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This is a teaching that I offered to my own Eighth Day Faith Community in June of 2014.  At the initiative of some of the African-Americans in our community, we have finally begun to look honestly at the issue of racism within our own community.  As might be expected, this discussion has caused no little pain and some bitterness.  This is my reflection on our current status.

Racism in Our  Small Faith Community?

Texts:

Acts 10:28-35
Col 3:11-16

The inclusion of all people within the worshiping community is a recurring theme in the New Testament.  “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Col 3:11)   Jesus goes to Samaria;Peter baptizes the gentile Cornelius; slaves and nobles attend the same churches; and so on.  Today, we say, “Well, of course, everyone is welcome.”  We may forget that inclusion was a huge issue in the early church, and they faced it, actively and purposively.  All divisions disappear in the New Creation of being one body in Jesus.

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The New Jim Crow

Attorney Michelle Alexander has written a most astonishing book, The New Jim Crow, about the mass incarceration of black men in America. The facts themselves are astonishing enough, but even more important is the evidence that mass incarceration is not an attempt to solve a drug problem but to subjugate poor black men. Mass incarceration is how our society keeps the inner-city ghetto devastated. The following is an extensive review. I hope it only whets your appetite to read the book.

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The High Price of American Inequality

And What Might Be Done About It

Economic inequality in the United States is greater than in any other developed country, and it's growing. The impact of this inequality on our country is important, yet policy makers don't seem to take it sseriously. What's causing it? What can we do about it?

In the March 17, 2008,  edition of the Washington Post were two articles on toll roads.  The first concerned the ongoing attempt by the current US Department of Transportation to get the federal government out of the business of funding road building, thereby “encouraging” states to move toward toll roads where the users pay for construction and maintenance.  And the second article was about a report from a Metropolitan Washington regionwide council that in order to relieve the disabling traffic congestion in the area such toll roads are now an absolute necessity precisely because both state and federal governments are pulling back from the costs of roads.  The council is recommending that most of the existing area highways, the bridges into the District and even major District thoroughfares be at least partially converted to toll roads.  Those able and willing to pay would zip by on their toll roads while the rest would stay stuck in traffic.  The impact of toll roads will be to give the affluent a further advantage over others.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 

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Compassion and Justice

This is a talk I gave in June 2007 at the 17th anniversary of the founding of Joseph's House where we presented the first annual compassion and justice awards. This is a talk I gave in June 2007 at the 17th anniversary of the founding of Joseph's House where we presented the first annual compassion and justice awards.

When I was a small boy my father was the Director of Fellowship Center, an integrated community center on the border between the poor white and poor black ghettos of St Louis, MO. Fifteen years later when I was in high school in the early Sixties, when dad was the pastor of a middle-class church in suburban Buffalo, NY, my parents invited a young African-American college student—who’d come up from the same St Louis ghetto through Fellowship Center—to live with us while he was on a six-month study program at the nearby University of Buffalo. It was one of those small, daily acts of generosity and compassion that hardly anyone would notice today, but—although I never realized it at the time—given the circumstances of the time, it was also an intentional act of what-we-might-call social disobedience. For the Powers of the segregated white suburb where we lived had not long before forced a recently arrived African-American family out of town with crosses burning in their front yard.

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In a Time of Scarce Resources …

“In a Time of Scarce Resources” is a talk I gave at the Hiram College Summer Seminar on global injustice in the spring of 2006 about health and health care inequalities in the United States and their direct relationship to justice. In it I also summarize the history of the black inner-city ghetto from my book Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen.

I'd like to begin with a quote from Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann:

"Something happens to a society when its wealth is reckoned in commodities, and it is stashed away for some to have and some not to have.  Some can pay and some can't.

"Something happens to a society when its 'know how' becomes sophisticated and mystifying and technical, and it is possessed by some and not possessed by others.  Some know and some don't.

"Something happens to a society when a sense of solidarity among persons yields to a kind of individuality, when a sense of belonging with each other is diminished and a sense of being apart from each other takes its place.  Some belong and some don't.

"Whatever it is that happens is happening to us.  And there is the new, powerful emergence of those who can pay and those who know and those who belong.  Very often the paying ones and the knowing ones and the belonging ones are the same ones--or at least they talk only with one another and trust one another.  They are content to be left to their own resources, which are ample.  And so the others--the ones who can't pay and don't know and don't belong--are left to their own resource­lessness."

--Walter Brueggemann

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