Monday, November 30, 2009

Hate Crimes on the Rise

America becoming 'post racial'?

Maybe we need to take a deep breath and start working on it in 2010. So far we've not gotten the hang of it. A recent report says that hate crimes have spiked as we end the first decade of the 21st century.

Conservative religious leaders did their best to defeat the federal hate crimes bill passed by Congress earlier this year. This included ominous warnings of pastors being arrested in their pulpits for preaching the Gospel, if they preached their convictions stemming from their interpretations of the Bible's teaching on homosexuality. Actually, given some of the venomous, mean spirited, hypocritical, unreflective and almost hateful rhetoric I've heard in some pulpits, that might not be such a bad idea, but - again - take a deep breath. The legislation harbingers nothing of the sort.

Yet FBI statistics show that hate crimes based on sexual orientation, race, and religion is on the rise.

"Following close behind religiously motivated hate crimes were racially motivated attacks against African-American targets, which rose more that 8 percent in 2008 -- the year that saw the first African-American in history secure a major party nomination, and then win the general election to become the first black president. The rise in anti-black crimes -- from 2,658 in 2007 to 2,876 in 2008 -- contrasts with a decline in attacks against whites, from 749 in 2007 down to 716 in 2008."

"As has been the case for several years, racially motivated attacks account for about half of all bias crimes (51.3 percent) and religiously motivated attacks were next at 19.5 percent, followed by crimes linked to sexual orientation, at 16.7 percent of all attacks."

Still another report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund says that continued attacks on African-American citizens are the most prevalent criminal assaults and crimes against property based on hatred.

"African Americans remain by far the most frequent victims of hate crimes. Of the 7,624 hate
crime incidents reported nationwide in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, 34 percent (2,659) were perpetrated against African Americans, a number and percentage of incidents that has changed little over the past 10 years",
says the LCCREF report.

It provides the following examples:

On Election Night 2008, Ralph Nicoletti and Michael Contreras, both 18, and Brian Carranza, 21, of Staten Island, New York decided shortly after learning of Barack Obama’s election victory “to find African Americans to assault,” according to a federal indictment and other court filings. The men then drove to a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Staten Island, where they came upon a 17 year-old African American who was walking home after watching the election at a friend’s house. One of the defendants yelled “Obama!” Then, the men got out of the car and beat the youth with a metal pipe and a collapsible police baton, injuring his head and legs. The men went on to commit additional assaults that night.

Justin Sigler, 19, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, pleaded guilty in December 2008 to conspiring with two other individuals to violate the civil rights of a man in Lena, Louisiana who was the first African American to move into a home in the neighborhood. Sigler and two others fired shotguns at a target on a field adjacent to the victim’s property before one member of the group turned his shotgun away from the target and toward the victim and his house. The next evening, Sigler, dressed in a white robe as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, went with his coconspirators to a field adjacent to the victim’s residence and shouted, “White Power!” and “White Knights!”

Benjamin Haskell, 22, Michael Jacques, 24, and Thomas Gleason, 21, all of Springfield, Mass., were arrested on January 16, 2009 for allegedly burning and entirely destroying the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American congregation’s nearly completed
new church building. The building was burned to the ground on Nov. 5, 2008, hours after the election of President Barack Obama. Investigators determined the fire was caused by gasoline applied to the exterior and interior of the building. The three men were indicted by a federal grand jury on January 27, 2009 for conspiring to burn the church in retaliation for the election results.

For those who think that these incidents are unrelated to a mood of intolerance in our country, the report goes on to say, "According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the number of hate
groups operating in the United States increased more than four percent in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000."

The facts appear to point to an inveterate fear of lose of power and preeminence among a growing demographic in the U.S. We've seen flames of that fear fanned in political rallies, in protests in our nation's capitol and the subtle and not so subtle rants of television 'news' pundits. It is definitely seen in the vitriolic posts and responses shouted behind the thick curtain of anonymity afforded by the Internet.

What are we to do?

First, we ought to realize that the significant progress made in race relations over the past several decades does not indicate a coming 'post racial age'. That is naive. The very idea of a Black man in the White House has spawned all manner of evidence that from sophisticated but thinly veiled efforts to delegitimize Barak Obama's presidency to the outright hatred of bigots who have no problem referring to him as a monkey or terrorist are based on race hatred. But its obviously done more than that.

The election of an African-American as president has caused some of the least hinged elements in our country to see a danger in the prospects of political and social equality. Rather than see it as an embarrassment to publicly foment hatred, they believe that there is something about this progress in our country that makes it acceptable to not only be disrespectful, but to commit violence.

Such attitudes should never be tolerated, whether they are expressed in private conversation or in public protests. They should be met with sharp and quick rebuke by those who see it for what it is - a dangerous, dangerous expression of hatred that will rip the fragile fabric of our society apart if tolerated or ignored.

It has become incredibly interesting to me, especially in light of these two reports, that violence committed by minorities, particularly African-Americans, is seen as a collective pathology to be associated with the race. However, the centuries of violence perpetrated by whites on Black people and other minorities is to be seen as isolated incidents of extremists and bigots, even when it is condoned by social custom and public policy.

This is why hate crime legislation is needed. It is designed to serve as a deterrent to those who think they have a right to commit violence and intimidate people because of race, sexual orientation and religion. Some may say this is the criminalization of thought. I see it in the same way Martin Luther King saw it:

"The law may not be able to keep a man from hating me. But it can sure keep a man from lynching me!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A God By Any Other Name?

True story.

I was called at my office at the church several years ago, by the City Secretary of Dallas. She has been a good friend of mine for more years than I can remember, long before she was City Secretary so, of course I was concerned.

It seems that in an effort to be religiously inclusive, the invocation for the next day's city council meeting was scheduled to be given by...the Wiccans! Now in common vernacular this group is generally associated with witches - as in 'bubble, bubble, boil and trouble'. It's not entirely accurate from what I understand, but again, we're talking about public perception.

There was no good solution. To 'uninvite' the Wiccans, would be to stir up controversy. To go through with their giving the invocation would be to...well this is Dallas, so you get the picture.
I was assured it was not a laughing matter, as the press was asking how on earth the City Secretary's office didn't know who it was they had invited to pray in a public I stopped laughing. She was calling because they were taking the least controversial action, which amounted to postponing a decision on letting the Wiccans pray. In the meantime, they needed someone to come in and offer the invocation, which is why she was calling me. She knew that I was one pastor she could call who could give a 'non-sectarian' prayer.

As usual, I didn't grasp the magnitude of the dilemma. One council member, a VERY conservative woman with whom I had not had good dealings in the past and with whom I agreed on virtually nothing except the most rudimentary tenets of the Christian faith, reached out and shook my hand saying, 'I am SO GLAD to see you here today. Thank you so much for doing this!'

After the prayer, then Mayor Ron Kirk and I were interviewed on the controversy, by local television reporters.

I bring this up because of a recent article in Newsweek magazine.

A federal judicial appointment is stalled because of his stance on the use of God's Name in invocations at public governmental functions.

"[Judge David] Hamilton, (President Obama's first judicial nominee) nominated last March, has seen his confirmation stalled until last week in the U.S. Senate, in part because his opponents claim he's a judicial activist for an opinion he wrote about God's proper secular title. In a 2005 case, Hinrichs v. Bosma, Hamilton determined that those who pray in the Indiana House of Representatives "should refrain from using Christ's name or title or any other denominational appeal," and that such prayer must hereinafter be "nonsectarian.""

"Bosma questioned the practice of opening state legislative sessions with sectarian Christian prayers that included a prayer for worldwide conversion to Christianity. Hamilton found this to be a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause because it was government speech that favored one religious sect over another. In a post-judgment order, Hamilton also wrote that the "Arabic word 'Allah' is used for 'God' in Arabic translations of Jewish and Christian scriptures" and that 'Allah' was closer to "the Spanish Dios, the German Gott, the French Dieu, the Swedish Gud, the Greek Theos, the Hebrew Elohim, the Italian Dio, or any other language's terms in addressing the God who is the focus of the non-sectarian prayers" than Jesus Christ. Hamilton, himself a Christian, also added that "if and when the prayer practices in the Indiana House of Representatives ever seem to be advancing Islam, an appropriate party can bring the problem to the attention of this or another court.""

Such an issue is not uncommon. It has raised its head not only in prayers before council and county government bodies, but a false sense of militancy among some of my clergy colleagues who tend to wax eloquent in defence of their 'right' to pray in Jesus' Name, for instance.

I feel somewhat differently. Not that it is right or wrong to pray in Jesus' Name, but I think we have a somewhat naive sense of what that means. Among the scriptures used to support praying verbally ' Jesus' Name', is found in John 14:13, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." It becomes a type of password, a near magic talisman that assures that the prayer will be answered. It is also viewed by supporters of this mode of praying that it is also a testimony regarding our belief in the 'one True God.' I get all of that.

But, the reality is that simply praying in Jesus' Name, doesn't guarantee an answered prayer. For those of us who believe, praying in Jesus' Name means praying with the authority of His Name. It is not carte blanche to get anything simply by making sure we end our prayers with the proper wording.

Secondly, we are going to have to learn that we are a pluralistic society. That means that we have to share the public square with people of other faiths. How far does that go? How does that look? I don't know. But we're going to have to figure out how to share the public square. We'll have to learn to make room for other faith traditions and modes of religious expressions. We don't have to agree with or adopt them, but people who have a different faith are citizens. They bring to the public square the same influences that we Christians do and there are times when those influences are going to have to be acknowledged.

But there are problems associated with even this line of argument.

Whose religion is going to be considered legitimate and whose is not? Is our conversation more about a civic faith and the traditions of our culture? Or is this really a matter of religions competing for primacy in public life? Or is it a political agenda masquerading as religious concern? I don't believe we've sorted this out and until we do, all faiths run the risk of being used politically, even as much as they seek to influence the political process.

In the meantime a knotty issue continues.

The Newsweek article comes close to understanding the harsh reality of this challenge and Judge Hamilton's stalled confirmation:

"The Supreme Court has sliced and diced religious symbols and prayers into the impossible-to-apply paradoxes of secular-religious and heartfelt-thus-unconstitutional. For the millions of Americans, both religious and secular, left standing out in the public square with just a teddy bear in a Santa hat, this is an insult."

"Opponents of Judge Hamilton should acknowledge that he was not privileging Allah over Jesus. He was trying to thread the constitutional needle that deems God's name—whatever the language—secular, but Jesus' name sectarian. The truth is, Hamilton has gone out of his way to impose a constitutional test that defies both logic and common sense. That makes him more "neutral umpire" than "judicial activist" by my lights. It takes a brave man to impose a test guaranteed to promote the unpopular fiction that America is one nation, under a secular deity to be named later, indivisible."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Booker T. Washington
1856 - 1915

Educator, Author, Orator, Leader

"Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Summoning America's Creative Will

One of the things the current health care debate has shown is the depth of denial regarding our country's economic problems.

Rather than understand last year's near financial collapse as a clarion call to rethink our economy, health care has shown a near irrational commitment to the idea that America's fiscal house simply needs minor home repair. There are those, however, who see the financial disaster cum distress as an opportunity.

A recent column by the New York Times' Bob Hebert tells of a creative inventor in Detroit sees it just that way.

"...a gentleman named Stan Ovshinsky took me on a tour of a remarkably quiet and pristine manufacturing plant in Auburn Hills, which is about 30 miles north of Detroit and is home to Chrysler’s headquarters. What is being produced in the plant is potentially revolutionary. A machine about the length of a football field runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, turning out mile after mile after mile of thin, flexible solar energy material, from which solar panels can be sliced and shaped."

"You want new industry in the United States, with astonishing technological advances, new mass production techniques and jobs, jobs, jobs? Try energy."

"“Now,” Mr. Ovshinsky told me, “is when we have to build the new industries of the future.”"

While critics of President Obama stimulus are busy revising the history of the last time the country's economy cratered - the Great Depression - they ignore a seminal fact: while true, the work programs of the New Deal, in and of themselves, didn't completely pull the country out of its economic ditch, World War II was such a catalyst. America's manufacturing industries became a part of the national war effort, creating the bombs, tanks, airplanes and guns which supplied the military and brought the economy back.

Our current military misadventures are drains on the country's coffers. One reason for the United States' huge deficits is the correction of the sleight of hand by which the 'books were cooked' and the cost of these wars weren't included in the federal budget. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot contribute to the restoration of our economy. Prolonging these engagements prolongs our financial suffering.

However, we do have an opportunity to create new economic engines and energy represents one such opportunity.

Hebert's conclusion is also a guantlent thrown down to our country's political and corporate leaders:

"The U.S. has the opportunity, the intellectual resources and the expertise to lead the world in the development of clean energy. What we’ve lacked so far has been the courage, the will, to make it happen."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Simply Said: Happy Thanksgiving!

This clip is actually a scene from a Thanksgiving episode of the West Wing.

For many of Americans, today is not just a secular holiday, it is a day especially set aside to remember our blessings and to thank God for His bountiful goodness. This gratitude stems from the simple faith stated here.

No matter your faith, or if you claim no particular faith, Happy Thanksgiving!

Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

October 3, 1863

A. Lincoln

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just Who are the 'Elite'?

I don't understand the term 'elitest'.

Oh I know what it means. It means, 'the practice of or belief in rule by an elite' or 'consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group'. But it the word 'elite' has crept into the public dialogue in a way that is confusing to me.

Are the 'elite' the educated?

Are the 'elite' those who have the capacity to shape public opinion?

Are they rich?

Are they they people whose heritage suggest a type of entitlement with regard to power, money, to place their imprimatur on political and popular culture?

I'm worried about the use of the word 'elite'. The way we invoke the word now approaches a very slippery slope.

It has become a victims word. It is now what we call people who are able to make their case in thoughtful and thought provoking ways.

It is used to describe people who ask hard - and not so hard questions. Sometimes questions to which we ought to have answers. Its a word used to describe people by who embarrass us by asking us such questions when we don't have the answers.

The people who are not 'elite' are 'ordinary people'. They are the people, who, by our use of the word, don't have the education; like hot dogs instead of creme brulee and who drop the 'g's' at the end of words ending in 'ing'.

'Ordinary people' are hard working.

'Ordinary people' are patriotic.

'Ordinary people' are 'the salt of the earth'.

'Ordinary people' are people with 'values'.

'Ordinary people' don't dither.

'Ordinary people' are 'plain spoken'.

'Ordinary people' are decisive.

The 'elite' are not?

And what if the 'ordinary people' win?!

What if we devalue the pursuit of educational attainment; what if the 'ordinary people' make the money? What if common sense replaces critical thinking? What if 'plain spokeness' replaces the capacity to clearly, if not eloquently, make one's case? What if 'decisive action' replaces thoughtful reflection? What if the ability to shout down an opponent, becomes the proof of being 'right', and we no longer seek to learn to be persuasive?

Will cheap cigars replace pipes?

Will honey buns replace eclairs?

If 'ordinary people' win, won't they become 'elite'?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Keeps YOU Going?

Every now and then someone asks me the question, "What keeps you going?"

Perhaps they know of the personal challenges I've been through. Maybe they simply know of the work I do - or have done. Serving as pastor of a church is not easy. Working to maintain balance between the ministry of the church and the extended ministry to the community was exhilarating and, at times, exhausting.

Central Dallas Ministries provides work that is challenging in a number of ways. Realizing that each person we serve is representative of multiplied thousands whom other servant organizations are reaching. And those are representative of multiplied thousands who get little or no help. For five years at CDM, I've been engaged in work which is for me and my colleagues, fulfilling and frustrating. The work never ends, there is no such thing as enough money. The criticism can be as plentiful as the praise.

So, what does keep me going?

There are times when I go into what some friends of mine call 'preacher-mode'. That's when we clergymen and women speak in lofty, noble tones of the assurance of God's Presence and the Power of the Holy Spirit. It's not that its not true, but for ordinary people that can sometimes be inaccessible.

So, what keeps me going?

Saturday, after a week of courtrooms, lawyers and testimonies; a computer that had crashed and had yet to be replaced (another reason my posts haven't been regular); news of a former member who had died a couple of days before and a family requesting me to preach the funeral service, I decided to get out of the house.

I went to Wal-Mart (yes, I know, I know) for stuff that I really could have done without. While walking down one aisle, preoccupied with a number of what I'll call life's 'What ifs'.

I locked eyes with a tall, thin, white man with a Stetson hat and an irrepressible smile. He walked kind of jauntily and finally when we got close to one another he said, 'How're you doing young man?' I chuckled and replied, 'I'm doing alright how about you?'

'Fine, just fine.'

He still looked at me, as we were now stopped in the middle of the aisle, his companion, whom I assume was his wife going on with her shopping. Then he asked the oddest question.

'How old are you?'

'I'm 53', I told him.

'I 'bout got you double', he said. 'I'm 94!' We both laughed and I patted him on his shoulder and said, 'You ARE doing alright!' 'You bet' he said.

Later, at the same store, I ran into another minister I know. Years ago, he lost his church, organized another only to have that one to fail. I'd lost track of him and none of our mutual friends had mentioned him in years. When we saw one another he smiled with that familiar broad smile. He introduced me to his wife and we began talking about our work.

His wife works for one of Baylor Hospitals clinics in South Dallas. Together they had started a charter school. They knew of Central Dallas Ministries and I told them of the food pantry and how distribution there had just exploded. They asked about our move to 511 Akard, and I told them about the many miracles associated with how the funding came through, sometimes nearly at the last minute. Then we fell into talk of how much we had been blessed, and how we had seen God's Hand in our respective efforts.

On Sunday, I got to church late, but I got there in time enough to hear one of my favorite songs, "God Has Smiled on Me". The words are:

'God has smiled on me
He has set me free;

God has smiled on me,
He's been good to me...'

They were words I needed to hear at just the right time.

Chance encounters, with strangers and friends. Their smiles, their humor, the willingness to take the time to talk and be neighborly. They cheer the heart and lighten the burden just enough...

A song, that doesn't ignore life's problems or its pesky, 'What ifs', but which remind you that there is a transcendent and a persistent Goodness on which we can depend - even when we can't quite discern it.

That's what keeps me going!

So, what keeps you going?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Struggle to Extend Grace and Find Peace

The words of Shaniya Davis' father, Bradley Lockhart, resonated with me. Friday night, I watched an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show that had been recorded earlier that day. I was watching to see what she had to say about the end of her long running talk show. I didn't expect to hear more about the adorable 5 year old girl who was found brutally murdered earlier this month.

I watched this young man, obviously and understandibly, in deep pain as he struggles simply to get past this inexplicably horrible moment. And yet, when Oprah asked him whether he wanted to speak to the young girl's mother for answers as to why she allegedly sold the baby as a sex slave to a Mario Andretti McNeil, a known violent criminal, his answer revealed a heart struggling to find grace...

"Bradley says he may speak with Davis one day, but not now. "I just think that it's best that we let the justice system take its course," he says. "I try to keep my heart as pure as possible and I'm sure one day I will be able to sit down and talk to her and try to understand what was going through her mind." When asked what he'd like to see happen to McNeill, Bradley says the outcome is not up to him. "It's in the Lord's hands now, and the justice system's, and he's got to come to grips and repent for his actions," he says. "I know the grace of the Lord and if he's sincere within his heart, he'll be able to move forward with his guilt.""

His answer resonates with me because I saw this recorded episode after returning home from the fourth day of the trial of the woman who murdered my son.

It was a difficult four days, to say the least.

The mixture of desire for revenge and the struggle to avoid feelings of hatred for Jason's (my son) wife, who has admitted to the killing is greater than any emotional challenge I or my family have ever faced before. Sitting through the trial, watching the defense attorney do his job, while at the same time listening to Jason's character being defamed and his flaws exaggerated can be, at times, unbearably hurtful.

Of course the nature of courtroom trials is equally challenging - you pass the accussed in hallways, end up in line with them in the court cafeteria, meet the glances of her supporters and family - it can be surreal to say the least.

Jason was killed more than two years ago. This father's pain is tragically fresh. We had Jason for 33 wonderful years; he had his daughter for only 5; Jason had lived too long for us to speak of his perfection; Shaniya had not lived long enough for anyone to speak of her as anything but innocent; Jason's death was senseless; young Shaniya's death was heinous beyond comprehension; the trial for Jason's killer is not quite finished and our families' trail is not nearly over; Bradley Lockhart's trials are just beginning; Jason was a young man who had found his passion - he was a swing dance instructor. He was gaining a national reputation for his dance prowess, having been given the nickname, 'The Black Butterfly'; we are left to wonder in sorrow what Shaniya would have become.

Even with these differences, I understand some of Bradley Lockhart's pain.

Yet, somehow I believe that if Bradley Lockhart can summon up the faith to respond with such a wonderfully mature faith in this heart rending moment, then maybe the rest of us can too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Clarence Darrow
1857 - 1938

Defense Attorney

"As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's Hard to Love Our Neighbors If We're Afraid to Get to Know Them

Saturday I read an op-ed piece that caught my attention. It did so because our neighborhoods, our country are getting more and more used to being told what we should be afraid of, that we no longer work at being community.

Entrepreneur and former educator Jon Myers, talks about the need to get back to that in his essay in this past weekend's Dallas Morning News:

"When I was a kid I knew all the neighbors – the Porters, the Hodges, the Stevens, the Skaggs – and they knew me. When I hit a baseball through the Porters' window, Mrs. Stevens, the lady across the street, scolded me and told my parents about it. But she also helped me earn money to pay for it by letting me mow her yard and shovel snow from her driveway. I was mad at her at first, but I grew to love Mrs. Stevens because she taught me a lesson in responsibility.
We had neighborhood cookouts and block parties. Halloween was awesome! I loved my neighborhood."

"We don't do neighborhoods like we used to."

"We don't do cookouts or block parties or Halloween or even look out for one another very much. How come? Maybe it's because we're too busy, or our neighbors are different from us, or it's a bother to stop for a conversation. Maybe it's lots of things."

"Ultimately, I think it is fear. I think we don't risk being known by our neighbors because we think it's safer to keep to ourselves and mind our own business. We think, "I'll just do my thing and hope my neighbor does his and we don't infringe on each other.""

"We're afraid of all sorts of things – offending someone, being known, being genuine, being hypocritical, being offended, being sued, being dragged into endless conversations when we have other things to do, having weeds, or, heaven forbid, violating a precious neighborhood covenant."

Ironically, the same day I read this, I got a flyer in the mail by our neighborhood association inviting me to a neighborhood block party!

I'll let you know how it turns out!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go Gamecocks!

Now I confess, I'm a Gators fan. So when Florida played the University of South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday, my rooting interests were pretty well locked!

But as the game progressed I noticed something that I considered pretty cool.

On the backs of the Gamecock jerseys where the last name of the player usually goes, I saw on one player the word "Integrity". I chalked it up to an "Ochocinco" display of self promotion(Cincinnati Bengal's Chad Johnson), but with a little less humility (if that's possible!).

Then on another player's jersey I saw the word "Duty".

"Interesting" I thought!

Then I saw "Commitment" on the jersey of another player.

Maybe its old age traditionalism setting in. And I know that there are a lot of college football fan's who don't like South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. But given all our country has been through and is going through, I thought it this was pretty classy!

Does anyone know how Southern Carolina decided to do this? If you do, I'd love to know!
It's a great tribute to what athletics is supposed to be about, and inspirational words for the entire country.

But I have to confess: I'm still glad Florida won!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Peter Drucker
1909 - 2005

Author, Strategist, Business Consultant

"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Political Will and Respecting Citizens

Interesting further reaction from Dallas Morning News on the aftermath of Unify South Dallas' meeting on this past Tuesday.

The meeting with the Dallas' Mayor Tom Leppert was, at the very least, a very healthy and significant show of respect for the citizens of south Dallas. It also represents the emergence of new, young leadership in the area, willing to undertake the hard work of organizing and strategizing with the neighborhood to achieve a measure of wholeness and vitality that has been missing for decades. When I say that IKOJA has done the heavy lifting to prepare for these meetings, I really mean it!

But, along with an editorial recognizing the effectiveness of turning out a constituency which has, itself, devoted weeks to becoming educated on basic issues regarding many of the robust economic development projects that are impacting their present and future, in the online Southern Dallas blog a critique, or a criticism of Unify South Dallas that deserves an reaction.

Editorial writer Tod Robberson raises an important and valid question: when council representative Carolyn Davis held her meeting with south Dallas residents on Thursday morning and afternoon, why wasn't USD there to ask her the questions raised in their Tuesday meeting?

"I was under the impression", Robberson writes, "that members of Unify South Dallas were going to attend and pose some important questions to Davis. Well, that didn't happen. Can anyone out there explain why? I was hoping to hear someone -- anyone -- ask Davis why she voted to support a special use permit for a sports bar to open on South Lamar last year, or why she continually allows the expansion of metal recycling plants up and down Lamar, or what she's doing to prevent houses from being gutted by scavengers and drug addicts along Colonial and Marburg and Pine and Stoneman and Lawrence and Hatcher and Pennsylvania and Bannock ..."

"Rev. Gerald Britt and Unify South Dallas need to be asking how, exactly, the revitalization of S.M. Wright can occur as long as the blight between it and South Lamar continues unabated. And the place to pose those questions is at the meetings Davis offers. They need to confront her and other elected official face-to-face, demanding satisfactory answers."

"It won't work for Unify South Dallas to hold their meetings to discuss the future of their neighborhood (while Davis remains a conveniently safe distance away in Austin), or for Davis to hold her meetings (while Unify South Dallas is nowhere to be found), and for both sides to think that the very serious problems of South Dallas are magically going to be solved."

"They won't, I assure you. You guys have got to start talking to each other."

The rest of Tod's post raises some very important and very fair critiques relative to the prospects of USD and Councilwoman Davis' working together for the good of South Dallas.

The problem is that the presupposition that USD is refusing to work with the councilwoman is incorrect.

From the beginning, members of this coalition have reached out to her, met with her and invited her to the meetings. For any number of reasons, she has declined to be a part of the sessions which were designed to help her constituents understand, by communication with the experts, what is happening in these communities in her district.

Councilwoman Davis was invited, accepted and then declined to come to the Tuesday's meeting. As a matter of fact, the meeting was postponed to accommodate the councilwoman's schedule, as well as that of the Mayor.

There have been at least four members of USD that have had meetings with her over the past 6-8 weeks that the coalition has been operative and a standing invitation for her to come be a part of those meetings. The idea that USD is operating in a political vacuum, is far from the truth. In fact, USD has actually added to the value of Ms. Davis' representation, because an educated constituency can be held accountable for working with their council person to bring about the sustained health and well being of their neighborhoods.

As to why USD wasn't at Ms. Davis' meeting, the truth of the matter is, USD's meeting on November 5 was planned weeks in advance. USD got word of Ms. Davis' meeting by email that made circulated over the weekend prior to Tuesday's meeting. The focus of the coalition, was primarily on Tuesday.

In response to Tod's question, as to why there was no one at Ms. Davis' meeting to ask the critical questions he poses? Quite frankly, I and other leaders have indeed asked those questions public meetings and in private conversations.

What was the answer we received? Tod gives the answers we've received in his own post.

"Finally, I asked the questions that I listed above, and Davis didn't offer satisfactory responses. She is convinced that the city is required to grant special use permits to would-be sports-bar owners. "They have to go somewhere," she said. "If we don't let them go there [on South Lamar], then where can we tell them to go?" That was her rationale for supporting the special-use permit even though she claimed to oppose it."

"She says there is nothing she can do about the massive growth of metal-recycling plants in her district because of the idiotic (my word) decision of council members in the 1970s and '80s to concentrate them there. She again answered, well, where would we put them if they can't go on Lamar? Who's gonna pay to move them?"

"Her responses had an air of "my hands are tied on this," which I found very frustrating."

If Tod finds those answers frustrating after hearing them one time, how frustrating does he think it must be to those of us who live, work, worship, own property, have friends and relatives who live in the area? Its not that no one from USD didn't want to ask the questions. Its that the questions have already been asked and answered.

That's the reason Unify South Dallas came together. Those answers are no longer sufficient.

Contrary to popular opinion, south Dallas residents do care about their community. For 6-8 weeks, I've watched as 30-50 people have given up Saturday morning to learn more about transit oriented development, plans for the S.M. Wright Parkway, Lamar Street, Turner Courts and Rhoads Terrace, DART, plans for the Frazier redevelopment. They've come to learn about the prospects for jobs and job training, small business opportunity and the Fair Park Trust Fund.
They put together an agenda of issues which they wanted to present to their mayor AND their city council representative and they were willing to adjust their schedule to have the meeting when she said she could be present. South Dallas residents do indeed care. But up until now, south Dallas residents have been under informed.

Ms. Davis has every right to hold her meetings and, the fact is there were USD representatives present at the early meeting on Thursday. This is not about whether or not a council representatives have the right to meet with her constituents. That answer is obvious.

What is not clear, is whether constituents in that same district have the right to expect her to meet with them?

Christianity and the Crash

There's a very interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly, entitled "Did Christianity Cause the Crash", by Hanna Rosin. The article asks a very important question: in what way may the 'prosperity gospel' been complicit in encouraging the type of financial irresponsibility which led to last year's economic crisis?

"The message that Jesus blesses believers with riches first showed up in the postwar years, at a time when Americans began to believe that greater comfort could be accessible to everyone, not just the landed class. But it really took off during the boom years of the 1990s, and has continued to spread ever since. This stitched-together, homegrown theology, known as the prosperity gospel, is not a clearly defined denomination, but a strain of belief that runs through the Pentecostal Church and a surprising number of mainstream evangelical churches, with varying degrees of intensity."

"Many explanations have been offered for the housing bubble and subsequent crash: interest rates were too low; regulation failed; rising real-estate prices induced a sort of temporary insanity in America’s middle class. But there is one explanation that speaks to a lasting and fundamental shift in American culture—a shift in the American conception of divine Providence and its relationship to wealth."

As it relates to the Gospel minorities were particularly vulnerable to both the pull of the materialism of the past 10 years and the push of the prosperity gospel's call to 'have faith'.

"Nationally, the prosperity gospel has spread exponentially among African American and Latino congregations. This is also the other distinct pattern of foreclosures. “Hyper-segregated” urban communities were the worst off, says Halperin. Reliable data on foreclosures by race are not publicly available, but mortgages are tracked by both race and loan type, and subprime loans have tended to correspond to foreclosures. During the boom, roughly 40 percent of all loans going to Latinos nationwide were subprime loans; Latinos and African Americans were 28 percent and 37 percent more likely, respectively, to receive a higher-rate subprime loan than whites."

"In June,
the Supreme Court ruled that state attorneys general had the authority to sue national banks for predatory lending. Even before that ruling, at least 17 lawsuits accusing various banks of treating racial minorities unfairly were already under way...One theme emerging in these suits is how banks teamed up with pastors to win over new customers for subprime loans."

"The idea of reaching out to churches took off quickly...The branch managers figured pastors had a lot of influence with their parishioners and could give the loan officers credibility and new customers..."

"The plan was to send officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, $350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans...They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’” "

Again, this is a very interesting read.

Many of us who preach and pastor have been saying throughout these boom years that its a dangerous thing to equate economic prosperity with 'blessing' or 'God's Will for your life'.

The assumption that faith, or faithful produces material goods and cash is a distortion of Biblical truth. It leads to the type of 'faith' that congregant mentioned in the article, "...the rich are closer to God." Such a twisted notion of faith is fraught with all kinds of spiritual pitfalls.

Secondly, its not surprising that pastors, especially minority pastors would get assaulted by these get rich schemes that will really 'help your members'. I wish I had a dollar for every phone call or visit I used to get with a plan that was 'guaranteed' to increase our finances, help our members and put money in my pocket at the same time!

But finally, I think it is proof that churches have to take great care in getting absorbed into our country's political and commercial culture. There is a great danger (and some churches have succumbed to the pressure) in failing to be the 'alternative culture' which church members and this world needs. Too often churches get co-opted losing the vitality of their mission: salvation, spiritual nurture, social justice, prophetic critique of culture and ministry to the poor. The results, in our country's case: God becomes an American free market capitalist; a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian and He sanctions public policy based on the ideological bent of His believers. In other words, He becomes the god of the American empire.

The 'get rich god' of the prosperity gospel, is symptomatic of a deeper problem - man's propensity to shape God in his own image, rather than vice-versa...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Unify South Dallas: Getting a Place at the Table

Unify South Dallas'
meeting on Tuesday was still another successful and significant expression of citizenship in an area of the city that gets condemned for 'not caring. What made it even more successful is the fact that this was not another meeting of the citizens with the developers, city staff and other officials. This meeting included the City Manager, representatives from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's office, State Senator Royce West's office, the Dallas Housing Authority and, front and center to address the agenda of issues developed from previous meetings, Mayor Tom Leppert.

You can read an account of the meeting here.

Most importantly: the meeting was held in the middle of the afternoon, when most of the people who have normally attended the past 6-8 weeks of meeting are at work. But there were more than 75 people present. The 75 people included people who took off their jobs, senior citizens, young adults and business people. The agenda was presented to the Mayor in a disciplined and respectful manner and it is now leveraged into serious work with the Mayor's and City Manager's office as well as setting the stage for more substantive engagement with Senator West and Congresswoman Johnson's office around jobs, transportation and neighborhood redevelopment.

This won't be easy. USD won't get everything it wants, but the southern Dallas residents, with the help of young emerging leadership is getting respect and a place at the table.

Advanced citizenship is a great thing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Memoriam: Fort Hood

The tragedy of the Fort Hood massacre touches us all. We can scarcely comprehend the stress, or hatred or ideology that seeks to justify the senslessness of this act.

But we all honor the lives and seek to console the families of those who died on that day. And we appreciate the words of the President as he seeks to convey the love, gratitude and grief of an entire nation.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Monday, November 9, 2009

No Alternative - That Is If You Want Affordable Health Care

So the U.S. House finally came up with a health care bill!

"After a daylong clash with Republicans over what has been a Democratic goal for decades, lawmakers voted 220 to 215 to approve a plan that would cost $1.1 trillion over 10 years. Democrats said the legislation would provide overdue relief to Americans struggling to buy or hold on to health insurance."

"“This is our moment to revolutionize health care in this country,” said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and one of the chief architects of the bill."

"Democrats were forced to make major concessions on insurance coverage for abortions to attract the final votes to secure passage, a wrenching compromise for the numerous abortion-rights advocates in their ranks."

"Many of them hope to make changes to
the amendment during negotiations with the Senate, which will now become the main battleground in the health care fight as Democrats there ready their own bill for what is likely to be extensive floor debate."

After a summer of angry, hysterical protests throughout the country; name calling, labeling, fear mongering, misinformation and meanness - sometimes from both sides of the aisle there is finally a bill that can be sent to the Senate. Of course, the name calling, labeling, fear mongering, misinformation and meanness, will continue until the appropriate compromises are reached.

But, there's a House version of the health care reform legislation that has been vetted through committees, give and take and compromise has had its way late Saturday night the bill was produced. If you want to stretch all bounds of credulity, you can even say it's bipartisan - after all one Republican House member voted for it.

Of course the rest of the Republicans who did not vote for it are not happy.

"“This bill is a wrecking ball to the entire economy,” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia. “We need targeted specific reforms to help people who have fallen through the health care cracks.”"

So, if that is the case, where was the GOP's version of health care reform legislation? As I've said before, even if it is true that it would never see the light of day in the vaunted House chambers, let America see it and let us raise 'you-know-what' with our representatives to give it a full hearing! Let us know what we are missing.

Oh. I forgot. They did.

"Late last night [apparently November 4], the Congressional Budget Office released its initial analysis of the health-care reform plan that Republican Minority Leader John Boehner offered as a substitute to the Democratic legislation. CBO begins with the baseline estimate that 17 percent of legal, non-elderly residents won't have health-care insurance in 2010. In 2019, after 10 years of the Republican plan, CBO estimates that ...17 percent of legal, non-elderly residents won't have health-care insurance. The Republican alternative will have helped 3 million people secure coverage, which is barely keeping up with population growth. Compare that to the Democratic bill, which covers 36 million more people and cuts the uninsured population to 4 percent."

"But maybe, you say, the Republican bill does a really good job cutting costs. According to CBO, the GOP's alternative will shave $68 billion off the deficit in the next 10 years. The Democrats, CBO says, will slice $104 billion off the deficit.""

"The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan. And amazingly, the Democratic bill has already been through three committees and a merger process. It's already been shown to interest groups and advocacy organizations and industry stakeholders. It's already made its compromises with reality. It's already been through the legislative sausage grinder. And yet it saves more money and covers more people than the blank-slate alternative proposed by John Boehner and the House Republicans. The Democrats, constrained by reality, produced a far better plan than Boehner, who was constrained solely by his political imagination and legislative skill."

So let me get this straight: after months of name calling, threatening, birther rallies, cries of socialism, death panels and throwing old people off Medicare THIS is the best they could come up with?! I say 'after months', but most Republican legislators, along with their Democratic colleagues, have said that health care costs are out of control, have been for years and Americans need relief. That means that for eight of the ten years that the Republicans were in the majority knowing American's needed relief, was spent coming up with something the Congressional Budget Office (embraced, when pointing out the weaknesses of Democratic proposals), won't cut the deficit as much as the Dems proposal and won't cover nearly as many people?

I want to be clear: I'm one of those who believes that the House version of health care reform doesn't go far enough. After compromise with the Senate, it will be less strong still. But, no one ever gets everything they want in a political process and you live to fight another day.

But on the other side of the aisle, to cry 'Liar', 'socialist takeover' and 'the end of the free market' and have no competitive plan?! Are you serious?

I've never seen a group so anxious to be marginalized!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This is a Small World!

This great clip of a portion of a sermon by Dr. S.M. Lockridge (1913-2000) has resurfaced over the past week.
It is a thrilling conclusion by one of the masters of preaching. Lockridge, who pastored Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California, for 40 years (1953-1993), was also the first President of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. If you haven't heard it, I hope it blesses you as it is blessing countless people throughout the country.
But here's a little known "this world is too small" fact...
Dr. Lockeridge's brother, Joseph E. Lockridge was one of the premier Civil Rights heroes in Dallas. In fact he was the first African-American elected to the Texas State Legislature from Dallas in 1966.
Joseph Lockridge was killed in a plane crash a couple of years later. Who was appointed to fulfill his unexpired term and win reelection in his own right after its completion?
None other than Dr. Zan Holmes, who will be the opening speaker for Dallas' Justice Revival November 10!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 - 1882

Essayist, Poet, Philosopher

"America is another name for opportunity."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dallas' Justice Revival: Walking to Support Ending Homelessness

Churches participating in Dallas' upcoming Justice Revival are asked, as a symbol of our commitment to become advocates for Permanent Supportive Housing, to participate in the upcoming Help the Homeless Walk-a-thon, on November 14.

We will begin the work of strategically determining how to pursue the fulfillment of this commitment after the revival. But to demonstrate that we want action to follow the celebration we think its important to do something as soon as possible. To join the hundreds of service providers and supporters of the effort of non-profits across the city to put an end to the scourge of homelessness, is a pretty good start!

Please make sure to register for the Help the Homeless Walk-a-thon at the Justice Revival at Market Hall, November 10-12 or you can do it their website here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dallas' Justice Revival: Working for A City of Justice and Mercy

According to Metro Dallas Alliances Point in Time census, there are about 6000 homeless people on the streets in Dallas on any given night. That is most likely a low estimate. Some of us place that figure considerably higher. While Dallas' effort to deal with the issue of citizens living on its streets and beneath its highway underpasses is significant, the Bridge is not intended to be a permanent solution.

A nationally recognized model for dealing with homelessness is called Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). Permanent Supportive Housing recognizes that there are some people for whom life on the street can be solved, simply by providing them with a roof over their heads and enough support to help them navigate the systems which can help them keep their lives together.

In a remarkable way, very much like the rest of us!

Permanent Supportive Housing is, just as it implies, permanent. The residents in housing until they decide not to be.

Dallas' Justice Revival taking place next week has placed on its social justice work agenda the issue of PSH for homeless citizens. More specifically, the Dallas City Council supports a goal of 700 units of PSH to address the needs those homeless citizens for whom it will be appropriate. Obviously, we need more than 700 of those units, but identifying the 700 units is challenging enough. Nearly every section of the city is afflicted with NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), when it comes to housing for the homeless. Given how little is known about it, and given how resources and promotion has gone with setting the goal of 700 units, its not particularly surprising.

That's where we are asking churches to step in...

First we are asking churches to get educated about homelessness and PSH. It is important that believers know the depth of the problem and the importance of the solution. Churches need to be educated on the importance of PSH because they can be an effective tool in allaying the fears of their communities regarding the 'dangers' of such housing in their communities.

Churches can play a critical role in helping to stabilize residents in PSH by reintegrating them into a loving, affirming community of friends who are genuinely concerned about them and who are there for them. Including PSH residents in church activities, providing counseling support, establishing Bible studies or even welcome baskets for new residents are just some of the ways that churches can be helpful. Most importantly, once taught, churches can call on their communities to join them in helping these formerly homeless citizens reestablish their lives.

Our faith communities are also needed as advocates in the public arena for PSH. While Dallas' City Council made an important step in calling for 700 units of PSH, that is not enough. It's not a priority with the city until some funding is put behind it and until the city is actively engaged in serious strategic planning as to where in the city this housing can be located. Churches can offer support to council members, once informed regarding the importance of PSH, in making presentations at their town hall meetings to reach an even greater population in their community about the importance of making room for this type of housing. And this should happen before any planning for PSH is proposed, so that getting as many people off the street through PSH is not longer considered a special project.

In Matthew 25, Jesus, as he talked about those who would be commended for having compassion on those considered 'the least', in his catalogue of qualifications for that 'least' category said, "I was a stranger and you took me in." The phrase, 'took me in' is actually one word and it is the word for 'synagogue'. We usually mean that those so commended took someone into their homes. It means more accurately, to make room for someone in the community.

This is true justice. This is true mercy. This is what the revival is meant to help bring about.

This will change our city. We look forward to you joining us November 10-12.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dallas' Justice Revival: Worship AND Work...

What will separate Dallas' Justice Revival from some traditional gospel meetings is that along with the focus on evangelism, there will be an emphasis on the engagement of the Body of Christ in issues that impact the lives of our congregations and our communities. What that means is pretty simple: after the celebration of worship, we are committed to going to work!

There are a myriad of such issues, but the two upon which we've settled are education and permanent supportive housing for our homeless citizens.

Education is the great equalizer in our country. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that more and more of our children are less equal than others. It's easy to see this problem as insurmountable, target poor students and their families for the 'personal responsibility sermon of the week' and tend to our own. But at the end of the day, if we don't commit ourselves to do something, we will all suffer.

In fact we are all suffering...

Here's a more practical reason for churches to become more engaged in public education: kids who drop out of school are costly to all of us; their quality of life is diminished in virtually every way imaginable.

"Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston, says he has worked on a number of reports in the past that reached similar conclusions. He refers to the problem as "a tragedy for the workforce," and says dropouts fare very poorly in today's labor market:

"And that’s particularly true for men—men’s job opportunities decline considerably. By the time they get past their late 30s, fewer than half hold a job. The lifetime earnings of male dropouts are lower than any time since 1959."

"If you drop out of school today it’s the equivalent of committing economic suicide. There’s just no role for dropouts. Their role is they perpetuate the growth of our jails and prisons. They are far more likely to be in jail or prison than any other group. If you care about your workforce, you would be terribly frightened by these numbers."

These are some of the people who will, almost inevitably, find their way to our churches - it makes sense we find our way to them first!
We are looking for 25 partnership between churches and public schools because we know that churches can do a great deal to address this decline.

They can establish enrichment based after-school programs that do more than help with homework; they can develop programs which help teach the practical application of what is learned during the school day. Churches are in the unique position of working with local schools to help design and implement such programs, on their own or in collaboration with other churches to defray costs or with non-profit organizations;

Churches can help establish mentoring programs for children and their families to help make up for damaged family infrastructure. The unfortunate truth is, that there are some families that are too damaged to talk about the traditional family unit being 'restored'. Yet, that doesn't mean that the the family can't be salvaged, or that more than a measure of health can be achieved. Churches can, through counseling and creative interventions make an impact in countless homes being threatened if not destroyed by addiction, incarceration and poverty. Again, it is what some churches can do on their own, or it is what partnering congregations can do in a collaborative effort.

Churches can also be a body of encouragement and nurture for teachers and school staff. Many good principals I know face tremendous challenges by the demands of central administration and the reality they see everyday. Pastors can be partners with those principals, while at the same time being a resource that helps them to do the best possible job in truly educating our youth.

The same is true in the role churches can play with teachers. What I've learned as I have become older than a number of the teachers I know, is that life doesn't stop for them, in spite of the demands of their profession. Bereavement, illness, financial pressures, expectations from principals, parents and children all weigh heavily on our best educators, old and young.

And of course the politics of education must also be addressed. Churches are impacted by the policies of the school board and the state which shape the minds and provide a future for the young people who attend our congregations and live in their surrounding communities. People of faith, must be equally concerned about the accountability of those who are elected to represent the families of children in public school. In that regard, churches do indeed have the role of advocates for their communities, not with a partisan agenda, but with an agenda for the best resources being made available for all children.

Churches can do much more than this. But they certainly ought to do no less.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brick City: the Politics of Redemption and Resurrection

Brick City, is an enlightening and inspirational story about Newark, New Jersey and it's energetic young mayor, Corey Booker.

To say simply regard it as the story of a man and the city, is an understatement. It is a saga of a city that is trying to overcome what some would consider insurmountable odds: gangs, violent crime, poverty and the rage which comes when progress is made, but when expectations and pent up exasperations are equally high.

To watch Booker, playing midnight basketball with youth, at crime scenes with the police, encouraging, preaching and pleading, police, business leaders, community leaders and radio listners, to join with him in making Newark better, safer and liveable, is wonderfully inspirational. And something from which all of us, can learn.

It is a story of retail politics, redemption and a city that struggles for revival. It's worth our attention.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bernice King elected SCLC President

Rev. Bernice King, youngest daughter of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, it was announced this past Friday.

"Bernice King was selected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
King was elected over Arkansas Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen.The vote by the board of directors was 23-15. King was not present when the vote was announced. , phoned King with news of her victory."

""In the spirit of your late father, with great anticipation, we look forward to your leadership," [The Rev. Byron Clay, interim SCLC president] Clay told King in the phone call."
"Clay said the board will meet with King soon before making any other announcements. "She is excited, I am excited and the nation will be excited," Clay said."
It is an exciting and historic move - Rev. King is the first woman president in the organization's history - and hopefully bodes well for the efforts to reinvigorate one of the nation's most storied Civil Rights organizations.
Congratulations, Rev. King!