Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
My brief (slightly fuller) reflection on the significance of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. published in The Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary.

In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Where Do We Go from Here?”, his last address as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he diagnosed the fundamental problem that beset the U.S. in 1967:
One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do. Jesus didn't say, "Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively." He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

He said, in other words, "Your whole structure must be changed."…What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"
Instead of proscribing a set of prohibitions that would not be sufficient for genuine change, King’s diagnosis of America draws us to the very precondition for national transformation – the rebirth of its citizens. His Jesus-inflected call for America to be reborn is not merely to a spiritual reawakening. Its message pushes beyond the obfuscating mantras of eternal damnation being rehearsed “while we create a hell for the poor” on earth. Rather, it is a moral vision that is inaugurated when we as citizens die to our indifference to injustice in order to be resurrected with a deeper hope in humanity and love for the least of these. In short, King is attempting to unleash a recreated moral citizen into our fragile American democracy that refuses to be arrested by arrogance, chained by cowardliness, and held hostage to hatred.

Xavier Pickett
Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
My brief political commentary on the new book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, published in The Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary:
Will the Next Christians Bear Fruit?

It is quite possible that the end of Christian America may be, in part, due to the gospel rhetoric of Christian America no longer being able to carry the weight of our political reality. This then points to the ways in which Lyon’s book could impact political discourse in our pluralistic society. Lyon argues, “Unconcerned with outcomes, Christ’s followers must get back to the heart of their faith—recovering, relearning, and rebuilding from the core first, and then out.”

In a complex political climate where issues ranges from Wall Street Reform to the record high poverty figures of 2009 to the “take back my country” Tea Party movement, we should be suspicious of any group of citizens who are “unconcerned with outcomes.” If we as ordinary democratic citizens are to take seriously the Christian vision that Lyon offers, can we really afford to turn our cheek to the outcomes of his vision? Every Christian vision must be held accountable to the type of fruit (or the lack thereof) that it bears.

The fact of being any type of Christian does not guarantee prudent or productive political payoffs for all Americans. What this political moment needs is fewer Christians focusing on settling matters of theological dogma. Instead, our country needs more ordinary (Christian) citizens courageously testing the claims that we all make in public in order to determine whether they bear good fruit.
Xavier Pickett
Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Same-Sex "Marriage" Is Not a Civil Right
by James W. Skillen

A gay-marriage advocate in Boston explained to a radio reporter that marriage is a civil matter, not a church affair. Those who want church weddings can have them, but marriage is a matter of civil law. And since it is unconstitutional to deny equal civil rights to citizens, it is unconstitutional to deny to homosexual couples the right to marry.

At this important moment in the U.S. debate over same-sex "marriage" and the likelihood of a long campaign to try to add a marriage amendment to the Constitution, it is important to evaluate the grounds of the arguments. In particular, we need to be clear about what constitutes a civil right.

It is certainly true that the contention over marriage is about civil law. Marriage law has long been a state matter, and in the United States that has meant, literally, a state rather than a federal matter. In any case, the law has until now taken for granted that marriage is an institutional bond between a man and a woman. Moreover, marriage is something people of all faiths and no faith engage in. Churches, synagogues, and mosques may bless marriages but they do not create the institution. In that sense the question of marriage is not first of all a religious matter in the sense in which most people use the word "religion."

However, to insist that the question of marriage is a matter of civil law and not first of all a religious matter does not take us very far. After all, the argument is about what government ought to do about keeping or changing the legal definition of marriage. The debate is not between husbands and wives within the bond of traditional marriage—like a court case over divorce and child custody. No, this debate is about whether the law that now defines marriage is itself good or bad, right or wrong. And to join that debate one must appeal, by moral argument, to grounds that transcend the law as it now exists. In that regard, the question of marriage is not about a civil right at all. It is about the nature of reality and interpretations of reality that precede the law.

Those who now argue that same-sex couples should be included, as a matter of civil right, within the legal definition of marriage are appealing to the constitutional principles of equal protection and equal treatment. But this is entirely inappropriate for making the case for same-sex "marriage." To argue that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment to all citizens, both men and women, does not say anything about what constitutes marriage, or a family, or a business enterprise, or a university, or a friendship. An appeal for equal treatment would certainly not lead a court to require that a small business enterprise be called a marriage just because two business partners prefer to think of their business that way. Nor would equal treatment of citizens before the law require a court to conclude that those of us who pray before the start of auto races should be allowed to redefine our auto clubs as churches.

The simple fact is that the civil right of equal treatment cannot constitute social reality by declaration. Civil rights protections function simply to assure every citizen equal treatment under the law depending on what the material dispute in law is all about. Law that is just must begin by properly recognizing and distinguishing identities and differences in reality in order to be able to give each its legal due.

One kind of social relationship that government recognizes, for example, is a free contract by which two or more parties agree to carry out a transaction or engage in some kind of activity. Let's say you contract with me to paint your house. The law of contract does not define ahead of time what might be contracted; it simply clarifies the legal obligations of the contracting parties and the consequences if the contract is broken. Governments and lawyers and the law do not create the people, the house, the paint, and my desire to paint your house for a price that you want to pay. The point is that even in contract law, the law plays only a limited role in the relationship. The law encompasses the relationship only in a legal way.

If someone wants to argue that two people who have not in the past been recognized as marriage partners should now be recognized as marriage partners, one must demonstrate that marriage law (not civil rights law) has overlooked or misidentified something that it should not have overlooked or misidentified. For thousands of years, marriage law has concerned itself with a particular kind of enduring bond between a man and a woman that includes sexual intercourse—the kind of act that can (but does not always) lead to the woman's pregnancy. A homosexual relationship, regardless of how enduring it is as a bond of loving commitment, does not and cannot include sexual intercourse leading to pregnancy. Thus it is not marriage.

The much disputed question of whether same-sex relationships are morally good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, is beside the point at this stage of legal consideration. The first question is about identity and difference. This is the material legal matter of properly recognizing and identifying what exists and distinguishing between marriages and auto clubs, between schools and banks, between friendships and multinational corporations. It has nothing to do with civil rights.

To recognize in law the distinct character of a marriage relationship, which entails sexual intercourse, involves no discrimination of a civil rights kind against those whose bonds do not include sexual intercourse. Those who choose to live together in life-long homosexual relationships; or brothers and sisters who live together and take care of one another; or two friends of the same sex who are not sexually involved but share life together in the same home—all of these may be free to live as they do, and they suffer no civil rights discrimination by not being identified as marriages. There is no civil rights discrimination against an eight-year-old youngster who is denied the right to enter into marriage. There is no civil rights discrimination being practiced against a youngster who is not allowed the identity of a college student because she is not qualified to enter college. There is no civil-rights discrimination involved when the law refuses to recognize my auto club as a church. A marriage and a homosexual relationship are two different kinds of relationships and it is a misuse of civil rights law to use that law to try to blot out the difference between two different kinds of things.
To read the rest of the article, click here

Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Rand Paul and the Souls of Some White Folks
By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
I can only imagine that someone with no intimate knowledge of the humiliation of Jim Crow -- of having to go to the back door of a restaurant or simply being refused service because of the color of one's skin -- would find the recent comments of Rand Paul compelling.

Some will argue, as many have, that Paul's comments about Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were consistent with his libertarian principles. His idea of freedom requires that he reject any governmental intrusion on the private lives of American citizens. So he, like others, finds racism repulsive, would march, if given the chance, beside Martin Luther King, Jr. against state-sanctioned segregation, but vehemently opposes any governmental effort to restrict the bigoted ugliness of those so thoroughly committed to white supremacy: it is their first amendment right, after all. Paul is content to protest government-sanctioned racism, but he fails to see government's role in ridding the nation of racism.

These sorts of white folk unsettle me. They seem to be blind to the suffering of others. They seem, at least to me, to be terribly selfish -- and dare to call that selfishness freedom, or to justify their own ugliness by an appeal to some abstract principle of states' rights. In the interim, those who are not considered "one of us" are left to suffer the ire and violence of bigots.

In short, Paul's principles offer little comfort to those bearing the brunt of this nation's racist past and present. In fact, they do just the opposite. They alert us, or at least me, to be ever mindful of the ugliness that always seems to linger beneath the surfaces of our democratic form of life -- an ugliness based in a troublesome conception of whiteness.

Some white folk are not too happy about the current direction of our nation. They want to take back "their" government. They don guns in public. They hurl invective at their opponents. They pass draconian immigration legislation. They ban ethnic studies in school districts. They insist on a view of the United States that mirrors their own self-conception: white and deeply conservative.

What is required of us when confronting such voices is a loud renunciation: we must reject the view of whiteness this approach to politics presupposes. And we do so in the name of democratic principles that are consistent with our commitment to justice.

Freedom-talk without justice-talk is empty and, potentially, dangerous. Paul and those like him would do well to remember this. Too many Americans, of all colors, have engaged in struggles to achieve our country in light of their view of "justice as a larger loyalty." That commitment has led many Americans to risk their lives to rid us of this insidious notion that ours is a "white" nation.

When I was relatively young, my parents moved us to a different neighborhood in our small town in Mississippi. I was playing with my new friend. He was white. Our Tonka trucks were yellow. His dad yelled, "Leave that nigger alone and get in this house." He abruptly stopped, picked up his truck, whispered goodbye, and left. I cried.

My hope and prayer is that the legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of government in the service of good, has allowed me to flourish and has also given room to that gentle whisper -- to that hushed act of solidarity -- to blossom as a profound commitment to justice and freedom for all.
Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Black America can't rely on Obama alone
By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

(CNN) -- If we are to address seriously the economic devastation in black communities across the nation, we have to put aside, once and for all, the idea that President Obama has a special obligation to African-Americans.

Obama has said repeatedly that he can't be the president of black America; he is the president of all Americans. We should take him at his word.

But to be president of all Americans involves recognizing the extraordinary differences that make up our nation. These differences are not only cultural, racial and ethnic; they also involve differences in quality of life and in access to opportunity -- disparities that have long histories in the United States.

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton's classic work, "American Apartheid," charts this history in the housing sector. And William Julius Wilson's important books, especially "When Work Disappears," give us a sense of the complexities surrounding black communities and unemployment.

Politicians talk about the needs of Main Street in contrast to the recent bailout of Wall Street. But Main Street is often divided by railroad tracks or highways that separate different sides of town. If Obama is going to address the problems of Main Street, he must understand that it isn't some idyllic space where all live and suffer equally and together.

I am sure the president recognizes this. And I understand that he can't be cornered into some troublesome game of identity politics. Partisan camps would have a field day.

But it is one thing to say that Obama must be the president of all Americans; it is another to say, because of that, African-Americans cannot demand specific policies that will relieve their suffering.

Americans are being ravaged by this economic recession. Joblessness plagues black communities. The Economic Policy Institute projects that African-American unemployment will reach 17.2 percent, a 25-year high.

In several states, such as Michigan, Alabama, and Illinois, the EPI projects unemployment rates for African-Americans will climb above 20 percent.

Health care disparities ensure a shorter life expectancy for African-Americans. The housing crisis has foreclosed the dreams of many.

More black children are growing up poor. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 35 percent of black children live in poverty. In the 10 most populated states, "rates of child poverty among black children range from 26 percent in California to 51 percent in Ohio."

It is not enough to offer policies to lift all boats; the buoyancy of some ensures their survival. Others are sinking at alarming rates. African-Americans must cry out. Those cries cannot take the form of the rhetoric of old. "Freedom Now" doesn't work. Nor do angry demands for "Black Power" seem appropriate.

Talk of justice is always relevant. What black communities need are just and targeted policies to address the Great Depression they face.

The president's recent black leadership summit doesn't help matters much. Inviting a few black leaders to the White House does not alone constitute a substantive engagement with the problems of black communities. In fact, it only reproduces a bad form of custodial politics -- where a small cadre of individuals broker on behalf of the supposed interests of all black communities.

Something much more substantial is desperately needed. The irony in all of this is that Obama and many other black leaders are asking African-Americans to trust that he is working diligently on their behalf without any tangible evidence. That trust rests on the assumption that as the first black president he would in fact have the interests of black communities at heart.

But this is precisely the view that we are urged to reject. In fact, we must give up this idea and work publicly to demand policy ideas from the administration and to secure legislation from Congress that will improve the circumstances of African-American citizens.

The president is right. He is the president of all Americans. I trust that he understands what these words really mean.
Category: Politics
Posted by: minruth

January 14, 2010
2295 Benjamin E. Mays Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30311

United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

So many governments and organizations are raising funds, mobilizing efforts and bringing real relief to the people of Haiti. But what is missing in the national dialog about the Haitian crisis is the moral imperative of relocating our brothers and sisters out of an environment that is not fit for human habitation. The challenge of communications and transportation is still very great in Haiti. My concern is that with temperatures in the nineties, no shelter, no clean water, rampant diarrhea and other diseases, human waste and dead bodies in the streets – are there discussions to begin rapidly transporting the Haitian population to neighboring countries – including the United States? The conditions threaten law and order, riots, overall desperation and these conditions are complicated by pre-existing conditions of significant disease, poverty and a deficient infrastructure.

I am the founder and directing manager of H.O.P.E. is Helping Our People Emerge, a charitable collaborative providing community solutions to community problems. Our goal was to partner with an organization that is indigenous so that they are very familiar with the island and that has a very low overhead so that the money gets to the people! HOPE is working with an organization that has spent over 54 years in Haiti – while many larger organizations are immobilized our partner is flying aid into the Dominican Republic and carrying it across the land into Haiti. We have 130 people on the ground who are working with NGO’s (non-government organizations) to reach the people without bureaucratic hindrances.

Please inform me of the efforts of the United States Government to begin a program of rapidly transporting the Haitian population to ours and other neighboring countries.


Cory Ruth
Founder and Managing Director
H.O.P.E. Is Helping Our People Emerge
Posted on: 11/18/09:

NYC Terror Trials

Category: Politics
Posted by: minruth

I am wondering if the Obama administration made the right decision to carry out jurisprudence of the alleged enemy combatants through the civilian court and in New York City. Some critics are pointing out that this will tear open a wound while others are concerned about the platform these men will be afforded to recruit. I am not so much interested in these issues. The Obama administration would like to showcase American justice and this is seated in a deep conviction for human rights and dignity; a conviction that all men – not just American men – are created equal and are endowed certain inalienable rights – that is, these rights are secure from infringement. My concern is that by electing to forgo military trials and proceeding instead with U.S. criminal prosecution we ironically deny these suspects the basic rights of American jurisprudence. It should be noted that these men were arrested in foreign lands by military personnel and therefore were not read their Miranda rights and therefore were not aware of their rights – for instance to remain silent during interrogation or to have an attorney present during any questioning. And sense it is certain most of the evidence that will be presented in the case was collected during the – for instance – 183 times KSM was water boarded it is not clear that the evidence will be admissible during the civilian trial. Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, says that he is completely confident in a "successful outcome” and that there is significant evidence that was not collected as a result of enhanced interrogation. This may be true but we do not know if a Judge will allow any of the evidence sense it can be argued that the suspect provided information out of fear he would be water boarded thereby tainting all of the evidence. Then there is the choice of venue – NYC – where it is not clear at all whether the suspects can find a jury of their peers (I don’t believe that is possible anywhere in the US) but more specifically whether they can expect a fair trial. To be sure, a change of venue will be requested by the defense attorney and it is highly likely the case will be overturned on appeal if a change of venue is not approved by the Judge. Beyond this, there are the concerns about the specific content of the trial – that is, discussions about highly classified information that are relevant to national security. In the civilian trial this information will presumably be made public record. And then there is what should be obvious…Eric Holder’s “confidence” that these men will be “brought to justice” and his attempt to assure the American people of a “successful outcome” he promised that these men would never go free – in so doing he inadvertently demonstrates the assumption of guilt – that is to say, the Department of Justice has determined not to consider these men innocent until proven guilty. So then, in a sort of strange irony the administration’s sincere goal of offering these suspected enemy combatants American jurisprudence, complete with transparency, the assumption of innocence, a jury of peers, and qualified legal representation rather denies these.

By Cory Ruth
Category: Politics
Posted by: minruth

If you are married or have otherwise ever spent considerable time around a married couple then you are no doubt familiar with the occasional squabble involving some exchange of nuanced perspectives on any range of nonsensical matters – the trash or laundry for instance. These exchanges more often than not belie a deeper, more complex, substantive and comprehensive challenge that humans tend to administer through vituperative wrangling about matters that either could be easily negotiated or are of no consequence at all. I sense the same has occurred in our national dialogue about Health Care. What is lost in this debate is the stated awareness that this debate is not primarily about health care but rather the broader matter of the role of government in American life.

For the current Democratic leadership the Federal Government is the most appropriate and capable apparatus to affect positive change in the country. This perspective requires the Federal Government to initiate a more robust, dynamic role in the lives of her citizens. It assigns to Washington the custodial responsibility for protective supervision of her citizens. So then, for them a one payer government administered health care option is sine qua non precisely because they view the federal government as the guardian of our rights – if you will – such that the democratic leadership sees as a dereliction of duty the privatization of that function. This is why Pelosi has asserted that no bill will pass the House that does not include a public option and Reid has said that if necessary he would use the controversial legislative tactic known as reconciliation, which could allow some elements of health reform to be passed with 51 votes instead of 60. For them there is a suspicion of the private sector and localized self-government in general and more specifically a conviction that only an active federal government can reverse the consequences of predatory private sector decisions that have left millions without access to health care and others denied or dropped from coverage.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: AWilkes

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but an accurate weight is his delight

—Proverbs 11:1

I call upon all people of goodwill to support H.R. 1459, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009. Senator Jim Webb recently sounded the alarm about the brokenness of our prison systems. His pronouncement, of course, is nothing new, but it lends visible and much-needed support to the cause of prison reform. And, to be sure, altering cocaine sentencing policy lies at heart of prison reform.

But why, inquiring citizens ask, should we use every available means at our disposal to contact our respective members of the House Judiciary and House Committee on Energy and Commerce and express support for H.R. 1459? Briefly phrased, cocaine sentencing disparities disproportionately impact minorities, interrogating our national commitment to equal justice under the law. H.R. 1459 aims to alter the Controlled Substances Act and eliminate two things. First, it aims to “eliminate increased penalties for cocaine offenses where the cocaine involved is cocaine base.” And secondly, it aspires to eradicate “minimum mandatory imprisonment penalties for cocaine offenses.” The title of H.R. 1459, Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act, assumes that a gross inequity exists within current sentencing policy (the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, PL 99-570, to be exact). The inequity, referred to by many as the “100:1 quantity ratio”, means that “it takes 100 times more powder cocaine than crack cocaine to trigger…harsh five and ten-year mandatory minimum sentences”. According to a report by the 2009 Criminal Justice Transition Coalition, the disparity, despite being “facially neutral”, unevenly penalizes minorities.

If we are to achieve our country, as the eloquent James Baldwin once said, then policies championed by the White House must not unfairly punish those who go to the crackhouse. If we are to achieve our country, let us call on Vice President Joe Biden, a repentant architect of this sentencing policy, and the White House Office of Urban Policy to proudly and persistently support this bill. All too often, the penal structure of our criminal justice is a modern-day example of unbalanced scales. Although not always in intent, cocaine sentencing consistently—and adversely—impacts minorities in ways that are so horrifically disproportionate that the words of the black bard Tupac Shakur come to mind: “Lady Liberty needs glasses/ And so does Mrs. Justice by her side”. Let us move from aspiring to equal justice under the law to its actuality, and achieve our country by supporting H.R. 1459.

Shoutout to James Rucker and for being a drum major for justice on this critical issue.

Andew Wilkes
Posted on: 03/11/09:

A More Excellent Way

Category: Politics
Posted by: AWilkes

“It is often pointed out that some of the places most lacking in hope are not the industrial wastelands or the bleak landscapes shorn of beauty but the places where there is too much money, too much high culture, too much of everything except faith, hope, and love
- Bishop N.T. Wright
Surprised By Hope, p. 232

Much of our contemporary political discourse is inebriated with one question: how do people of faith speak in the public square? Framing deliberative democracy in this way places too much emphasis on epistemology and often exhibits an overly anxious concern about the establishment clause. Scholars like Princeton University professor Eric Gregory, however, are turning the conversation in a much needed direction. What kind of citizens are we producing? Are we pastoring churches, leading corporations, and guiding schools that cultivate loving, justice-minded citizens, or are we churning out individualistic consumer citizens who measure the success of all our institutional arrangements by the metrics of efficiency, competition, rational choice theories, and the guiding invisible hand of Adam Smith? To be candid, I appreciate the low-priced consumer goods, technological innovations, and the (occasionally) efficient allocation of market mechanisms. But how far is too far? When frigid, career-oriented, cost-benefit analysis drives our decisions, I submit, we have gone too far. College students pull all-nighters for term-papers and prepare endlessly for job interviews, but complain when church runs a little too long. Professionals shuffle appointments around on Blackberrys and datebooks to accommodate networking events, but find it hard to make time to cultivate healthy friendships and romantic relationships. Lest I come across as too detached from my observations, let me hasten to add that I often find it easier to invest discretionary money in mutual funds than to give charitably. Perhaps I am not alone…perhaps I am. But I suspect that the powers and principalities of consumerism and market morality dominate and over-determine all of our lives, especially our civic imagination.

Maybe, there is another way. A more excellent way. What if a deep Christocentric love for justice, wholeness, and peace forged—and fortified—our identities as citizens? What if we understood ourselves, not as assets or liabilities on a balance sheet, not even as human resources, but as dual citizens who exercise our democratic citizenship according to the person-prioritizing ministry of the Spirit-kissed prophet from Palestine? If we vote, organize communities, intervene in public policy discussions, and—if we so choose—govern as dual citizens driven by a love for concrete human beings, a love that reflects the social bonds within the Triune God, maybe, just maybe, we might show our fellow citizens, believers or not, a more excellent way to serve.

Andrew Wilkes