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Human Rights Campaign

~Ebb and Flow of Grace while in The Storms of Life~

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Sometimes you got to hurt something to help something. Sometimes you have to plow under one thing in order for something else to grow.

Ernest Gaines
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There are no bonds so strong as those which are formed by suffering together.

Harriet Ann Jacobs
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Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way as we seek to understand the lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments.
The disciples experienced several “mountaintop moments” in their time with Jesus. But when a storm arose while they were out on the Sea of Galilee, fear took over. Amidst the roaring waves and with the boat rocking, Jesus’ chosen ones failed to recall the lessons they had learned about the power and purposes of their leader. Even the appearance of Christ walking on water didn’t bring immediate relief (Matt. 14:26).

When trouble strikes, we sometimes forget our knowledge of God, too. We struggle to recall past answers to prayer, specific guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, and lessons learned in previous crises. Only the present seems real. Our minds spin with future implications, and our troubled emotions inhibit clear thinking.

In our own strength, we lack sufficient resources and abilities to meet life’s challenges. So God provides what we need. Our suffering is never a surprise to the Lord. He knows everything we are going through. More than that, He’s orchestrating our circumstances for His glory and our benefit, according to His good will.

 

Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way. Let’s take a moment to fix our attention on the Lord and seek to understand four lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments:

 

1. One purpose for hardship is cleansing. Because of our own “flesh” nature and the self-absorbed world we live in, it’s easy to develop selfish attitudes, mixed-up priorities, and ungodly habits. The pressures that bear down on us from stormy situations are meant to bring these impurities to our attention and direct us to a place of repentance. Our trials are intended to purify and guide us back to godliness, not ruin our lives.

2. A second reason we face difficulty is so we’ll be compassionate and bring comfort to others. God’s work in our lives is not intended solely for us. It’s designed to reach a world that does not recognize or acknowledge Him. The Lord uses our challenges to equip us for serving others. As we experience suffering, we will learn about God’s sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His strength to help us endure. Our testimony during times of difficulty will be authentic. Those to whom we minister will recognize we know and understand their pain. What credibility would we have with people in crisis if we never experienced a deep need?

3. Third, God promises usHe’ll provide a path through any trialwe face. The disciples probably wondered how long the storm would last and whether they would make it safely to shore. Most likely, they wished it never happened. But, had they somehow avoided this storm, they would have missed the demonstration of Jesus’ power over the sea and wind. The frightening situation was transformed into a revelation of the Savior’s divine nature. God wants to make His power known through our trials, as well.

4. The most important thing He gives us isanawareness of His presence. At first, the disciples believed they were alone in a terrifying storm. When they initially spotted Jesus, their fear increased. They thought He was a ghost. But as they recognized Him, their fear changed to relief and hope. Similarly, we may not sense God’s presence during a crisis. But He has promised to always be with us (Heb. 13:5-6). The assurance that the Lord will never leave provides immediate comfort, an infusion of courage, and a sense of confidence to endure.

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No one enjoys suffering. But in the hands of almighty God, trials become tools. He uses hardship to shape believers into the people He intends them to be. Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the fear and anxiety of being in a boat on a raging sea. He permitted them to suffer because He had something far more important to teach them. He wanted the disciples to recognize their own helplessness, His sufficiency, and their dependence on Him.

Ask God to reveal His abiding presence in the midst of your trouble. And remember—He always provides for your spiritual needs to help you both endure and grow stronger in your Christian faith.

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A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

Martin Luther King, Jr
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~Color Forward In Spite Of Challenges~

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What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

What is the biggest barrier facing the formerly incarcerated as they try to reintegrate into society?
To us, the biggest barrier is the lack of critical legal information that people need in order to overcome barriers in reentry. We see the major issues as:

—Enormous legal and practical barriers to stability and success, including an inability to get an ID or open a bank account, enormous court debt, denials of employment, housing, and public benefits

—A complete lack of legal advocates, knowledge and navigational resources about these barriers

—An infrastructure of people and agencies who already support and work with those in reentry—including family and loved ones, social services agencies, housing facilities, legal advocacy groups, education programs, religious institutions, substance abuse facilities, corrections departments and government agencies—that lack the legal guidance necessary to navigate critical and often crippling issues

The lack of an integrated, knowledgeable and supported reentry infrastructure undermines the spirit and intent of reform efforts to reduce incarceration levels. The “Roadmap to Reentry” guide illuminates pathways to stability and success post-incarceration by educating people on how to navigate enormous legal and practical barriers.

In terms of the legal barriers, there are many—which is why the guide covers nine areas! Reentry is so unique to each individual, so we see that people experience very different issues, much of it dependent on their life circumstances and goals. The biggest issues that we see are court-ordered debt and fees that have amounted over time, which leads to an inability to get an ID; housing and employment discrimination; trouble reunifying with children and loved ones upon release; and unlawful parole conditions that can overly restrict where people can live and work.

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What is the most important thing families can do to ease the transition?

Plan, prepare and do research! Family has access to phone and Internet, so they can help the loved one make plans and goals and then research opportunities in the area they are returning to—including housing, employment, education and support services. If you know your loved one’s goals and have a timeline for completion, you can help to set them up for success before they get out. If the county to which they are returning doesn’t have the right resources, they can help their loved one understand the process to transfer counties, either before or after release. Also, I would say that families can help their loved one in reentry by helping them do research on the law—reading manuals like ours to help their loved one understand whether they are actually banned from public housing or public benefits, and what kinds of jobs they can get—because many myths persist. So family can help a huge amount by educating themselves, getting a ton of resources and then empowering their loved one with that information.

The other thing that I think is critical for family members is to take care of themselves. If you find your loved one a support group, find one for yourself too. Families are often the support structure for a person in reentry, but of course they do not have the education of a case manager, therapist or social worker, yet they are playing that role. So having support for families who are helping someone through the ups and downs of reentry is critical.

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The United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world. At year end 2011, approximately 7 million individuals were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails.1) The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, dwarfing the rate of nearly every other nation.2)

Such broad statistics mask the racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system. Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males.3) If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino males—compared to one of every seventeen white males.4) Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent.5)

The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and minorities. The former is the system the United States describes in its report: a vigorous adversary system replete with constitutional protections for defendants. Yet the experiences of poor and minority defendants within the criminal justice system often differ substantially from that model due to a number of factors, each of which contributes to the overrepresentation of such individuals in the system. As Georgetown Law Professor David Cole states in his book No Equal Justice,

These double standards are not, of course, explicit; on the face of it, the criminal law is color-blind and class-blind. But in a sense, this only makes the problem worse. The rhetoric of the criminal justice system sends the message that our society carefully protects everyone’s constitutional rights, but in practice the rules assure that law enforcement prerogatives will generally prevail over the rights of minorities and the poor. By affording criminal suspects substantial constitutional rights in theory, the Supreme Court validates the results of the criminal justice system as fair. That formal fairness obscures the systemic concerns that ought to be raised by the fact that the prison population is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately black.6)

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“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

~ Race and Reality for Blacks In America~

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Even for blacks who make it to college, the problem doesn’t go away. As statistics would have it, 70 percent of all black students who enroll in four-year colleges drop out at some point, as compared with 45 percent of whites. At any given time nearly as many black males are incarcerated as are in college in this country. And the grades of black college students average half a letter below those of their white classmates.

A pressing problem: teachers and police officers monitor, profile and police black and Latino youth and neighborhoods more than white ones.

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When asked during the 2008 campaign if he identified as black, President Obama simply said, “The last time I tried to catch a cab in N.Y.C….” His comment signaled to blacks that he experienced discrimination, while simultaneously illuminating a fatal flaw with race relations in the 21st century — our inability to separate black man from criminal.

In addition to the Department of Education study, sociological research continues to show that blacks and Latinos are more likely to be disciplined in school and stopped by the police. While some may anecdotally argue that black kids are badder than white kids, studies show a more pressing problem — teachers and police officers monitor, profile and police black and Latino youth and neighborhoods more than white ones.

While 75 percent of high school students have tried addictive substances, only specific groups and areas get targeted by the police. As evidence by the e-mail University of Akron sent their black male students, college status does not afford them the privilege to avoid policing. Thus, a black senator is treated similarly to a“potential felon.”

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Legalizing marijuana could potentially lead to more legitimized policing of black and Latino men. Reducing draconian drug laws would help in sentencing, but still not change the way that black and Latino men are criminalized. In this regard, this criminalizing epidemic is just as much a social problem as it is legal and institutional.

There are a few solutions worth mentioning. Legally, there can be tougher sanctions for racial profiling when individuals are unfairly targeted or searched.

Socially, when individuals meet a “good” black man, they can be seen as the rule and not the exception. Most black men are not criminals or untrustworthy; they are law-abiding citizens. People need to start recognizing social class cues that signal professionalism and decency instead of ubiquitously categorizing black men as dangerous.

It is high time that individuals see not just a black man, but a man who could be a doctor, lawyer, neighbor or even the president. These changes in individuals’ perceptions will a go long way to solve the criminalization of nonwhite bodies.

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I sense a certain caving-in of hope in America that problems of race can be solved. Since the sixties, when race relations held promise for the dawning of a new era, the issue has become one whose persistence causes “problem fatigue”—resignation to an unwanted condition of life.

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This fatigue, I suspect, deadens us to the deepening crisis in the education of black Americans. One can enter any desegregated school in America, from grammar school to high school to graduate or professional school, and meet a persistent reality: blacks and whites in largely separate worlds. And if one asks a few questions or looks at a few records, another reality emerges: these worlds are not equal, either in the education taking place there or in the achievement of the students who occupy them.

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As a Human Behaviorist , I know that the crisis has enough possible causes to give anyone problem fatigue. But at a personal level, perhaps because of my experience as a black in American schools, or perhaps just as the hunch of a myopic psychologist, I have long suspected a particular culprit—a culprit that can undermine black achievement as effectively as a lock on a schoolhouse door. The culprit I see is stigma, the endemic devaluation many blacks face in our society and schools. This status is its own condition of life, different from class, money, culture. It is capable, in the words of the late sociologist Erving Goffman, of “breaking the claim” that one’s human attributes have on people. I believe that its connection to school achievement among black Americans has been vastly underappreciated.

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This is a troublesome argument, touching as it does on a still unhealed part of American race relations. But it leads us to a heartening principle: if blacks are made less racially vulnerable in school, they can overcome even substantial obstacles. Before the good news, though, I must at least sketch in the bad: the worsening crisis in the education of black Americans.

Despite their socioeconomic disadvantages as a group, blacks begin school with test scores that are fairly close to the test scores of whites their age. The longer they stay in school, however, the more they fall behind; for example, by the sixth grade blacks in many school districts are two full grade levels behind whites in achievement. This pattern holds true in the middle class nearly as much as in the lower class. The record does not improve in high school. In 1980, for example, 25,500 minority students, largely black and Hispanic, entered high school in Chicago. Four years later only 9,500 graduated, and of those only 2,000 could read at grade level. The situation in other cities is comparable.

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Blacks in graduate and professional schools face a similarly worsening or stagnating fate. For example, from 1977 to 1990, though the number of Ph.D.s awarded to other minorities increased and the number awarded to whites stayed roughly the same, the number awarded to American blacks dropped from 1,116 to 828. And blacks needed more time to get those degrees.

Standing ready is a familiar set of explanations. First is societal disadvantage. Black Americans have had, and continue to have, more than their share: a history of slavery, segregation, and job ceilings; continued lack of economic opportunity; poor schools; and the related problems of broken families, drug-infested communities, and social isolation. Any of these factors—alone, in combination, or through accumulated effects—can undermine school achievement. Some analysts point also to black American culture, suggesting that, hampered by disadvantage, it doesn’t sustain the values and expectations critical to education, or that it fosters learning orientations ill suited to school achievement, or that it even “opposes” mainstream achievement. These are the chestnuts, and I had always thought them adequate. Then several facts emerged that just didn’t seem to fit.

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~How Do We Prepare Our Millennial’s For Ministry?~

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In March of 2014, I began my visitation to three Christian colleges. At each stop, I spent some time talking to professors, asking them what they’re seeing in their classrooms. And at each stop, the anguished answer was the same:

These kids know almost nothing about their faith.

It’s not that they are bad kids; it’s that the basics of Christianity are unknown to them. Mind you, these are college students who were raised in Christian homes, and who chose to attend Christian colleges. And yet, their teachers are discovering that when it comes to the Christian faith, most of them are blank slates.

Let me repeat: these are Christian students, in Christian colleges. In California, a Baptist theologian who teaches at an Evangelical college told me the ignorance of his students astonishes him. “It’s all Moralistic Therapeutic Deism with them,” he said. “Maybe you’ve heard of that?”

Indeed I have. MTD is the name that the top sociologist Christian Smith gave nearly a decade ago to what he calls the “de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States.” Simply put, it’s a pseudo-religion that says faith is about nothing more than “feeling good, happy, secure, and at peace.”

Three-quarters of Millennialls agree that present-day Christianity has “good values and principles,” but strong majorities also agree that modern-day Christianity is “hypocritical” (58 percent), “judgmental” (62 percent), and “anti-gay” (64 percent).

You’ve seen the statistics. If you’re in ministry, you’ve probably witnessed the problem firsthand. The Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are leaving the church in droves, and staying away. Approximately 70 percent of those raised in the church disengage from it in their 20s. One-third of Americans under 30 now claim “no religion.”

There are 80 million Millennials in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to church. But most of the proposals I’ve heard fall into two camps.

The first goes something like this:  The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach. But from pastoral search committees to denominational gatherings to popular conferences, a quest for relevance drives the agenda.

Others demand more fundamental change. They insist the church soften its positions on key doctrines and social issues. Our culture is secularizing. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. We must abandon supernatural beliefs and restrictive moral teachings. Christianity must “change or die.”

I think both approaches are flawed.

Chasing coolness won’t work. In my experience, churches that try to be cool end up with a pathetic facsimile of what was cool about 10 years ago. And if you’ve got a congregation of businessmen and soccer moms, donning a hip veneer will only make you laughable to the younger generation.

The second tack is worse. Not only will we end up compromising core beliefs, we will shrink our churches as well. The advocates of this approach seem to have missed what happened to mainline liberal churches over the last few decades. Adopting liberal theologies and culturally acceptable beliefs has drastically reduced their numbers while more theologically conservative churches grew.

There is no one silver bullet for bringing Millennials back to church. But here are a few actions to help us reach the next generation more effectively.

Adopt a Different Tone

As the culture has grown more secular, many Christians have struggled to adjust. The church once had pride of place in North American society. Now it seems we’re increasingly getting pushed to the margins. Christian morality is no longer assumed and our beliefs are suddenly considered strange.

This loss of cultural capital has caused many to shout louder in hopes of regaining influence. But adopting a shrill, combative tone only exacerbates the problem. It’s the surest way to alienate outsiders, especially Millennials. Author and historian John Dickson urges Christians to move from a posture of “admonition to mission.” Dickson lives in Australia, a decidedly post-Christian country. In our increasingly secular culture, it’s a lesson we need to take to heart. Let’s stop being shocked when our unbelieving neighbors fail to act like Christians and take a more winsome tone when we communicate the gospel.

Foster Intergenerational Relationships

I’ve read virtually all of the books on Millennials and the church, and I’ve adopted my own thoughts about Generation Ex (Read Generation Ex -Christians by Drew Dyck). If there’s one lesson to take away from this corpus of literature, it’s this: inter-generational relationships are crucial. The number one predictive factor as to whether or not a young Christian will retain his or her faith is whether that person has a meaningful relationship with an older Christian.

We’re surprised when even our most ardent young people walk away, but we shouldn’t be. If they didn’t have relationships with older Christians in the congregation, in all likelihood, they’re gone. When they age out of youth group, they age out of the church. Churches must find ways to pair older Christians with teens and to engage Millennials outside the church (many of whom are starving for mentors). This is a touchy subject for me because I’ve seen my own kids abandon their faith and cultural teaching to the point of going to prison for life and living contrary life styles. My going to prison and losing their respect I feel contributed to their posture now, but I am going to worship and believe God for their return.

The number one predictive factor as to whether or not a young Christian will retain his or her faith is whether that person has a meaningful relationship with an older Christian.

Present a Bigger God

Many evangelical churches present a one-sided vision of God. We love talking about God’s love, but not his holiness. We stress his immanence, but not his transcendence. How does this affect Millennials? I like the way Millennial blogger Stephen Altrogge puts it in Untamable God.

Why are so many young people leaving the church? I don’t think it’s all that complicated. God seems irrelevant to them. They see God as existing to meet their needs and make them happy. And sure, God can make them feel good, but so can a lot of other things. Making piles of money feels good. Climbing the corporate ladder feels good. Buying a motorcycle and spending days cruising around the country feels good … if God is simply one option on a buffet, why stick with God?

Millennials have a dim view of church. They are highly skeptical of religion. Yet they are still thirsty for transcendence. But when we portray God as a cosmic buddy, we lose them (they have enough friends). When we tell them that God will give them a better marriage and family, it’s white noise (they’re delaying marriage and kids or forgoing them altogether). When we tell them they’re special, we’re merely echoing what educators, coaches, and parents have told them their whole lives. But when we present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God, it just might get their attention and capture their hearts as well.

I’ll be talking more on this topic at http://www.yelp.com/biz/world-conquerors-church-oakland on Febuary 20th-22. Pray for our travel and a deeper dive into how churches can convey a compelling vision of God for Millennials, as well as the whole congregation.

 

~I want to be “Just Like “You”~

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I remember very vividly, some years ago, that the question which perplexed me as a younger Christian (and some of my friends as well) was this: what is God’s purpose for His people? Granted that we have been converted, granted that we have been saved and received new life in Jesus Christ, what comes next? Of course, we knew the famous statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: that man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever: we knew that, and we believed it. We also toyed with some briefer statements, like one of only five words— love God, love your neighbor. But somehow neither of these, nor some others that we could mention, seemed wholly satisfactory. So I want to share with you where my mind has come to rest as I approach the end of my pilgrimage on earth, and it is—God wants His people to become like Christ. Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.
So if that is true, I am proposing the following: first to lay down the biblical basis for the call to Christlikeness; secondly, to give some New Testament examples of this; thirdly, to draw some practical conclusions. And it all relates to becoming like Chris

So first is the biblical basis for the call to Christlikeness. This basis is not a single text: the basis is more substantial than can be encapsulated in a single text. The basis consists rather of three texts which we would do well to hold together in our Christian thinking and living: Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and 1 John 3:2. Let’s look at these three briefly.
Romans 8:29 reads that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son: that is, to become like Jesus. We all know that when Adam fell he lost much—though not all—of the divine image in which he had been created. But God has restored it in Christ. Conformity to the image of God means to become like Jesus: Christlikeness is the eternal predestinating purpose of God.
My second text is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” So it is by the indwelling Spirit Himself that we are being changed from glory to glory—it is a magnificent vision. In this second stage of becoming like Christ, you will notice that the perspective has changed from the past to the present, from God’s eternal predestination to His present transformation of us by the Holy Spirit. It has changed from God’s eternal purpose to make us like Christ, to His historical work by His Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Jesus.
That brings me to my third text: 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now and it does not yet appear what we shall be but we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We don’t know in any detail what we shall be in the last day, but we do know that we will be like Christ. There is really no need for us to know any more than this. We are content with the glorious truth that we will be with Christ, like Christ, forever.

Here are three perspectives—past, present, and future. All of them are pointing in the same direction: there is God’s eternal purpose, we have been predestined; there is God’s historical purpose, we are being changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit; and there is God’s final or eschatological purpose, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All three, the eternal, the historical, and the eschatological, combine towards the same end of Christlikeness. This, I suggest, is the purpose of God for the people of God. That is the biblical basis for becoming like Christ: it is the purpose of God for the people of God.
I want to move on to illustrate this truth with a number of New Testament examples. First, I think it is important for us to make a general statement, as the apostle John does in 1 John 2:6: “he who says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way as he walked.” In other words, if we claim to be a Christian, we must be Christlike. Here is the first New Testament example: we are to be like Christ in his Incarnation.
Some of you may immediately recoil in horror from such an idea. Surely, you will say to me, the Incarnation was an altogether unique event and cannot possibly be imitated in any way? My answer to that question is yes and no. Yes, it was unique, in the sense that the Son of God took our humanity to Himself in Jesus of Nazareth, once and for all and forever, never to be repeated. That is true. But there is another sense in which the Incarnation was not unique: the amazing grace of God in the Incarnation of Christ is to be followed by all of us. The Incarnation, in that sense, was not unique but universal. We are all called to follow the example of His great humility in coming down from heaven to earth. So Paul could write in Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped for his own selfish enjoyment, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” We are to be like Christ in his Incarnation in the amazing self-humbling which lies behind the Incarnation.
Secondly, we are to be like Christ in His service. We move on now from his Incarnation to His life of service; from His birth to His life, from the beginning to the end. Let me invite you to come with me to the upper room where Jesus spent his last evening with His disciples, recorded in John’s gospel, chapter 13: “He took off his outer garments, he tied a towel round him, he poured water into a basin and washed his disciples’ feet. When he had finished, he resumed his place and said, ‘If then I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, for I have given you an example”—notice the word— “that you should do as I have done to you.”
Some Christians take Jesus’ command literally and have a foot-washing ceremony in their Lord’s Supper once a month or on Maundy Thursday—and they may be right to do it. But I think most of us transpose Jesus’ command culturally: that is, just as Jesus performed what in His culture was the work of a slave, so we in our cultures must regard no task too menial or degrading to undertake for each other.
Thirdly, we are to be like Christ in His love. I think particularly now of Ephesians 5:2—“walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Notice that the text is in two parts. The first part is walk in love, an injunction that all our behavior should be characterized by love, but the second part of the verse says that He gave Himself for us, which is not a continuous thing but an aorist, a past tense, a clear reference to the cross. Paul is urging us to be like Christ in his death, to love with self-giving Calvary love. Notice what is developing: Paul is urging us to be like the Christ of the Incarnation, to be like the Christ of the foot washing, and to be like the Christ of the cross. These three events of the life of Christ indicate clearly what Christlikeness means in practice.
Fourthly, we are to be like Christ in His patient endurance. In this next example we consider not the teaching of Paul but of Peter. Every chapter of the first letter of Peter contains an allusion to our suffering like Christ, for the background to the letter is the beginnings of persecution. In chapter 2 of 1 Peter in particular, Peter urges Christian slaves, if punished unjustly, to bear it and not to repay evil for evil. For, Peter goes on, you and we have been called to this because Christ also suffered, leaving us an example—there is that word again—so that we may follow in His steps. This call to Christlikeness in suffering unjustly may well become increasingly relevant as persecution increases in many cultures in the world today.
My fifth and last example from the New Testament is that we are to be like Christ in His mission. Having looked at the teaching of Paul and Peter, we come now to the teaching of Jesus recorded by John. In John 20:21, in prayer, Jesus said, “As you, Father, have sent me into the world, so I send them into the world”—that is us. And in His commissioning in John 17 He says, “As the Father sent me into the world, so I send you.” These words are immensely significant. This is not just the Johannine version of the Great Commission but also an instruction that their mission in the world was to resemble Christ’s mission. In what respect? The key words in these texts are “sent into the world.” As Christ had entered our world, so we are to enter other people’s worlds. It was eloquently explained by Archbishop Michael Ramsey some years ago: “We state and commend the faith only in so far as we go out and put ourselves with loving sympathy inside the doubts of the doubters, the questions of the questioners, and the loneliness of those who have lost the way.”

This entering into other people’s worlds is exactly what we mean by incarnational evangelism. All authentic mission is incarnational mission. We are to be like Christ in His mission. These are the five main ways in which we are to be Christlike: in His Incarnation, in His service, in His love, in His endurance, and in His mission.
Very briefly, I want to give you three practical consequences of Christlikeness.
Firstly, Christlikeness and the mystery of suffering. Suffering is a huge subject in itself and there are many ways in which Christians try to understand it. One way stands out: that suffering is part of God’s process of making us like Christ. Whether we suffer from a disappointment, a frustration, or some other painful tragedy, we need to try to see this in the light of Romans 8:28-29. According to Romans 8:28, God is always working for the good of His people, and according to Romans 8:29, this good purpose is to make us like Christ.
Secondly, Christlikeness and the challenge of evangelism. Why is it, you must have asked, as I have, that in many situations our evangelistic efforts are often fraught with failure? Several reasons may be given and I do not want to over-simplify, but one main reason is that we don’t look like the Christ we are proclaiming. John Poulton, who has written about this in a perceptive little book entitled, A Today Sort of Evangelism, wrote this:
The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message. Christians need to look like what they are talking about. It is people who communicate primarily, not words or ideas. Authenticity gets across. Deep down inside people, what communicates now is basically personal authenticity.
That is Christlikeness. Let me give you another example. There was a Hindu professor in India who once identified one of his students as a Christian and said to him: “If you Christians lived like Jesus Christ, India would be at your feet tomorrow.” I think India would be at their feet today if we Christians lived like Christ. From the Islamic world, the Reverend Iskandar Jadeed, a former Arab Muslim, has said “If all Christians were Christians—that is, Christlike—there would be no more Islam today.”
That brings me to my third point—Christlikeness and the indwelling of the Spirit. I have spoken much tonight about Christlikeness, but is it attainable? In our own strength it is clearly not attainable, but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within. William Temple, Archbishop in the 1940s, used to illustrate this point from Shakespeare:
It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it—I can’t. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it—I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like this. And if the Spirit could come into me, then I could live a life like His.
So I conclude, as a brief summary of what we have tried to say to one another: God’s purpose is to make us like Christ. God’s way to make us like Christ is to fill us with his Spirit. In other words, it is a Trinitarian conclusion, concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

~Finding The Samaritans Outside Of The Church~

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Testing the boundaries of outreach evangelism.

Yes, to Heal the Abused

In our quest to find the broken hearted and ostracized of life we called upon other ministries that function primarily outside the walls of the church to present the gospel hope of Jesus Christ. We found astonishing evidence that a loving presences of evangelistic workers makes a difference in getting the gospel outside to a dyeing world. I had an interesting event happen in my life in a “Crack House In Perris Ca., I went to deliver some packages and was overcome with remorse and a strong unction to pray for those in that trailer and it reshaped my life and introduced me to the Help Mate I now have in my life.

An out-of-the-way topless bar and club off the highway was a regular Thursday evening destination for Anne Polencheck and her outreach partner. Every two weeks the women faithfully toted gift bags of handmade cards, homemade cookies, earrings, and lotion to the bar and club. With a word of kindness, a prayer, or a hug, they hoped to share Christ’s compassion with women who worked there.

Polencheck, a former software engineer, leads New Name, a ministry to strip clubs, bars, massage parlors, and so-called spas in the western suburbs of Chicago. Volunteers pray together and regularly visit venues. It’s a slow-going ministry that emulates Jesus leaving the safety of the fold to seek the one lost sheep. Often the workers are busy with customers or simply aren’t interested in chatting.

One week, Polencheck met Debbie, a 20-something who recognized the “church ladies” from their previous visits. “I’m seven months pregnant. I need a new job,” she said. After their visit, Debbie stepped outside and prayed: “God, if you’re real, can you help me?”

When Polencheck and her ministry partner returned one week later, they handed Debbie a flier for Refuge for Women, a Kentucky residential program for those choosing to leave sexual exploitation. It usually had a wait list, but it had one opening.

Debbie’s plea came after years of despair. Her childhood was marked by sexual abuse that started when she was 5. At age 9, Debbie was placed in foster care after she showed up at school black and blue from violent beatings. Twenty times, she was shuffled in and out of foster homes in part due to her anger-driven rebellion.

The wounded girl grew to become a broken woman who numbed her pain with alcohol and drugs. Her husband, an abusive drug addict, introduced her to strip clubs. She began exotic dancing and using more drugs. Debbie’s horrific background is not unusual for women working in strip clubs. About 90 percent of women who have received care at Refuge were sexually abused as children.

“Jesus would want us to look at these women as our sisters,” says Ked Frank, director and cofounder of Refuge. “They’re living out of pain and trauma, and our hearts should be broken for them.” At the residential facility, Debbie found family in seven other women with similar experiences as well as a church community and mentors who listened, prayed, and encouraged her.

Before graduating the yearlong program, Debbie gave birth to a healthy baby girl, accepted Christ, and was baptized. She now leads worship at her church and mentors teenagers in the youth group. Debbie holds a job as she raises her 2-year-old daughter and volunteers at Refuge, hoping to help other women who bear the invisible chains of abuse and exploitation.

“God is at work, and his presence is found in the clubs,” Frank says.

So, would Jesus hang out with people in a strip club? I believe he’s been doing just that.

Jesus unconditionally loves us all, including club owners, dancers, and customers. He is still calling us to leave the safety of our church walls and extend a hand of hope to a broken man or woman.

 

Three Views: Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?

No, He Wouldn’t

Joe Carter

In 1896, Charles Sheldon, a Congregational minister in Kansas, wrote In His Steps, a novel that became an all-time bestseller and spawned the ubiquitous phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Back then it was an open question—as Sheldon makes clear—whether Jesus would condone hanging out at a boxing match. Today, we’re wondering if we can give reasons why Jesus wouldn’t hang out at a strip club. Times have changed.

Initially, I assumed this must be a trick question. Are there Christians who ponder, “What Would Jesus Do?” and think, “Jesus would probably be hanging out at a bar where people go to watch women undress”?

It’s hard for me to believe there are Christians who think Jesus would hang out in a strip club. Are we talking about the Jesus who had a high opinion of women and a low view of lust? Hanging out at a strip club doesn’t sound like something he would do.

But since the question is being asked, I assume there are people who think he would. I have to assume they think that since Jesus ate with sinners, he’d have no problem eating at a buffet next to a stripper pole.

Jesus did sit and eat with sinners (Mark 2:16–17). In Luke 15, we again find the oft-quoted claim made by the Pharisees: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” What is often left out is the lengthy reply Jesus gave. After hearing their charges, Jesus tells three parables—about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a prodigal son. Each of these stories has the same theme: rejoicing over the repentance of sinners. It’s possible, even likely, that some who ate with Jesus—such as during the feeding of the 5,000, or at Simon the Pharisee’s house—left unrepentant. But there is no evidence that Jesus ever ate with sinners or even spent significant time “hanging out” with them without calling them to turn from their sin.

There is no place in Scripture where Jesus was uncritically present when sin was occurring or when an action that mocked God was taking place. In fact, in the most famous example of Jesus witnessing an act where sin was taking place and God was being mocked—a scene recorded in all four Gospels—he made a whip of cords and drove sinners from the temple. Do we think this Jesus would unreservedly hang out in a place where men and women were mocking the dignity of the human body?

I wonder if what many people want to know is not whether Jesus would hang out at a strip club, but whether he’d have an issue if they hung out there. For those people, I’d recommend meditating on the words of Matthew 5:28–29.

Yes, to Shine in the Dark

Strip club? Crack house? Porn convention? Casino? Fill in the blank, and every response of mine is an absolute yes—Jesus would hang out in these places. Here’s why: There is no context, environment, or event that Jesus would choose not to be in.

Our limitations on where he might go are based on not fully understanding the desperate need for Christ in these godforsaken places. There are an estimated 400,000 strippers working in nearly 4,000 clubs in the United States. As followers of Christ, we should hang out in these places too.

In January 2002, Craig Gross and Mike Foster launched a ministry at a Las Vegas porn convention. The organization, XXXchurch.com, is devoted to being the presence of Christ at these events. There, volunteers have handed out thousands of Bibles with the words “Jesus loves porn stars” on the cover. I was taught about the deep and lavish grace of God not by a seminary professor but by the sex industry. In our moments of pride, we say that “those sinful people” have nothing to offer us, that we are there to save them. But a great desire of God is to ruin our spiritual pride. (If you don’t believe this, go to an AA meeting.)

Fear is the core reason why many of us would say “no” to Jesus hanging out in a strip club. Fill in the blank of what you might be afraid of happening: it might look bad; it wouldn’t be very productive to do ministry in that environment; people would be dragged down into a life of sin; someone would have to explain our actions to religious people.

I am sympathetic to these fears and their power. But such comments expose the smallness of our religion. A Christian leader once said to me, “Don’t blame the dark for being dark. Blame the light for not shining in the dark.”

God is the God of “yes” and the God of “go.” We have made our faith too heavy and our walk burdensome and scary. We are so great at making the gospel complex that we forget about the simplicity of Jesus. He is not held down by manmade restraints, restrictions, or rules. He easily strolls into the space of need and the lives that are desperate for healing.

Here is my purely marketing move: If I were acting as brand consultant for Jesus, I would tell him to go to the strip club. No place is off-limits to the gospel. In Luke 5:32 Jesus proclaims, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Everyone is looking for attention and trying to get their message out. Do you want to stand out? Then do what other teachers, religious leaders, and followers refuse to do. In my opinion, light shines the brightest in the darkest places—places like the neighborhood strip club.

~Spiritual Warfare On People of Color Or a Systemic Issue?

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635524032122310361-XXX-TamirTimir Rice talked a big game in basketball. He sat in his sixth-grade classroom, humming and slapping his hand to the rhythm in his head. He went sparkly-eyed over a girl at school.

“The minute she walked into the classroom the world stopped for Tamir,” his teacher Carletta Goodwin said. “They both would just gleam at each other. It was like, “Oh boy.”

Goodwin spoke Wednesday at Tamir’s memorial service, 10 days after the 12 year-old died after a police shooting outside Cudell Recreation Center. Tamir waved an airsoft pellet gun made to look like a real weapon, when a bystander called 9-1-1, according to police and surveillance video. Cleveland police sped a cruiser to the pavilion where Tamir stood, and shot him within two seconds.

NYer

Civil rights leaders declared Thursday that the grand jury system is broken when police are investigated for killing civilians — and they promised to push to fix it in a “year of change” in 2015.

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The photo above was taken Tuesday night outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters by The Times’ Ben Welsh during protests of the grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year old black man, in Ferguson, Mo., this summer. The statement written on the sidewalk in chalk — “LAPD killed 1 person per week since 2000. 82% were black or brown” — is pretty striking. Have L.A. police officers really killed one person per week since 2000?

A quick search for that statement led us back to a story in the Huffington Post referencing a report from Los Angeles Youth Justice Coalition. The report says that 589 people were killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles County between Jan. 1, 2000, and Aug. 31, 2014.

Note that these numbers refer to the entire county, which is policed by several agencies, not just the LAPD, which patrols the city of Los Angeles. About 3.9 million of the 10 million residents of L.A. County live in the city of Los Angeles.

So let’s look at each part of that statement. If we look at the county as a whole, as the report that appears to be the source for the chalk statement did, at a rate of one homicide per week since 2000, there should be more than 720 homicides attributed to law enforcement officials. Keep in mind that calling a death a homicide just means the death was caused by the hand of another, it is not a legal judgment of murder.

The Youth Justice Coalition reported 589 killings by police officials in that time period, a number very close to data gathered for the Homicide Report, which relies largely on the L.A. County coroner’s records. The Homicide Report has recorded 590 homicides involving law enforcement officers in all of L.A. County between Jan. 1, 2000, and Aug. 31, 2014, and seven more since that date.

But the chalk writing only mentions the LAPD. So how does the department stack up?

According to Homicide Report data, roughly 38%, or 228, of the county’s officer-involved homicides involved LAPD officers. This works out to about 0.3 killings per week.

So what about the claim of 82% being “black or brown?” It’s hard to know whether this refers to only blacks and Latinos, or to all minorities. Assuming this means black or Latino, 27% of those killed by law enforcement officers in the County were black, while a little over 50% were Latino. So 77% “black or brown” puts us in the same general range of the chalker claim.

If we count only homicides involving LAPD officers, blacks account for 32% and Latinos 49% of all those killed, for a total of 81%.

Blacks make up about 34% of victims of homicides here, a chronically, disproportionately high number in a county and city where less than 10% of residents are black.

So is the claim of “LAPD killed 1 person per week since 2000. 82% were black or brown,” true? The first part is false. The statement seems to mistake all county law enforcement killings for LAPD and then extrapolates to a weekly number that is too high, even countywide. The second statement, however, is close to the overall number for the county, and even closer when we take only LAPD-involved homicides into account.

~How Far Have We Come & And Where Are Blacks Going In America?~

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Eric Garner

A New York City grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police choke-hold.

The grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Amid crowds gathering tonight to protest in Manhattan and growing discord on social media about the decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights inquiry.

Holder, while urging calm in the aftermath of yet another controversial grand jury action, promised that the federal inquiry would be “independent, thorough and fair.”

President Obama said the grand jury decision will spark strong reaction from the public, especially in the wake of a similar decision in Missouri last week not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.

The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.

Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.

The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?

Cover photo

Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.

One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.

Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.

Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”

Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.

Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.

Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.

Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.

This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror – domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.

What to do?

Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.

We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?

It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”

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May and I are really concerned for our family and our community. I know my faith will see us through this American experience and we will have answers from on high on how to empower our grand children and God’s gifts of human beings in our life. We strive to know His will for our life to help others. Pray without ceasing for us and our world.

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~My More In Life Is Found Only In Jesus~

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Romans 5:1-11New International Version (NIV)

Peace and Hope

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.
Belonging to God brings boundless blessings.

 

~Let’s Fight The Policies and Change Our Culture on Drugs and Humanity~

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BESIDES choosing lawmakers, on November 4th voters in three American states and the District of Columbia considered measures to liberalise the cannabis trade. Alaska and Oregon, where it is legal to provide “medical marijuana” to registered patients, voted to go further and let the drug be sold and taken for recreational purposes, as Colorado and Washington state already allow. In DC, a measure to legalise the possession of small amounts for personal use was passed. A majority of voters in Florida opted to join the lengthening list of places where people can seek a doctor’s note that lets them take the drug. However, the measure fell just short of the 60% needed to change the state constitution. Even so, that such a big state in the conservative South came so close to liberalising shows how America’s attitude to criminalising pot has changed.

All that imprisoning millions of people for nonviolent drug offenses has done is bankrupt us financially and morally, turning people with debilitating addictions into people with debilitating convictions.
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, largely due to misguided drug laws and mandatory sentencing requirements. Since the 1970s, drug war practices have led to the conviction and marginalization of millions of Americans – disproportionately poor people and people of color – while failing utterly to reduce problematic drug use, drug-related disease transmission or overdose deaths. The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to identifying and promoting health-centered alternatives to harmful, punitive drug laws. We are working to stem the tide of low-level drug arrests, to reverse draconian sentencing practices that cultivate discrimination, and to eliminate life-long barriers faced by people with even a minor drug conviction.
If we want to solve our nation’s drug problems, we need to focus less on obtaining convictions and more on preventing addictions. We should be treating people with addictions, not handcuffing them.
The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners, in part because of the overly harsh consequences of a drug conviction. Many of the 2.3 million people behind bars (and 5 million under criminal justice supervision) in this country are being punished for a drug offense. If every American who has ever possessed illicit drugs were punished for it, nearly half of the U.S. population would have drug violations on their records.
Over 1.6 million people are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated, placed under criminal justice supervision and/or deported each year for a drug law violation. Yet instead of reducing problematic drug use, drug-related disease transmission or overdose deaths, the drug war has actually done more harm than problematic drug use itself, by breaking up families, putting millions of people behind bars, burdening even more people with a life-long criminal record, worsening the health prospects for people who use drugs and significantly compromising public health.
The consequences of any drug conviction are life-long and severe, and are not experienced equally. Despite comparable drug use and selling rates across racial groups, African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately punished for drug law violations. Drug violations are an easy solution for police officers pressed for high arrest quotas, resulting in thousands of wrongful arrests that overwhelmingly victimize communities of color.
The Drug Policy Alliance is focused on reducing the number of people swept into the criminal justice system (or deported) for drug law violations, while promoting policies that improve individual and public health. We are guided by the principle that no one should be punished for what they put in their own body, absent harm to others.
Exposing and combating the racism of the drug war is an important part of DPA’s agenda. We work with civil rights and social justice organizations, formerly incarcerated people and other allies to end discriminatory policies and practices that unjustly target and penalize people of color and to advance an equitable health-centered approach to drugs.

The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. We believe that the mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s.

The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to exposing disproportionate arrest rates and the systems that perpetuate them. We work to eliminate policies that result in disproportionate incarceration rates by rolling back harsh mandatory minimum sentences that unfairly affect urban populations and by repealing sentencing disparities. Crack cocaine sentencing presents a particularly egregious case. Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms. But, in 2010, DPA played a key role in reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and we are committed to passing legislation that would eliminate the disparity entirely.

The life-long penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans, who may be prohibited from voting, being licensed, accessing public assistance and any number of other activities and opportunities. The drug war’s racist enforcement means that all of these exclusions fall more heavily on people and communities of color. DPA is committed to ending these highly discriminatory policies and to combating the stigma attached to drug use and drug convictions.

Two-thirds of women doing time in federal prison are behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses, and the vast majority of them have children they can’t even see.  That’s not family values.
The perceived targets of drug law enforcement are men, but many of its victims are women. Women, and particularly women of color, are disproportionately affected by social stigma, by laws that punish  those unable or unwilling to inform on others, by regulations that bar people with a drug conviction from obtaining (or that require a drug test to receive) public assistance, and by a drug treatment system designed for men.
Largely as a result of draconian drug laws, women are now a fast growing segment of the U.S. prison population.  More than three quarters of women behind bars are mothers, many of them sole caregivers.
Conspiracy offenses represent one of the most egregious examples of the drug war’s inequitable treatment of women. Although conspiracy laws were designed to target members of illicit drug organizations, they have swept up many women for being guilty of nothing more than living with a husband or boyfriend involved in some level of drug sales. Harsh mandatory minimum sentencing may keep them behind bars for 20 years, 30 years, or even life.
The drug war punishes women, particularly mothers, not just for drug law violations but also, it appears, for failing to be “good” women. This translates into a system whereby women who are responsible for childrearing are too readily separated from their children, temporarily or permanently. Even women who do not use drugs may be punished, for example, by welfare regulations that require recipients to submit to invasive and embarrassing monitored drug testing in order to obtain public assistance.
Removing a parent (perhaps the only parent) from the household is immediately destabilizing, and over the long-term it’s devastating. Parents, once released from prison, may be barred from public assistance and housing and face significantly diminished employment opportunities. Children with a parent in prison are several times more likely than other children to end up in foster care, to drop out of school and to become involved in the criminal justice system.
Pregnant women are uniquely vulnerable to criminal justice involvement. Prosecutors across the country have targeted pregnant women accused of drug use, supposedly in the interest of protecting their fetuses. The criminalization of pregnant women is not only an affront to women’s rights; it puts both mother and fetus at greater risk by erecting barriers to drug treatment and prenatal care.
The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to safeguarding a woman’s right to sovereignty over her own body, and we have been involved in several legal challenges in cases in which women were charged with child abuse, assault, homicide or other offenses because they allegedly used drugs while pregnant. We are also working to increase opportunities for families to remain together while parents (or children) address problematic drug use and to reform draconian conspiracy laws that result in harsh prison sentences for women.
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~I Want To Go Home~

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As a POW, “I said I want to go home, as an inmate “I said I want to go home, As a free man addicted to fame and fortune and cocaine and the game of life, “I said I want to go home, as a believer in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, “I am saying I want to go home. After trauma and bad choice in life one can only feel empathy for Charlie in this video. I feel so much empathy  for those who are coming home having to adjust to society that isn’t prepared to show forgiveness and any empathy for their plight of life. I saw this tonight as I was watching my Metv channel and I was crushed because my wife and I have spoken to sixteen people who are facing these fears of adjustment that are coming their way as they are getting released with no life skills nor family to assist them. We cry real tears of passion as we entreat God for finances and a building to help instill hope for those ex-offenders who really want to live the rest of their life independent and restored.

What does it take to break the cycle of criminal life and incarceration? Based on the accounts of those who have lived this experience, it requires an intense will to change attitudes and behavior to improve one’s life, a willingness to learn new skills, and an ability to overcome rejection time after time. The obstacles that are in store for the ex-offender who is released into society are enormous.

 

Transitioning from a prisoner number to an adult person expected to take on adult responsibilities can be overwhelming for many ex-inmates, particularly those who were incarcerated for long periods of time. The prison industry is flourishing because America is locking up more people than any country in the entire world – 2 million-plus and counting – most convicted of non-violent offenses.

The subsequent psychological, sensory and physical impact that many of these returnees experience often goes unaddressed and isn’t discussed very often by politicians or mainstream media, even though each day many of us will share space with someone who has spent a significant portion of his life in a cage.

Every one of us should be concerned because these men and women are of us and will be returning to us, our communities, many to our own families. This is dedicated to better understanding the impact of this system’s “corrections” from those who lived it.

Family and supporters

Former prisoners should ideally receive counseling before release and as part of their release plan to help move through the potentially challenging moments they may experience upon re-entry. Likewise the family should – also ideally – be offered counseling before the inmate is released, particularly the children of soon-to-be ex-prisoners. Caretakers of the children during the incarceration need to know the pitfalls that could occur and learn the tools to protect everyone emotionally while remaining as supportive as possible during the readjustment period.

The family members are changed people as a result of the inmate’s incarceration, just as the inmate is, and so things will likely not ever get back to the way they once were. Supporters should always offer encouragement and guidance geared toward smoothing out potentially bumpy transitions and not make the returnee feel as though they owe them something for having supported them while incarcerated nor exacerbate negativity that only serves to further divide and cause pain within the family.

Ex-prisoners may not readily accept the advice of others because they are finally free to not follow anyone else’s orders and so may make errors in judgment when dealing with seemingly simple situations. Opportunists may take advantage of some of these vulnerable returnees, as some can be easily manipulated and led into situations that are detrimental to them. Former friends and dangerous influences may arise and ex-prisoners may even fall into some old patterns.

Ex-prisoners may not readily accept the advice of others because they are finally free to not follow anyone else’s orders and so may make errors in judgment when dealing with seemingly simple situations.

Even when mistakes are made, the last thing returnees need to deal with is ridicule or condemnation, breeding resentment and deterring badly needed support. Many have been terrorized mentally and physically at the hands of guards and other inmates and have deep scarring that no one can see from the outside looking in. Comparing one ex-prisoner’s successes to another’s lack thereof is meaningless because each individual’s journey through their prison years varies greatly and so shall their journey upon release.

“I had a family. I had a house. I had a car. I had a job. … I was making good money. Everything was going well, and now I don’t have the patience for anything. … I have problems with my physical self. I have aches in my body and my legs. … [My] life is a lot harder. No matter how many visits, phone calls and letters you have shared with people, you still don’t know how much they have changed over a lengthy period of time until you’re actually around them regularly, and they feel the same way about you.”

“My son wasn’t a baby anymore and he hadn’t seen me in 10 years. Now he was 12. He wouldn’t let me hug him. He wouldn’t even shake my hand. I’m trying to understand this. I cry every night.”

“I want to prove to myself and those who stuck by me that I can make it right. I’m so scared of letting anyone down after the burden I’ve been.”

“Everything has been taken from me while inside. My mom had been taken from me, my dad has been taken from me, I have no family at all out here and I am completely on my own with $75 and nowhere to go. I was engaged when i got locked up at 18 – now I’m 45, the rest of my teens, all of my 20s, 30s and most of my 40s gone! My only child was born while I was inside and is now himself an inmate and so we’ll never be together.”

“I live with my mother in my old neighborhood. I need a pardon in order to get paid for wrongful imprisonment. After all they’ve taken from me, you’d think they’d at least provide me with my basic needs. I’m embarrassed to depend on my family as a 45-year-old man to have to eat.”

“Every night I pray and pray for the prisoners I left behind. I feel so badly for them living under such horrible conditions and promised many of them I would help them when I got out. My one friend is getting out of prison this week; she has been locked up for eight years. … She was 18 when she got locked up. I want to see her, but part of me wants to leave that part of me behind! I want to help, but how can I help? I barely have my feet on the ground as it is. But I promised I would and she is counting on me for support.”

“I went into a serious depression and was put on a medication that drove me into a prison within myself. It took the program staff several months to realize I wasn’t talking to anyone or eating, that I had lost about 30 pounds. I was ‘gone’ even though I was performing my required duties. After all those years of taking care of myself, to be so strong and resourceful and get myself paroled – by God’s grace – and then not know how to do anything for myself was really difficult.”

The real world

A study of the attitudes of released prisoners in the United States revealed that most expected to be labeled “ex-cons” and treated as failures and pariahs. Getting paperwork together to apply for services such as a birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license etc. is very difficult and yet very urgent in order to become recognized as a person in this system. Learning bus and subway systems or even walking routes may be difficult because of the changes that have taken place in the landscape.

A steady diet of encouragement is necessary in order to try and help them find a new “normal” in their life and set and achieve goals. The feelings of alienation may still be present, no matter how many people may feel that they are close to the inmate.

A steady diet of encouragement is necessary in order to try and help them find a new “normal” in their life and set and achieve goals.

“The dysfunctional consequences of institutionalization are not always immediately obvious once the institutional structure and procedural imperatives have been removed. This is especially true in cases where persons retain a minimum of structure wherever they re-enter free society. Moreover, the most negative consequences of institutionalization may first occur in the form of internal chaos, disorganization, stress and fear. Yet institutionalization has taught most people to cover their internal states, and not to openly or easily reveal intimate feelings or reactions. So, the outward appearance of normality and adjustment may mask a range of serious problems in adapting to the freeworld,” .

“(W)hen severely institutionalized persons confront complicated problems or conflicts, especially in the form of unexpected events that cannot be planned for in advance, the myriad of challenges that the non-institutionalized confront in their everyday lives outside the institution may become overwhelming. The facade of normality begins to deteriorate, and persons may behave in dysfunctional or even destructive ways because all of the external structure and supports upon which they relied to keep themselves controlled, directed, and balanced have been removed. …

“Parents who return from periods of incarceration still dependent on institutional structures and routines cannot be expected to effectively organize the lives of their children or exercise the initiative and autonomous decisionmaking that parenting requires. …

“Those who remain emotionally over-controlled and alienated from others will experience problems being psychologically available and nurturant,” .

“It felt like I was walking into another world again. I couldn’t believe it. Because I’ve been fighting so long, when (my release) eventually came, I didn’t know whether to take it or run back inside.”

“I was very frightened to walk across a street. I couldn’t judge the time, distance and speed of on-coming traffic. I had a problem with my sensory depth perception from bars being right in front of my face. I realized it was a problem after wildly running in an almost panic across the street, only to see the on-rushing traffic to remain still considerable distances down the street. I told myself, ‘You’ve got a problem, so get over it – fast.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I worked and worked on it.”

Inmates in the Last Mile program at San Quentin State Prison prepare to present their startup ideas in San Quentin

If you won’t consider donating to our cause, Then can we solicit your prayers and faith that this vision will not depart from our hearts nor will we faint until it materializes. I want to thank you in advance for whatever you decide to do especially for your time in reading this post.

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~Empowering Humans With Opportunity:Prop 47~

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Three years ago the Legislature passed a law resulting in a dramatic change on how California would hold people accountable for violating our laws. AB 109, or Realignment, was passed to address the overcrowding conditions in our state prisons. Touted as freeing nonserious, nonviolent offenders, Realignment ostensibly released low-level criminals from prison. During this time period, over 30,000 inmates have been transferred to local custody or supervision.

It costs about $50,000 a year to lock someone up in a California prison or a county jail — more than 10 times the state’s per-pupil expenditure for public education.

Despite investing hundreds of billions of dollars in new prisons and jails over the past 30 years, California’s correctional facilities are crowded beyond capacity. The state is under a federal court order to reduce its prison population. And after assuming more responsibility for corrections, many counties are releasing inmates early, either under court orders or self-imposed caps on jail crowding.

Building prisons isn’t the answer. But putting fewer people behind bars might alleviate the problem.

Some experts have argued for years that a small investment in education, mental health and crime prevention programs would produce big savings on incarceration. But that’s a long-term strategy in a state with upwards of 190,000 inmates in its prisons and jails.

So the state corrections budget climbed to $9 billion a year. Meanwhile, cheered on by police, prosecutors and the union representing the state’s prison guards, voters and legislators enacted increasingly harsh sentences — and not just for violent crimes. That fueled the need for new prisons and a costly culture of recidivism.

There’s an opportunity to try prevention on a wide scale.

California Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in California as aninitiated state statute. The measure was approved.

The initiative reduces the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. Specifically, the initiative:

  • Mandates misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, nonviolent crimes,” unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes. A list of crimes that will be affected by the penalty reduction are listed below.
  • Permits re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduces to misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates will be eligible for resentencing, according to Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice.
  • Requires a “thorough review” of criminal history and risk assessment of any individuals before re-sentencing to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.
  • Creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The fund will receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year.
  • Distributes funds from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund as follows: 25 percent to the Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction.

The measure requires misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the following crimes:

  • Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
  • Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
  • Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
  • Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
  • Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
  • Personal use of most illegal drugs

The initiative was pushed by George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney, and William Lansdowne, former San Diego Police Chief.

For a long time, the conventional political wisdom was that no one ever lost an election for being too tough on crime. That wisdom has been turned on its head in recent years, as both politicians and the public are realizing how much damage the lock-’em-up mind-set has caused.

In recent polls asking about the most important problems facing the country, crime ranks way at the bottom. That’s because crime is at its lowest levels in decades, even while overstuffed prisons cripple state budgets.

A familiar retort is that crime is down precisely because the prisons are full, but that’s simply not true. Multiple studies show that crime has gone down faster in states that have reduced their prison populations.

An encouraging example comes from California, the site of some the worst excesses of the mass incarceration era, but also some of the more innovative responses to it.

For five years, the state has been under federal court order to reduce extreme overcrowding in its prisons. In response, voters in 2012 overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to scale back the state’s notorious “three-strikes” law, leading to the release, so far, of more than 1,900 prisoners who had been serving life in prison — in some cases, for petty theft.

Dire warnings that crime would go up as a result were unfounded. Over two years, the recidivism rate of former three-strikes inmates is 3.4 percent, or less than one-tenth of the state’s average. That’s, in large part, because of a strong network of re-entry services.

The 2012 measure has provided the model for an even bigger proposed release of prisoners that California voters will consider on the ballot next week. Under Proposition 47, many low-level drug and property offenses — like shoplifting, writing bad checks or simple drug possession — would be converted from felonies to misdemeanors.

That would cut an average of about a year off the sentences of up to 10,000 inmates, potentially saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually. To keep people from returning to prison, or from going in the first place, the savings would be invested in anti-truancy efforts and other programs like mental health and drug-abuse treatment. Some would go to victims’ services, a perennially underfinanced part of the justice system.

Law-enforcement officials, not surprisingly, oppose the measure, warning that crime will go up. But they’ve already been proved wrong on three-strikes reform.

Californians — who support the proposition by a healthy margin, according to polls — have now seen for themselves that they don’t have to choose between reducing prison populations and protecting public safety.

It is very rare for lawmakers anywhere to approve legislation to shorten sentences for people already in prison; it is virtually unheard-of to do it by ballot measure. California’s continuing experiment on sentencing can be a valuable lesson to states around the country looking for smart and safe ways to unravel America’s four-decade incarceration binge.

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~Is God Sovereign~

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What does the Assemblies of God believe concerning the free will of mankind in everyday choices and its relation to God’s sovereignty and providential care? Can we through our choices or prayers alter what God has ordained? If God has a master plan that will be accomplished, is it not futile to think we can change what will happen?

There is some disagreement in the evangelical world concerning the interrelationship of God’s sovereignty, His providence, and mankind’s free will. To some theologians, the three seem to be contradictory. But the Assemblies of God, having diligently searched the Scriptures for the best correlation of the three indisputable principles, believes that all three can exist in full theological certitude without doing any injustice to the other two.

The term sovereignty of God is not found in the Bible, yet the truth of God’s sovereignty is evident throughout Scripture. God has absolute authority and power over His creation. God is omnipotent; He can do anything He desires to do. But this indisputable fact has caused considerable theological debate about the relationship of mankind to God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign and all-powerful, is He responsible for all the evil in the world. Is our eternal destiny determined by God’s sovereignty, making meaningless our assumption that we have some choice in the matters that concern our existence?

Human reasoning and logic would say that if God is truly sovereign over all His creation, the human creatures He created have no opportunity to make individual choices. And if they have a free will that can make personal choices, then God cannot be sovereign, because anything He does not control negates His being sovereign. But Scripture emphasizes both the sovereignty of God and the free will of humankind. So instead of judging by human reason that both facts cannot coexist, we must honor the integrity of God’s Word, accept, and explain to the best of our limited human reasoning how both truths can be valid.

First we recognize the biblical statements of God’s sovereignty. Just to mention a few of many: “I know [Job speaking] that you [God] can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2, NIV). “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalms 135:6, NIV). “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35, NIV). “Who [God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, NIV).

Over against these statements of God’s sovereignty, we have the Genesis account of God’s earliest interaction with human beings. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, God did not excuse them by saying it was His fault they had disobeyed. Instead, He laid the full penalty of the sin of disobedience on them, although at the same time He gave them a promise of salvation and escape from the penalty of their disobedience. In addition to this example of humankind’s responsibility, we also have a direct statement of Scripture: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4,20, NKJV). Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites is a challenge for today: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, NIV). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God does not force individuals to sin. Yet He has ordained a penalty for voluntary sin that must be paid. Every call to repentance in Scripture is an indication that God has given to humankind a free will which can choose right or wrong.

How do we bring together these two seemingly exclusive truths: God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will? In God’s great design for His creation, He desired freely given allegiance rather than robotic response to His will. Voluntary love and obedience are much better than automatic, predetermined responses. God created humankind with the option of loving and obeying Him, even though it meant that some would choose not to give allegiance to His rule. Freely given love is more valued than forced or parroted expressions. Since God has chosen to give humankind a free will, His sovereignty is not destroyed.

A related issue that raises a similar question is the providence of God. By definition, God’s providence is His faithful and loving provision for the needs of all His creation, for His own children as well as for those who reject His offer of salvation. To believers, the promise is given, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians. 4:19, NASB). But the Bible also affirms kindness even to those who deny His Lordship: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). If God is good as His providential care for His creation suggests, one might wonder why people, especially God’s children, suffer and experience serious setbacks.

The same explanation serves to answer this question. Desiring voluntary love and obedience from His creation, God provides a free-will choice for all humans. Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Man is appointed to die because sin reigns in our fallen physical world. Becoming a Christian does not cancel the physical judgment that rests on all humankind. If it did, everyone would become a Christian just to avoid pain and suffering. But one can choose to acknowledge God’s authority even though pain and suffering are still part of our earthly existence. When we accept Christ our free will chooses allegiance to God, believing that He has ultimately overcome Satan, sin, suffering, and death, and believing that the heavenly reward that awaits us makes all the suffering and pain of this life worthwhile. Mature Christians understand that God’s providential care for His creation is not destroyed just because physical laws of sin and death are still part of our temporary earthly existence.

~Creating Opportunity For Ex-Offenders and Vets~

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First Things First: The Mindset

finding a job with a felony bar
Finding a job with a felony is going to be difficult, so you’re going to have to prepare yourself for a struggle. For me, prison was easy compared to my re-entry process when I got out. Companies that are “felon friendly” are starting to dwindle, and it’s becoming increasingly harder for felons to find jobs. But you don’t have to tell an ex-offender that, he or she is already dealing with the discrimination on a daily basis.

You have to prepare yourself for a fight. Go into it with a positive outlook, but understand that you’re going to encounter a lot of negativity. A lot of HR departments and hiring mangers will throw your application out if they see you’ve checked the “Have you ever been convicted” box. They might not publicly say that they do this, but you and I both know better. There is some more information on how to handle that question box, as well as other resources for finding a job with a felony, on Exoffenders.net.

Understand that it’s going to be a struggle. Personally, when I was released from prison, I applied to over 80 different companies in my area. I received call-backs from 4 or 5, and none of them were what I would consider a “career.” But I did land a job which worked for the time being. I figured it is better to work at a bad job making crap money than not working at all.  Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, muscle through until to you get to the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes a crappy job is just a springboard when you’re trying to find a job with a felony.

Avoid the defeatist attitude! This is an extremely common pitfall for ex-offenders, and I see it all the time in the comments on Exoffenders.net. You’re going to get denied employment. It is absolutely going to happen, barring some incredible stroke of luck. You cannot, under any circumstances, talk yourself into quitting this job hunt. It’s happened to me, I’ll admit, and it really held me back for my first year or so after I was released. It’s so easy to revert back to what we know, which usually in an ex-offenders case, is illegal activities that landed them in trouble in the first place. I believe it’s the main reason why the rate of recidivism in this country is so high. Always try to stay as positive as you possibly can, even when you feel incredibly overwhelmed and hopeless.

Get into the groove of having a job before you actually have one. I found that waking up at 7 AM and starting my job search was actually really helpful for my overall mood. It, at the very least, made me feel productive and gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt that I was moving forward. That was key to dealing with my re-entry.

Maintain a clean appearance and good hygiene. Not only will you feel better about yourself, but you never know when an opportunity might come up. The last thing you want when you’re finding a job with a felony is being called into an interview and you look like you crawled out form under a rock. I’ve detailed this a little bit more in a later section as well.

Don’t beat yourself up about your past, because it is your past. Fact of the matter is, when you’re finding a job with a felony, people will do this for you. You’re more than likely going to have people holding it against you when you reintegrate yourself into society. So you really don’t need to be doing it as well. It’s your past, leave it there. It’s time to move forward into your future.


The Job Hunt

finding a job with a felony bar

To be perfectly blunt, the job hunt is going to make or break you. Finding a job is difficult nowadays anyway. But when you’re finding a job with a felony, it’s much harder. This could be one of the most depressing times in your life. You’re going to have to deal with a lot of negativity and rejection. Just remember to keep a positive mindset as best you can.

One thing I did when I was finding a job with a felony was to just apply everywhere and anywhere. When I was released, I did research on the internet of companies that were in my area. Also, if I was ever out of the house, I’d always keep a notepad and pen with me to write down any business that was in my general area. I’d be sure to make a note of (roughly) how far of a walk it would be for me to get there. When I first got out, I didn’t have a car, so the time it would take to walk to a job was a factor. I then applied to every company that had an online application on their website. I usually tried to do this at night. During the day I tried to be out and about as much as I could, applying at companies that didn’t have online applications. Finding a job with a felony was actually really good exercise. Now, this was back in 2008. There were still a decent amount of companies that you could fill out a paper application and turn it in at a store. Now, in 2014, it seems more and more companies are using online applications. In my experience with online applications, it’s a bad thing when you’re finding a job with a felony.

From experience, as well as a interviewing people in a wide variety of industries, it seems like an online application usually works like this:

  • You submit the application
  • Corporate HR evaluates it. Sometimes it is given a score.
  • In some cases, a background check is done on the individual. (Usually only for larger companies.)
  • If it meets or exceeds a certain score, it is forwarded to a store.
  • At the discretion of the hiring manager of the store, you are called in for an interview.

 

So why is this bad for ex-offenders? Well, a one of the things you can do when finding a job with a felony to increase your chances of getting hired is selling yourself in an interview. With application screening like this, your application might never make it to the actual store and you will never get a face-to-face interview. Please note that not all companies use a procedure like this. It is just information I’ve found to be recurrent through research and interviews with hiring managers.

If I was currently trying to find a job, I would apply everywhere I could. Just to see what happens. The worst thing someone can do is tell you no or not call you back, right? It’s worth a shot in my opinion to just apply to everywhere you can think of. If you’re not having any luck with larger companies when you’re finding a job with a felony, switch it up. Try to find some smaller businesses. They are usually more lax with doing background checks and hiring ex-offenders. A lot of the work I found, after my initial job at Wendy’s when I got out of prison, was with small businesses. If you can wow them at the interview they might be willing to look past your record and give you a shot. There are also online opportunities where you can make money from your home. When I was finding a job with a felony, money I made online helped me make ends meet. I’d really suggest doing some research on this type of work for legitimate work from home jobs before you venture into this. The amount of misinformation, scams, schemes, etc. for work at home opportunities is astounding. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could quickly get sucked into one.

Be persistent, and don’t be lazy about this. Your chances of finding a job with a felony if you’re only filling out an application or two a day, passively looking for work, and not giving it your all is astronomically lower than someone who is giving it a true effort.


Your First Interview

finding a job with a felony bar
Bring your “A” game and come correct. That was the advice given to me when I started job training at a re-entry program I was in in New Jersey. What I interpreted it to mean was come prepared, be ready for anything, and look the part. You want to walk out of that interview feeling like you aced it. You need to sell yourself, your skills, and how you could be perfect for the job opportunity.

Appearance is incredibly important when interviewing for a job. Before you even say a word, the potential employer will already have an opinion about you based on your appearance. It’s just human nature, we initially judge based on looks and appearance.

  • For men – be freshly shaved; facial hair should be kept to a minimal length, tight, and professional looking. The exception to this is if the facial hair is for religious purposes, in which case there is no need to worry about your facial hair.
  • Have a recent haircut – you don’t want to your first impression of you to be that you are disheveled or scraggly looking.
  • Do not neglect your hygiene – Shower the morning before the interview, brush your teeth, flossing is never a bad idea, slap on some cologne/perfume, use deodorant.

 

Once you’re a picture perfect image of a stellar candidate, let’s work on your clothes. Ideally, you’d like to look like a million bucks with a tailored suit, but let’s face it, a lot of us don’t have the money for that. We have to work with what we have, or can afford. The following is what I do in regards to an outfit when I go into an interview. This mainly applies to men, as I am one, but can be helpful to women as well.

Proper Fit – While I wear loose fitting, baggy jeans and shirts in my daily life, this isn’t the appearance I want to present to an employer. Make sure your outfit fits properly, not too big but definitely not too small. You don’t want to walk into an interview with pants that are too short and it looks like you’re getting ready for a flood. The exception to this is, of course, religious reasons. If you should not wear pants below the ankles for religious purposes, disregard that.

Accessorize – For me, I prefer simple yet noticeable things to compliment my outfit. I’ll usually wear a titanium or stainless steel watch, as that usually matches better with the outfit colors I wear. I know watches aren’t very widespread anymore since most people just use their phone to tell time, but I feel it really compliments an appearance. In addition, I may sometimes put a handkerchief in my suit pocket that matches. I feel it’s a nice, professional added touch that stands out without being too gaudy. Avoid over accessorizing, meaning don’t wear earrings that are gaudy or very large, stay away from cheap, flashy bracelets, and things of that nature.

Ironing and Cleaning – Make sure that you’re wrinkle-free before walking out your residence. Iron your clothes either night before or that morning, inspect for small spots and stains, minor tears, and other things that may draw the attention of an employer. If there is no other option and you must wear something like this, try to cover it up as best you can. Your shoes should be as clean as you get them. One of the first things I notice about a person is their shoes and anything on their hand and wrist (rings, watches, bracelets.)

This is a crucial moment for you, as you have to sell yourself to the employer. Everyone has to do this, not just ex-offenders. Be ready for any questions they may have regarding your experience, willingness to learn, career & life goals, and yes, even your criminal record. Always try to maintain eye contact when during your interview. If you are asked a question, and your eyes wander off to somewhere else in the room while answering, this can be interpreted as being dishonest. The last thing you want is any inclination that you are a dishonest person when you’re looking for a job with a felony.

One of the more frequent questions I get is how to explain a felony if asked about it at an interview. While there is no one answer to this question, I’ll try to explain how I personally have handled this question in hopes that you can relate it to yourself. First, I always admit that what I did was wrong. In a circumstance where you were wrongly convicted, there may be other ways you want to answer this. I actually have a charge that I honestly didn’t commit, a friend of mine did. But I knew I was going to prison so I “took the weight.” I don’t bring this up. I just admit that I messed up in my past and have moved forward from it.

You’ll want to vocalize your skills, talk about what you can bring to the company. Discuss what you do well and how that relates to the position you are applying for. If you don’t have that many skills, and the felony question comes up, try to talk about what you learned while incarcerated. For example, say you were a cook in prison, say that you can work extremely well under pressure, work quickly, and deliver results. Try to talk about where you want to go in your life, if you feel you can fit that in without sounding too long-winded. Below I’ll give an example of how I have handled the question during an interview.

“I made mistakes when I was younger and had a substance abuse problem, and my history is a direct result of that. I’ve since gone through a long-term rehabilitation program and have been clean for over 8 years. I and am looking to build a better life for myself. Since I have been clean, I have worked as a freelance web developer, and feel that my skills I’ve honed through that would be beneficial to this company.”

Something of that nature personalized for you should work. Keep in mind, employers want to hear different answers to that question, so there is no completely right answer on what to say. Try to get an idea of what type of person the employer is, and try to figure out how they would like to hear that question answered. Do not lie to the employer just to tell them what you think they want to hear, this could end terribly in a multitude of different ways.


Don’t Give Up!

finding a job with a felony bar
You’re going to be rejected. You’re going to have a lot of places that won’t call you back. You can’t give up even if your situation looks hopeless. Persistence will pay off in the end. If you do have an interview, send them an email thanking them for interviewing you. It shows that you really do care about a job. You will find employment, it might just take some time. Be patient, be persistent, and always look forward.

I wish you the best of luck in your journey, and hope that this article helped you. If it did, please like it and share it with people you feel may benefit from it. Thank you for reading.

~We Are Blessed~

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“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).

 

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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.

 

~Re-Entry Programs Effectiveness; Women and Reentry

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Accomplishments to Date

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
202-715-7670, lashonia.etheridge@dc.gov

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 newunfamiliar 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.

~The Stature Of Alpha and Omega~

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The Jesus of the Incarnation provides us with a more authentic leadership than “alpha males” in the wild or in politics, for in His differences He is Alpha and Omega.

Some of us learned a new term during the late and unlamented presidential campaign. Campaign observers, drawing on something learned from studies of animals in the wild, told us that one of the candidates was trying to learn to behave as an Alpha Male. An Alpha Male. What does that mean?

In the wild, certain creatures become leaders of the pack and exhibit the sort of behavior that makes others follow them instinctively. Gray wolves, for example, will travel in packs, and one male and his mate will emerge as leaders. A certain aggressiveness, a body endowed with powerful limbs, the ability to react swiftly to danger, a protective spirit – all of these things mark the alpha male among gray wolves. And similar behavior can be found in the animal kingdom in a variety of creatures, from chimpanzees to iguanas. The alpha male is the one who takes charge, asserts himself, makes things happen, and allows for no rivals. Every inch the leader of the pack. The one others follow. The one who keeps peace in the pack by the force of his leadership.

We need alphas. We human beings are not exempt from the need to have someone to follow. Today we might quarrel with the insistence on alpha males; there are, and must be, alpha females too. But we need alphas. We need someone we can follow. We need someone with a vision of peace, a strategy for peacemaking and peacekeeping. Most of us are not made of alpha stuff. We must have in front of us a leader whose strength is indisputable, whose intellect is powerful, whose spirit is indomitable, and whose character is unquestionable. We must have someone who is committed to creating a peace-filled and orderly world.

But where shall we find such a person? Who will give us that sort of leadership? Who can make peace and keep peace for us. Will we find such a leader in politics? Some of us quickly became accustomed to the idea of a presidential vacuum during the recent election crisis. Some of us felt that the nation had not so much chosen a leader as it had waffled on both of the candidates. They just did not seem to inspire great passion, one way or the other. No real alpha males there.

Shall we find such a leader in the business world? An alpha male among the megamillions of the dotcom pioneers or the inventors of new biotechnologies? Will wealth make peace?

Shall we find an alpha in the academic world? A philosopher who can put all wisdom together and create peace?

Or in the military world? An alpha general who can marshal military muscle sufficient to hold the field for peace?

In a world of change and conflict, in a time of suspicion and terror, if we are to have peace, we must follow a leader who is an unquestioned alpha. Someone who stands without blemish at the head of the pack. Someone whose life, whose heart, whose mind, whose spirit we may trust.

Two thousand years ago, all of the same pursuits toward peace we use today had been tried and found wanting. The world had tried politics and there was no peace. Augustus Caesar on his throne in far-off Rome held that throne through intrigue and terror, not trust. Men followed Augustus because they had to, not because they wanted to. And there was no peace. There was no alpha.

Wealth had not created peace either. In fact the pursuit of wealth had wreaked havoc on humanity, for slavery was everywhere, and the unbridled pursuit of wealth made life miserable. Everywhere there were thieves and highway robbers. Decent people could not be safe, even in their own homes, when the publicans came around. King Herod, a small-minded man with a penchant for a pretty face and an appetite for self-indulgence, could have cared less about his people. No peace, no alpha there to guard the public trust.

Nor had military might made peace. Oh, Rome had imposed its own understanding of peace on the empire, but it was bought with a great price. Someone quipped that the Romans entered your land, destroyed it, made it a desert, and then called that “peace”. They came to destroy and not to build. And they governed with self-centered little men like Pontius Pilate, more concerned about being noticed by Rome so that a promotion would come than about building up the people. No alphas there, no leaders to be trusted.

Two thousand years ago, as now, the world was hungry for true peace. And needed someone to bring it peace. Needed an alpha leader to follow. The wonder of it all, that on a starlit night on a Judean hillside, heaven and earth saw Him born. A babe, but not just any babe. The prince of peace. A child, but not just any child. The alpha, the word made flesh.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

I submit to you tonight that Jesus the Christ, the child of Bethlehem, is the world’s alpha male. He is the one we must follow if there is to be peace. He is the one who can be trusted. He is the one who knows the secrets of our hearts and can bring us to authentic peace. He is our alpha.

Jesus Christ is our alpha, for He leads out of poverty and humility, not out of wealth and pompous prestige. Jesus Christ is our alpha, for He shows us that whoever is worth following is worthy because of the qualities of character he has, not because of the trappings of power around him. Leadership is not what you have, it is what you are. Leadership is not what stuff you have accumulated, it is the stuff you are made of. Jesus is our alpha because He leads us not with wealth or political power or military muscle, but with the force of His character.

Gardner Taylor is known as a prince of preachers. Many have tried to imitate his inimitable preaching style. The story is that years ago, one young preacher, noticing that Gardner Taylor often preaches with his pulpit robe hanging open, decided that would be his style too. He went to his pulpit, opened his robe, then opened his mouth, and quickly demonstrated that it’s not the robe on the outside of the man, it’s what’s inside the man inside the robe that makes a preacher. Jesus is our alpha, for he leads from a lowly stable, dressed in swaddling clothes, with nothing to persuade us of His importance. But He is our alpha by the force of His character.

Martin Luther King taught us a few years ago to be sure to measure others not by externals, like the color of their skin or the size of their bank account. He reminded us to measure others by the content of their character. Jesus Christ is without spot or blemish, without failure or flaw. He is our alpha, for He leads us not by the stuff He has, but by the stuff He is.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Further, Jesus Christ is our alpha, for He leads by identifying with us. Not by lording it over us, but by identifying with us. By living among us, feeling what we feel, seeing what we see, tasting what we taste, suffering what we suffer. He is no lofty philosophical ideal, above it all, untouched by the human predicament. He is the word made flesh, right here, getting his hands dirty, with us. With us. Immanuel, God with us. He identifies with us, just as we are.

If you travel around the world and see the images of Jesus as they are presented in various cultures, you will see a remarkable thing. You will see Jesus’ face taking on the characteristics of all the peoples who worship Him. In Japan, His almond-shaped eyes look out at you from rice paper paintings. In Peru, His high cheekbones are those of an Inca noble. In Poland, His features are unmistakably Slavic. In northern Europe, His image looks a bit like mine. In Africa, His image looks like many of you. It’s not that any of these images are historically and literally correct. Very likely Jesus the man looked something like your Jewish or your Arab neighbors. It’s not that these images are historically correct; they’re not. But they are spiritually correct. They are spiritually true.

Jesus is our alpha because He identifies with us. It is He, not Santa Claus, who knows what you’ve been thinking, for He knows who we are and what we face. He has been here. He has walked among us. He is like us and yet unlike us. Not a God a way out somewhere in the stratosphere, remote and untouchable. But with us. Among us. Like us. Jesus is our alpha, our prince of peace, for He identifies with us.

Further, Jesus is our alpha, for He teaches a radical new way of life, a way of life which, if we take it seriously, will lead to peace. Jesus is our alpha, our pioneer, for He teaches a way of life like no other teacher who has ever lived.

I am persuaded that the sickness of modern Christianity is that we have not taken seriously the radical demands of our master. When Jesus tells us that if someone strikes us on one cheek, we are to turn the other, we dismiss that as unrealistic idealism. When Jesus teaches us that when that person who is so demanding, so insistent, and we’ve already given him as much as we think he deserves — when he asks for even more, we can’t handle it. We don’t like it. We won’t do it. But Jesus teaches that if any one asks of you your coat, give him your cloak as well. What a radical teacher He is! And we have never really taken Him seriously.

This coming year I hope to lead an outreach that will be second to none into a year of rediscovering Jesus. I want to gain buy-in of all denominations to form a coalition to push the initiatives of the gospel to a degree that gang-bangers and addicts alike would receive the essential Jesus. I hope we will conclude, as did the Temple officers reported in John’s Gospel, “Never man spake like this man.” How true that is! With what matchless insight He probes us and instructs us and leads us! Jesus is our alpha, for He teaches a radical new way of life.

~Our Dream; The Worlds Benefit- Eclectic Leadership at Second Chance Alliance~

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If it is not in the interest of the public it is not in the interest of business.

When you start a small business, you are instantly the leader, whether you have had any training in leadership or not. However, there is help. Leadership theories abound, and you can choose the approach, or combination of approaches, that will suit your personal style and your business needs. Being eclectic in choosing what parts of theories to use does not mean improvising. It means studying various theories and combining them into a thoughtful approach.

Trait Theories

Early leadership theories focused on the traits leaders need. These include physical and mental stamina, action-oriented judgment, need for achievement, ability to motivate people and adaptability. You can use a trait approach to determine your starting place. Find what leadership traits you already possess, and focus on ones you want to acquire. This can give you a foundation for leading your workforce while exploring other aspects of leadership you may want to incorporate.

Behavioral Theories

Some leadership theories focus not on traits of leaders, but behaviors they engage in. Under this approach, you will find that emphasizing working toward concrete objectives makes for a strong leader. In addition, showing concern for people, having the ability to issue directives and involving others in decision making help a leader excel. The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to concern yourself with whether you have specific traits; you only have to learn behaviors that make good leaders. You can use this approach of acquiring behaviors to expand upon your skills as a leader.

Contingency Theories

Contingency theories state that leadership emerges under certain conditions. For example, if followers respect the leader, the goals are clear and the organization has conferred power on the leader, that leader is more likely to be affective. This approach allows you to look at the structure of your company and the culture you encourage among employees. You can establish your authority by demonstrating that you have power as the owner, have set achievable goals and have earned the respect of your workforce based on your treatment of employees and the quality of your decisions. The focus here is on the work environment.

Transformational Theories

Many recent theories encourage leaders to make employees better people, appeal to their higher natures and inspire them to achieve more than they thought they could. This leadership approach tends toward inspiration and positive reinforcement of strong character traits in others. To be this kind of leader, you must emphasize values and encourage others to embrace those values.

Methods for Combining Theories

To use an eclectic approach to leadership theory, you should choose elements from all four approaches and join them together as a cohesive whole. For example, you can begin by finding a trait in yourself, such as mental stamina; combine it with a behavior you embrace, such as working toward concrete objectives; add an emphasis on your authority as company founder; and demonstrate your strong values around a work ethic. This technique of choosing one element from among each of the four approaches gives you a single approach in the end

Great leaders make their teams feel safe.  Nowhere is this more critical than with ambitious growth and innovation initiatives, where a key to team success is comfort with ambiguity.

“In the military they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that they may gain.”

Every great growth story is framed by a movement.  This brief, entertaining talk shares how they are started.

“It’s important to focus on not just the leader, but the followers, because you will find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader.”

Is your company killing creativity?  The points Ken makes apply equally as well to the board room as they do to the class room.

“What we do know is this; if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. We run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes.”

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Second Chance Alliance a resilient, innovative, pro-social  creative and thriving community for all organization. We inspire, lead and unite an eclectic community of faith, professionals and including disenfranchised individuals, nonprofits, business, and government to overcome barriers to economic opportunities and ensure Hemet, Riverside and Moreno Valley communities continues to thrive. Our history is being made all the while we develop and gain exposure in the eyes of our targeted communities and cities and professionals associated with human empowerment and political legislators.  Second Chance Alliance will be launching The Volunteer Project Leader program, it is a national training initiative that aims to transform casual volunteers into active community leaders by equipping them with the leadership skills and tools they need to make meaningful and lasting change in their communities.

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~Pt-1 Yes Lord~

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Zaraphath (1 Kings 17:8-16)

1 Kings 17:8-16 continues God’s testing of the Prophet at a place called Zarephath–which actually means “a smelting place.” But here, another important element is added to the scenario of Elijah’s life as it is recorded for us in Scripture. It’s the element of personal ministry or outreach to others. The testing and needs of the Prophet became a means of ministry to a poor widow and her son. As I have tried to stress throughout this series, the events of our lives, even our everyday and seemingly mundane affairs, are not without importance. They are certainly not without God’s providential care as the One who works all things after the counsel of His own will. But important to this truth of Scripture is the need of God’s people to consider this fact against the varied events of their lives. We must think, trust, and act accordingly. The events of life are tools and agents of the Almighty. He uses these to get our attention, to change our values, character, priorities, pursuits, and above all, to change our sources of trust for security and happiness.

But let’s never lose sight of the fact that the same events that test us often become the means by which God is able to use us in ministry to others. In other words, our trials often become vehicles for ministry, opportunities to manifest the life of Jesus Christ and the reality and power of God (2 Cor. 4:8-15). This is precisely what we see in this next episode in the life of Elijah. His need became a means of meeting needs in the lives of the widow and her son.

Does this not serve to remind us again that we are not here for ourselves, even in our pain and need? God cares for us, but we are not alone. He cares for others too, and often seeks to minister to the people around us through the character changes He is seeking to bring about through our own suffering or need.

Christlikeness means that even in our pain we are to think of others and how God may want to use us. This goes totally against the grain of human nature and especially against our self-centered society. Ours is a society that is focused on what is best for me regardless of what it could mean to others. What’s best for my career, my happiness, my security, my significance, my . . . (you fill in the blank).

The Revelation to Elijah
(17:8-9)

A WORD FROM THE LORD–COMMUNICATION

The first word we see is the little connective, “then.” It continues the story and points us to what happened next in the sequence of events–Elijah received a word from the Lord with instruction. But the sequence here is resultant; it points to a consequence. In the context, this revelation to the prophet is undoubtedly the result of two spiritual facts. First, there is the faithfulness of God. The brook had dried up but God had promised to supply Elijah’s need. So the Lord comes to Elijah’s rescue. Second, Elijah had met the tests of the brook in faith. He waited on the Lord. He had not run ahead, nor run away to do his own thing, nor complained in discontent. So now, God comes to his rescue and gives new instruction. We see in this the principle of Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

Elijah had been faithful in the matter of dwelling by the brook. Now God was moving him out of this place of solitude and testing into a small, but important ministry because all ministries are important. From his faithfulness at Zarephath greater things would come. God was building Elijah’s faith, capacity for ministry, and using him to comfort the widow and her son at the same time.

What a person does with a small task is an indication of how he will handle a large one. We may think that the small things are not so important–that they do not really matter. However, faithfulness in the small things prepares us to handle the larger things when they come. Even the small things of life are tests of one’s faith and of who is really in control of one’s life.

The next words of verse 8 are “the word of the Lord came to him, saying.” Let’s note a couple of things: First, Elijah did not move until there was communion with God. He waited until he had direction from the Lord–He moved at the Word of the Lord. For Elijah, this was direct revelation, but the principle is God leads and directs us through His Word (which for us is the Bible), and through our communion with Him in Scripture. Of course, the Lord uses other things to give us direction such as open and closed doors, and our own abilities, talents, burdens and interests. He never leads us, however, contrary to the principles and directives of Scripture. Second, this reminds us just how important it is for us to commune with God in His Word so we can know the Word and use it for every decision we face. We can be sure somewhere in Scripture there will be principles that apply. This is not a series on divine guidance, but let me illustrate:

(1) Scripture does not tell us where we should cross the street. But it does tell us to obey the laws of the land and that we are not to tempt the Lord. This means that we should not jay walk in a big city, nor any city where it is against the law and where we are endangering our lives. God does not care where we cross unless we are breaking these two concepts.

(2) The Bible does not tell us what kind of automobile to drive. Frankly, I don’t think God cares unless we ignore biblical principles of the wise use of our income, or we want to own a certain automobile because it would make us feel important and is an attempt at finding personal significance.

Simply stated, we all need to do what is necessary to know and apply the Word. This means spending time in the Word daily, and gathering with other Christians for Bible study and worship. We need to learn new truth, review the old, and then apply it all.

DIRECTION FROM THE LORD–INSTRUCTION

1 Kings 17:9 Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you

This verse has three commands, “arise,” “go,” and “stay.” There is also a promise of provision. In each of these there are tests for the prophet. There are tests of faith or trust, of obedience, of availability and commitment, a test of vision for what God was doing in his life, and a test of contentment.

(1) The First Command–“Arise.” Of course, before we can move on in the will of God, we must arise, not just physically but spiritually. Following the Lord in obedience is the outcome of spiritual life and spiritual awakening. (Cf. Ephesians 5:8f.)

(2) The Second Command–(the natural outcome): “go to Zarephath.” “Go” is a Hebrew wordhalak which means “to go, walk.” In this case, it carries the idea of traveling or journeying, which included hardships and danger. I don’t want to make too much of this, but spiritually speaking, to arise is to go. It means to wake up from our apathy and sluggishness and get involved in God’s will for our lives. Too often Christians simply sit and soak. Because they are not using what they know in faith, they also eventually begin to sulk, and sour. Rather, God wants us to sit and soak up the Word, but then, by faith to strive for Him in the power of Christ (cf. Col. 1:29). This means our availability to go wherever He wants us. It means our involvement and commitment and all of these are included here. Remember, God’s will usually test us in our faith, our vision for what He is doing, our love, availability, values, commitment, and involvement, etc.

I am sure when Elijah heard these commands his heart leaped, and perhaps he thought, “Whew, just in time Lord, but that’s sure cutting it close!” As this was going through his mind, he then heard, “to Zarephath.” Zarephath comes from tsaraph, “to smelt, refine, test.” The verb is used metaphorically with the sense of “to refine by means of suffering.” Zarephath means “a smelting place, a place of testing.” God uses various testings to refine us and purge out the dross as in the refining of silver and gold. When Elijah heard this name, he probably thought, “Oh oh, here we go again, but the battle is the Lord’s and He is in control.” Then he heard, “which belongs to Sidon.” “Sidon”? He probably thought, “Lord, Sidon belongs to the land of Jezebel, that old prostitute of Baal worship. Lord, this is the center of Baal worship that is now being promoted in Israel. Yes, I know Lord, it’s still your battle and you know what you are doing. But this sure seems like strange directions.”

~Make Sure “Your” Math Equal God’s Standards; Finish “Your Race”~

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“And the Lord said . . . Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31, 32).

Our faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack.

Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal!

Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn’t touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things–this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had “fought a good fight,” he had “finished his course,” he had “kept the faith.” What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the race; he gained the prize, and he has not only the admiration of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven’t his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.

~Accountability Not Exploitation=Integrity For All~

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I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites.

Nelson Mandela

Police Release Disturbing New Details in NFLs Latest Domestic Violence Case

There is no question that the National Football League deserves to be under the national media microscope. The apparent proliferation of NFL players committing violent or abusive acts, and the soft punishments imposed on them by the League have deeply and understandably troubled millions of Americans. Perhaps most egregiously, it seems that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was content to bury the evidence that former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice viciously struck his wife.

How can a professional athlete continue to comfortably live life as a felon and common everyday human beings are denied everything as a felon?  With a slew of domestic violence cases permeating the NFL, some football fans arebenching America’s favorite fall pastime.
Even after the league enacted tougher punishments for domestic violence and three accused players sat out during games Sunday, the Twitter hashtag #BoycottNFL and calls for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s removal are running rampant.“No football for me today. Fire Goodell and I may return. #BoycottNFL @nflcommish @nfl #FireGoodell,” Scott Allen tweeted.And the women’s rights group Ultraviolet flew a banner over the New York Giants-Arizona Cardinals game Sunday, saying Goodell must go.

There is no question that the primary goal of this latest campaign on the left is to impose some form of reform on the institution of professional football.

“If pressure from the public keeps this ugly enough that advertisers go further than issuing statements of disappointment and actually turn away, we might just see the kinds of structural reforms that offer some measure of reform at the NFL,”

The call to reform the National Football League would be understandable, though a little excessive, if it was only this recent spate of domestic violence accusations and the NFL’s apparent desire to shield their players from consequence for their actions that spurned the left to demand the reform of professional football. But it is not.

Reforming or even federally regulating this uniquely American game has been a pet cause for many on the left for years.

In early 2013, President Barack Obama told The New Rebublic that he would not allow his son, if he had one, to play the notoriously violent game. His comments came amid a fiery controversy which waxed and waned as most do – a feature of the modern ADD news cycle — about evidence that professional football players suffer from concussive brain injuries long after they leave the field for good.When MSNBC’s Alex Wagner asked Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) if there was “bipartisan support to regulate safety in the NFL,” the congressman said there should be. At the very least, he added, mandatory education programs in public schools about on-field safety should be implemented.In that segment, The Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel added that the NFL is culpable for the care of its players because of what she claimed was the League’s historic efforts to cover up the damage their players suffer.

For the most part, the left stays on message; Professional and college football are violent, cutthroat games, and they need to be regulated for the good of the players and the fans. Occasionally, however, the veil slips and the perpetually outraged reveal that their true target all along was the game of football itself.

The focus of this post is to present the concept of integrity in professional athletes. Professional athletes are public figures and as such their personal lives become public information in many cases. There are many athletes who display a high degree of integrity in their actions while others do not. Professional athletes are role models and as such their decisions and actions influence a number of people who look up to them. When an athlete has a run in with the law it displays badly on the profession and the team to which they belong. However, there are those who display a high degree of integrity and professionalism but do not seem to get the recognition beyond their immediate community/region.

Many professional athletes are an asset to their communities and deserve to be recognized for their contributions beyond their community. Today it seems that those who have problems get more of the attention while others who contribute positively to their community do not. Those professional athletes who are arrested and convicted of a felony should be penalized financially. There are times that have been in the news where professional athletes have been called on the carpet for their actions. In some cases players have been suspended from playing. When this occurs their pay should also be forfeited, if it is not.

All professional athlete contracts should have a clause establishing rules for acceptable behavior and the penalties for breaking them. If such rules exist they should be more publicized. Everyone makes mistakes and people should be allowed some consideration to some extent. However if the actions and/or behavior is continually repeated and/or involves the committing of a felony offense for which they have been convicted, then their contract should be terminated. It is better to have athletes who respect their profession than those who constantly bring embarrassment. Embarrassment applies to their profession, their team and their community. Conviction must be in a court of law not public opinion. While some fans may not be happy about the situation they must remember that professional sports need to instill integrity in the profession. Professional sports will gain respect from the public if they promote integrity and enforce the penalties that are in place for violations.

 Integrity in our society seems to be lacking today and professional sports can be a leader in making a statement that integrity is important. It must be remembered that being accused of a crime such as a felony does not mean that the person is guilty. Therefore, no penalty or restriction should be imposed unless a conviction is achieved through a court of law. Sometimes news coverage of public personalities gives the impression they have been tried and convicted. News organizations should carefully cover any situation involving professional athletes as to not give the impression the accused is guilty. Many news organizations do cover the news honestly while presenting the facts. Athletes who are convicted, not just accused of felonies should not be continually paid for their behavior especially if it interferes with their performing the responsibilities for which they have contracted.

It must also be considered that as public figures there are those who will try to get attention by accusing professional athletes for crimes they did not commit. This is wrong. Prosecutors should consider the evidence before deciding a case against a professional athlete. If witnesses (s) constantly change their minds it does not provide a reliable basis for making a decision to prosecute. Accusations which constantly change in the details, in my opinion, do not warrant wasting government time and money to prosecute. There are enough cases in our court system. Our courts do not need to be flooded with unwarranted cases that are not supported by valid and reliable evidence.

Another point that must be made is that any person who has a valid accusation against a professional athlete should not be afraid to bring their evidence to the applicable prosecutor. Prosecutors should treat any person bringing evidence against a professional athlete with respect. If it is found that any person or persons bringing accusations against a professional athlete is deemed to be totally unsubstantiated, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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What-Dreams-May-Come-poster
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us,while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

~What Do You Believe? Government Or Facts

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You would think that after promoting and cheer-leading for the Iraq War and the politicians who pushed that failed policy, that conservatives would have found some humility or honesty about the topic along the way. You would be wrong.

The conservative movement and the Republican Party are still lying to themselves and everyone else about the Iraq War: The reasons we went to war, the support for the war, and what role the war played in American history.
As  Americans we deal with the war on skin color and mass incarceration and a failed VA system, the Government now is asking for more human life to be trusted in the hands of politicians who haven’t cared for me and many other veterans of the Iraq wars. I came home a mess from nine campaigns only to find out in 2013 “why” I behaved as I did to become a terrorist in my own country. A homeless Veteran equals a disenfranchised individual that more often than not becomes a felon and poly substance abuser which is a person who has a co-occurring disorders like me.

U.S. policy in Syria: “Senate Democratic leaders today prepared legislation to expressly authorize the United States military to train Syrian rebels to help battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and House Republicans appeared ready to follow their lead.” I am appalled at the level of trust America puts in these so called good rebels, who for all we know sold the American Journalist to Isis. I ran, jumped and served in these same areas with the same questions plaguing my peace then as now. What are we doing and why are we doing it for real?

Dysfunctional Congress Prepares to Claim Another Victim: Injured Veterans

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that a pilot program to treat veterans with traumatic brain injuries should be extended. But they can’t seem to pass the needed legislation.
Come September, recovering veterans in at least 20 states could be booted from a pilot program for traumatic brain injury—not because of personal medical progress, but because of the nation’s lawmakers.Despite bipartisan support, Congress has not been able to pass an extension of the rehabilitation program. Since last fall, the extension has been attached to several pieces of veterans legislation, which failed after lawmakers were unable to agree on military and VA reforms.

“If we don’t extend it, veterans…across the country will be ejected from the care they’re going to be getting, which would constitute, in my mind, a premature discharge,” said Susan Connors, the president of the Brain Injury Association of America. “Families feel like this has been a lifeline.”

Now the VA has halted new patient admissions and informed health-care providers that it plans to discharge veterans by September 15, Connors said.

The program currently is offering more than 100 veterans the opportunity to receive treatment for traumatic brain injuries in assisted living facilities, where they get therapy for their memory, movement, speech, and community reintegration. They also relearn simple tasks, such as how to cook, make a bed, and go to the grocery store. About half of these veterans were involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the rest are from previous generations. Eighty-four vets already have transitioned successfully through the program.

“With traumatic brain injury, many of them are struggling to do the basics,” said Joy Ilem, deputy national legislative director of Disabled American Veterans. “The pilot [program] seemed to really offer them the type of environment that worked on a number of things they might have struggled with.”

The Iraq War was one of the worst foreign policy ideas ever put forth in American history. The war was a war of choice, completely and wholly unnecessary. In engaging in the Iraq War, thousands of lives were lost unnecessarily – American soldiers and innocent Iraqis.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to produce such weapons, nor was he hiding any such weapons. The assertions that he had this power were false.

Hussein was contained. Hussein was a thuggish dictator who posed no threat to anyone in the region besides his own people, and even then his powers were limited. The no-fly zone prevented him from having any tactical edge, while combined with international sanctions, limited his ability to do harm. His neighbors in the region faced no threat from him – not Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel.

Invading Iraq opened Pandora ’s Box in the region, and much of the chaos we see today is a result of those actions.

Military veterans experience “excessive wait time” for medical care, leading to higher incidences of preventable hospitalizations and death, according to a scientific research council.

Drawing on the findings of recent government and scholarly studies, a report issued this week by the Institute of Medicine paints a picture of a healthcare system that is understaffed, under trained, and inaccessible.

For instance, veterans seeking mental-health care at one site had to wait, on average, 86 days to see a psychiatrist, according to the report. And veterans living in rural areas may not have access to any psychiatrists at all, the report said.

The Institute of Medicine’s report comes a couple of weeks after the Government Accountability Office that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees manipulated records to understate the wait times for medical appointments. In once clinic, for example, employees made it appear as though there was no wait time when, in reality, veterans experienced six- to eight-week delays for appointments, the GAO said.

Congress commissioned the study by the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academies. The National Academies is a non-profit organization that often provides advice to Congress on scientific and technical issues.

While the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the healthcare arm of the VA, requires that veterans seeking mental-health care be able to get a doctor’s appointment within 24 hours, the VHA has no “reliable and accurate method” to make that happen, the report said, citing findings from the VA Office of the Inspector General.

In my case the VHA has denied me services for 14 years. I came home seeking help and still seeking help. I am a classic case of how a veteran can become a terrorist in his own country because of being denied services after being a patriot that became a FELON and now is a TERRORIST because of a felony and substances abuse issues that came about due to trying to suppress pain and ill behavior behind anger and depression.

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~The Apostle Paul Accepted His Calling, No Matter What It Entailed~

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Whenever prisons or prisoners are portrayed by the media or the entertainment industry or even just discussed by ordinary people often the expression, “doing hard time” is used. I have served many years in just these type of places – like the ADX in Florence, CO – that are sometimes used as examples of “hard time.” And to be honest, I did not and do not think of those years as “hard time” or the rest of them as “easy time.” It was just “doing time…”

When prisoners say, “doing time,” we mean it literally. How we deal with or mitigate the damage of those units of time we are serving, whether it’s  years, decades, or forever. Some of us also consider self-improvement and attempting to gain our freedom part of doing time. There s an opposite to that, of course. We refer to it as, “time doing you.” That is when you allow your conditions to define you and fall into negative or self-destructive behaviors like drugs, gangs, or unnecessary violence.

“The coldest, most inhumane time I have done were the years that I spent at the ADX, or Administrative Maximum in Florence, Colorado. Among other labels it has been described as, “The Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and the most secure prison in the world.”

I was taken there right after it opened. I was there with Tim McVeigh, the Unabomber, and some of the first World Trade Center bombers, and various gang and mob leaders. I m often asked what it was like being there and it is a hard question. This is because your circumstances change there over the years. Also, there is no common ground to start from, nothing to compare it to. My standard answer is, “Imagine being locked behind two steel doors into a very small bathroom, and three times a day, large, angry men bring food to you. Five times a week, three of those large, angry men chain you up and escort you with sticks to a slightly larger room for an hour of court-mandated recreation. That s an incomplete answer, but it usually ends the conversation, which is the point. For the purposes of this conversation, I will try and be more detailed. One primary aspect I remember is that in the ADX, for the first time in my life, I was truly alone. Of course, it was solitary confinement, but this is the modern version with soundproofing and baffles in the vents, etc. We did have intermittent contact with a few people on the range in rec periods, but that was a few hours a week.

And he took him aside from the multitude (Mark 7:33).

Paul not only stood the tests in Christian activity, but in the solitude of captivity. You may stand the strain of the most intense labor, coupled with severe suffering, and yet break down utterly when laid aside from all religious activities; when forced into close confinement in some prison house.

That noble bird, soaring the highest above the clouds and enduring the longest flights, sinks into despair when in a cage where it is forced to beat its helpless wings against its prison bars. You have seen the great eagle languish in its narrow cell with bowed head and drooping wings. What a picture of the sorrow of inactivity.

Paul in prison. That was another side of life. Do you want to see how he takes it? I see him looking out over the top of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. I see him write a document and sign his name–not the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar; not the victim of the Sanhedrin; but the–“prisoner of the Lord.” He saw only the hand of God in it all. To him the prison becomes a palace. Its corridors ring with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.

Restrained from the missionary work he loved so well, he now built a new pulpit–a new witness stand–and from that place of bondage come some of the sweetest and most helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious messages of light come from those dark shadows of captivity.

Think of the long train of imprisoned saints who have followed in Paul’s wake. For twelve long years Bunyan’s lips were silenced in Bedford jail. It was there that he did the greatest and best work of his life. There he wrote the book that has been read next to the Bible. He says, “I was at home in prison and I sat me down and wrote, and wrote, for joy did make me write.” The wonderful dream of that long night has lighted the pathway of millions of weary pilgrims.

That sweet-spirited French lady, Madam Guyon, lay long between prison walls. Like some caged birds that sing the sweeter for their confinement, the music of her soul has gone out far beyond the dungeon walls and scattered the desolation of many drooping hearts.

Oh, the heavenly consolation that has poured forth from places of solitude!

Taken aside by Jesus,
To feel the touch of His hand;
To rest for a while in the shadow
Of the Rock in a weary land.
Taken aside by Jesus,
In the loneliness dark and drear,
Where no other comfort may reach me,
Than His voice to my heart so dear.
Taken aside by Jesus,
To be quite alone with Him,
To hear His wonderful tones of love
‘Mid the silence and shadows dim.
Taken aside by Jesus,
Shall I shrink from the desert place;
When I hear as I never heard before,
And see Him ‘face to face’?

~Recalcitrant Government, Police Forces, And Citizens~

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We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

In my viewing of the spiritual warfare at hand today I chose to study the word recalcitrant. I was enlighten in several ways of exactly who the recalcitrant individuals are. We have recalcitrant’s within the GOP Congress, Democrats, our policing agencies and citizens. Most people of America are oblivious to the reason all this is occurring because the news is the number one source of information for most Americans today. Our society has become one of  anxiety and being in a hurry. Everything is instantaneous and at a rapid pace. It seems that the only ones relaxing at present is our Congress. They have refused to act on several subjects related to our public safety to our national security which makes them recalcitrant public officials. The police force of Ferguson is reluctantly responding with truth and any real information about this police officer who is responsible for the senseless killing of Michael Brown which in turn is being met by many recalcitrant citizens of Ferguson,which by the way are (Black). 

I want to unearth the cultural assumptions that underpin hyper-incarceration, beginning with the image of the dangerous black man. This frequently plowed ground is particularly relevant here — from the recalcitrant slave in general to Nat Turner in particular, from lynching to locking up the drug dealer on the corner, the dangerous black man has been a constant in American history. (One could argue, though I will not, that to many Barack Obama is merely its latest incarnation.) Certainly, there is no doubt that the black man is dangerous to the maintenance of the Republican majority. That explains the drive to suppress minority participation in the last election.

I grew up In Washington D. C. and I would Board the X2 bus at Lafayette Square opposite the White House and travel its 5-mile route eastward across Washington and there was a very good chance that more than half the African-American men who were your fellow passengers  have been in prison at some point in their lives. The X2 bus, to the extent that white Washingtonians are aware of it, has a reputation as dangerous, prone to passenger fights and occasional shootings. The X2 is a subject perhaps of white curiosity but no real concern, and few white Washingtonians use it. Yet the X2 is a symbol of the white segregation from and blindness to the devastation of hyper-incarceration that my wife and I are trying to explore in our approach to assist ex-offenders in California.

The Scandal of White Complicity underscores the point that the image of America as a postracial, colorblind society based on meritocracy and individual choice impedes a deeper understanding of the way in which white America is implicated in the systematic deprivation of the African-American community. It is a deprivation that drains that community of the economic and social capital that can break the cycle in which sons of imprisoned men too often meet their fathers behind bars.

Merton wrote “that American society has to change before the race problem can be solved.” Pfeil believes hyper-incarceration by its very nature will not end without a complete societal change. Citing James Baldwin’s warning that “history is literally present in all that we do,”

Mikulich frames white America within the imprisonment prism’s four walls:

  • White separation and white isolation from African-American society leads to a loss of empathy for the effects of hyper-incarceration;
  • The illusion of innocence leads to the delusion that whiteness and white neighborhoods are the norm to be desired and that black neighborhoods represent segregation;
  • This amnesia and its accompanying anesthesia lead to a distortion, if not an outright erasure, of history;
  • Power and privilege ensure that a “white-dominated legal system effectively protects, indeed renders invisible, unconscious racism on behalf of police, prosecutors and judges as it stigmatizes blacks.” (Not to mention the fact that the formerly incarcerated are often denied the right to vote.)

Rap and hip-hop emerge as the latest manifestation of the dangerous black man, but I find in the early days of this genre a positive attempt to rescue black history on the part of young black men through “perfecting the craft of orality.” What started out as a positive movement morphed into a caricature and merely reinforced the dominant image. My long time mentor Dr. Emmanuel Franks, drawing on the work of Johann Baptist Metz, argues that history is essential to Christian life, beginning with the constant remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. Metz called this a “dangerous memory” because it commands Christians to remember the suffering of others. Returning to the theme of white amnesia, Dr. Emmanuel Franks says that amnesia deprives Christians of the power to act, to change.

Confronted by hyper-incarceration, Pfeil asks how Christians respond. Following Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Pfeil looks to the message of the Sermon on the Mount to understand the personal and communal relationship to the world of materialism. The beatitudes envision a different world, one that exalts a wealth of spirit over a wealth of things.

Because of our deep immersion in this world in which we consciously or unconsciously benefit from a system of oppression, both historical and contemporary, it is difficult to effect the change that is necessary. Instead of the hapless question what can I do, one should ask what needs to change.

“A great force of suffering accumulated between the basement of heaven and the roof of hell…”

In their quest for absolute political hegemony in the United States, some elements of the Right now dare to claim to share with blacks – if not common cause – common conclusions about the state of race relations in America. In a January 8, 2006 piece weighted with the full freight of centuries of white supremacist delusions, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto claimed that BC‘s January 5, 2006 Cover Story, “Katrina Study: Black Consensus, White Dispute,” showed that BC and the WSJ agree that African Americans and whites see the world quite differently. “BlackCommentator.com, which describes itself as a source of ‘commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans’ and has a harshly left-wing outlook has an analysis of a poll on racial attitudes.

The BC story was based on a small slice of an important, soon to be released study by University of Chicago political scientist Michael Dawson. Dr. Dawson’s team’s study shows what every conscious Black person already knows: there is a yawning chasm between white and black perceptions of life, politics and opportunity in 21st Century America.

The United States has created wildly different realities for its black and white citizens.  From the unequal availability of prenatal care and early childhood education, through ubiquitous and continuing racially segregated education and racially selective policies of crime control and mass imprisonment, through generations of housing and employment discrimination resulting in huge gaps in the accumulation of wealth between black and white families, to early graves occasioned by differential access to medical care for African Americans, it is clear that for centuries blacks and whites have lived in the same country but in different worlds. 

Fiscal responsibility is a code phrase. It means, Don’t spend money on Black folks. There are several code words in white America media that reflect the chasm of social justice and equality.

“Fiscal responsibility is a code word for whites for anti-Black policy,” said Dawson. “Reagan used it, Bush used it, and the people who overthrew Reconstruction used it. It is one of the oldest code words in American politics. It’s right up there with ‘law and order.'”

Republicans’ rhetorical campaign against lawlessness took off in earnest during the 1960s, when Richard Nixon artfully conflated black rioting, student protest, and common crime to warn that the “criminal forces” were gaining the upper hand in America. As an electoral strategy, it was a brilliant success. But as an ideological claim, the argument that America needed more police and prisons was in deep tension with the conservative cause of rolling back state power. The paradox flared up occasionally, as during the National Rifle Association’s long-running feud with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the 1990s. But for the most part, conservatives lived with the contradiction for forty years. Why?

For one, it worked political magic by tapping into a key liberal weakness. Urban violent crime was rising sharply during the 1960s and liberals had no persuasive response beyond vague promises that economic uplift and social programs would curb delinquency. The conservatives’ strategy also provided an outlet for racial anxieties that could not be voiced explicitly in the wake of the civil rights movement. Sometimes, the racial appeals were impossible to miss, as when Ronald Reagan warned that “city streets are jungle paths after dark” in his 1966 California gubernatorial campaign. More often, anti-criminal chest-thumping played into the division of society between the earners and the moochers, with subtle racial cues making clear who belonged on which side.

Meanwhile, the more threatened ordinary Americans came to feel, the angrier they became at elites who appeared to side with the criminals, and the more they revered the people designated as society’s protectors. As a result, conservatives came to view law enforcement the same way they had long seen the military: as a distinctive institution whose mission somehow exempted it from the bureaucratic failures and overreach that beset school districts, environmental agencies, and the welfare office. Yet the two surging wings of the conservative movement—libertarians and religious conservatives—have since each found their own reasons to challenge long-standing orthodoxy about crime.

American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.

Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”

The encounter in Ferguson that ended with a police officer fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown has spurred police departments in the St. Louis area to do some deep soul-searching. Many hope to avoid the uncertainty of chaotic events by having video to investigate officers’ interactions with civilians.

Video recordings would allow judges and juries to see events unfold, helping to shed light through the often-conflicting or hazy recollections of eyewitnesses.

Nowhere is that more needed than in Ferguson, the north St. Louis County suburb at the epicenter of a racial crisis. The city is now seeking money to outfit its officers with wearable cameras that can be pinned to a uniform or attached to a pair of sunglasses.

The city of Ellisville in west St. Louis County quickly approved a $7,500 expenditure last week to do the same.

“It was an emergency item on our agenda to get officers wearing those cameras immediately,” said Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, noting that all of the city’s police officers will wear them. “Nobody knows how the grand jury is going to play out. Our officers could respond to calls for service down in Ferguson.”

Just as important as the Ferguson police feel these cameras are to policing and telling the true story, We feel it’s equally important to get funded to assist our human life in Riverside California, There are 6,322 ex-offenders hitting the streets and more than half of them half no support system. Take a look at our interest to assist human being that are in need of a Alternative sentencing/re-entry program to help reduce the rate of recidivism.

8k7la86586

~Hate~

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As I reflect, I think about what a brave soul Dr. King was to transform his fight for “Negro” equality with White America and one that was based on Civil Rights, to a fight that was global in scope and based on Human Rights.

Like others have, I often ask myself what would Dr. King think about today’s America and the world as a whole?  Would he feel as though all of his efforts achieved their end goal?  Would he support the various Occupy and other social movements taking place the world over? The answers I keep coming up with are NO and YES respectively.

Given the continued disparities across every major aspect of life in America for Black Americans, I could not imagine Dr. King would be pleased with our progress.  Yes, we have a Black President and we certainly have achieved great success in many areas of the business, sports, entertainment, the arts and the social world.  However, we do not live in a “Post-racial” society.   As a collective group, the majority of Black Americans have not benefited from the accomplishments of a few.

Statistically, we are breaking records in all the wrong categories of life:

  • We are #1 in Incarceration rates proportionate to the overall American population
  • We are #1 in Healthcare disparities
  • We are #1 in Education disparities
  • We are #1 in HIV/AIDS contraction rates
  • We are #1 in Quality of living disparities
  • We are #1 in Divorce and Households lead by single mothers
  • We are #1 in Sperm donors who happen to be males not being fathers
  • We are #1 in just about any other negative thing you can think of as it relates to simply living

It is not my intention to bring anyone down or paint such a dismal picture of life for the majority of Black Americans, but this is not my subjective truth.  This is the reality of too many of our people. The bottom line, Dr. King’s goals have not been achieved.

We do not live in a “Post-Racial” America and we need to WAKE UP!!!

 

Kemet is the first civilization in the world.  Kemet is the African name of the land we now call Egypt.   This more modern term – Egypt – resulted from Greek and later conquerors of the land applying their own names in their own language.  Kemet means “black land” or “black earth.”  And, Kemet may well be the first complex civilization in the world.  It is certainly the longest civilization to still be located in the same place.  If you define a civilization by its ability to make war, Sumer in Mesopotamia may be older.  But, if you define a civilization by its peace and stability, then Kemet again is the oldest.  And, despite modern political assertions that Egypt is in the Middle East, Kemet is in Africa. 

Egypt (Kemet) bordered by deserts is absolutely the “gift of the Nile.”  But African civilization is the gift of Kemet.  Eminent African scholar Cheik Anta Diop has said that: “Egypt is to Africa as Greece is to Europe.”  In other words, Kemet should be considered the jewel at the heart of African civilization from which much culture, arts, sciences and technologies radiate.  Much the way Western Civilization traces its key origins to ancient Greece; other African civilizations owe a debt to Kemet.

In the past, there has been a spurious controversy over whether or not the ancient people of Kemet were Black people.  This is a racist argument on either side.  The people of ancient Kemet – or Egypt, if you like – were African.  Regardless of our modern preoccupations with race as evidenced by skin color, the people of Kemet were African.  And, just like today, Africans come in many shades (as, by the way, do Europeans).   Any detailed examination of artistic representations show Kemetic peoples skin tones to range from dark Black to light tan and everything in between.  The argument that they were Caucasians is based on the racist mythos that only Europeans could create advanced societies.  It was an ugly idea based on European ethnocentrism.  And it served well to perpetuate relatively modern color-based racism that has evolved since the start of European colonization.  The argument that all ancient Kemetic peoples had to be Black in the modern sense of the word simply reinforces skin color based distinctions that are contemporary and have very little utility to understanding the peoples in themselves.  It is putting our 21st century concepts of race in the way of understanding how the people of Kemet saw race.

We will leave the discourse of Egyptian “Blackness” with some tales that show both the connectedness of Kemet with the rest of ancient Africa, and that race as we know it did not apply. 

 

This poisonous master-class mentality did not die with the abolition of slavery—it continued, in new forms. In particular, each wave of immigrants that came over from Europe had to “fit itself into” the dominant relations of American society—they had to find an “economic niche” (usually toward the bottom rungs of the working class, at least at first) and they had to work out a relation to the dominant political and cultural superstructure of society. In doing so, these white immigrants often tried to distinguish themselves from Black people—and this often exploded into the open antagonism of white mobs rampaging against Black people and even lynching them—yes, in the northern cities as well as the South, as these immigrant communities defined themselves as “full-blooded” white Americans in violent opposition to Black people. This system reinforced the master-class mentality among northern whites with petty, but not insignificant, privileges in jobs and housing. And this became a major double-barreled shotgun for the capitalist ruling class: it blinded these white people and immigrants to their most fundamental interests as members of the proletariat, turning their anger away from the system that actually exploited and oppressed them, and turning it against the most oppressed and exploited people in society. And it gave them an “identity” as white Americans, with a set of expectations and entitlements to go with it—and to defend. A minority of whites opposed this madness, and took up revolutionary or radical or even just decently humane positions; but while very important—and we’ll return to its significance later—this sort of stand was far too uncommon. (A secondary, but important, effect of this master-class mentality among whites of all classes was to partly obscure the class character of the oppression of the masses of Black people—their position and role as viciously exploited proletarians, within the overall working class of the U.S.—and the many and close links between this class exploitation of large numbers of Black people, as part of the proletariat, and thenational oppression of Black people as a people.)

To return again to the period of slavery, it is important to be clear on an essential truth: the slaves fiercely resisted this. In the U.S. alone there were over 200 slave revolts, and the slaves of Haiti stunned the world when they successfully waged a 15-year revolution against first their colonial masters, then the British, and finally Napoleon’s armies. Even with these heroic revolts, it was only with the Civil War that the resistance finally bore fruit in the U.S., and the emancipation of Black people from outright slavery was achieved. Here too the masses of Black people—both runaway slaves and “freedmen”—played a crucial role. When finally allowed to join the Union Army, they died at twice the rate of white soldiers (while being paid lower wages for most of the Civil War)!

~I Read, So I Know, I Comprehend, So I Remember: Wake Up “My” Love Ones~

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The USA arose on the foundation of the genocidal theft of Native American (Indian) lands, and the enslavement of African people. Since that time, the oppression of Black people has been essential to the functioning of this system, changing as that system has changed, but always deeply woven into the very fabric of society. White supremacy and capitalism have proven to be so closely intertwined that, even when millions have risen up, time and again, to fight the oppression of African-American people, the system has in the end responded by re-entrenching and reinforcing, even if modifying the forms of, that oppression. Today’s situation is extreme and dire; and any solution that leaves capitalism intact is no solution at all and, indeed, a damaging dead end.

 

Vast majority of blacks view the criminal justice system as unfair

“The young man was shot 41 times while reaching for his wallet”…“the 13-year-old was shot dead in mid-afternoon when police mistook his toy gun for a pistol”… “the unarmed young man, shot by police 50 times, died on the morning of his wedding day”… “the young woman, unconscious from having suffered a seizure, was shot 12 times by police standing around her locked car”… “the victim, arrested for disorderly conduct, was tortured and raped with a stick in the back of the station-house by the arresting officers.”Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer in a St. Louis, Missouri, suburb.

In  South L.A. neighborhood of Ezell Ford, the young, mentally ill, unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police two days after the killing of Mike Brown.

Moments later, steps from the spot where Ezell Ford was killed, a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car raced down the street, chasing down a black suspect. Two white officers seized the man, who grabbed a fistful of an officer’s shirt. They took him down. At one point in the scuffle, the man appeared to reach for an officer’s gun. Neighbors quickly gathered to jeer at the officers.

Each moment was an expectant one, high tension for long minutes, and it’s eerily easy to imagine how nerves on both sides could’ve caused this situation to escalate quickly.

Does it surprise you to know that in each of the above cases the victim was Black? If you live in the USA, it almost certainly doesn’t.

Think what that means: that without even being told, you knew these victims of police murder and brutality were Black. Those cases—and the thousands more like them that have occurred just in the past few decades—add rivers of tears to an ocean of pain.  And they are symptoms of a larger, still deeper problem.

Conventional wisdom says that while some disparities remain, things have generally advanced for Black people in America and today they are advancing still. People like Obama and Oprah are held up as proof of this. But have things really moved forward? Is this society actually becoming “post-racial”?

The answer to that question can be found in every corner of U.S. society.

Take employment: Black people remain crowded into the lowest rungs of the ladder…that is, if they can find work at all. While many of the basic industries that once employed Black people have closed down, study after study shows employers to be more likely to hire a white person with a criminal record than a Black person without one, and 50% more likely to follow up on a resume with a “white-sounding” name than an identical resume with a “Black-sounding” name. In New York City, the rate of unemployment for Black men is fully 48%.

Or housing: Black people face the highest levels of racial residential segregation in the world—shunted into neglected neighborhoods lacking decent parks and grocery stores and often with no hospitals at all. Black people, as well as Latinos, who had achieved home-ownership had their roofs snatched from them. They were the ones hit hardest by the sub-prime mortgage crisis after having been targeted disproportionately by predatory lenders—resulting in the greatest loss of wealth to people of color in modern U.S. history.

Or healthcare: Black infants face mortality rates comparable to those in the Third World country of Malaysia, and African-Americans generally are infected by HIV at rates that rival those in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall the disparities in healthcare are so great that one former U.S. Surgeon General recently wrote, “If we had eliminated disparities in health in the last century, there would have been 85,000 fewer black deaths overall in 2000.

Or education: Today the schools are more segregated than they have been since the 1960’s with urban, predominantly Black and Latino schools receiving fewer resources and set up to fail. These schools more and more resemble prisons with metal detectors and kids getting stopped and frisked on their way to class by uniformed police who patrol their halls. Often these schools spend around half as much per pupil as those in the well-to-do suburbs.

Or take imprisonment: The Black population in prison is 900,000 a tenfold increase since 1954!—and the proportion of Black prisoners incarcerated relative to whites has more than doubled in that same period. A recent study pointed out that “a young Black male without a high school degree has a 59 percent chance of being imprisoned before his thirty-fifth birthday.”

On top of all that, and reinforcing it, is an endlessly spouting sewer of racism in the media, culture and politics of this society—racism that takes deadly aim at the dreams and spirit of every African-American child. And who can forget the wave of nooses that sprung up around the country, south andnorth, in the wake of the 2007 struggle in Jena, Louisiana against the prosecution (and persecution) of six Black youth who had fought back against a noose being hung to intimidate them from sitting under a “whites only” tree at school?

All this lay beneath the criminal government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. For reasons directly related to the oppression of Black people throughout the history of this country, and continuing today, African-Americans were disproportionately the ones without the resources to get out of the way of that storm, as well as the ones concentrated in the neighborhoods whose levees had gone unrepaired for years. Far from “mere” incompetence, the government responded with a combination of gun-in-your-face repression and wanton, murderous neglect. People were stuck on rooftops in 100-degree heat for days on end, with nothing to eat or drink. Prisoners were left locked in cells as waters rose to their necks. The protection of private property and social control was placed above human life. The governor of the state ordered cops and soldiers to shoot on sight “looters”—that is, people trying to survive and to help others. On at least one occasion, people trying to escape the worst-hit areas were stopped by police at gunpoint from crossing over to a safer area. When evacuations finally were carried out, they were done with the heartlessness of a cruel plantation owner. Families were separated, with children ripped away from parents. Tens of thousands were scattered all over the country with one-way tickets, sometimes not even told their destinations. Back home, bodies were left floating in water, or lying on sidewalks, underneath debris, decomposing and mangled, for months.

Through it all, politicians and commentators spewed out unrelenting racism. Who can forget Barbara Bush herself, the president’s mother, and her remark in a shelter for refugees from Katrina—some separated from their families and having lost everything, including dear ones—that “[S]o many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”A 10-term Congressman took the prize for declaring, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”Since then, the first…the second…the third anniversary of Katrina passed with many parts of New Orleans still uninhabitable ghost towns. In the mostly Black 9th Ward, blocks of devastated houses have been razed—a vast wasteland now dotted with occasional concrete steps going nowhere. When Black people have fought to stay in the projects which are still habitable, they have been driven out—and when they have protested at City Council, they have been pepper-sprayed and beaten. Oil rigs and tourist areas are long since back up and humming, while rebuilding schools, hospitals, and childcare centers are pushed off the list. Through it all, cops and national guards continue to occupy poor neighborhoods like enemy territory.

Does all this look like a “post-racial” society to you?

The answer is clear. And while more Black people than ever before have been allowed to “make it” into the middle class, two things must be said.

First, even for these people their situation is still tenuous. To take one stark example: In opposition to the widespread notions of the “American dream,” where each successive generation “does better” than the previous one, the majority of the children of middle-class Black families have been cast, by the workings of this system, onto a downwardly mobile path. And every Black person—no matter how high they rise—still faces the insults and the dangers concentrated in the all-too-familiar experience of being stopped for “driving while Black.” As Malcolm X said over 40 years ago, and as is still true today: What do they call somebody Black with a Ph.D.? A “nigger.”

Second, and even more profoundly, for millions and millions of Black people things have gotten WORSE.

It will not help—in fact it will do real harm—to believe in this “post-racial” fantasy, or even the “less ambitious” lie of steady improvement. The cold truth of the oppression of African-American people must be squarely confronted and deeply understood, if it is ever to be transformed.

This country was founded on the twin crimes of the genocidal dispossession of its Native American (Indian) inhabitants, and the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans. But this essential and undeniable truth is constantly suppressed, blurred over, distorted and excused—all too often treated as “ancient history,” if admitted at all. But let’s look at its implications.

Modern capitalism arose in Europe, when the merchant class in the cities—the newly arising capitalists, or bourgeoisie—began to set up workshops in which they exploited peasants who had been driven off their land, as well as others who could not make a living any longer other than by working for, and being exploited by, these capitalists. This was the embryo of the modern proletariat—a class of people who have no means to live except to work for someone else, and that works for wages in processes that require a collectivity of people working together. The early capitalists, like their descendants, would take possession of and sell the goods thus produced, paying the proletarians only enough to live on, and thereby accumulating profit. They did this in competition with other capitalists, and those who could not sell cheaper were driven under; this generated a drive to gain any possible advantage, either through lowering wages and more thoroughly exploiting the proletariat, or through investing in more productive machinery, or both. This twin dynamic of exploitation and competition drove forward the accumulation of capital in a relentless and ever-widening cycle.

   Why Education Is Not the AnswerPeople say: “We need to get educated, that’s the problem. Yes, we don’t get the resources the white schools get. But if our children would only study harder—and if we would do better at turning off the television more often—then they could learn and get ahead.”

This mixes up some important truths with some very wrong conclusions. The truth is that this system has consistently denied a good education to Black children and continues to do so today, beginning with the execution of slaves who taught other slaves to read. Today, most African-American children are confined to prison-like inner city schools which get much fewer resources and in which the true history and dynamics of society and the world are covered up, and there is little if any attempt to instill critical or creative thinking. These schools send African-American children the message, in ways spoken and unspoken, that there is no real future for them in this society. And it is a further crime of this system that many Black youth then end up “buying into” the system’s lies that they are inferior, “turn off” to their own potential to learn and, in so doing, turn away from the wider world of knowledge and science.

But suppose every single Black child somehow DID get an education that enabled them to think critically and to master the skills involved in different kinds of mental labor. Would millions of today’s poor then be able to get good jobs and climb out of poverty? No. Even if you could somehow eliminate discrimination short of revolution—which in fact cannot be done—so long as the system of capitalism is in effect, people are employed only ifsome capitalist can make money off their employment. By that standard, there is not a “demand” for that many technical jobs and even many of those jobs are being shifted to parts of the world where people are forced to work for even lower wages. The capitalists know this, of course, and that is one big reason that they are NOT providing a good education for the youth in the inner cities in particular—they do not want to raise the expectations of Black people “too high.” They fear a situation in which millions of people have knowledge and skills and therefore expect to get a decent job and a better life, and then are STILL denied—many political operatives of the ruling class recall very well the experience of the 1960s, when Black people’s hopes and expectations were raised, and then largely dashed, and the result was a massive explosion of righteous anger and rebellion among Black people, particularly the youth, and today the ruling class harbors a deep fear that again raising expectations would be far too socially explosive.

There is a further problem still: that unless and until there is a concerted effort, backed up by state power, to actually overcome inequality and white supremacy in every sphere of society, not only will educational systems themselves continue to reinforce this but no amount of education will avail to overcome and eradicate it. Even today, when someone succeeds against all odds in getting a good education, the discrimination remains. Education alone is not sufficient; it will take a revolution, in which the rule of the exploiters and oppressors is broken and state power is put into the hands of the masses, to get rid of the capitalist fetters and to thoroughly uproot the white supremacy it has fed on. A socialist society needs the creative and critical thinking of people throughout society, including those whose creativity and critical thinking has been stifled and suffocated under this oppressive system. One of the key features, and necessities, of this new society will be to encourage and foster this creativity and critical thinking among the people broadly—developing their potential and enabling them to increasingly contribute, in many diverse ways, to the development of society, and the emancipation of humanity, as part of the great collective effort to bring into being a new society, a completely new world, without exploitation or oppression.

As part of building the revolutionary movement, we certainly unite with people’s struggles and efforts to fight against the savage inequalities of today’s education system. And the revolutionary movement itself must educate people in the real history and dynamics of society, in science, and in the scientific method more generally. But education alone, of whatever kind, cannot solve the problem.

Education as “the way out” turns people’s eyes away from the real problem and even leads them to blame themselves when it turns out to be yet another false hope.

But this was not some linear or self-contained process. In fact, capitalism in Europe “took off” with the development of the world market, and that in turn was fed and driven forward by theslave trade. Ships would sail from London and Liverpool, in England, filled with the goods sold by the capitalists. They would unload these goods for sale or trade in the coastal cities of Africa, and fill their holds with human beings who had been captured in raids in the African countryside. They would then take this human cargo to the Americas and the Caribbean, to be sold as slaves. Then the ships would take the sugar, cotton, rice and other goods produced by the slaves in these colonies back to Europe, to be sold for use as raw materials or food. And so on, every day, year in, year out—for centuries. This slave trade and the slave economy that went with it—along with the extermination of the Native peoples of the Americas (the Indians) through deliberate slaughter, disease, and working them to death in silver mines—formed what Karl Marx called the “rosy dawn of the primitive accumulation of capital.”

The crime was enormous. Between 9.4 and 12 million Africans were kidnapped, sold and sent to the Americas as slaves. Over two million more died in the voyage from Africa, and enormous numbers perished in Africa itself, through the slave-taking raids and wars, followed by forced marches in chains to the coastal African cities to feed this market. At least 800,000 more died in the port cities of Africa, locked down in prison (the barracoons) awaiting shipment. Once in the Americas, slaves were sent to “seasoning camps” to “break” them—where an estimated 1/3 of the Africans died in that first hellish year.

Take a few seconds to think about the reality behind those numbers. THOSE WERE HUMAN BEINGS! Numbers alone cannot hope to capture the agony and suffering all this meant for over three centuries; the best these numbers can do is give a sense of the sheer scale and scope of the barbarity. But even today this is very little known, and what went into the foundation of American history is barely taught, if at all, in the schools, or recognized in the media and culture.

Those Africans who survived this hell were then forced to toil as slaves, doing the work to “tame” the Americas—to develop the agriculture that would form the basis for the new European colonies. A respected historian put it this way: “Much of the New World, then, came to resemble the death furnace of the ancient god Moloch—consuming African slaves so increasing numbers of Europeans (and later, white Americans) could consume sugar, coffee, rice, and tobacco.

Within Africa itself, the slave trade caused tremendous distortions in the development of Africa and gave rise to the major African slave-trading states in west Africa, as these states traded slaves to the Europeans for commodities that included guns.

Slavery existed in every part of the world and many societies before the transatlantic slave trade that began in the 1500s—but it had never before been carried out on this scale and with this nearly industrial-style inhumanity. That was the product not of uniquely evil men—but of men who became monsters by serving the demands of a monstrous new system whose only commandment was “Expand or Die.” This slave trade was so integral to the rise of capitalism that the sugar and tea produced by slaves not only turned huge profits, but also served as a very cheap way to feed empty calories and stimulants to severely exploited proletarians in Europe. And the labor organization of the sugar cane fields of Jamaica was adapted to the factory floors of London.

To justify this, the capitalists and slave owners drew on the Bible—which yes, does in fact justify slavery, in both old testament and new—and then later on pseudo-scientific ideologies of racism that claimed that Africans and Native Americans (Indians) were a “lower species,” inherently inferior. The fact that Africans had been kidnaped, tortured, enslaved, killed if they tried to educate themselves, forced to watch as their children or spouses were sold off to other parts of the country, and generally kept in an inferior position—this CRIME by the rulers was pointed to as “proof” that Blacks were inferior. Incredibly enough, these slaves were denounced as “lazy” by the parasitical slave masters whose great wealth the slaves created through their back-breaking labor!   These lies served both to “justify” the horrors of slavery and formed a crucial element in the “social glue” that held society together. This pattern, and this lie and its social use, have continued in different forms up to today.

The fact that these supposedly “inherently inferior” people had played a crucial part in building up highly developed societies and cultures in both Africa and the Americas, long before Europeans came to dominate these places, was an “inconvenient truth” written out of the official histories and textbooks.  And the fact that all human beings are all one species, with only relatively superficial differences in some characteristics, was also written out, with spurious racist pseudo-science substituted instead—lies that also come up in new forms today.

There was nothing inherent in Europeans that led to capitalism taking root there first—there were a number of areas in the world where capitalism might have taken off slightly earlier or slightly later if things had come together a little differently. But Europe is where capitalism did take off, and the dominance of the capitalist nations of Europe and then the U.S. (and Japan, which developed in a different set of circumstances) over the past five centuries is inconceivable without slavery.

“There Would Be No United States as We Now Know It Today Without Slavery”

Slavery fueled the foundation and rise of not just capitalism in general, but the U.S. in particular. This is not just a “stain” that can eventually be washed, or even scrubbed, away within the confines of this system; it is embedded in the very fabric of this society—indeed, the U.S. Constitution itself legally institutionalized slavery and deemed African-Americans to count as only 3/5 of a white person for census purposes.

In the recently published work, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Bob Avakian wrote:

There is a semi-official narrative about the history and the “greatness” of America, which says that this greatness of America lies in the freedom and ingenuity of its people, and above all in a system that gives encouragement and reward to these qualities. Now, in opposition to this semi-official narrative about the greatness of America, the reality is that—to return to one fundamental aspect of all this—slavery has been an indispensable part of the foundation for the “freedom and prosperity” of the USA. The combination of freedom and prosperity is, as we know, still today, and in some ways today more than ever, proclaimed as the unique quality and the special destiny and mission of the United States and its role in the world. And this stands in stark contradiction to the fact that without slavery, none of this—not even the bourgeois-democratic freedoms, let alone the prosperity—would have been possible, not only in the southern United States but in the North as well, in the country as a whole and in its development and emergence as a world economic and military power.

In short: There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.

Avakian then goes on to discuss and analyze the importance of slavery to the mind-set and outlook of American society, and its political life in particular. To justify slavery and the theft of native lands, the lies and myths we described above were used to deem Black people and Indians as less than human, as social pariahs, or outcasts, not deserving of the “natural rights” due to all white men. The masses of white people of all classes, including the most exploited among them, were appealed to on the basis that by virtue of not being slaves they were in fact part of the master class (whether they actually owned slaves or not).

 

 

~Am I Hateful? Does Hate Fuel Your Giving Or Lack There Of?~

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“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” -Dietrich Bonheoffer

Bonheoffer wasn’t speaking casually with his statement. As a minister during World War II, he faced the choice to speak out against the Nazi regime, or stay silent and save himself. He chose to speak, ultimately being executed for daring to stand for truth. Injustice demands a voice.

That’s why the issue of HATE is not something we can privately hate but publicly tolerate. It is controversial. The issue of  this event being connected to black and white culture has made it seem that only an intolerant hater could be 100% against racism. While I would agree we are intolerant (of sin, of murder—so was Jesus, by the way), we are not haters. On the contrary, we are lovers of Life. We love people who are destroyed by HATE and want to see redemption. Being outspoken on the issue of HATE might be unpopular, but if it’s rooted in prayer, it’s a hope for a nation when we call on the mercy of God to save. The Bible is clear that when we shed innocent blood it pollutes the land, and there are consequences for this. This officer has the right to be supported. He has the right to be innocent until proven guilty, but even as an officer of the law he does not have the right to kill unnecessarily. I pose the question, Is it HATE of a black man that has fueled these supporters of officer Wilson to be so generous with their money while not being generous with compassion to the woman who has lost her son to a senseless and merciless killing of her child. Am I guilty of HATE  for pondering the question of why my GoFundMe site for the empowering of ex-offenders has not been sewed into like that of “Fatcat” the dog, or for the “Athiest” who raised money for a girl caught in a tornado in Oklahoma, not because he cared for her but only to mock God and Christianity, or because Rhianna helped to raise money for a  broken cellphone? Am I a hater? NO!!! I am a man who sits and watches people donating obscene amounts of money for everything except for the empowering of human life. White supremacist support each other, athiest support each other, animal lovers help each other even after their loved one has been torn to shreds by a shark, they still go out and raise money to study why they eat people and how to stop them but they won’t sew into helping people rebuild their lives. These people I am talking about are EX-OFFENDERS!!!. 

http://www.gofundme.com/SupportOfficerWilson

Thank you so much for all of your continued support! We have received a lot of emails through this site within the last 48 hours. We are attempting to respond to each email as quickly as possible. We also want to address all of the inappropriate comments submitted on our page. We will be refunding the donations from those who are not supporting Officer Darren Wilson. We hope all can understand. We will have all communications responded to within the next 24 hours. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Operation welcome home Fatcat

Raised $7,032 of $5,000 Raised by 168 people in 8 days

Stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope has drawn a philosophical line in the sand by proclaiming that, contrary to popular belief, “hate can help.” The outspoken atheist set out to prove his theory by raising over $125,000 for a woman who identified as an atheist on television after a tornado destroyed her home. But beyond a simple act of generosity, Stanhope is now admitting that his fundraiser was at least as much about proving a point as it was charity.

After Oklahoman Rebecca Vitsmun explained to Wolf Blitzer that she didn’t “thank God” for saving her family from a deadly tornado, Stanhope was so impressed with her bravery in confirming her atheism that he created an IndieGogo fundraiser in the name of Atheists United in order to help Vitsmun, her husband and her baby.

Stanhope, who frequently and brazenly attacks religion in his act — after the Sept. 11 attacks, he quipped about George W. Bush’s appeals to religion: “Your god takes Tuesdays off” — recently released a video explaining why he raised the money.

“If you think [her admission] didn’t take balls, you’ve never been to Oklahoma,” said Stanhope, who resides in Arizona. “Saying ‘I’m an atheist’ in Oklahoma is like screaming jihad at airport security.”

He set the goal at $50,000, but $125,760 was ultimately raised in a few months after the support of other atheist celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Penn Jillette. In exchange for contributions, donors received gifts such as a “Get Out of Hell Free Card” and a “Phone Call From God.”

Although Vitsmun indeed received the funds from the campaign to help rebuild her life, Stanhope was clear that he did not start the campaign entirely in the name of selfless charity.

“I didn’t do it because I felt sympathy because she got all her shit destroyed by a tornado,” he said. “I did it simply to be a prick to her Okie Christian neighbors, hoping they were all eating off their FEMA trucks when someone drove up and presented Rebecca with a giant cardboard check.”

The commission president saw the broken phone as another chance to raise money for under-served students who want to participate in the LAPD’s cadet program. He is auctioning it on EBay, where bids are running at more than $1,200.

Soboroff saw Rihanna at Sunday night’s game and explained his idea to auction the phone. She wrote, “Sorry! I ♥ LAPD. Rihanna,” on the phone.

The commission president says the singer went a step further and pledged $25,000 to help fund police cadets from underprivileged backgrounds and the families of fallen officers.

[T]herefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. (Ez. 35:6)

Hate is a noun that could be a verb. Godly hatred of sin has action just as its ungodly counterpart does;  it takes energy and is passion. Hatred for the act of bloodshed is not hatred for people who are victims in this spiritual war. We hate bloodshed, the acts of darkness so we can love people to walk in light. Prayer is one of the primary ways in which we love people. On our own we are powerless. We may convince one person to change a decision or alter a path by the power of persuasion, but no persuasion is greater than that which is fueled by heaven.

We start with prayer, both privately and publicly, both silently and vocally, but then we carry out that revelation into the world. We vote righteously, for those who stand for Life. We volunteer at Teen crisis centers, not only out our desire to do good but out of prophetic revelation of truth. We give our money to various programs and causes, to those who work in the Life movement full time. Our prayers fuel our prophetic voice and we act.

This is why God holds prayer up as the solution for a nation riddled with the bloodshed of the innocent:

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ez. 22:30)

 

 

We don’t want to be found not standing in the gap. As the law enforcement of our land is being charged guilty with the senseless killings of men of color and mass incarceration is targeting people of all colors and age groups, but predominantly the black race of our land, literally we are allowing our nation to be polluted with bloodshed. God makes no hesitation on our need to speak out against this injustice, first through our prayers:

 

Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them. (Ps. 106:23)

 

Then through our vocal actions:

 

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die. (Proverbs 31:8)

 

Our prayers must be the force that drives our voices on injustice of any kind.  We speak from the place of prayer, but we speak out against the face of evil, against powers and principalities and rulers of darkness (Ephesians 6), on behalf of those for whom Jesus died—especially the those who had no silver spoon or a chance to get an opportunity of equality because of a broken system riddled with HIDDEN AGENDAS and IDEOLOGIES passed down from for fathers fueled with HATE  who never get a voice.


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~Ferguson,Texas, California, New York-America-Your Plan Is Exposed~

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I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential.”

– President Barack Obama, January 28, 2014

“There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement.  And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”

– President Barack Obama, July 19, 2013

A Letter From Ray Jasper, Who Is About to Be Executed

Mr. Nolan,

When I first responded to you, I didn’t think that it would cause people to reach out to me and voice their opinions. I’ve never been on the internet in my life and I’m not fully aware of the social circles on the internet, so it was a surprise to receive reactions so quickly.

I learned that some of the responses on your website were positive and some negative. I can only appreciate the conversation. Osho once said that one person considered him like an angel and another person considered him like a devil, he didn’t attempt to refute neither perspective because he said that man does not judge based on the truth of who you are, but on the truth of who they are.

Your words struck a chord with me. You said that my perspective is different and therefore my words have a sort of value. Yet, you’re talking to a young man that’s been judged unworthy to breathe the same air you breathe. That’s like a hobo on the street walking up to you and you ask him for spare change.

Without any questions, you’ve given me a blank canvas. I’ll only address what’s on my heart. Next month, the State of Texas has resolved to kill me like some kind of rabid dog, so indirectly, I guess my intention is to use this as some type of platform because this could be my final statement on earth.

I think ’empathy’ is one of the most powerful words in this world that is expressed in all cultures. This is my underlining theme. I do not own a dictionary, so I can’t give you the Oxford or Webster definition of the word, but in my own words, empathy means ‘putting the shoe on the other foot.’

Empathy. A rich man would look at a poor man, not with sympathy, feeling sorrow for the unfortunate poverty, but also not with contempt, feeling disdain for the man’s poverish state, but with empathy, which means the rich man would put himself in the poor man’s shoes, feel what the poor man is feeling, and understand what it is to be the poor man.

Empathy breeds proper judgement. Sympathy breeds sorrow. Contempt breeds arrogance. Neither are proper judgements because they’re based on emotions. That’s why two people can look at the same situation and have totally different views. We all feel differently about a lot of things. Empathy gives you an inside view. It doesn’t say ‘If that was me…’, empathy says, ‘That is me.’

What that does is it takes the emotions out of situations and forces us to be honest with ourselves. Honesty has no hidden agenda. Thoreau proposed that ‘one honest man’ could morally regenerate an entire society.

Looking through the eyes of empathy & honesty, I’ll address some of the topics you mentioned. It’s only my perspective.

The Justice system is truly broken beyond repair and the sad part is there is no way to start over. Improvements can be made. If honest people stand up, I think they will be made over time. I know the average person isn’t paying attention to all the laws constantly being passed by state & federal legislation. People are more focused on their jobs, raising kids and trying to find entertainment in between time. The thing is, laws are being changed right and left.

A man once said that revolution comes when you inform people of their rights. Martin Luther King said a revolution comes by social action and legal action working hand in hand. I’m not presenting any radical revolutionary view, the word revolution just means change. America changes as the law changes.

Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. That was the reason for the protests by prisoners in Georgia in 2010. They said they were tired of being treated like slaves. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.

If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? That was the reason California had an uproar last year behind Pelican Bay. 33,000 inmates across California protested refusing to work or refusing to eat on hunger-strikes because of those being tortured in isolation in Pelican Bay.

I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was stole and no violence took place. There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they’re not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation.

The other side of the coin is there are those in the corporate world making money off prisoners, so the longer they’re in prison, the more money is being made. It’s not about crime & punishment, it’s about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry. In 1996, there were 122 prisons opened across America. Companies were holding expos in small towns showing how more prisons would boost the economy by providing more jobs.

How can those that invest in prisons make money if people have sentences that will allow them to return to free society? If people were being rehabilitated and sent back into the cities, who would work for these corporations? That would be a bad investment. In order for them to make money, people have to stay in prison and keep working. So the political move is to tell the people they’re tough on crime and give people longer sentences.

Chuck Colson, former advisor to the President once said that they were passing laws to be tough on crime, but they didn’t even know who the laws were affecting. It wasn’t until the Watergate scandal and Colson himself going to prison that he learned who the laws were affecting. Colson ended up forming the largest prison ministry in America. He also foreseen in his book THE GOD OF SPIDERS & STONES that America was forming a new society within its prisons. Basically, that prison would become a nation inside this nation. He predicted that over a million people would be locked up by the year 2000. The book was written in the 8O’s. Now, its 2014 and almost two million people are locked up. It’s not that crime is the issue. Crime still goes on daily. It’s that the politics surrounding crime have changed and it has become a numbers game. Dollars & Cents. You have people like Michael Jordan who invest millions of dollars in the prison system. Any shrewed businessman would if you have no empathy for people locked up and you just want to make some money.

I don’t agree with the death penalty. It’s a very Southern practice from that old lynching mentality. Almost all executions take place in the South with a few exceptions here and there. Texas is the leading State by far. I’m not from Texas. I was raised in California. Coming from the West Coast to the South was like going back in time. I didn’t even think real cowboys existed. Texas is a very ‘country’ state, aside a few major cities. There are still small towns that a black person would not be welcomed. California is more of a melting pot. I grew up in the Bay Area where its very diverse.

The death penalty needs to be abolished. Life without parole is still a death sentence. The only difference is time. To say you need to kill a person in a shorter amount of time is just seeking revenge on that person.

If the death penalty must exist, I think it should only be for cases where more than one person is killed like these rampant shootings that have taken place around the country the last few years. Also, in a situation of terrorism.

If you’re not giving the death penalty for murder, then the government is already saying that the taking of one’s life is not worth the death penalty. Capital murder is if you take someone’s life and commit another felony at the same time. That’s Texas law. That makes a person eligible for the death penalty The problem is, you’re not getting the death penalty for murder, you’re actually getting it for the other felony. That doesn’t make common sense. You can kill a man but you will not get the death penalty……if you kill a man and take money out his wallet, now you can get the death penalty.

I’m on death row and yet I didn’t commit the act of murder. I was convicted under the law of parties. When people read about the case, they assume I killed the victim, but the facts are undisputed that I did not kill the victim. The one who killed him plead guilty to capital murder for a life sentence. He admitted to the murder and has never denied it. Under the Texas law of parties, they say it doesn’t matter whether I killed the victim or not, I’m criminally responsible for someone else’s conduct. But I was the only one given the death penalty.

The law of parties is a very controversial law in Texas. Most Democrats stand against it. It allows the state to execute someone who did not commit the actual act of murder. There are around 50 guys on death row in Texas who didn’t kill anybody, but were convicted as a party.

The lethal injection has become a real controversial issue here of late because states are using drugs that they’re not authorize to use to execute people. The lethal injection is an old Nazi practice deriving from the Jewish Holocaust. To use that method to kill people today, when it’s unconstitutional to use it on dogs, is saying something very cruel and inhumane. People don’t care because they think they’re killing horrible people. No empathy. Just contempt.

I understand that it’s not popular to talk about race issues these days, but I speak on the subject of race because I hold a burden in my heart for all the young blacks who are locked up or who see the street life as the only means to make something of themselves. When I walked into prison at 19 years old, I said to myself ‘Damn, I have never seen so many black dudes in my life’. I mean, it looked like I went to Africa. I couldn’t believe it. The lyrics of 2Pac echoed in my head, ‘The penitentiary is packed/ and its filled with blacks’.

It’s really an epidemic, the number of blacks locked up in this country. That’s why I look, not only at my own situation, but why all of us young blacks are in prison. I’ve come to see, it’s largely due to an indentity crisis. We don t know our history. We don’t know how to really indentify with white people. We are really of a different culture, but by being slaves, we lost ourselves.

When you have a black man name John Williams and a white man name John Williams, the black man got his name from the white man. Within that lies a lost of identity. There are blacks in this country that don’t even consider themselves African. Well, what are we? When did we stop being African? If you ask a young black person if they’re African, they will say ‘No, I’m American’. They’ve lost their roots. They think slavery is their roots. Again, its a strong identity crisis.

You take the identity crisis, mix it with capitalism, where money comes before empathy, and you’ll have a lot of young blacks trying to get money by any means because they’re trying to get out of poverty or stay out of poverty. Now, money is what they try to find an identity in. They feel like if they get rich, legal or illegal, they’ve become somebody. Which in America is partly true because superficially we hail the rich and despise the poor. We give Jay-Z more credit than we do Al Sharpton. What has Jay-Z done besides get rich? Yet we see dollar signs and somehow give more respect to the man with the money.

A French woman who moved to America asked me one day, ‘Why don’t black kids want to learn?’ Her husband was a high school teacher. She said the white and asian kids excel in school, but the black and hispanic kids don’t. I said that all kids want to learn, it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to teach them. Cutting a frog open is not helping a black kid in the ghetto who has to listen to police sirens all night and worry about getting shot. Those kids need life lessons. They need direction. When you have black kids learning more about the Boston Tea Party than the Black Panther Party, I guarantee you won’t keep their attention. But it was the Black Panther Party that got them free lunch.

People point their fingers at young blacks, call them thugs and say they need to pull up their pants. That’s fine, but you’re not feeding them any knowledge. You’re not giving them a vision. All you’re saying is be a square like me. They’re not going to listen to you because you have guys like Jay-Z and Rick Ross who are millionaires and sag their pants. Changing the way they dress isn’t changing the way they think. As the Bible says, ‘Where there’s no vision the people perish’. Young blacks need to learn their identity so they can have more respect for the blacks that suffered for their liberties than they have for someone talking about selling drugs over a rap beat who really isn’t selling drugs.

They have to be exposed to something new. Their minds have to be challenged, not dulled. They know the history of the Crips & Bloods, but they can’t tell you who Garvey or Robeson is. They can quote Drake & Lil Wayne but they can’t tell you what Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton has done. Across the nation, they gravitate to Crips & Bloods. I tell those I know the same thing, not to put blue & red before black. They were black first. It’s senseless, but they are trying to find a purpose to live for and if a gang gives them a sense of purpose that’s what they will gravitate to. They aren’t being taught to live and die for something greater. They’re not being challenged to do better.

Black history shouldn’t be a month, it should be a course, an elective taught year around. I guarantee black kids would take that course if it was available to them. How many black kids would change their outlook if they knew that they were only considered 3/5’s of a human being according to the U.S Constitution? That black people were considered part animal in this country. They don’t know that. When you learn that, you carry yourself with a different level of dignity for all we’ve overcome.

Before Martin Luther King was killed he drafted a bill called ‘The Bill for the Disadvantaged’. It was for blacks and poor whites. King understood that in order to have a successful life, you have to decrease the odds of failure. You have to change the playing field. I’m not saying there’s no personal responsibility for success, that goes without saying, but there’s also a corporate responsibility. As the saying goes, when you see someone who has failed, you see someone who was failed.

Neither am I saying that advantages are always circumstancial. Sometimes its knowledge or opportunity that gives an advantage. A lot of times it is the circumstances. Flowers grow in gardens, not in hard places. Using myself as an example, I was 15 when my first love got shot 9 times in Oakland. Do you think I m going to care about book reports when my girlfriend was shot in the face? I understand Barack Obama saying there is no excuse for blacks or anyone else because generations past had it harder than us. That’s true. However, success is based on probabilities and the odds. Everyone is not on a level playing field. For some, the odds are really stacked against them. I’m not saying they can’t be overcome, but it’s not likely.

I’m not trying to play the race card, I’m looking at the roots of why so many young blacks are locked up. The odds are stacked against us, we suffer from an identity crisis, and we’re being targeted more, instead of taught better. Ask any young black person their views on the Police, I assure you their response will not be positive. Yet if you have something against the Police, who represent the government, you cannot sit on a trial jury. A young black woman was struck from the jury in my case because she said she sees the Police as ‘intimidators’. She never had a good experience with the Police like most young blacks, but even though she’s just being true to her experience, she’s not worthy to take part as a juror in a trial.

White people really don’t understand how it extreme it is to be judged by others outside your race. In the book TRIAL & ERROR: THE TEXAS DEATH PENALTY Lisa Maxwell paints this picture to get the point across and if any white person reading this is honest with themselves, they will clearly understand the point. I cannot quote it word for word, but this was the gist of it…

Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?

As outside of the box as that scene is, those were the exact circumstances of my trial. I was the only black person in the courtroom.

Again, I’m not playing the race card, but empathy is putting the shoe on the other foot.

The last thing on my heart is about religion and the death penalty. There are several well-known preachers in Texas and across the South that teach their congregations that the death penalty is right by God and backed by the Bible. The death penalty is a governmental issue not a spiritual issue. Southern preachers who advocate the death penalty are condoning evil. They need to learn the legalities of capital punishment. The State may have the power to put people to death, but don’t preach to the public that it’s God’s will. It’s the State’s will.

If God wanted me to die for anything, I would be dead already. I talk to God everday. He’s not telling me I’m some kind of menace that He can’t wait to see executed. God is blessing me daily. God is showing me His favor & grace on my life. Like Paul said, I was the chief of sinners, but God had mercy on me because He knew I was ignorant. The blood of Abel cryed vengeance, the blood of Jesus cryed mercy.

There are preachers like John Hagee in San Antonio who have influence over thousands of people, who not only attend his church, but also watch his TV program, and hear him condoning the death penalty. Hagee doesn’t see his Southern mentality condones the death penalty, not the scriptures. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that condones the way Texas executes people today.

Southern preachers use scriptures like God telling Noah, ‘Whoever shed’s man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed’. ‘That’s murder. Under Texas law, you cannot receive the death penalty for murder. There is no such thing as capital murder in the Bible, where murder must be in the course of another felony. Yet, they preach capital punishment is God’s will. Even if you’re guilty of capital murder in Texas, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive the death penalty. People get the death penalty when a jury has judged them to be a ‘continuing threat to society’. ‘That means they are deemed so bad that they have no hope of redemption or change in their behavior. That is the only reason a person gets the death penalty. They are suppose to be the absolute worse of the worse, so terrible that they cannot live in prison with other murderers.

That in itself is contrary to the whole Christian faith that believes no one is beyond redemption if they repent for their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. For a Christian to advocate the death penalty is a complete contradiction.

As easy as it is for a preacher to stand up in the pulpit with a Bible and tell thousands of people the death penalty is right, I challenge any preacher in Texas, John Hagee or any others to come visit me and tell me that God wants me to die. Martin Luther King said, ‘Capital punishment shows that America is a merciless nation that will not forgive.’

Again, Mr. Nolan, this is only my perspective. I’m just the hobo on the street giving away my pennies. A doctor can’t look at a person and see cancer, they have to look beyond the surface. When you look at the Justice system, the Death Penalty, or anything else, it takes one to go beyond the surface. Proper diagnosis is half the cure.

I’m a father. My daughter was six weeks old when I got locked up and now she’s 15 in high school. Despite the circumstances, I’ve tryed to be the best father in the world. But I knew that her course in life is largely determine by what I teach her. It’s the same with any young person, their course is determined by what we are teaching them. In the words of Aristotle, ‘All improvement in society begins with the education of the young.’

~In Search Of Manhood In America While Being Black~Part-1

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Within the cultural framework of America, the systemic structure is characterized by White male patriarchy that allows for Black males to have the ability to negotiate the way in which they have been socialized and institutionalized to think, act, and behave because they are men. However, the reality of race and the lack of diversity in the purest sense,  impedes upon this effort and cripples the black male’s ability to truly transition into manhood. He is left to constantly struggle and fight for an identity, for power, for respect, and for understanding of who he is versus what he is projected as: a nigger.

The “nigger” does not exist in a cultural vacuum, but is rather an “expressive of the cultural crossing, mixing, and engagement of Black male culture with the values, attitudes, and concerns of the white majority” (hooks, 1994).  The reactionary behaviors and coping mechanisms that manifest from this cultural group may appear incomprehensible to one who is not challenged with an anomalous form of self-awareness defined by a conflicting identity that forces the Black male to view himself through the lens of the dominant culture that does not perceive and does not allow him to function as equal.

The pressure to conform to white male patriarchal standards of manhood as protector, disciplinarian, and provider are representative of such a dilemma for Black males. Despite the unconscious internalization and acceptance of the white male patriarchal standards, inequities in education and employment and limited access to educational opportunities prevent the expression of these behaviors (Harris, 1995, p. 279).

This blog will evaluate how the historical and contemporary antecedents of social oppression in American culture and the formation of a White male patriarchal system serves as a catalysts to the complex identity formation of Black males, the performance of masculinity, and the striving for power. A self assessment of challenges, biases, and beliefs experienced and held by the author in working with this population as well as competencies that can be utilized in working with this population, will be also be identified.

Historical and Contemporary Accounts of Societal Discrimination

The peculiar institution of chattel slavery was meant to be a permanent condition for Black males; a condition that would lay the historical framework for structual and institutional racism that  resulted in a conflicted formation of identity within Black males leading to perpetual servitude.   In 1863, Lincoln issued an Executive Order known as the Emancipation Proclamation. “In recent years, scholars pondering the meaning and significance of Lincoln’s proclamation have focused essentially on…motivations…and actions of the president…without attending to the sentiments reflected in the disillusionment that emanated from the dichotomy between Black perceptions of the documents promise and they realities in which they experienced”(Holzer, Medford and Williams, 2006, p. 1-2). Despite efforts of the proclamation to gradually transition Blacks into citizenship, slavery continued to be legal until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The amendment affirmed that physical bondage or involuntary servitude was outlawed in the US except in situations of punishment for crimes in which the person was found guilty. However, it did little to change to the sociopolitical culture in America as Blacks were still considered second-class citizens [as land ownership was equated to citizenship].

The author would further argue that the enactment of both the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment failed to liberate blacks and integrate them into society, but instead laid a foundation to maintain a refined version of slavery that manifested itself in the form of socioeconomic and psychological servitude.

The Post-Civil War Reconstruction Era provided the illusion of hope to Black men, to be able to function as “freedmen” and obtain the privileges and rights of being an American. Debates ensued around enfranchising Black men, primarily veterans and those deemed “intelligent” amongst blacks. The four million others were in question. In 1867, Black men voted for the first time and held offices, but this was quickly overturned with the enactment of “black codes” and the impending rise of the Jim Crow era (1876-1960). Freedmen [Free Black males] had more rights than other free Blacks pre-Civil War, but had no voting rights, second-class civil and , could not own firearms, serve on a jury, as was subject to vagrancy laws.

The black codes disenfranchised Black males made it increasingly difficult for them to control their own employment, a phenomenon that continues to exist in modern day. They [black codes] were formulated to recreate the social control that existed during enslavement and ensure the legacy of white supremacy.

The rise of Jim Crow (1876-1965) validated anti-Black racism. Originating in former confederate states, the Jim Crow era was ushered in as “southern states began systematically to codify in law and state constitutional provisions the subordinate position of African Americans in society. Most of these legal steps were aimed at separating the races in public spaces (public schools, parks, accommodations, and transportation) and preventing adult black males from exercising the right to vote” (Davis, n.d.). Support for segregation laws was consummated by heinous acts of ritualized mob known as lynching. Booker (2000), argues that image of the black male as a sexual predator has deep roots in the American psyche (p.12), as lynching brought together the threads of contemporary racial image of black males into a paradigmatic justification for routinized barbarity (p.140).

At the height of the lynching period, Black males were the most targeted victims. Lynchings were social forms of entertainment that often attracted thousand of white spectators. “The burned, tortured, and mutilated body of the Black male would be torn apart by the crowd as battles broke out over body parts as souvenirs” (Booker, 2000, p.142). Between 1880 and 1960, nearly one hundred years more than 4700 Americans, primarily Black males are documented as having been lynched (Lester, 2005).   1915, would introduce a new purveyors of violence against Black men.  D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, was released glamorizing lynching and popularizing the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacist terror group, who justified their violence against black males through the need to protect white womanhood and defend white superiority in the post antebellum south, from the hyper-sexualized Black male who sought to take white women and establish Black supremacy.

The result of Griffith’s film was increased violence against Black men in particular by the KKK; the summer of 1919, referred to as the “Red Summer” produced the greatest number of black fatalities due to lynching. For nearly one hundred years, the reality of life for Black men in America would be distinguished by a system of legal apartheid, murder, and struggle for freedom.

I Obeyed The World’s Military and Failed; I Now Serve God’s Service and Won~

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Aaron ribbons

Luke vii.2-9. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

There is something puzzling in this speech of the centurion’s. One must think twice, and more than twice, to understand clearly what he had in his mind. I, indeed, am not quite sure that I altogether understand it. But I may, perhaps, help you to understand it, by telling you what this centurion was.

He was not a Jew. He was a Roman, and a heathen; a man of our race, very likely. And he was a centurion, a captain in the army; and one, mind, who had risen from the ranks, by good conduct, and good service. Before he got his vine-stock, which was the mark of his authority over a hundred men, he had, no doubt, marched many a weary mile under a heavy load, and fought, probably, many a bloody battle in foreign parts. That had been his education, his training, namely, discipline, and hard work. And because he had learned to obey, he was fit to rule. He was helping now to keep in order those treacherous, unruly Jews, and their worthless puppet-kings, like Herod; much as our soldiers in India are keeping in order the Hindoos, and their worthless puppet-kings.

Whether the Romans had any right to conquer and keep down the Jews as they did, is no concern of ours just now. But we have proof that what this centurion did, he did wisely and kindly. The elders of the Jews said of him, that he loved the Jews, and had built them a synagogue, a church. I suppose that what he had heard from them about a one living God, who had made all things in heaven and earth, and given them a law, which cannot be broken, so that all things obey him to this day — I suppose, I say, that this pleased him better than the Roman stories of many gods, who were capricious, and fretful, and quarrelled with each other in a fashion which ought to have been shocking to the conscience and reason of a disciplined soldier.

There was a great deal, besides, in the Old Testament, which would, surely, come home to a soldier’s heart, when it told him of a God of law, and order, and justice, and might, who defended the right in battle, and inspired the old Jews to conquer the heathen, and to fight for their own liberty. For what was it, which had enabled the Romans to conquer so many great nations? What was it which enabled them to keep them in order, and, on the whole, make them happier, more peaceable, more prosperous, than they had ever been? What was it which had made him, the poor common soldier, an officer, and a wealthy man, governing, by his little garrison of a hundred soldiers, this town of Capernaum, and the country round?

It was this. Discipline; drill; obedience to authority. That Roman army was the most admirably disciplined which the world till then had ever seen. So, indeed, was the whole Roman Government. Every man knew his place, and knew his work. Every man had been trained to obey orders; if he was told to go, to go; if he was told to do, to do, or to die in trying to do, what he was bidden.

This was the great and true thought which had filled this good man’s mind — duty, order, and obedience. And by thinking of order, and seeing how strength, and safety, and success lie in order, and by giving himself up to obey orders, body and soul, like a good soldier, had that plain man (who had certainly no scholarship, perhaps could barely read or write) caught sight of a higher, wider, deeper order than even that of a Roman army. He had caught sight of that divine and wonderful order, by which God has constituted the services of men, and angels, and all created things; that divine and wonderful order by which sun and stars, fire and hail, wind and vapour, cattle and creeping things fulfil his word.

Fulfil God’s word. That was the thought, surely, which was in the good soldier’s mind, and which he was trying to speak out; clumsily, perhaps, but truly enough. I suppose, then, that he thought in his own mind somewhat in this way. ‘There is a word of command among us soldiers. Has God, then, no word of command likewise? And that word of command is enough. Is not God’s word of command enough likewise? I merely speak, and I am obeyed. I am merely spoken to, and I obey. Shall not God merely speak, and be obeyed likewise? There is discipline and order among men, because it is necessary. An Army cannot be manoeuvred, a Government cannot be carried on, without it. Is there not a discipline and order in all heaven and earth? And that discipline is carried out by simple word of command. A word from me will make a man rush upon certain death. A word from certain other men will make me rush on certain death. For I am a man under authority. I have my tribune (colonel, as we should say) over me; and he, again, the perfect (general of brigade) over him. Their word is enough for me. If they want me to do a thing, they do not need to come under my roof, to argue with me, to persuade me, much less to thrust me about, and make me obey them by force. They say to me, ‘Go,’ and I go; and I say to those under me, ‘Go,’ and they go likewise.

And if I can work by a word, cannot this Jesus work by a word likewise? He is a messenger of God, with commission and authority from God, to work his will on his creatures. Are not God’s creatures as well ordered, disciplined, obedient, as we soldiers are? Are they not a hundred times better ordered? A messenger from God? Is he not a God himself; a God in goodness and mercy; a God in miraculous power? Cannot he do his work by a word, far more certainly than I can do mine? If my word can send a man to death, cannot his word bring a man back to life? Surely it can. ‘Lord, thou needest not to come under my roof; speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.’

By some such thoughts as these, I suppose, had this good soldier gained his great faith; his faith that all God’s creatures were in a divine, and wonderful order, obedient to the will of God who made them; and that Jesus Christ was God’s viceroy and lieutenant (I speak so, because I suppose that is what he, as a soldier, would have thought), to carry out God’s commands on earth.

Now remember that he was the first heathen man of whom we read, that he acknowledged Christ. Remember, too, that the next heathen of whom we read, that he acknowledged Christ, was also a Roman centurion, he whom the old legends call Longinus, who, when he saw our Lord upon the cross, said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ Remember, again, that the next heathen of whom we read as having acknowledged Christ, he to whom St. Peter was sent, at Joppa, who is often called the first fruits of the heathen, was a Roman centurion likewise.

Surely, there must have been a reason for this. There must be a lesson in this; and this, I think, is the lesson. That the soldierlike habit of mind is one which makes a man ready to receive the truth of Christ. And why? Because the good soldier’s first and last thought is Duty. To do his duty by those who are set over him, and to learn to do his duty to those who are set under him. To turn his whole mind and soul to doing, not just what he fancies, but to what must be done, because it is his duty. This is the character which makes a good soldier, and a good Christian likewise. If we be undisciplined and undutiful, and unruly; if we be fanciful, self- willed, disobedient; then we shall not understand Christ, or Christ’s rule on earth and in heaven. If there be no order within us, we shall not see his divine and wonderful order all around us. If there be no discipline and obedience within us, we shall never believe really that Christ disciplines all things, and that all things obey him. If there be no sense of duty in us, governing our whole lives and actions, we shall never perceive the true beauty and glory of Christ’s character, who sacrificed himself for his duty, which was to do his Father’s will.

I tell you, my friends, that nothing prevents a man from gaining either right doctrines or right practice, so much as the undutiful, unruly, self-conceited heart. We may be full of religious knowledge, of devout sentiments, of heavenly aspirations: but in spite of them all, we shall never get beyond false doctrine, and loose practice, unless we have learned to obey; to rule our own minds, and hearts, and tempers, soberly and patiently; to conform to the laws, and to all reasonable rules of society, to believe that God has called us to our station in life, whatever it may be; and to do our duty therein, as faithful soldiers and servants of Christ. For, if you will receive it, the beginning and the middle, and the end of all true religion is simply this. To do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.

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~Thank “You” God For Laughter and Joy To Restore Us To Sanity ~

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Being able to laugh at a situation can help you hang on to your perspective. And there’s an intimacy in laughter that nothing else can come close to.

Eric Mabius

As I sit before my computer to write this post I am thankful to God for His sense of humor. I was very down-trodden today from the 3 o clock twilight hours up until the time I forced myself to delve into His presence and find some type of solace and joy. My downward spiral was due to the burden of the vision of getting Second Chance Alliance off the ground.  I keep on asking my God why would “You” place such a task on a man of my substance and mental challenges?  I received my release today by way of searching His scriptures.

 

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”—Proverbs 14:10

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine.”—Proverbs 17:22

 

I remember one day resolving to do arduous work in 2 Chronicles. Studiously plowing through the reigns of Solomon through Jehoshaphat, I came to 2 Chronicles 21:20 and laughed outright. The text reads, “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings” (italics added). Being a wordsmith myself, I smiled at this bygone scribe relieved at this monarch’s death. Evidently Jehoram was not well liked. The editorial statement provides a light touch—comic relief, if you will—to the Chronicler’s usually routine kingship formula.

 

As I study and teach, I find I read the Bible ever more slowly, and as I do, I smile more and more frequently. I listen for its humor. My emotions span sorrow, understanding or joy as I empathize with the characters who cross its pages. I chuckle at many passages, even while acknowledging the sadness they may contain. Consequently, I believe it’s possible to read many verses, stories and even books through the lens of humor, indeed to see portions of the Bible as intended to be very funny. An appropriate response is laughter. I’ve come to this conclusion: Humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments.

Let’s start with an umbrella verse, Ecclesiastes 3:4: “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” The Biblical text, always practical, acknowledges human emotions and makes boundaries for their proper use.

God’s Laughter in the Hebrew Bible

Let’s look at God’s laughter. After all, he’s the creator.

Consider Psalm 37:12-13: “The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming.” Laughter here shows the impotence of the wicked and the futility of their plots and gnashings against the righteous. Why? Because, as the psalm answers, those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land and the Lord knows the wicked face a reckoning.

God directs the same kind of laughter toward earthly hotshots who think their power exceeds his. Psalm 2:2, 4 declares that when “the kings of the earth take their stand,” marshalling themselves “against the Lord … and against his Anointed One,” then “the One enthroned in heaven laughs.”

But Zephaniah 3:17 illustrates joy, a different aspect of God’s laughter and character, one more consistently expressed throughout the Biblical text: “He will take great delight in you … he will rejoice over you with singing.” My colleagues often are amazed that the idea of rejoicing carries with it the idea of physical activity. The verse presents this possibility: God’s delight can entail joyful songs and public dancing.

Who Is Responsible?

One story that makes me laugh is the conversation taking place somewhere on Mt. Sinai between God and Moses. The recently-released Hebrew slaves are sinning by worshipping a calf made of gold and declaring that it, not the Lord, led them out of Egypt (Exodus 32:4-6). Neither God nor Moses wants these rowdies at this moment. Like a hot potato, responsibility for the former slaves passes back and forth between them.
The Lord swaps first, telling Moses the reveling Israelites are “your people” (v. 7) (italics added). But Moses quickly catches on. He declines association with them. As far as Moses is concerned, these people are not his! Morphing into intercession mode and speaking in what no doubt is a respectful tone, Moses rejoins, “O, Lord, why should your anger burn against your people, whomyou brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” (v. 11) (italics added). He reminds the Lord of his promise to his servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to make their descendants “as numerous as the stars in the sky” (v. 13). This scene’s humor softens the chapter, which ends sorrowfully. The Israelites’ sin leads quickly to the deaths of many by plague, and thus the chapter ends (Exodus 32:35). The chapter’s structure incorporates dialogue, rebellion, crisis, and punishment.

 

Biblical Humor Through Innuendo

Consider Genesis 18:10-15, wherein God informs Abraham and Sarah they will have a son by “this time next year” (v. 10). Sarah openly laughs, thinking she is worn out and now will have sexual pleasure again (v. 11). After all, she is about 89! We learn later that Abraham, probably about 99, also thought along sexual lines. He believed God could give him and Sarah descendants and make them parents even though he—as a man—was “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:11-12). The idea of fathering a child at his age struck him as funny.

Humorous Books in the Hebrew Bible

Whole books in the Hebrew Bible have strong elements of humor. An ongoing humorous element in the Book of Esther is the number of banquets it mentions. There number at least 10, thereby forming the book’s structure and carrying much of its action. One wonders: Do these rulers do anything except dine and wine and plot and whine?

We are meant to laugh and learn throughout the Book of Jonah. Yes, we can laugh at Jonah’s open disobedience of going west to Tarshish when God commands him to go northeast to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3); at Jonah’s “time out” to think about things in the belly of the great fish (1:17a); at his pouting, obstinate silence for three days while being digested (1:17b); at his being vomited by the great fish on dry land—somewhere probably in the Mediterranean world (2:10); at his terse, seven-word sermon to Nineveh (3:4); at his anger over the success of this sermon, the repentance of the entire city (4:1). But the laughter is sometimes tinged with sadness, for Jonah’s anger prevails and he never understands God’s compassion for those who do not know him and for their cattle (4:11). Indeed everything in the Book of Jonah—the sailors, sea, big fish, gourd vine, hot wind and the Ninevites—obeys God. Everything and everybody except one: Jonah. God shows his colors of compassion and mercy—and Jonah disdains them.

Humor in the New Testament

The New Testament, similarly, abounds with laughter. Jesus must have been a compelling personality to keep the attention of crowds for days and the steadfast loyalty of at least twelve disciples for three years. In addition to being a riveting teacher whose words brought life, he was likely the kind of personality that was just fun to be around.

For example, a crowd numbering about 5,000 men followed him to a solitary place (Mark 6:30-44). Jesus’ teaching evidently made people forget to eat, bring food or worry about work.

In his classic work The Humor of Christ, Elton Trueblood lists thirty humorous passages in the Synopic Gospels. In one way or another, they’re all one liners, parables or stories Jesus told. Trueblood thinks Jesus’ audience would have laughed at the image of those who loudly proclaim their righteous actions to others (Matt. 6:2) because it was all too prevalent. An audience would have found the idea of rulers calling themselves benefactors ludicrous (Luke 22:25)—because the working folks knew all too well it wasn’t so. No doubt the audience chuckled when Jesus commended the vociferous, obstreperous widow for her persistent pestering of the unjust judge and cited her as a successful model of prayer (Luke 18:1-8).

Paul employs humor in his letter to the new church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). He addresses several problems reported to him. The problems—pride, exclusivity and attitudes of “I don’t need or want you”—could destroy the new church, for they counter the love Jesus taughtInstead of singling out by name troublemakers in Corinth, he allegorizes the situation in a humorous, non-threatening, open way: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you’” (v. 12:21). Paul affirms the need of all parts, and their need to function in unity, in the Body of Christ.

In the home of Jairus, a synagogue ruler, Jesus uses practical knowledge to break a tense situation. Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter just died. Jesus, three of his disciples and the child’s parents fill the room (Mark 5:40). Jesus goes to the body, picks up the girl’s hand, says to her, “Talitha koum!” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (v. 41). The girl immediately gets up and walks around the room (v. 42a). Mark records the reaction of those in the room as “completely astonished” (v. 42b); in other words, they’re probably stunned and silent. Jesus responds with something practical: He tells them to give her something to eat (v. 43). A natural human reaction—when grief is turned to unexpected joy as when a dead girl is brought back to life—is something loud like laughter or shouting. Here, Jesus cracks a joke by reminding everybody that a girl who has been sick, experienced death, and is now alive is hungry! Of course she needs to eat! All twelve year-olds have ravenous appetites! This practical, timely and kind statement from Jesus breaks all the tension, pent-up grief and amazement present in the room among the girl’s parents and Jesus’ three disciples. I read this scene as Jesus’ cracking a joke. And the proper appreciation of a joke is laughter.

Thanks for letting me feel good by way of sharing this study with you. In your contemplation after reading this post please pray for our cause and our strength to see it become a reality. Click the insignia to view.

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~Second Chance Alliance Alternative Sentencing-Re-Entry Program ~

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Larry Smith jail in Banning from Highway 243 in Banning on April 23, 2013. Over the next five years, virtually every cent of new revenue flowing into Riverside County coffers will go to building and staffing jails and boosting deputy patrols in unincorporated areas.

Adding jail beds and boosting deputy patrols in Riverside County could eat up projected gains in revenue over the next few years, leaving little or nothing to restore code enforcement, animal control and other departments hit hard by the economic downturn.

Jail expansions could potentially max out the county’s self-imposed limit on debt payments by 2020, according to a recent analysis. Even then, the county likely can’t erase its jail bed shortage without going well beyond the limit.

The Board of Supervisors last month held a workshop on budget-related matters, including a five-year spending plan for jails and a plan to hire more deputies for unincorporated areas. The board voted to hire a consultant to further assess the jail crunch, and supervisors want a closer look at non-jail options, such as road crews and fire camps for low-level offenders.

After losing $215 million in tax revenue since 2007, county finances are starting to modestly perk up, and property tax revenue is expected to grow as the real estate market rebounds. But as more money comes in, the county faces massive new spending obligations, jails being the largest.

Jail crowding has been a problem for years. Since 2000, the county’s population grew 45 percent while the number of jail beds grew just 31 percent, according to a county staff report. A long-standing federal court order requires the county to release inmates early when there aren’t enough beds.

Under court pressure to shrink California’s prison population and relieve crowding, state lawmakers in 2011 passed public safety realignment, which shifted to counties the responsibility for inmates convicted of nonviolent, nonserious and non-high risk sexual offenses. Those offenders are now sent to jails instead of state prison.

The county’s five jails, which have 3,906 beds, filled up in January 2012. Almost 7,000 inmates got early releases in 2012, and the number is expected to exceed 9,000 by the end of this year. Roughly 18 percent of jail inmates – 693 – were there due to realignment as of Aug. 31, county staff said.

SKEWED PRIORITIES?

“Because of what the state has done, we will need to distort what would otherwise be our county priorities in order to do what must be done, which is to build jails to house people that used to be in prison,” county Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser told supervisors during the Sept. 23 workshop.

To curtail early releases, the county plans to add more than 1,200 beds to the 353-bed Indio jail by 2017. The $267 million project – a state grant covers $100 million – doesn’t include the cost of moving county offices to accommodate the expansion.

The county is applying for another $80 million in state funding to add as many as 582 beds to the 1,520-bed Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. Officials see potential there for a total of 1,600 additional beds.

Grants don’t cover the cost of running bigger jails. The new Indio jail, called the East County Detention Center, will require 406 sheriff’s personnel to be hired at a cost of $37.9 million annually by 2017, according to Corser’s figures.

In all, supervisors have committed to $97.5 million in new, annual public safety expenses by 2017, Corser’s numbers show. He expects revenue growth to cover the new costs.

But the $97.5 million doesn’t include higher labor costs that could come when the sheriffs’ union contract expires in 2016.

And it doesn’t address potential new funding requests from the district attorney’s office, the public defender, the Fire Department and probation. The county also is trying to boost its rainy day fund from $140 million, an amount described by one bond rating agency as “barely satisfactory,” Corser said.

Altogether, those additional requests could add up to $118 million by 2017, Corser said. Of that, $91.3 million would have to be found somewhere.

Prop. 172 passed in 1993 created a special public safety sales tax. But Corser said any growth in Prop. 172 revenue should go to the Indio expansion.

 

NOT ENOUGH

The Sheriff’s Department estimates the county needs 4,000 new jail beds now and 10,000 by 2028. Adding to Indio and Larry Smith would still leave the county short of that long-term goal.

Plans for a “hub jail” outside Palm Springs – 2,000 beds in phase one, 7,200 at buildout – have been discussed for years, and the county spent more than $22 million preparing for the project. But supervisors shelved the hub jail in 2011 amid cost concerns and opposition from Coachella Valley residents, who worried a jail seen from Interstate 10 would hurt the area’s image.

Even if supervisors revived the hub jail, a county staff analysis casts doubt on the ability to pay for it in the short term.

County policy dictates that no more than 7 percent of general fund spending go to paying off construction debt, a ratio meant to appease rating agencies that grade the county’s credit-worthiness. Adding 1,600 beds to Larry Smith brings the county to that threshold by 2020, the analysis shows.

The threshold would be shattered by 2025 if the county tries to add 10,000 beds now, according to the analysis. The Indio jail and other approved projects will double the county’s annual debt payments to $40 million by 2016, according to the analysis.

Deputy County Executive Officer Christopher Hans, who presented the analysis to supervisors, noted the projections are less accurate the farther they go out.

NOTHING BUT JAILS?

But assuming the numbers are true, there’s practically no room in the general fund – the county’s main piggy bank – for non-jail construction projects.

In the past, the county could use redevelopment money to pay for new infrastructure. But that option vanished in 2011 when the courts upheld the abolishment of California redevelopment agencies.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission, a multi-jurisdictional agency, does have its own funding for transportation infrastructure. It’s also possible to pay for construction through developer impact fees, state and federal money and other sources.

Right now, 20 percent of the county’s $590 million in discretionary general fund revenue goes to corrections. Jail spending would make up more than 40 percent if 1,600 beds are added to Larry Smith and more than 80 percent if a 6,000-bed jail is also built.

MORE DEPUTIES

The five supervisors committed in April to improving the ratio of deputies to residents in the county’s unincorporated areas, which aren’t part of cities. The ratio stood at 1.2 deputies per 1,000 residents before the recession and fell to 0.75 per 1,000 in 2012. It should rise to 1 per 1,000 by the end of 2013.

To reach 1.2 per 1,000, Corser said the sheriff would have to add 148 deputies by 2018 at an annual cost of $21.4 million. Actual costs could vary depending on how long it takes to screen and train new hires.

During the workshop, Supervisor John Tavaglione questioned whether the 1.2 ratio is feasible. During tough times in prior years, budgets for the animal control and code enforcement departments were slashed, and supervisors had to restore them, he said.

“Now we’ve obliterated those departments,” Tavaglione said. “And we’re going to have to rebuild them again.”

Public safety departments have seen their budgets cut 3 percent in recent years, but other departments took hits of at least 15 to 19 percent, Corser said. Factoring in non-county funding, code enforcement and animal control budgets since 2007 have dropped 33 and 18 percent, respectively.

In September 2007, supervisors beefed up code enforcement staffing in the unincorporated areas to 90 officers and supervising staff, up from 40 the year before. The number is 44 now.

Tavaglione stressed he supports the Sheriff’s Department and said he would love to see a 1.2 ratio.

However, “To think that we can just, for the next five years, focus every single dollar that we have on only the Sheriff’s Department and nothing else … that we’re not going to be able to provide the other services necessary in our communities to support, that go along with sheriff … it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Supervisor Marion Ashley said without a safe environment, the county won’t realize the economic growth it is expecting.

PRICE FOR SAFETY

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Van Wagenen said the district attorney’s office agrees jail beds are the top priority.

However, he said more prosecutors will be needed as more deputies arrest lawbreakers. Van Wagenen estimates the office is down 15 to 20 lawyers compared to four years ago. In recent years, the office has sought grants and outside funding to offset expenses, he added.

The county also is bracing for possible holes in this year’s budget. The Sheriff’s Department could have a $20 million shortfall and Riverside County Regional Medical Center is looking at a $50 million gap when the fiscal year ends next June, Corser said.

Assistant Sheriff Steve Thetford said his department appreciates the costs associated with expanding jails and hiring more deputies.

“There’s a price for public safety,” he said.

Alternative sentencing Re-Entry programs like Second Chance Alliance for Riverside County will increase public safety and generate revenues for the various community it will serve. Click the insignia to view our vision.

Empower A Felon

~A Totally Failed System: Politics Instead Of God~

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For a long time the simple idea that a person who is in prison can’t commit crimes has dominated our thinking about crime prevention through incarceration. It’s a straightforward idea, and it makes a lot of sense and is in fact mostly true. That person who is incarcerated, while locked up, will not be committing crimes. But that does not mean crimes won’t be committed.

So there are several problems with the central thesis. One is that most crimes that are committed are committed by young men in groups, and if you take one person out of that group and lock that person up, it doesn’t mean the groups seize up or stop being criminally active.

In an area of drug-related crimes, drug markets for example, there’s incentive to recruit someone into the group who maybe would not necessarily have been involved in it. And when the issue is gun-related drug crime, the idea is you bring a person in who might not have been involved in this way, and you’ll give that person a gun. So the crime rates that the community experiences continue largely unaffected with these one-on-one individuals going through the prison system.

The second thing that’s wrong with this idea is that we sort of have this vision that you locked this person up, that that person’s just locked up. But they’re not actually locked up. They are in prison for a couple of years or three, and then they’re back out again. In these neighborhoods where we have very large numbers of people cycling in and out of the prison system, you have this homeostasis of a bunch of missing men, but some are being removed every month and some are returning every month. …

That community is stable. The men who are missing are missing. The groups who are criminally active stay criminally active. And the incarceration experience has surprisingly little impact on crime.

“We have been growing the prison population whether crime rates went up or went down, whether we were in good economic times or bad, during war, during peace, when the number of young men in the crime-prone age groups was increasing at the same time that it was decreasing.”

Just to say it in another way, in 1972 we had about 200,000 people in prison. We now have about 1.2 million people in prison. We have six times the number of people locked up, and we have basically the same crime rate we had. …

Also, locking people up had a boomerang effect. So, for example, one of the things we know is that going to prison reduces your lifetime earnings by 30 to 40 percent. So if you have a neighborhood where every male has been in prison, you have a neighborhood where the men as a group are earning 40 percent less income.

A number of the men are gone at any given time; they’re locked up. And then the men that are there are not able to produce income to support families, to support children, to buy goods, to make the neighborhood have economic activity to support businesses. So for that neighborhood, the net effect of rates of incarceration is that the neighborhood has trouble adjusting. Neighborhoods where there’s limited economic activity around the legitimate market are neighborhoods where you have a rightness to grow illegitimate markets.

Then there are just dozens of other examples. For example, having a parent going to prison increases the chances of a child ending up in the criminal justice system by about 25 percent. So if you have a neighborhood where all the adult males are going to prison, you have a neighborhood where the children’s risk of going to prison … is about a quarter higher.

So we’re, in a way, in these neighborhoods with high incarceration rates, producing the mechanisms that lead to high crime rates.

I am all for humanitarianism, but I served my country and before I became an ex-offender with two college degrees I was still faced conditions of employment. After my first felony I was really not considered worthy of living in a decent place nor employment. These people are getting flights and ankle bracelets for free, I had to pay $300.00 dollars every two weeks to stay amongest my family. I am fighting various mixed emotions about this subject. We have a failed system no matter which party is in office.

President Obama calls it a “humanitarian crisis.” He has already requested $2 billion in emergency funding from Congress and in an exclusive interview with ABC’s “This Week,” he had this message for parents south of the border.

“Do not send your children to the border,” he said. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back.”

Is immigration a drain on the welfare state?

Another popular argument for maintaining tough restrictions on immigration is that without strict laws limiting immigration, unskilled workers would flock to America to take advantage of its relatively robust welfare state. The economic literature in this area yields conflicting conclusions and varies greatly depending on the country being studied. Some studies show that immigrants take out more in benefits than they pay in taxes, while other studies show the opposite. But George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan argues that the welfare state in America specifically dissuades folks from coming here purely for welfare benefits. First, writes Caplan:

“Contrary to popular stereotypes, welfare states focus on the old, not the poor. Social Security and Medicare dwarf means-tested programs. Since immigrants tend to be young, they often end up supporting elderly natives rather than ‘milking the system.’ Illegal immigrants who pay taxes on fake Social Security numbers are pure profit for the Treasury. In 2005, Social Security’s chief actuary estimated that without all the taxes paid on invalid Social Security numbers, ‘the system’s long-term funding hole over 75 years would be 10 percent deeper.’”

Second, Caplan points out that most government spending is what economists call “nonrival,” meaning that the government “can serve a larger population with little or no extra cost.” For instance, he argues, the United States military could adequately defend a population of twice the size of America for the same, or just slightly higher, cost. “An even clearer case,” Caplan writes, is “if the population of the U.S. doubled overnight, the national debt (not deficit) would remain the same, and the per capita debt would halve. The lesson: Immigrants can pull their own fiscal weight even if their tax bills are well below average.”

Empower A Felon

Rich Society-Too Big To Jail: How Did We Get Here?

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Crime is a social concept based upon social structure (organization of society) and social norms (ideas, customs, habits, attitudes of people).  As such, crime is considered to be an offense against society.  This concept of crime as an offense against society evolved from English tradition.

Common law was an offense against the country that, as such, was to be prosecuted by the King.  It was based on custom and tradition as interpreted by the judges.  It was not written down in a code that one could easily consult; rather it took its form from the collected opinions of English judges who actually created law when they ruled on specific cases.  As new situations arose and more opinions were formed, the common law grew.

Criminal law defines forbidden offenses against society  – by formalizing the common law – and specifies conditions for enforcing and punishing offenders.

New ‘too rich to jail’ case sparks outrage:
A rich father – a Du Pont family heir – served no jail time after raping his three year old daughter. How could a convicted child rapist end up with only probation and treatment? A legal panel discusses the case.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

John F. Kennedy

To summarize, beginning in the 1400s, the English, and later the Americans, defined crime by:

  • the dominant morality expressed in  society – the common law;
  • the rules articulated by the most powerful members in  society; and
  • the sense of threat perceived by the most dominant, powerful members of society.

And they dealt with such crime through a criminal justice system which

  • defines crime by identifying the boundaries between right and wrong,  moral and immoral, legal and illegal;
  • patrols and enforces such boundaries;
  • judges those who fail to honor the boundaries; and
  • punishes those who have been judged guilty of a crime.

Categories of Colonial Law1. Crimes involving sexual acts.  Any sexual act other than traditional intercourse between man and wife was a crime in all colonies.  Sex-related crimes were the most frequent of all criminal offenses during the first 100 years of colonization – between 10 – 22% of all court business. Most common were �fornication before marriage;� bearing illegitimate children; and beastiality.  Sex crimes remained on the books in the 18th Century but were prosecuted less often – except for fornication which was prosecuted not because extramarital sex was immoral, but mainly because of the �practical considerations� of colonial society – adultery threatened family integrity and created the possibility of private violence/disorder; fornication among servants that resulted in childbirth left the new mother less valuable as a servant and society was left to support a bastard.

2. Crimes perceived as socially harmful misconduct.  Almost any act that contributed to public and personal disorder was considered a crime – drunkenness, blasphemy, lying, idleness, Sabbath violations.  Suchvictimless crimes appear more often in 17th Century court records than any other except sex-related crimes. Sabbath violations among the most prevalent crimes during both 17th and 18th centuries.

3. Crimes against the person – both criminal (dealing with public wrongs which involves social harm and violates the norms of the community) and civil  (dealing with private conflicts with violate relationships between individuals).  According to recent historical examinations of surviving court records in most of the colonies, the most common crimes against the person were slander -approximately 17% of all court business in all colonies; assault – approximately 6% of all court business; homocide –  almost always directed at servants and slaves, or related to domestic and inter-familial disputes; and witchcraft.

In the South, crimes against the person were punished the least of any other category.  Citizens of substance often felt it was their duty to defend themselves, their property, their family, or their honor against any real or imagined threat.  Often, when given a clear choice between observing the law or defending their honor – they choose to defend their honor.  These lawbreakers were treated with dignity and respect.  Juries were reluctant to convict a man of murder or assault if he had committed the crime to defend his honor – and action that was, at best, loosely defined.  Often, those convicted of assault were fined less than a dollar.

4. Crimes against property.   Crimes against property were rare – petty theft was uncommon and grand theft almost never occurred. Why?  Stealing property violated both the sanctity of private property and the code of honor that included a strong sense of economic morality.  People convicted of crimes against property received the most serious punishment which was designed to deter other would-be offenders and shame the culprit in the eyes of the community.

In the 18th Century, crimes against property increased as towns became bigger with more diversity and wealth.  Designating crimes became a way to protect property during the 18th Century.  For instance, in Virginia, hogs were a vital part of a family�s economy – more valuable than sheep.  Its laws made stealing hogs a more serious crime than stealing sheep.  In the late 18th Century, this changed even more.  Crimes against property increased, and in so doing, the concept of crime as a product of sin was challenged by a new social concept – crime was the product of idleness.

The Bible contains so many verses that address greed and oppression of the poor that I will not analyze them all, but I will relate as many of them as possible to modern-day scenarios. I have divided these verses by subject and will begin with a brief analysis of immigration. I will then follow with an examination of every verse that addresses greed, greed of the poor, interest, oppression, God’s judgment of the oppressors, and taxes.

Immigration

Exodus 22:21, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Context: Included in a listing of various laws.

Exodus 23:9, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Greed

Deuteronomy 17:17, “And he [the king of Israel] must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself.”

Context: God provides guidelines for future kings of Israel.

Analysis: Even the king of Israel was to avoid materialism.

Proverbs 23:4, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.”

Interest

Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.”

Leviticus 25:36-37, “Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit.”

Oppression

Exodus 22: 22-24, “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.”

Context: Various laws are listed in this section on Exodus.

Analysis: Why are widows and orphans so special? Because, along with aliens, they had no inheritance in the land. In Israel, men inherited land from their fathers as they became adults (they did not have to wait for their fathers to die like we do today). As women reached adulthood, they left their fathers’ lands to live on their husbands’ lands. On these lands, people grew their food and built their homes with the resources of the land. So this inheritance of land gave young Israelite families what they needed to survive. It’s quite different from our society in which young people venture out on their own lacking both food and shelter and having to earn enough money to obtain it.

Widows, orphans, and aliens, however, could not share in Israel’s inheritance, and therefore, lacked proper food and shelter. That’s why God so frequently calls the Israelites to look out for their interests.

Exodus 23:8, “You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.”

God’s Judgment of the Oppressors

Isaiah 3:14-15, “The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people: ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?’ says the Lord God of hosts.”

Similarly, in Jesus’ day the Pharisees and Sadducees were feuding religious parties. The Sadducees held only the first five books of the Bible to be the word of God and denied belief in the afterlife, while the Pharisees believed in the entire Old Testament and in the afterlife, too. Jesus also believed in the entire Old Testament and the afterlife. So did He support the Pharisees? No, He didn’t! In Matthew 16:6, “Jesus said to them [His disciples], ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’” He went on to explain that He opposed not their “yeast,” but their teachings.

Despite the fact that Jesus had more beliefs in common with the Pharisees than He did the Sadducees, He opposed both sides, because both sides opposed God’s will. To support either party would have been the equivalent of supporting that party’s oppression of others and its promotion of man-made religious teachings over those of the Bible. Jesus protected His disciples from making the mistake of believing that one of two opposing parties must align with righteousness.

The way I see it, Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican (but Satan is a Libertarian). The Democrats sin by promoting individual freedom to the point where we do what we want with our bodies at the expense of and to the neglect of others, while the Republicans sin by promoting individual freedom to the point where we do what we want with our money at the expense of and to the neglect of others.

I don’t mean to say that we sin by belonging to either the Democrats or the Republicans, or by supporting capitalism or socialism. But I do mean to stress that we must not let these establishments teach us right and wrong. For us Christians, right and wrong must come from the Bible alone. God’s teachings must take precedence over those of our political parties, social groups, and even our nation. Those who claimed Jesus’ name during His ministry and the days of the early church did so because they believed Jesus’ teachings, and they obeyed His teachings above all else. Today many Christians call upon His name, but promote and obey teachings contrary to His, such as the promotion of the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor. If we don’t believe and obey Jesus’ teachings (and the Old Testament teachings He supported), then we really don’t believe in Him.

8k7la86586

Lord Help Us Find Away To Fund Our Dream

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Rihanna was sitting with the President of the L.A. Police Commission Steve Soboroff at an L.A. Clippers game. After taking a few selfies, Rihanna dropped the phone and it broke. She wanted to remain on good terms with the LAPD, so she took out her check book and wrote a check for $25,000 for the police cadets and fallen officers fund.

WOW!!!
That’s enough to buy a few hundred phones!

Not only did she donate money, she also took the phone and signed her autograph on the back and put it up for the LAPD to auction off. Can someone tell May & I what we need to do to get exposure for our passion and cause to get some leverage to get this type of support or attention. We are not trying to do anything except be the hands and body of God to a perishing species of disenfranchised individuals…HELP!!!!! please help us understand the difference between a human, cell phone and animals.

Empower A Felon
Empower A Felon

These comparisons are really getting to my inner peace. Why is it that a cell phone signed by a celebrity gets so much momentum and attention and there are human being struggling to make their difference make a difference. Real live human beings are suffering for various reasons and it seems that no one cares about their plight. I realize that their are programs out there, but they aren’t reaching the masses.

When the subject of ex-offenders in the workforce comes up, one of the questions that May and I likes to pose requires little imagination to answer.

“If the public doesn’t want to give ex-offenders the support they need to get a job,life skills or a launching pad to success what is the natural result of that?” asks the strategic advancement manager at AccessAbility, Inc., a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that helps people with multiple barriers to employment find high-quality jobs. “There are so many people who want to turn up their nose at ex-offenders or look past them, but the outcome of that is not good. They need a second chance.”

For an ex-offender reentering mainstream society, finding legitimate, gainful employment is an essential step toward creating a productive new life. But whether due to a lack of education and skills on the part of the job applicant or to bias on the part of employers, getting hired can be a formidable challenge for someone with a criminal record.

Convict Alley Rudy Holder

As Rudy Holder walked down East Harlem’s main drag, everyone seemed to remember him. One man after another greeted him with a handshake or a quick, one-armed hug. Each exchange brought a nervous look to Holder’s face: Friend or foe? Some of the men he recognized. Some he didn’t. But they all knew him.

“Trouble,” they said, again and again. It was the nickname he’d earned as a teenager.

After serving 12 years in prison, Rudy Holder had come home to East Harlem on parole, joining the 725,000 others who are released from correctional facilities each year across the country. Holder’s crime was gunning down two rivals, neither fatally, in 1993. In returning to Harlem, he was hoping to avoid the cycle that engulfs so many ex-convicts and lands them back in jail time after time.

Of the 7 million Americans (1 in 33) who were incarcerated, on probation or parole in 2010, more than 4 in 10 can be expected to return to prison within three years, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center on the States.

That cycle of repeated arrests and incarcerations comes at a high price to the states, which collectively spend about $52 billion a year on corrections costs. That number has quadrupled over the last 20 years as changing law enforcement philosophies, including the so-called war on drugs, have meant more aggressive policing, criminalization and incarcerations.

While recidivism rates vary from state to state — California’s is about 60 percent, at the high end, as compared to South Carolina’s, which is about 32 percent — the national rate has remained relatively steady over the past decade. According to the most recent figures on recidivism by the Pew Center, the national rate actually decreased slightly from 1999 through 2004, from 45.4 percent to 43.3 percent.

But experts say a host of socio-economic issues make the likelihood of recidivating extremely high.

Stray dog Sochi

It’s hard to know where to start with the problems at the Sochi Olympics, but the one that appears to have attracted the widest worldwide outrage is the killing of stray dogs.

Even in Russia, where they have chastised western media for being on a witch hunt for bad stories, it was a Russian billionaire who stepped forward with a donation to save Sochi’s dogs. Oleg Deripaska heads up several energy and commodities businesses. He’s about as pro-Putin Russia as you can get, yet he didn’t want to see the dogs “culled” either. Some question whether his funding for animal shelters in Sochi will extend beyond the length of the games, but it’s still a big gesture that can only be read one way: one of Russia’s most powerful men thinks the dog killing policy is wrong.

When news broke last week that thousands of dogs were going to be eliminated in one way or another, the Humane Society and numerous other animal rights groups mobilized their networks and offered help. There are even websites up already with detailed instructions for people around the world who want to adopt a Sochi dog.

Western media has given a lot of coverage to Russia’s anti-gay policies, among other human rights abuses. There have been protests and social media campaigns calling for LGBTQ tolerance and rights. But the dog stories – with their adorable photos –stirred a level of outrage that seemed to cross greater political and geographical boundaries. And they certainly achieved faster results. It raises a quandary: do we care more about what happens to animals than other humans?

“The indispensable and transforming work of faith-based and other charitable service groups must be encouraged.
Government cannot be replaced by charities, but it can and should welcome them as partners. We must heed the growing consensus across America that successful government social programs work in fruitful partnership with community-serving and faith-based organizations.”

A national movement to rethink crime and punishment is gaining a foothold in Minnesota, pushing the state toward policies that helpex-offenders rebuild their lives in an age of instant background checks and eternal Internet mug shots.

The most recent example is the “ban the box” legislation, passed earlier this year by a bipartisan coalition, which eliminates the criminal history checkoff box on most private sector jobapplications. The bill is just one in a series of small victories that have Democrats and Republicans working together to give felons a second chance.

“I think this is without any doubt the most bipartisan work getting done at the Capitol right now,” said Sarah Walker, founder of the Second Chance Coalition, which is leading the charge.

Hebrews 13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

Psalms 69:33 For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

 

 

 

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