of 9/11, but the U.S. is still unwilling to reflect upon the reasons it was targeted or apologize to and compensate the nations it has harmed, a fact that will ensure the bitter lessons of that day go entirely wasted.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.
Polls reveal that almost 68% Americans explicitly oppose the war in Middle East. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war against ISIS is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.
I have seen the damage these wars can cause first hand. I am still trying to get compensated for the scars I came home with that aren’t visible to the naked eye. I have escorted hundreds of soldiers home in these coffins and some of them I heard their last words. They went something like this “Can we really trust that our death will make a difference”? or “Can we “TRUST” in our leaders back in Washington?
Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have three major reasons for bringing the Middle East and 9/11 into the field of my moral vision. There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in the Middle East and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, the disenfranchised both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in the Middle East. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like ISIS continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and speak on it it as such.
Societies in failure mode because of American wars of genocide to control oil resources and any other political nonsense they can use to mis-inform it’s citizens. Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around!” It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”