America’s Alternative Evangelical Voice
SURVIVING REENTRY US communities gear up to help ex-offenders successfully transition from prison to public life THE ART OF DYING WELL Living fully into the life to come WORKING FOR WORKER JUSTICE A faith-based response to the economic crisis PLUS: Lauren Winner on patronizing the arts, the church fathers on nonviolence, jamming with the Preservation Jazz Band, how one woman uses trash to transform lives. 1<3@(<.<:;
PRISM V O L U M E 1 7 , N U M B E R 4 s J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 0
EVANGELICALS FOR SOCIAL ACTION THE SIDER CENTER ON MINISTRY AND PUBLIC POLICY PALMER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY OF EASTERN UNIVERSITY
Editor Editorial Assistant Copy Editor Art Director Financial Operations Development & Marketing Assistant Publisher
Kristyn Komarnicki Jennifer Troutman Leslie Hammond James H. Glass Sandra Prochaska Heather Loring Ronald J. Sider
Miriam Adeney Tony Campolo Luis Cortés Richard Foster G. Gaebelein Hull Karen Mains Vinay Samuel Tom Sine Harold DeanTrulear
George Barna Rodney Clapp Samuel Escobar William Frey Roberta Hestenes John Perkins Amy Sherman Vinson Synan Eldin Villafane
“The LORD has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” ISAIAH 61:1
F E AT U R E S 9
by Linda Mills Thanks to an extraordinary comity among diverse political groups and a growing awareness of the need to marry mercy to justice, formerly incarcerated persons are being greeted with significantly more support than before.
Christine Aroney-Sine Clive Calver Rudy Carrasco Andy Crouch J. James DeConto Gloria Gaither Vernon Grounds Ben Hartley Jan Johnson Craig S. Keener Richard Mouw Philip Olson Jenell Williams Paris Christine Pohl James Skillen Al Tizon Jim Wallis
Myron Augsburger Issac Canales M. Daniel Carroll R. Terry Cooper James Edwards Perry Glanzer David P. Gushee Stanley Hauerwas Jo Kadlecek Peter Larson Mary Naber Earl Palmer Derek Perkins Elizabeth D. Rios Lisa Thompson Heidi Rolland Unruh Bruce Wydick
PRISM magazine (ISSN: 1079-6479) is published bimonthly by Evangelicals for Social Action.
Wilbert Rideau: Returning Prisoners Need Someone Who Cares
Joseph Williams: Making Sure FIPS Don’t Flop
The Difference between a Volunteer and a Disciple
Camping on the Courthouse Steps
Art & Soul
The Art Patron
Off the Shelf
Discovering mutuality with the poor, environmental stewardship for God’s people, NGOs and religious identity in a violent world, inspirational stories from Africa.
Gleaning for Jesus
Cover illustration by Eugene Ivanov
Making a Difference
A Church Steps Up to Help the Homeless
by Rob Moll Treating death as a spiritual journey rather than a medical event to be postponed at all costs allows both the dying and the bereaved to experience the peace and presence of Christ.
In Like Manner…the Women Fully Feminine Leadership
A Covenant for Workers
The Good Death
May I Have a Word?
Christian Response to Political “Enemies”
by Mike and Denise Thompson A Christian social worker turns trash to treasure to minister to her clients — body, mind, and soul.
Note: Standard A mail is not forwarded, please contact us if your address changes. All contents © 2010 ESA/PRISM magazine.
Toward an Ancient-Future Christian Public Witness
Creating a Healing Community
by Renaye Manley Can Christians lead the way back to a “moral contract” between employer and employee, company and community?
Letters to the Editor
by Linda Mills
S U B S C R I P T I O N I N F O R M AT I O N
interview by Kim Field
Reflections from the Editor
The DNA of Hope
interview by Kristyn Komarnicki
To receive PRISM Magazine six times a year, call 484.384.2990 or go to www.esa-online.org
Take Two: The Second Chance Act in Action
by Kristyn Komarnicki
E D I T O R I A L /A D V E R T I S I N G I N F O R M AT I O N
email@example.com 6 E. Lancaster Avenue s Wynnewood, PA 19096. Unsolicited submissions will not be returned unless they include a SASE.
Justice, Mercy, and the Land of the Second Chance
Hospitality with a Beat 40
Helping NGOs Fight Poverty
REFLECTIONS FROM THE EDITOR KRISTYN KOMARNICKI
The DNA of Hope I live in a state of hopelessness. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that retain both the death penalty and a life-without-parole policy. The death penalty is the ultimate statement of despair. It essentially says, “This person’s life is not worth living. It is to be either snuffed out or warehoused on Death Row.” And life without parole means just that: Once a prisoner receives a life sentence, he has no hope of ever walking free again. In spite of the fact that many of Pennsylvania’s lifers never directly took another life (convicted instead as accessories, such as look-outs or drivers for armed robberies), the life sentence declares, “No matter how model a prisoner you are, no matter how much you educate yourself and search your soul and mature behind these bars, you will never be fit for society again.” I don’t get it. Hope — the possibility of healing, regeneration, rebirth — is written into the very DNA of the universe. A broken bone immediately begins to swarm with healthy cells, repairing itself into a stronger version of its prototype. Lifeless bulbs planted in the fall wait out the dark winter to split open and bloom in the warmth and light of spring. Civilizations, too: Haiti, currently a sea of rubble and mud, is slowly being rebuilt and reforested and one day will stand tall. The same is true of the human heart. How many times has your heart been rescued and rebuilt over the last decade, or even over the last 10 hours? I frequently need to ask forgiveness of my husband, children, or friends — and when I receive it, I am restored and able to move forward. On an hourly basis, I need to ask forgiveness of God. On any given day,
I am given an incalculable number of “second” chances. And sometimes, by the grace of God, I learn from them. Sometimes I am able to step out a stronger, wiser, humbler soul because of the fresh start afforded me. It takes a degree of meanness to commit a crime, and there are certainly plenty of horrors in this world that can make a man (or woman) mean — poverty, abuse, lovelessness, self-loathing, to name a few. But I think that it is equally true that crime makes a man mean. Imagine what it does to a soul to violate a person’s home; to take what does not belong to him; to enact violence upon a fellow human being; to use and abuse others; to live under the constant fear of getting caught in the act or being betrayed by his brothers in crime. In other words, crime springs from a kind of hopelessness, gives rise to wretchedness, and then lands the criminal in a place of ultimate despair. Prison, which should be a place where hope is restored — or discovered for the first time — is, instead, too often a place of futility and dejection. People go in without skills or a healthy social network, and people leave (if they’re not serving life in Pennsylvania, that is) without skills or support. No wonder our correctional system is often referred to as a revolving door. What’s to keep them from coming back? But this system flies in the face of everything our Creator God is about. He is not a God of holocaust and final solutions, but of rainbows and whale bellies and Promised Lands and resurrections. He is a God of rescue and restoration. Listen to these words, which I like to imagine Isaiah belting out, Mahalia Jackson-style, to a spirit-sagging nation: The LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for PRISM 2 0 1 0
the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Is. 61:1-3). God’s vision includes release, not revolving doors; it calls for hope, not despondency. In God’s vision, folks aren’t given $10 and a bus ticket at the prison door; no, they hand over their ashes in exchange for beauty, they trade in their mourning for gladness and their despair for praise. Then they go out to become pillars (oaks) of society. Why? To display God’s splendor! Our cover story provides a political and spiritual map for that vision. I urge you to study it and pray about/seek out the role you can play in helping captives glorify our Lord. Since we live in a nation boasting the highest rate of incarceration in the world, you won’t have to look far to find someone who could use a friend, a mentor, a job, a home, a second chance. What can you do to plant, water, or tend an oak of righteousness today? N
This issue is dedicated to my dear friend, Alvin R. Joyner, who is serving his 40th year of a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison. He has shown me what hopeagainst-all-odds looks like, and how God can produce gold in the furnace of affliction. Special thanks to Harold Dean Trulear for his invaluable help with putting the cover story together.
TALK BACK LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I share the concern expressed in David Gushee’s January/February column, “Bonhoeffer, Torture, and Christian Responsiblity.” He says, “I wonder what Bonhoeffer would think about a nation whose evangelical Christians are more likely to support torture than any other group in that nation, including its secularists.” What groups besides “secularists” are being compared to evangelicals? The very comprehensive statement “any other group in that nation” should probably be edited to add “of those religious groups polled by Pew Research in April 14-21, 2009.” The poll (bit.ly/ rUTdw) actually excludes some groups in light of too little data. I am a member of many groups (Mennonite,Anabaptist, ASM, etc.). Of the four large groups in the Pew poll I best fit “evangelical Protestant” (though uncomfortably at times, like now). I am even less Catholic, Mainline, or Unaffiliated. Loren Horst Harrisonburg, Va.
reach out to others, as Leila Rae Sommerfeld does in her work — even to those across the continents, as documentarist Lisa Jackson has done with The Greatest Silence — is a good reminder of how God can use our pain to comfort both others and ourselves. Name withheld upon request
I read “Deliver Us From Debt” in the May/June issue and was very grateful to see financial literacy in the church. I teach a life skills enrichment class. I see that a majority of the people that we serve are coming from large churches. The clients are stating that they have asked their church for assistance, but there was none available. I have learned over the years that is not always the truth. If more churches would provide more financial literacy, we would soon see a change in the spending patterns of people. (I hope.) I am trying to bring more of this information to my local (Baptist) church. We are asking people to tithe, but they do The March/April issue focusing on not know how to keep their electric seroppression of females is excellent. The vice from being disconnected. Income tax articles and stories are heartbreaking. refunds are sometimes $5,000-$6,000, The cover art, too, is especially good, but they are broke in less than 60 days. probably your best cover yet. But what Mattie Broxton makes it really useful are the study Pensacola, Florida questions and links that you post on the PRISM website — what a terrific +V`V\NL[[OLL7PZ[SL,:(»Z resource! I will definitely be using these ^LLRS`LSLJ[YVUPJJVTT\UPX\t& with my small group at church. 0[»ZMYLLHUKP[»ZWHJRLK^P[O Colette Simpson WYV]VJH[P]LLZZH`ZWYHJ[PJHSPKLHZ Fort Smith, Ariz. HJ[PVUHSLY[ZHUKYLZV\YJLZ :PNU\W[VKH`H[,:(VUSPULVYN In the March/April issue, I appreciated the way you covered both rape as a 1VPU\ZVU-HJLIVVR:LHYJO ¸,]HUNLSPJHSZMVY:VJPHS(J[PVU¹¶ weapon of war in the Congo (“Breaking 5VUWYVÄ[6YNHUPaH[PVUHUK the Silence”) and sexual violence here in ILJVTLHMHU[VRLLW\W^P[O[OL the West (“Undone: Rape in the US”). SH[LZ[\WKH[LZHJ[PVUHSLY[Z While the circumstances may be differHK]VJHJ`UL^ZHUKHY[PJSLZ ent, the act itself is the same — a viola tion of a woman’s body, mind, and soul :[\K`KPZJ\ZZPVUX\LZ[PVUZMVY — and the fallout lasts a lifetime. Seeing [OPZHUKWHZ[PZZ\LZHYLH]HPSHISL how those of us who have experienced H[,:(VUSPULVYN790:4 sexual violence can use our pain to PRISM 2 0 1 0
KINGDOM ETHICS D A V I D P. G U S H E E
Toward an Ancient-Future Christian Public Witness My career in Christian public witness began 20 years ago when I moved my family to Philadelphia and settled into the basement offices of ESA. It was November 1990. Since then I have taken positions on issues ranging from the First Gulf War to Bill Clinton’s impeachment to the Iraq War to torture to climate change. Like Ron Sider and others who do similar work, I have done my best to bring Christian principles to bear as faithfully as possible on the issues of the moment. These days I am in a period of rethinking related to a current book project on the sanctity of human life. For this project, I am walking through the history of biblical, Christian, and Western thought. I am trying to pick up the thread of the development of this astonishingly important belief and to see how it works its way through the history of our churches and our cultures. I am also paying attention to those voices that have rejected and negated the idea at its very core. Currently I am completing a twochapter section related to the early history of Christian thought and practice as it pertains to life’s sacredness. I have reviewed the evidence of what the early church said and did and am now in that pivotal transition period when the church went from persecuted minority under Diocletian to established state religion under Theodosius. Of course everyone knows that Constantine’s purported conversion to Christianity in
312 AD was a critically important step in that fateful transition. One reason I am doing this project is that I want to return to the roots of Christian public witness for a surer grounding for what I am doing today. In a context in which American Christians seem so often to blow with the partisan political winds, I want very deep and strong roots in the holy texts and traditions of the church. I want to articulate what might be called an ancient-future public witness — a witness that stands in continuity with the most ancient Christian posture towards the world, which I believe is best suited to speak to American culture, both today and in the future. I decided this past year that I really had to read that part of ancient scriptural writing that made it into the Catholic canon but was excluded by Luther and
-VY[OYLLJLU[\YPLZ [OLJO\YJOYLQLJ[LK ISVVKZOLKHUKRPSSPUN the Protestants. Most of these works were written in Greek in the last two centuries of the era before Christ. They give us perhaps the best evidence of the religious and political environment facing the Jewish people in the era just before our Savior’s incarnation. In particular, I have spent many weeks reading the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. They are filled with violence, articulated as a kind of holy defensive crusade against pagan oppressors of the Jewish people — and against Jewish apostates and collaborators. Against this backdrop, the New Testament and the authoritative writings of the first three centuries of the Christian church offer a truly astonishing counterwitness. Here is a body of literature that consistently offers and demands an absolute repudiation of the bloody killPRISM 2 0 1 0
ing so prevalent in every sector of the known world at the time. This apocalyptic spinoff of Judaism totally rejected the sacred violence of large parts of the Jewish scriptures.This growing religious movement in the Roman Empire completely refused the imperial violence daily present in the Pax Romana. The pull toward violence in that world — as in ours — was a seemingly irresistible force. “Everyone knew” that violence was required to resolve all kinds of human problems, from questions of political succession to keeping criminals in line. But for three centuries the church took a different path. The literary evidence left behind by the church bears ample witness to this rejection of bloodshed and killing, and contemporary non-Christian observers (often angrily) confirm this evidence. Rooted in the example of Jesus, who died for the world but would not kill for anyone, the early church followed his example even as pressure built for the numerically growing church to compromise. The commitment to nonviolence did not stand alone but was embedded in a broader narrative of what God was doing in the world through Christ and through the church.The church could not compromise its commitment to nonviolence without rejecting its own most basic understanding of its identity. After Constantine, the church suddenly accommodated to the violence of worldly politics. It sought to moderate that violence, but it no longer corporately rejected it. Three centuries of Christian moral teaching were set aside. I am now convinced that Christian public witness must return to its earliest roots. In fidelity to our ancient tradition, I know that I will never again endorse the shedding of blood. N David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga.
MAY I HAVE A WORD? JAVAN ROWE
Christian Response to Political “Enemies” Obama’s popularity has declined since he was first elected, which often happens after a president has settled into office. I hear a lot of verbal negativity directed toward him, especially from Christians. Does disagreement justify disparagement? What should our attitude be toward elected officials who hold ideas that we oppose on key issues? New Testament writers addressed this subject of how to respond to authority. It is important to note that they wrote while living under a brutal government that despised Christians. Our current government seems heavenly compared to the persecution these believers faced under Rome. But even under adverse conditions, the apostles gave provocative, countercultural advice. Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king…or to governors” (1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is a clear command to humble ourselves before our ruling government. In fact, instruction abounds in the Bible on the subject of humble submission, whether it’s spouse to spouse, children to parents, or people to God. Our citizen-to-government relationship is no different; we must answer to those in power. The reason we practice humility is because “…there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1). Because God is the one who grants authority, “…whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinances of God” (Rom. 13:2).
In past generations the president was backed by the people, whether they voted for him or not.Today it seems that divisions between parties allow little to no cooperation. Animosity is rampant. Part of humility, however, involves offering assistance to the “enemy” for the betterment of our country. Citizens are to be coworkers with the government. Christians should lead the way, humbling ourselves in obedience and cooperation as Scripture commands. But what is subjection? Paul writes that we are “…to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Tit. 3:1-2). Being “ready for every good deed” means going out of our way to offer assistance, regardless of one’s politics. Our help includes attitudes, not merely actions, which means moving past extreme negativity.We are to “malign no one,” refraining from needless slander. We’d do well to study young David’s attitude toward King Saul as a model for relating to leaders, even undeniably unreasonable ones! We are also called to be “peaceable” and “gentle,” two of the nine signs that we possess God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The world can be positively impacted for Christ through its daily interactions with peaceful, gentle believers.Yes, there are instances when we must confront elected officials with disagreements or reprimands, but we must do so with kindness and understanding. There is no room for pride. It comes down to consideration. How often have we seen stand-up jokes directed toward the president? More personally, have we laughed at those jokes? If we are honest, we will admit that the Bible never permits us to mock authority figures. Just the opposite, Scripture reminds us that “rulers are servants of God” (Rom. 13:6). He has placed them in power, so we obey. But what do we do when a leader PRISM 2 0 1 0
stands for something we oppose? A major issue determining the votes of many evangelicals is abortion. I am personally opposed to any form of abortion. Because of this stance, I cannot vote for a prochoice candidate when a pro-life option is available. However, now that a prochoice candidate has been elected I do not give up my opposition to abortion. Nor do I throw up my hands in retreat and ignore my call to cooperation. For an example of maintaining one’s beliefs while cooperating with the government, let’s look at the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel and his friends grew to great status in the Babylonian Empire. Their prominence indicates a bit of cooperation. At the same time, they clung to the convictions of their faith. True, the king did throw Daniel to the lions and attempted to barbecue Daniel’s friends, but they never wavered in their beliefs or their respect for authority.They continued to serve the king, even after these terrible punishments. We, too, can strike that balance between taking a stand and working with the government. We can hold to our biblical beliefs and still remain willing to assist opposing political parties. Our Bible-based beliefs should dictate how we vote, but our duty to love our neighbor and honor our leaders is not limited to certain issues. Most of the New Testament teachings instruct us in relating to others. No matter who is in power over us, the Bible calls us to humble ourselves in obedience and cooperation. Through this proper Christian attitude, the light of Christ can shine, and God may continue blessing our country. N Javan Rowe is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. He is involved in the music, youth, writing, and drama ministries at his church. His writing ministry can be found at EyesontheKingdom.com.
IN LIKE MANNER…THE WOMEN K AT H Y K H A N G
Fully Feminine Leadership
what would happen every month? She would want to go to war!” I must confess that I’ve often wondered if my gifts, skills, and ambitions would have been better served in a man’s body. I see leaders all the time who are sort of like me, but they are sort of not Developing as a leader requires a pos- like me. They are men: a commanding ture of learning, but that posture has very voice, a strong physical presence, a swagoften been mostly figurative. Certainly ger of confidence. Other male leaders my body is engaged in the learning want to mentor them, and men and process, but it’s usually an internal women want to be led by them. I am a engagement. My mind is working. I am woman.The pitch of my voice is higher. sitting and maybe taking notes. I nod My presence can feel either invisible or my head in agreement or give a per- a threat. If I try to swagger it’s called a plexed look when the seminar speaker, strut. If I swagger too much while wearmy mentor, or the words in the book ing a skirt that is just a little too short or a little too tight, I might be called strike a chord, pull at my heart. But what I have found lacking are something that rhymes with strut. Other resources and even physical space to develop and talk about the physical nature of leadership. Developing spiritually, mentally, and emotionally is critical to our development as leaders, but we are embodied souls. Even as my mind wanders, my body is still connected. I am still physically here even when mentally I check out. So when we follow Jesus’ call to leadership, we must do it with our whole selves. But as a woman I often find that my body — with all its curves, cycles, nooks, and crannies — is a trap or even a male leaders often don’t want to menhindrance rather than a gift to leader- tor me, because I am a threat to their ship. I am eager to talk with and ask integrity. Some men — and some women questions of other women about how as well — refuse to be led by me. In the past few years I have once to be comfortable and confident in our female bodies, about modesty, beauty, again needed to turn back to the femininity, strength, vanity, and self-respect. Scriptures and away from the culture I’m afraid that if we don’t have those (and maybe even from the church) to conversations we will continue to pas- find the stories and the affirmation of sively raise up generations of young women who do not forget or wish away women who believe they have equal their gender but walk into leadership footing in the world and even in the fully feminine. How odd it must have church but secretly despise and limit been for Martha and Mary, sisters who themselves and other women because (as far as we know) understood the cultural norms but lived just outside of what we are women. Just the other day I overheard a young proper women aspired to. There is no woman talk about why she wouldn’t want mention of husbands or children, only a female president: “Could you imagine their brother and the house they opened
I must confess that I’ve often wondered if my gifts, skills, and ambitions would have been better served in a man’s body.
PRISM 2 0 1 0
to Jesus and his friends. But before jumping to Jesus’ admonition of Martha, I need to step back and take in how beautiful Martha and Mary both are as women doing what our hearts long to do, what we are called to do. Mary’s posture is not in defiance of her gender but in a deep understanding that her body does not keep her from being a disciple and leading by example. She is not trying to be a man when she gathers herself at Jesus’ feet and soaks up his healing words; she is simply responding to his call with her whole being. Martha’s actions and her request of Jesus to ask for Mary’s help do not indicate any resentment over being a woman or desire to shed her skin. She just can’t see past herself and the cultural limits that bound, and in some ways continue to bind, women from being disciples and leaders.They are women, and while Jesus’ words about Mary choosing the better thing and how that will not be taken away from her hold an important truth for both men and women, they possess a poignant significance for women like me who long to see examples of leadership that resonate with us and our femininity. Jesus isn’t telling Martha to forget she is a woman or her cultural expectations. Instead, he is lifting up Mary as an example, because she is a woman who brings all of herself — body, mind, and soul — to Jesus and assumes a posture of learning that neither defies nor denies who she is. N Kathy Khang is a regional multiethnic director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, overseeing multiethnic training and ministry development. She is one of the authors of More Than Serving Tea:Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith (IVP, 2006), and continues to blog about life as a ChristianAsian-American-married-working-mother when really she should be sleeping.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE STAN FRIEDMAN
A Church Steps Up to Help the Homeless
Mac spends Tuesdays at Take the Next Step. “I love it when I get an opportunity to pray with individuals and see them connect with God,” says Pastor Mac. “Everyone calls me ‘Pastor,’ whether they know my name or not.” Debbie is a marriage and family therapist who teaches parenting classes and works with at-risk teens through Take the Next Step. The ministry has opened the eyes of the Monroe Covenant congregation to the extreme circumstances in which some people live. Dozens of homeless kids come to the church weekly for sack lunches. A handful of teenagers live in a nearby wooded area. “It’s been an experience that has really made us stretch outside our comfort zone a lot,” Olson explains. “Most of us have
has taken a huge leap. There is a sense of purpose — that this is who God has made us to be.We just observe what God is doing and try to get on board.” Not surprisingly, the outreach also brings with it some challenging situations and interactions, says Pastor Mac.“Many of the people we work with lack some basic social skills; some have mental challenges. We are often lied to. But by faith, Monroe Covenant Church seems an we believe that some of the precious peounlikely place to start a job training and ple that God has entrusted to us will not educational support ministry, especially only get back on track from society’s when you learn that the ministry reached standpoint but will become strong folmore than 4,500 people in 2009. After lowers of Jesus Christ.” all, weekly worship attendance is usuOlson is not surprised that the small ally less than 50 people. congregation was able to make the minBut in 2005 the church launched istry a success. “It’s not about size,” she Take the Next Step, a ministry to help explains.“It’s about people’s hearts.We’re unemployed and homeless people. The very blessed to have a congregation that’s outreach met weekly in the church’s filled with compassion and goes the vacant parsonage, offering a hot meal “The congregation’s extra mile.” as well as family and job skills training. level of faith, prayer, Some of those who have received Since then, the program has become a assistance now attend the church. “It’s registered nonprofit organization assistand volunteer hours has made our church pretty diverse,” says ed by 15 different churches and comtaken a huge leap. There Olson. The Taylors served as missionarmunity groups. ies for 16 years in Costa Rica, so outLocal churches and a Scout troop is a sense of purpose — reach to the Hispanic community is provide dinner on Tuesday nights, folthat this is who God has another important part of their church’s lowed by classes on topics such as budmade us to be.” ministry. geting, computers, parenting, grief manOlson is grateful for the opportuagement, and Bible study.Take the Next Step also provides bus tickets and gas cards not personally known people with fel- nity to work with Take the Next Step. for those who need transportation to onies or who are drug addicts. We’ve “I know that God’s heart beats for the work, school, or medical appointments. learned a lot about why people are in people who suffer. I’ve gotten to know The idea for the project came in 2001 the situation they’re in. I used to think, a lot more about God’s heart. I’m just when church member Donna Olson, ‘Why don’t people just pull themselves very lucky that I’ve gotten to be in on who was teaching at a local welfare-to- up by their bootstraps? Why don’t they that.” N work program, asked if the congregation just try harder? Get with the program would offer its basement for graduation — finish school, go to college, get a job.’ Learn more at TheNextStepMonroe.org ceremonies. The church eagerly agreed. That’s what we all did. I didn’t realize (check out the moving “testimonial” video) “Within a year our congregation was life wasn’t a level playing field. In so and MonroeCov.org. fixing a luncheon for the families,” says many cases, there’s no way you can pull Stan Friedman is the news editor for the Olson, who is president of the Take the yourself up by your bootstraps.” The ministry has changed the church Evangelical Covenant Church and an ordained Next Step board.“So many of these folks were alone. They didn’t have any place and solidified its identity.“We all believe minister in the denomination.This article was that God is the one who caused Take the adapted from a piece that originally appeared to go where people respected them.” No one expected it to grow into Next Step to come to be and that he on the Evangelical Covenant Church website brings kids, teens, and adults to our door- (covchurch.org); © 2009, The Evangelical such a large ministry. Husband-and-wife team Mac and step,” says Pastor Mac. “The congregation’s Covenant Church. Reprinted with permission. DebbieTaylor co-pastor Monroe Covenant. level of faith, prayer, and volunteer hours All rights reserved. PRISM 2 0 1 0
&!#),)4!4).' 2%%.429 !N EX OFFENDERÂ´S RETURN FROM PRISON BACK INTO SOCIETY IS EVERY BIT AS CHALLENGING AND DELICATE A PROCESS AS THAT OF AN ASTRONAUT RETURNING FROM OUTER SPACE &ORMERLY INCARCERATED PERSONS OR &)0S MUST ADJUST TO AN ATMOSPHERE RADICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE THEY LEFT BEHIND AND THE STRAIN ON THEIR BODIES HEARTS AND MINDS IS ENORMOUS #IVIL SOCIETY AND GOVERNMENT MUST PARTNER TO FACILITATE THEIR REENTRY )N THIS STORY WE BRING THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE INTO FOCUS AND SEE HOW COMMUNITIES ARE GATHERING TO MAKE THE HOMECOMING OF OUR NATIONÂ´S PRISONERS BOTH A CELEBRATION AND A LASTING SUCCESS PRISM 2 0 1 0
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in the midst of a blistering campaign season, a remarkable thing happened.The issue of how we treat our nation’s prisoners as they reenter society brought together members of Congress representing vastly different views and constituencies. They joined President George W. Bush at the White House to see him sign a bill they had sponsored to smooth the path of prisoners returning to their home communities. Looking over the president’s shoulder as he signed was the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Danny Davis from Chicago, along with cosponsors from the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, liberals, moderates, and conservatives. Standing before the officials were leaders of some of the 225 organizations that had been working together for the previous four years to pass the bill, organizations that included the NAACP, the Family Research Council, Sojourners/Call for Renewal, American Values (Gary Bauer), the Children’s Defense Fund, and the American Conservative Union. The legislators on hand for the signing rarely agree on anything. The endorsing organizations are at sharp odds with one another on scores of issues.Yet this bill, the Second Chance Act, brought them together. This is the story of how this remarkable bill came to pass and also of how its passage signals the kind of sound public policy that can be developed when partisanship and pointscoring are set aside. But first we must look at the dissonant political landscape that preceded — and, sadly, survived — this extraordinary comity. By the fall of 2007, the presidential primary campaigns had been lobbing attacks and counterattacks for over a year. The pundit class — acting as surrogates for the candidates, the political parties, or both — ramped up the volume with smears, innuendos, and their own brands of vitriol. The mood in Congress was no less acrimonious. The Democrats controlled both chambers for the first time since
1995, and the Republicans were desperate to secure their majority again in November 2008.The Democrats were equally desperate to maintain their control. Issues of consequence and inconsequence were weighed and argued in terms of the impact their positions would have on ’08.
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Matthew 25 lays out six injunctions for caring for “the least of these”: feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, house the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner.The injunctions themselves are not contentious. What fans the flames is the debate over whether the government has any legitimate role to play in responding to these injunctions. Agreement has never existed across the political divides about the role of government in addressing hunger and thirst. Food Stamps and, to a lesser extent, the Women’s, Infants and Children’s (WIC) nutrition program have always been controversial. In the same vein, the government’s role in welcoming the stranger — the immigrant — has always been contentious. Likewise, the provision of housing. From public and subsidized housing to homelessness assistance, government is regarded by some as spending too much money and working outside its natural boundaries, while others argue the government is not doing enough. While virtually all government programs to care for the “least of us” have sparked opposition and even outrage, the Matthew 25 injunction to care for the sick has sparked the most rancorous and protracted debates about the government’s appropriate role. In 2007 the reauthorization for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program sparked charges of a “hugetastic” entitlement explosion and socialism on the one side and shameful heartlessness for not supporting it on the other. And seldom have we witnessed such vitriol, stridency, and hysteria as was exhibited in the months before the recent
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healthcare bill was passed. No hyperbole or invective was too strong to hurl in the name of stopping the billâ€”or in the name of passing it.
Instead, the bill evoked comments like this from Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, rising on the side of the aisle most closely associated with opposition to government programs and historically associated with â€œtough-on-crimeâ€? laws:
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It is part of our Judeo-Christian ethics that we have a responsibility to care for widows, orphans, and those less fortunate, including, always and explicitly, prisoners.
But one day in October 2007, the House was civil. No outbursts. No thundering charges of treason. Rancor was replaced by comity on the House floor during the debate on the Second Chance Act. With the exception of a small minority of members, who voiced only tepid opposition, they were united around the issue of returning prisoners and how the federal government could help in smoothing their transition from prison to their communities. The legislation, first introduced in 2004, was designed to encourage and fund collaborative strategies at the state and local levels to provide a continuum of services and supports for people from the point of entering prison to the point of successful reintegration into the community. The services and supports are intended to include everything on the Matthew 25 list and more â€” from food to clothing, from housing to healthcare (including drug treatment and mental healthcare) to mentoring both in prison and in the community. All at government expense. The legions of volunteers from the faith community who had been visiting prisoners for centuries would be enlisted to help, and now they could even apply for mentoring grants. But despite this being what could be called â€œanother big government program,â€? it was not debated in those terms. There were no allegations of socialism, liberalism, communism, or any of the other words so often used to describe programs that provide food, housing, or healthcare.
The issues addressed in the Second Chance Act are not only safety and cost savings but reflect a moral imperative. This bill will give those released from prison a better chance to improve their circumstances by turning away from crime and turning into productive contributing citizens.
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The backroom discussions over the terms of the bill â€” taking place from 2004 through 2007 â€” involved a remarkable cast of characters. With the Republican Party leading the House, the original sponsor of the House bill in 2004 was Congressman Rob Portman, a conservative from Ohio on the House Republican leadership team who went on to be Bushâ€™s Trade Ambassador and then his director of the Office of Management and Budget. In the Senate, it was Senator Sam Brownback, a conservative legislator from Kansas, and later Joe Biden, once the Democrats won the majority in the Senate. The conservative Republicans were joined by liberal Democrats such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Senate, and Charles Rangel of New York City and Chicagoâ€™s Danny Davis in the House. Davis went on to be the final billâ€™s chief Continued on page 12.
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reimbursed for picking the women up, taking them to job interviews, shopping, etc. The ministry hired one of the women who came came out of the prison leadership program to a full-time position coordinating the training program, two more peers on a part-time basis, and an outside consultant with expertise in training and PR who helped the peers put the program together. The rest of the money goes to supplies, equipment, celebrations to mark milestones along the women’s reentry road, and, significantly, a high-level data collection program. “If you’re going to measure the success of your ministry, you need a data program that collects solid, uniform data,” says Warner-Robbins. In May, representatives from the first 36 groups to receive funding gathered in DC for additional training and networking provided by Second Chance.Warner-Robbins, who calls herself the ministry’s “vision-bearer” (the peers call her “Mama,” but her official title is CEO), was there, soaking it all up and sharing with others her passion for peer-driven, faith-based reentry programs. She’s convinced that these are the ones that make real change possible, and thus our greatest hope for the future of justice in this country. Welcome Home is based in San Diego County, with satellite programs in Northern California, Oregon, and Costa Rica, with others currently starting up in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Minneapolis. Learn more at WelcomeHomeInt.org.
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“I’m a nurse by background,” explains Rev. Carmen WarnerRobbins. “I know the importance of healing from the inside out.” As a chaplain at Vista Detention Facility in Vista, Calif., Warner-Robbins is intent on helping prisoners do just that. But she was frustrated by the many rules that prevented inmates from successfully reintegrating after their release. For one, volunteers ministering with the inmates were forbidden from contacting the prisoners’ family members and thus from nurturing any meaningful support network for the women upon release. Also, they were not allowed to maintain contact on the outside with anyone they had worked with on the inside, making impossible any continuity of care. “I went to the sheriff and said,‘This isn’t going to work!’” recounts Warner-Robbins. Amazingly, Sheriff William Kollender not only agreed, but he also changed the policy.That was the beginning of Welcome Home Ministries, launched in 1996, a reentry program that started working with women inmates while they were still incarcerated, preparing them for their release by coaching them, raising them up as peer leaders, and connecting with their families. Upon release, Welcome Home picks the women up at the door of the prison, helps them find housing and work, and stays connected until they are successfully reintegrated in the community — and sometimes well beyond that time. For over a decade Welcome Home accomplished this on a wing, a prayer, and a lot of sweat equity. So when the Second Chance Act was signed into law, the ministry was one of the first groups to apply for a mentorship grant and one of the first to be approved. The monies from their two-year (renewable) $150,000 annual grant came through in February, and by April they were running their first professional training workshop for 30 mentors. “The Second Chance grant has given us the ability to develop a top-notch peer-driven mentorship training program,” explains Warner-Robbins. The grant allows for recruiting community members, quarterly training sessions for the mentors, and a mileage stipend so mentors can be
Kristyn Komarnicki is the editor of PRISM magazine.
Starting over after prison: Brianna C, left, celebrates her first day on the job as an EMT, pictured here with Welcome Home peer support Coleen F.
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$23 million of his money — not counting his campaign contributions — into 527 groups (such as MoveOn.org) to elect Democrats. Soros’ Open Society Policy Center, under the guidance of Gene Guererro, a senior policy analyst for criminal justice and civil liberties at the Center, organized the working group that brought the diverse parties to the table. Chuck Colson had been equally reviled by Democrats. He had served as Special Counsel to Richard Nixon and was incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. After being released,
Justice, Mercy, and the Land of the Second Chance continued from page 10 sponsor after the Democrats took control of the House. More remarkable were the people who regularly assembled to hammer out the details. No one was more scorned and reviled by the Republicans during the 2004 election than George Soros, who put over
His book In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance, just out from Knopf, is both personal memoir and unblinking exposé of the failures of the US legal system.
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PRISM: You’ve written about your life from both sides of the bars. The final chapter of your book, which describes your new life out of prison, is called “Heaven.”Your story may not be typical, but as someone who spent so many years behind bars, what do you think makes for successful reentry? Wilbert Rideau: I was an extremely fortunate man to have a ready-made support system to help me when I was released from prison — the woman who is now my wife, Linda. I had no money, was not eligible for any social benefits programs, was unemployable because of my high profile despite my award-winning journalism, and lacked many of the basic skills needed to function as a free citizen in modern society. I couldn’t perform the simple math necessary to make intelligent choices in the grocery store; I couldn’t drive; I couldn’t figure out how to coordinate my new clothing, as all I had worn for decades was denim and blue chambray shirts. Obviously I didn’t know anything about the internet or email. Linda has been my teacher, my safety net, my crutch, and my best friend, in addition to making me feel accepted, valued, and loved.
INTERVIEW BY KRISTYN KOMARNICKI
After killing a woman in a botched bank robbery at the age of 19, Wilbert Rideau was sentenced to death (later amended to life) in the infamous Angola penitentiary in Louisiana. He spent 44 years there, becoming editor of the prisoner-produced newsmagazine The Angolite and the first prisoner in American penal history to win freedom from censorship. He went on to win many of the nation’s highest journalism awards. Rideau eventually won a new trial because of the systematic exclusion of blacks from the grand jury that indicted him in 1961. In 2005, a racially mixed jury convicted him of manslaughter, a crime for which he had already served 23 years more than the maximum sentence. He was released immediately.
PRISM: What would you like to see churches and communities do to welcome and assist returning men and women? WR: In too many instances, ex-offenders are released into society with no job, no place to go, a token amount of money, and no assistance or guidance. In Louisiana, those released get a bus ticket and $10. The biggest help anyone coming out of prison can have is a safe place to stay, food, transportation, and someone who cares about them and is patient with them. Being in prison is a debilitating experience, especially for anyone who has spent a long time there. Prison has its own culture and its own rules; to survive, you conform your behav-
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he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, whose policy advocacy arm, Justice Fellowship, was instrumental in bringing Christians in Congress aboard as sponsors to the Second Chance bill and in getting it passed. Yet Soros’ nonprofit Open Society Institute staff sat down with Prison Fellowship’s conservatives and congressional Republicans and their staff to help move the bill — even as those shrill campaign battles raged offstage. It is similar to what Thabo Mbeki observed when
Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk sat down to negotiate the end of apartheid in South Africa. He saw the two men look at one another and the others in the room, and it suddenly became clear that “none in the room had horns. And try as hard as you did to see, none of them was sitting uncomfortably … on a tail.”1 The SCA’s organizational endorsers reflect the same breathtaking range of support across ideological lines as its congressional sponsors. Rightwing stalwarts such as the
ior to that culture. Most men and women who go to prison were somewhat outsiders to the mainstream American culture before they were incarcerated, but their experience in prison magnifies the sense of not being part of society. In prison, you lose skills you don’t use; you lose the ability to make normal social conversation. Whatever tact or sensitivity you may have once possessed has likely been replaced by the bluntness that prevails in prisons. You’re socially awkward. Churches and communities can play a very important role by establishing programs to help those returning to society in ways large and small. Assistance finding housing and employment are the big things; and ex-cons should always be encouraged to take any job they can get that will count toward their social security “quarters,” especially if they have been in prison for a long time. Personally, I believe that exoffenders should not return to the environment they were in before they went to prison, as it is too easy for them to slip back into old ways and bad habits — especially if making a new life gets too tough for them — so I would recommend efforts to “relocate” ex-cons. Other ways churches and the community could help would be to tutor ex-cons, not only in literacy, if they need it, but in life skills. Be aware that the ex-offender returning to society may need to learn simple manners in order to conduct him- or herself appropriately in a job interview. Take them shopping — even at a thrift store —to help them understand how to dress tastefully and how to coordinate clothing. Take them to a library and show them how to use the computers there, which can help them search for jobs and learn just about anything. One of the most important things that ex-offenders need is someone to listen to them, to really hear what their problems are, and to try to help them find
solutions. Attentive, compassionate listening is something that all people need, but ex-offenders especially need to know that someone “out here” really cares about them. PRISM: Your work as a journalist at Angola was clearly a lifeline for you and provided a bridge for you to the outside world.What can churches and communities start doing while prisoners are still on the inside that would help build a bridge to successful life on the outside? WR: Visit them.Write to them. Be a “dose of normality” in their abnormal life. Talk to them about ordinary, everyday life — not just about religion. Listen to their hopes and fears about returning to society. Their hopes may be pie-in-the-sky unrealistic — prisoners tend to think life on the outside is a bowl of cherries — and while you don’t want to throw cold water on their dreams, they need to be aware that they will face challenging times when they get out. To the extent possible, start addressing some of the deficiencies they have. If the prison allows it, establish a program where inmates can roleplay in practice for going on a job interview or applying for an apartment. Let them role-play making conversation about something other than their incarceration with a stranger. Listen carefully to them, but also teach them how to be active listeners, which is a skill that will serve them well the rest of their life. Most prisoners have been trying for so long to get someone to listen to them that they have not developed the art of listening to others. Ask them to keep a journal of their ideas, hopes, questions, and fears about reentry, and discuss those entries with them. Kristyn Komarnicki is the editor of PRISM magazine.
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Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and the American Center for Law and Justice (which defends school prayer and Ten Commandments monuments, among other things) endorsed the bill along with leftwing stalwarts such as the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza, and the National Urban League. When it comes to helping prisoners, parties who have long demonized one another become aware of an absence of horns and tails. Supported by 92 cosponsors, the bill passed the House
by a vote of 347-62. The following spring, the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent. Given the mudslinging in the capital and on the airwaves in the spring of 2008, the bonhomie at the signing ceremony was breathtaking. After thanking the members of Congress and his administration who had worked on the bill, President Bush explained the underlying principles that brought these otherwise fractious parties together. He said that each human being matters. That redemption is possible. That everyone
fosters human connections and forms positive social networks for each person in transition from prison. Mentorship, training, and social institutions such as churches replace antisocial support systems in the life of an offender by providing a sense of belonging that is critical to engaged citizenship.
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PRISM: Why are FIPs (formerly incarcerated persons) and caring for FIPs so important? Joseph Williams: Most FIPs are poor, young, inner-city African American men —there are around 2.3 million in the US today.That’s devastating to urban communities and black families. So it’s important for the rebuilding of lives, families, and communities that they be restored as contributing members to society.
INTERVIEW BY KIM FIELD
PRISM: What do faith-based initiatives offer that state programs can’t? JW: When a person is released by the state the relationship is one of monitoring via parole, etc. But a corrections mentality doesn’t work in reentry because successful reentry requires a philosophical shift. Corrections officers are indoctrinated to have adversarial relationships with prisoners, but at the point of release and reentry these people are no longer prisoners; they’ve paid their so-called “debt to society.” So the state is unable to provide social integration and spiritual guidance to returning prisoners, but faith-based organizations can — and at a very high level. They provide opportunities for networking; they promote positive values; they offer a presence. People coming out of prison institutions often go back to communities where there are churches, but the churches need resources. That’s where we help out.
Joseph Williams is the founder of the Christian Association for Prison Aftercare (CAPA), which annually hosts the nation’s largest faith-based prisoner reentry conference. He is also the founder and CEO of New Creations Community Outreach, based in Detroit, Mich., an international ministry model for serving prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. In 2006, Williams was elected to Ashoka, a global association of social entrepreneurs with system-changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Williams’ book, Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing, describes how he went from drug addict and petty criminal to highly regarded reentry expert — a powerful story of redemption and transformation that fuels his ministry to other former prisoners. New Creations’ TOP (Transition of Prisoners) program
PRISM: How long does successful reentry generally take? JW: About two years — at least at that point it is measurable. The first six to eight months are the toughest. PRISM: What kinds of legal changes do you think would
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deserves a second chance. (See Bush’s comments in sidebar on page 18.) Bush had been sounding this theme since his 2004 State of the Union, when he first spoke of second chances. It was the first time in anyone’s memory that a president had spoken of the challenges facing people coming home from prison. The New York Times wrote of this speech in a 2006 piece called “The Right Has a Jailhouse Conversion” saying,“Despite his strong support for capital punishment, President Bush
may be the most pro-prisoner president in American history — at least if you disregard the war on terror (an admittedly enormous caveat). Certainly in terms of rhetoric, Bush has done more to advance the interests of prisoners than either Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.” The Times acknowledged that the policies Bush was pressing in his speech, which would soon be reflected in the Second Chance legislation, “won’t be an elixir. But as a symbolic political gesture, the SCA completely reverses recent
facilitate reentry? JW: I would like to see a law passed that prohibits employers from categorically denying employment based on a person having a felony conviction. They should only be able to ask questions such as conviction for certain kinds of crimes that may pose a real liability to an employer. For instance, if a person is convicted for distributing drugs, it is reasonable for an employer to have concerns about hiring that person as a pharmacist. Things like collateral sanctions, mandatory minimum sentences, and waiving children’s rights as juveniles also make reentry difficult. Collateral sanctions deny returning citizens access to certain jobs. For instance, in some states a person with a felony conviction cannot work as a barber. In many states felons cannot vote. Felons are routinely denied access to public housing and federal tuition assistance, to name just a few. Mandatory minimum sentences and waiving juveniles’ rights mean that many people are convicted in adult court at younger ages and serve longer sentences than they would have in the past. It is not unusual for a young man or woman to enter prison at age 15 and spend over 20 years in prison. This presents unique challenges. They probably have never been a part of the workforce. They are vastly out of touch with today’s technology and the demands of the current workforce. Their family ties are often significantly weakened. And then there are the drug laws. Drug laws that mandate a certain minimum sentence for a particular amount of drugs should be repealed. In these instances, judges do not have the discretion to give lighter sentences even when they want to based on the circumstances surrounding the case.There should be no distinction in the mandatory sentences between those arrested for crack cocaine (typically black and poor) and those arrested for powder cocaine (typically more affluent). Once a person has proven that he has truly become a productive member of society and has desisted from crime for a significant length of time, his entire criminal record should be expunged. Otherwise, there is no paying the so-called “debt to society.”
PRISM: Obviously it would be better to keep someone from ever going to prison than to try to reintegrate him afterwards. What kind of preventative measures would make a difference? JW: The decline in quality education leads to an increase in crime and imprisonment, so improving education is important. And employment opportunities are essential. Unemployed people lack the benefits, both material and psychological, offered by the dignity of work. When jobs are scarce, underground employment flourishes. People have to work. PRISM: What are your goals for the future regarding FIPs and reentry? JW: At a macro level we would like to take all we’ve learned and teach others how to work with the FIP population, so we’re positioning ourselves to provide technical training and resources. On a micro level we would like to fill in the gaps in the system by providing social support, spiritual guidance, and resources to FIPs. PRISM: What suggestions do you have for a congregation that wants to become a support network for FIPs? JW: I am delighted that the Annie E. Casey Foundation has committed resources to the development of the Healing Communities model (see page 17).The Healing Communities model encourages and teaches congregations not to look at ministry to those in prison and their family members as a separate ministry. If the prisoner reentry movement is to be successful, it is critical for churches to seriously address the issue of criminal justice ministry. (To learn more about Joseph Williams’ work or to contact him, go to NCCOinc.org, CAPAassociation.org, and SheepStreet.net.) Kim Field earned her MA in political science at Howard University and is currently earning her MTS at Palmer Theological Seminary, with a concentration in theology and public policy, and her PhD in public policy at University of Pennsylvania.
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practice. For the first time in decades, Congress is poised to pass a bill that aims to make the lives of prisoners and exprisoners easier, not more difficult.”
increasingly realizing that what we have been doing simply does not work. With the prison population growing eightfold over the last 40 years and costs going up at nearly the same rate, and with recidivism becoming an ever-increasing problem, activists and policymakers of all persuasions are saying that there is something just plain wrong with the nation’s criminal justice policies. Recessionary pressures on state budgets have heightened the interest in reexamining policies adopted over the previous generations and in doing things differently. Lawmakers are saying they can no longer afford to keep building new prisons — prisons that are needed largely to house those people who cycle in and out over the years because nothing was done during their first (or subsequent) term to rehabilitate them. The SCA gives states and municipalities the opportunity to develop five-year strategic plans to reduce recidivism and thus slow prison growth. Many states and localities had already been deeply involved in this work. The successful plans are profoundly collaborative, bringing together not just government actors, but faith and community-based providers and mentors as well as the business community. In Florida, Michigan, Connecticut, and Oregon, business is leading reform efforts. Standing up to the “law-and-order” stalwarts, they are arguing that enacting tough-sounding laws that do not reduce crime but mandate longer sentences is a costly and failing strategy.
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The policy reversal reflected in the bill reflects what seems at first glance to be an astonishing political sea change. Pollsters and pundits chalk up much of the change in mood, rhetoric, and policy to shifts in public opinion. In the 1960s our cities saw riots in the streets, and politicians made much of their “law-and-order” campaigns. By the ’80s the increasing crime rates had the public citing “fear of crime” as among their most important issues for government to address. In 1988, the George H.W. Bush campaign made the most of an ad created by the National Security Political Action Committee that depicted Bush’s opponent, Governor Michael Dukakis, as soft on crime. The ad highlighted the case of Willie Horton, a man convicted of first degree murder who was allowed, on Dukakis’ watch, to take weekend passes from prison. Horton committed rape and murder while on furlough. That ad was successful because it reflected the fearful public sentiment. On the trail, Bush brought up the Horton case frequently. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, proposed in 2004, when the Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1954, mirrored the public’s sentiment. Its second clause was the Taking Back Our Streets Act, which was an anti-crime set of bills that would strengthen “truth in sentencing”— laws that effectively remove incentives for rehabilitation by reducing the possibility of early release — and fund more prison construction, among other things. By the late ’90s, the crime rate was plummeting and public opinion was shifting dramatically. A poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates in 2002 was one of the first hints of the shift. It found that Americans believed we should be addressing the underlying causes of crime rather than the symptoms of crime; that prevention should be the top priority for fighting crime, far ahead of punishment or enforcement; and that the wisdom of harsh prison sentences as the centerpiece of the nation’s crime strategy should be reconsidered, especially for nonviolent offenders. Some thought this poll was an outlier, but Zogby polling in 2006 and 2009 replicated these findings. Consequently, in neither the 2004 or 2008 presidential election cycles did any candidates have anti-crime platforms.The public was no longer naming crime among its top 10 issues. This then opened the door to politicians looking at solutions to slowing prison growth, reducing recidivism, and providing former prisoners another chance. A second impetus behind the shift is that people were
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And the third force behind the political shift to help prisoners? Faith was brought into the conversation. Christians have been engaged in prison ministries for centuries, but their voices did not play a significant role in the policy debate about sentencing, corrections, or reentry for many years. This began to change over the last decade. As Christians have followed their faith into politics in many other spheres, faith has led them to provide a different lens to the conversation about crime and punishment. Mark Earley, the former attorney general of Virginia, is a good example. Like many other Republicans, he was influenced by Chuck Colson, who asked him to take over Prison Fellowship when Earley lost his race for governor. Earley’s initial reaction was, as he explained to the New York Times in 2006, that this would be “tantamount to throwing his life ‘down a dark hole.’” But he reconsidered. “Over the next few months, Earley read his Bible and was struck by the number of criminals who play starring roles: Moses, for example, murdered a man and became a fugitive. Paul presided over the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Earley came to a realization: ‘If Moses or Paul had lived in Virginia or any Continued on page 19.
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Andrew Young and his family.’ So the people did. I preached on it the very Sunday after the shooting.” He kept preaching on the topic, and he included Mario and his family in the church bulletin’s weekly prayer list, a section traditionally reserved for the sick. Members of the congregation began to reach out to Mario’s parents, who were stricken with shame over their son’s crime. Eventually, they were brought back into the fold of St. Nicholas Catholic Church, the church that they had avoided since the killing. Then Oldershaw was introduced by a member of the congregation to Steve and MaurineYoung, the parents of the victim. Mrs. Young’s personal path to healing led to her writing a letter of forgiveness to Mario (“I don’t know whether you would ever feel up to asking for my forgiveness for killing my son. So I’ll go first. I forgive you.”); that same day, Mario penned a letter of contrition to her.The letters crossed in the mail. Later, when Mrs.Young visited Mario, she told him how hard things were since her son’s death. “You caused this mess,” she told Mario, “and now you have a responsibility to hold us up in prayer.You’re part of this family, whether you wanted to be or not. OK? You’re like my own son.” Mr. Young dealt with his pain by becoming a youth violence activist and by joining Oldershaw’s church. Seeing the victim’s parents worship side by side with the killer’s parents was a portrait of reconciliation no one could have dreamed of.The congregation had created a healing community— a sanctuary
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As members of Congress deliberated the Second Chance Act, people in local communities were impatient for help. Hundreds of thousands of people were returning from prison each year, and some neighborhoods were receiving a wildly disproportionate share of them. Programs, even successful ones that had inspired the Second Chance legislation, were too few, underfunded, and not being replicated to any great extent by the federal government, states, localities, or the philanthropic community. In response to this challenge, the Annie E. Casey Foundation considered tapping the rich resources of the faith community to help fill the tremendous gap between the needs of returning citizens and the scant resources available.The faith community was already engaged in prison and reentry ministries, but it also possessed formal and informal networks of support that are critical to successful reintegration. The initial Casey vision, which was focused only on reentry, was quickly transformed by a true story — about a pastor and his congregation, a killer and his family, and the victim’s family — that gained attention when Chicago public television station WBEZ produced the documentary A Justice That Heals. In 1996, when Father Robert Oldershaw of Evanston, Ill., heard that a teenage boy in his community had been shot and killed, he silently wished that the killer would be locked up forever. But a couple of days later, when he learned that the accused was Mario Ramos, a former altar boy from his church, Oldershaw knew he had to act. First he went to see Mario’s parents, then to see Mario, who was being held in the Cook County jail. He prayed with them and offered his support, but he wasn’t sure what else was needed or what he could do to help. “So I just punted,” Oldershaw told Studs Terkel, who interviewed him for the book Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times (New Press, 2003). “I went to the community, to the church, to the people at Sunday services, and I said, ‘Our boy, one of our kids, shot and killed another boy in the neighborhood. Mario Ramos has killed Andrew Young.’ I said, ‘I want to ask you all to pray for Mario and his family, for
Long Road Back: Ex-offenders Struggle for Acceptance (Vision Video, 2009) documents the agonizing difficulties facing Americans who come out of prison, regardless of their background, education, or support structures. Follow Jamie, a young woman who went into prison at 19 and came out at 30, as she job hunts, struggles to sustain relationships, and reflects on how much easier life was on the inside. Meet Klaus, a former city government official and businessman who, in spite of his employment experience and postsecondary degrees, struggles to find a job and acceptance on the outside. Hear from the folks working on the front lines of reentry discuss the obstacles returning citizens encounter and how churches, nonprofits, and communities can lend a hand. Learn more and download the discussion guide at bit.ly/cZzRMb.
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that opened doors to acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption.The Casey Foundation seized upon the many steps to healing taken by the pastor, the two families, and the congregation, which became the basis of a new model for congregational ministry: Healing Communities. The original idea of just addressing prisoner reentry thus expanded to embrace a ministry to all parties affected by crime and the criminal justice system — perpetrators, victims, and their families — from the point of arrest through incarceration to reentry. At the same time, the original vision contracted. Instead of churches reaching out to the community at large, the Healing Communities model starts at home, in the very congregation of the individuals and families affected by crime. The foundation developed a guide for congregations and made it available in a variety of denominational versions (these can be downloaded from the Casey website at bit.ly/bGOOj1). One of the editors of the Progressive National Baptist Convention version of the guide was Rev. Deedee Coleman, who was already operating a reentry program called Wings of Faith (WingsofFaithDetroit.org) out of her Russell Street
Baptist Church in Detroit.While many churches were involved with prisoners or reentry in one form or another, Coleman recognized that this was a transformational endeavor, and not a program or a project. The goal was to change the hearts and minds of the congregation and to create, as Coleman called them, “Stations of Hope.” Coleman regularly preaches on the role of the church toward prisoners, and she has persuaded state and local government officials to stop using the stigmatizing term “exoffenders” and instead speak of “returning citizens,” a new moniker that is now spreading across the country. Coleman’s church helps mothers prepare for the return of their sons from prison, helps former prisoners find jobs, and provides numerous other kinds of supports to defendants, prisoners, victims, and their families. It is currently helping a mother prepare for the death and funeral of her son who is dying of cancer in prison. But more than anything, Coleman’s Station of Hope is a beacon of light that says, “You are welcome here. We will love and support you. This is your home.” Continued on page 39.
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three years.The high recidivism rate places a huge financial burden on taxpayers, it deprives our labor force of productive workers, and it deprives families of their daughters and sons, and husbands and wives, and moms and dads. Our government has a responsibility to help prisoners to return as contributing members of their community. But this does not mean that the government has all the answers. Some of the most important work to help exconvicts is done outside of Washington, DC, in faithbased communities and community-based groups. It’s done on streets and small town community centers. It’s done in churches and synagogues and temples and mosques. I like to call the folks who are engaged in this compassionate work “members of the armies of compassion.” They help addicts and users break the chains of addiction. They help former prisoners find a ride to work and a meal to eat and place to stay. These men and women are answering the call to love their neighbors as they’d like to be loved themselves. And in the process, they’re helping prisoners replace anger and suffering and despair with faith and hope and love. [The Second Chance Act] will build on work to help prisoners reclaim their lives. In other words, it basically says: We’re standing with you, not against you.
The country was built on the belief that each human being has limitless potential and worth. Everybody matters. We believe that even those who have struggled with a dark past can find brighter days ahead. One way we act on that belief is by helping former prisoners who’ve paid for their crimes — we help them build new lives as productive members of our society. The work of redemption reflects our values. It also reflects our national interests. ... An estimated two-thirds of [prisoners who are released] are rearrested within
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Justice, Mercy, and the Land of the Second Chance continued from page 16.
imprisonment in moral terms. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has introduced a bill in Congress that calls for a commission to examine the criminal justice policies and practices of the federal government and all 50 states. In introducing this bill, he said, “We have 5 percent of the world’s population; yet we have 25 percent of the world’s known prison population. We have an incarceration rate in the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world. There are only two possibilities here: Either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice.”4 Chris Cannon, the SCA’s Republican leader in the House, is critical of his colleagues who aren’t yet part of the sea change. “Republicans,” he told the New York Times, “have taken a pretty harsh position, just locking people up …Our current system is fundamentally immoral … I think society has a huge obligation to prisoners. I think that obligation transcends our current view, which is: Lock them up, hide them away, keep my daughter safe, keep my house safe; if he or she burgles, I want that person gone. Out of sight, out of mind. Away. I think that violates the fundamental concepts of who we are as Americans.”5 Cannon, like others, does not see the reforms undertaken thus far or the SCA as the ultimate solution. “‘Nobody thinks this is a bill that solves our moral dilemma,’” he told the Times. “‘Maybe I should say moral crisis. But it is a first step, an agreeable first step, and it allows us to take a look at where we ought to think about ending up.’” Rep. Danny Davis presented his case for the bill in myriad practical terms, but also in terms that reflect these core values. “These men and women deserve a second chance,” he says. “Their families, spouses, and children deserve a second chance, and their communities deserve a second chance. A second chance means an opportunity to turn a life around. A chance to break the grip of a drug habit. A chance to support a family, to pay taxes, to be self-sufficient.”6 By casting the issue of how we treat the prisoner in moral terms, Christians have made a tremendous difference in the policy debates in Congress, statehouses, and city halls. They have joined forces with liberals, with fiscal conservatives, with economists and criminologists studying evidence-based practices, with judges sick of seeing the same people come before them time after time and with prosecutors sick of trying them year after year. Their voices bring a tone to the criminal justice debate that has not been heard before. People in prison, they are saying, have value. They can be redeemed. This is in sharp contrast to the demonized view of prisoners that had been
state in the United States today, they would be serving, had they been caught, a multiple-decade prison sentence.’ He took the job.”2 Chuck Colson also got to Pat Nolan, who, like him, had done prison time. He had been the Republican leader of the California Assembly when he was indicted on a federal bribery sting related to campaign contributions. Now the head of Justice Fellowship, he is on the stump, state by state and before Congress, arguing for prison reform. Last fall, he spoke before a Florida justice summit and expressed the same kind of regret as Earley.“One of the mistakes I made as a legislator,” he said, “was that I thought we could put them in prison and forget about them. But I forgot that 95 percent come back. What kind of neighbors will they be?”3 A Catholic, Nolan was told by a friend upon being convicted that prisons are the monasteries of the 20th century. His faith was reinvigorated, and today there are few who see the face of God in the faces of prisoners as Nolan does. Faith has prompted hundreds of less visible people to foray into justice reform. Henree Martin is a Tallahassee real estate developer who has been ministering to prisoners for 30 years and who was tapped by Jeb Bush in 2005 to serve on his ex-offender task force. Martin was joined in her efforts by another former Republican official who has done prison time, also appointed to Governor Bush’s task force: Vicki Lopez Lukis. Lukis was convicted for lying to a newspaper reporter about having an affair while serving as a county commissioner — and putting the lie in an envelope, making it mail fraud. After President Clinton commuted her prison sentence in 2000, Lukis emerged as a full-time warrior for juvenile and adult criminal justice reform. In her view, public safety is simply not protected by long prison sentences with no efforts made at rehabilitation. Like some of the others mentioned here, Lukis’ work is prompted by her personal prison experience and grounded in her faith. The Progressive National Baptist Convention has made prisoner reentry and prison ministries a central part of its mission and was central to creating Healing Communities, a new model for ministering to families affected by crime and incarceration (see “Creating a Healing Community” on page 17). The American Baptist Convention has followed suit. Former prisoners, many of them Christians, are in leadership roles throughout the country in advancing new policies and new ways of thinking about the criminal justice systems (see “Joe Williams” on page 14). Increasingly, Christians are casting America’s approach to
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cultivated and exploited for political gain for so many years, and it is shaping both policy and practice. Because of the voice of the Christian community, the SCA provides for mentoring grants to nonprofits, which includes churches. Drawing on the experiences and successes of mentoring programs across the country, the Act’s authors require the grantees’ mentoring relationships to start in prison and continue upon release. This requirement flies in the face of some states’ “no contact” policies that say that prisoners cannot have contact upon release with anyone they met while incarcerated. Those who have been mentoring for decades know better — a relationship sustained and nurtured from incarceration through release can make all the difference in successful reintegration. As a consequence, states are now reconsidering their “no contact” policies. Christian voices are also central to the policy debate about the condition of prisons, about how accountable they should be, how transparent, how safe, and how humane. Evangelicals served on the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and brought the critical and core message of morality to the discussion. They were also critical to passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Then a House member who was formerly a prosecutor started helping them out. Then a former police chief. Then a former FBI agent. All these were Republicans whose backgrounds were very different from that of the bill’s Democratic sponsor. Finally, as the bill came to the House floor, the FBIagent-turned-legislator rose to speak and said: When this [bill] initially came to us, I was adamantly opposed to it. There’s an old saying, though, that if you can’t change your mind, maybe you don’t have one… As a 30-year law enforcement veteran, one thing that I have become completely convinced of, and President Bush recently so eloquently put it: that many, many people who make mistakes as young people get caught up in a cycle of poverty and crime, and can never break that cycle. This [bill] gives them the opportunity to break that cycle. This is good legislation.7 The bill passed and was signed into law. The law, like the Second Chance Act, is an incremental step. But later Illinois came to make much more substantial reforms, reforms that states across the country are making as well. In April of this year, the Pew Center on the States reported that in 2009 the prison population in America declined for the first time since 1972. Twenty-six states reduced the number of people in their prisons.
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The public is less fearful and wants more rehabilitation. Policymakers want a system that is less costly and more results-oriented. The faith community is growing more activist on criminal justice issues and wants a more just system that recognizes the promise of redemption. As these forces come together, the political evolution seems more inevitable than astonishing. Enactment of the SCA reflects the shift in the way the nation is now looking at issues of criminal justice and corrections reform, both of which have increasing numbers of supporters — from governors to state legislatures to the judiciary to faith and community-based activities. And the SCA’s range of sponsorship and endorsements closely mirror those tackling these issues in communities, cities, and statehouses across the country. In Illinois, for example, community members, primarily from a consortium of churches, came together to think about how to make their communities safer. They live in neighborhoods where half the young men have felony records that made it all but impossible to get a job. As a result, these young men tended to stay involved in criminal activity. The activists, pastors, and lay people wanted to pass legislation that would expunge those records — and give these young men and women with records a second chance. They found a legislative champion — the House representative from their community. For a few years, their bill went nowhere.
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America has always been the refuge of people seeking second chances. Whether fleeing discrimination, abuse, or dictators, or whether they were just idealists, people coming to America have shared the vision of John Winthrop as expressed in his 1630 sermon, preached on a ship of fellow dreamers sailing toward Massachusetts: “We shall be as a city upon a hill,” he said. “The eyes of all people are upon us.” He called on his fellow passengers to realize this vision with a simple mandate: “There are two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another — justice and mercy.” But for many years, it seemed that only half his injunction had survived the trip across the Atlantic. The emphasis of our society has not only been short on mercy but also long on a misguided definition of justice. When we focus, as our nation has until recently, on longer and more frequent prison terms and a growing host of collateral sanctions (such as putting housing, jobs, and public benefits off limits, often for life, to people with criminal records), when we focus on applying punitive rules rather than nurturing restorative relationships, we all pay a terrible price. Continued on page 39.
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! #/6%.!.4 &/2 7/2+%23 TAKING A STAND AGAINST PROFIT-AT-ANY-COST BY RENAYE MANLEY
s I write this, we are in the midst of the “Great Recession.” The official unemployment rate hovers at 10 percent and is significantly higher for communities of color and those under the age of 25. The foreclosure rate is higher than it has been in 15 years, and we have lost over 10 million jobs since the recession began. These numbers cannot begin to illustrate the volume of pain that families, communities, and churches are carrying.
Working families are facing an economic crisis unlike anything we’ve seen since the 1930s — while debates rage over bonuses for executives at investment firms and big banks that needed government bailouts less than a year ago. Since December 2007 we have lost over 8.4 million jobs. Layoffs and cutbacks are affecting everyone from teachers to airline pilots. Public institutions, including libraries and post offices, are closing. If you are fortunate enough to have a job, things aren’t much better. Those who hold jobs feel anxiety that makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers seeking to maximize profits in this challenging economic environment. I remember a time when things were different. I grew up in East Chicago, Ind., in the shadow of Inland Steel, US Steel, and Amoco Oil. Unions were strong and powerful, at least where I grew up. Since the unions were strong, they set the standards for other employers.You could work and expect to be treated fairly.You could get a job and expect to have health
insurance and the opportunity to retire with dignity. You wouldn’t get rich, but you could buy a house and a car and help your 2.5 children go to college. Diverse political views were seen as the product of a robust democracy, and folks could disagree in an agreeable manner. Things were by no means perfect, but there was a “moral contract” in which companies profited and workers and communities benefited from the shared prosperity. Unfortunately, that moral contract has all but disappeared. Today employees are often seen as dispensable commodities. Business ethics have devolved to a point where it is not just about profit but about profit at all costs.There is no incentive to treat workers or their communities fairly. From Enron to Massey Energy, we have seen lives destroyed and sacrificed due to egregious corporate behavior that has gone unchecked. It is time to embrace a covenant for workers. It is time to reestablish the “moral contract” that represents the promise of justice and fairness for all of us. The word “covenant” has sev-
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“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” JAMES 5:4
eral definitions but is used in general to represent a type of promise. For people of the Abrahamic faiths, it represents a sacred promise, one that is sealed and witnessed by God. The Bible is filled with covenants — promises made between humans but also, and more importantly, between God and humans. God, an all-powerful agent, enters into covenants with created beings who are extremely vulnerable agents. Throughout the ages, God remembers and honors his promises — to Noah,Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, and Moses — and Jesus refers to his own blood, which he shed for us, as the “new covenant.” These “contracts” give otherwise powerless people a share of the power. We can hold up these covenants to God, saying, “Remember? You said you would protect and prosper us in exchange for our obedience, forgive us and make us righteous in your sight.” God never forgets or ignores his covenants. God loves justice, hates robbery and iniquity, and in his faithfulness rewards his people and makes an everlasting covenant with them (Is. 61:8). In this, God provides us with a poignant example of how to treat each other. If God, who is perfect and holy and has all rights, humbles himself to make an oath with imperfect and powerless people like us, surely people in positions of power are called to have humility and a sense of justice with which to make covenants with their economically weaker brothers and sisters. This power-sharing allows the weaker folks to say,“Remember?You said you would protect and provide for us in exchange for our hard work.” Just as God enters into covenants with his people, we must look at establishing a covenant for workers today. As people of faith, we must be at the forefront of reestablishing the “moral contract” for economic justice required to fight poverty and the systematic economic exclusion that prevents working families from having a chance to live in dignity. Several principals provide the critical framework for a covenant for worker justice. They are based upon principles established by Interfaith Worker Justice (the organization for which I work) as a faith-based response to the economic crisis. Job creation and retention efforts must be targeted to reach the most vulnerable populations and regions. This is an essential element of any true covenant for worker justice. In Matthew 25, Jesus advises us that our treatment of society’s most vulnerable people reflects our relationship with him. African American and immigrant communities have borne the brunt of the economic downturn. Unemployment among African American youth (ages 16-24) in 2009 was an astounding 31.2 percent.1 Immigrant workers are facing an onslaught of “wage theft,” robbing them of vitally needed resources as well as their dignity. Children of color are 30 percent more likely than white children to live below the poverty line.
New jobs that are created should generate a long-term pathway to employment and provide living wages and benefits. What could be more demoralizing than to have a job and still have to apply for food stamps or assistance with utilities? As the country struggles with the long-term impact of the recession and possible solutions to it, we must encourage our political leaders to seek and implement plans that will create living-wage jobs with benefits. We must recognize that shortterm solutions are not a viable option. A true covenant for worker justice would provide opportunities and create jobs that enable families to sustain themselves. The safety net must be restored for the unemployed and the poor, including extended unemployment compensation, income support, and healthcare. Not much of a safety net exists for low-wage workers. They don’t have paid sick days, meaning that a cold or flu means lost wages at the very least, and possibly even job loss. In most communities, the waiting list for subsidized childcare is months long, resulting in lost employment opportunities or substandard childcare. Unemployment compensation for most people will only last six to 12 months, and many part-time workers, domestic workers, and “contract” employees will not even be eligible for that. Even with the passage of federal healthcare legislation, most people will not receive the mandated coverage until 2014. A true covenant for worker justice will assist families who are sidetracked by temporary unemployment. And finally, a true covenant for worker justice must include provisions that enable workers to confront injustices that they experience on the job. There must be processes that enable workers to address situations at work. Strengthening enforcement of labor laws is a good start. Ensuring that employers who engage in wage theft are held accountable is one example. Enabling workers to join together and bargain collectively is another. Labor law reform that takes into consideration the dynamics and realities of the 21st-century economy is critical to a real covenant for worker justice. The recession presents challenges for those who are called to the work of justice. But it also presents an opportunity for us to create a new paradigm for worker justice, one based on principles that our faith demands. N Renaye Manley is the union and congregational outreach director for Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ.org), a nonprofit that seeks to educate, organize, and mobilize the US faith community on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for workers, especially low-wage workers. 1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table 2: Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 to 24 years of age by sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, July 20062009 (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/youth.t02.htm)
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GLEANING FOR JESUS BY MIKE AND DENISE THOMPSON
Those who experience a Leslie Bacon makeover learn that Jesus wants to rescue them, too, from the curbside of life. PRISM 2 0 1 0
How many families has Gleaning for Jesus supported over the course of two decades? Leslie Bacon is not into keeping statistical records, but she has provided intensive counseling to several hundred young moms, and has arranged to provide household items for thousands more families.
GLEANING GETS GOING Established in 1990, Gleaning for Jesus gets its name from the biblical provision for the poor to collect grain overlooked during the first pass of the harvest. In Bacon’s case, the crop is household castoffs. Many of her clients have no idea she’s a certified, licensed social worker, and in fact she prefers that a young mom view her simply as a helping friend in jeans and a sweatshirt who is dragging a mattress through the door. “I know I’m not your typical social worker, but these young ladies don’t want to be downgraded or feel they’re being judged,” Bacon explains. Their challenges may range from budgeting to parenting to drug abuse. “We need other ways to reach them,” Bacon says. “I grew up in Saginaw’s projects with no pictures on the walls, no carpeting, just a cold concrete floor. This contributed to a negative view that I carried all the way into my young adult years. When we do a makeover and transform a house into a true home — a true home like I never had—it affects someone’s whole outlook.” Retiree George Barrett, a long-time Gleaning for Jesus volunteer and donor, remains fascinated. He’s a self-described “pack rat” who got involved after he donated two truckloads of items from the basement and garage of his suburban home. Now he serves on Gleaning for Jesus’ board of directors. “Leslie’s approach is ingenious,” says Barrett. “She takes these items and uses them as part of her counseling, but to the people on the receiving end, it doesn’t seem like counseling at first. It’s Leslie’s way of opening the door for their trust.”
Leslie Bacon’s day job with Saginaw County social services blends seamlessly with her work with Gleaning for Jesus.
Leslie Bacon is a curbside scrap collector. A furniture and appliance repair specialist. An interior decorator. A professional social worker. And, ultimately, an evangelist. Bacon is the founder of Gleaning for Jesus, an original outreach project to uplift troubled young single mothers in Saginaw, Mich., a struggling auto town north of Detroit. Sometimes she drives around town, spying discarded appliances and furniture along trash disposal routes. Sometimes she answers calls from folks who want to contribute used household items. She gathers her 5-foot-2-inch, 125-pound frame and loads these recycled treasures onto an old truck. “People think I’m a junk lady,” says Bacon, a youthful 59, with a modest laugh. But like many of the church’s greatest saints, Bacon possesses a clear evangelical strategy. Once she has repaired her rescued treasures to clean and working order, Bacon heads for a single mother’s apartment, where the two work as a team to perform a top-to-bottom makeover — from the living room couch and the laundry room washing machine to pictures on the walls, vases on the end tables, and toys for the kids. The children assist if they’re old enough. Bacon gains the trust of her clients in a manner that a more traditional social worker or counselor would not. Having inspired a new homemaker, she offers encouragement, hugs, and prayers. Annie, a 20-year-old mother of two who has just experienced a Bacon makeover, is overjoyed with her apartment’s fresh furnishings but shyly affirms, “Miss Bacon has helped me learn to love my kids more,” unwittingly summing up Bacon’s mission through Gleaning for Jesus. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Marie has been entrusting Bacon with the monthly food stamps for her three-child home. This month, however, she has reverted to old form and sold the vouchers for money to buy crack cocaine. Bacon is disappointed, but instead of delivering a lecture, she holds the young mother’s hand for a quiet prayer.
RED CROSS STARTUP Bacon was in her late 30s, divorced with three grown children, when she became aware of a spiritual void in her life, a sense of untapped potential. She reflected upon her great-grandmother and her grandmother, who had been social workers in small-town Indiana during the Great Depression and after World War II. Deciding to follow in their footsteps, she enrolled at Saginaw Valley State University in the School of Social Work. Many of her classmates were half her age. Her college field work assignment in 1990 was with the Saginaw Red Cross, which is the first responder when fires cause families to become homeless. With her previous experience working in a neighborhood furniture and appliance
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casework assistant and a pair of part-time collection drivers. A company contributed its former warehouse, and a construction company donated materials and labor to renovate it. Bacon was so happy with the warehouse that she stood inside one day, punching a button over and over just to see the door at the loading dock open and close. “My faith becomes stronger because of the timing of what has happened,” Bacon says. “Each time that the outlook seems bleak, that is when people come through for me. Can you imagine a family-owned business donating its entire building or a roofing company contributing a job worth $30,000?” She now has enough space to conduct classes on everything from parenting to sewing. People contribute not only furniture and appliances but also school books and other learning materials. She collects and fixes toys for a yearly Christmas giveaway. In a truly unique step, Bacon has also used donated items to convert the building’s former customer service area into a chapel, organizing “gleaned weddings” for couples who otherwise could afford nothing more than an oath before the county magistrate. Fifteen chairs are decorated with ribbons that a newlywed couple had planned to throw away. She even keeps donated bridal dresses and an arbor on hand, and somebody even donated a church organ. “If anything is the total embodiment of Gleaning for Jesus, it’s those weddings,” Leslie Bacon says. “This is more than just picking up stuff off the curb. There’s a motive behind this. And there are results.” N
repair shop, she suddenly found herself with clients who had lost all their possessions. The formula clicked in her spirit: repaired household items + social work outreach + evangelism = Gleaning for Jesus. She named her old blue van “Ruth” in tribute to the biblical heroine known for gleaning. Her first efforts for her Red Cross clients were at a true scavenger level, scouring Saginaw’s curbsides on her own after-hours volunteer time. A sofa might be collapsed and seem worthless, for example, but she would use the undamaged vinyl to cover the seats of a set of beatup kitchen chairs. “She would be driving along and say, ‘Ooo, ooo, there’s a nice chair. Ooo, ooo, there’s a good table,’” recalls her brother Gordon Mark Butler, mimicking her excited reactions. “She would always stop and pick things up, even on Sundays in our church clothes.” Bacon soon won support from an unexpected source. Environmental activists, mostly from the suburbs, looked at her inner-city efforts as a form of recycling. Each item she gleaned from a street curb, after all, was saved from a landfill. She smiles as she recalls how she learned that “gleaning” was also “greening.” In 1991, Bacon landed her current paid position — social work with single-parent families — through the Saginaw County Youth Protection Council. Her supervisors were so impressed that they incorporated her gleaning efforts into a project entitled “House to Home.” Gleaning for Jesus grew so quickly that Bacon eventually became more selective. She now works mostly with “as-is” items that are donated directly, rather than snatched from street curbs. “But I’ll still stop,” she says. “The other day, I saw a pair of end tables that I just had to grab. I still have the strength, although now with arthritis it’s harder to get a grip.” But it’s always worth the trouble. She recently donated a kitchen table to an apartment where a 4-year-old boy was eating on the floor. “He grabbed the leg of that table, and he hugged it like a new toy,” she says.
Mike Thompson is a semiretired news reporter who worked for 33 years at The Saginaw (Mich.) News. Denise Thompson is a freelance journalist.
SAGINAW COMES THROUGH Bacon faced a streak of hard luck during the late 1990s. A fire destroyed a former shipping depot where she was storing her goods. Then her trucks coughed and quit, one after another. She stalled at a busy intersection on a hot summer day, blocking traffic. She stood in the street and attempted to direct drivers around her stalled vehicle. Some motorists responded by honking at her and cursing her. At that moment she considered quitting. Then an array of sources came to the rescue. She received funds for truck repairs. She reaped an annual grant for a
The Gleaning for Jesus wedding chapel, decorated exclusively with cast-offs, has already hosted three weddings.
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RECLAIMING THE CHRISTIAN ART OF DYING WELL BY ROB MOLL
It is only by facing and accepting the reality of my coming death that I can become authentically alive. ORTHODOX BISHOP KALLISTOS WARE
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to remember their father this way. This extreme instance illustrates a more general truth: Unfamiliarity with death can discourage us from fulfilling our familial responsibilities.
ur culture simply doesn’t know what to think about death. Through medicine and science we know more about how to forestall death than ever before, yet we know very little about caring for a dying person. We don’t know what to expect or how to prepare for our own death. And we’re often awkward at best when trying to comfort a friend in grief. Caring for elderly parents is typically our first prolonged and engaged confrontation with death. Even then, however, doctors and nurses often guide us through the experience. It’s not unusual for children to care for their parents from a distance, calling doctors or arranging transportation and nursing care, further removing us from face-to-face interaction with death and dying. When we are finally called on to be with a dying loved one, we must learn on the fly what to do and how to behave. This is a drastic change from the days when dying was a more familiar, if equally unwelcome, presence. “All the things that once prepared us for death,” writes journalist Virginia Morris, “regular experience with illness and death, public grief and mourning, a culture and philosophy of death, interaction with the elderly, as well as the visibility of our own aging — are virtually gone from our lives.”1 Over the course of the first half of the 20th century, the site of death moved from the home to the hospital. In 1908, 14 percent of all deaths occurred in an institutional setting, either a hospital, nursing home, or other facility. By the end of the century it was nearly 80 percent.2 As death moved out of the home, people became less familiar with the sights and sounds of the very ill.We now keep death at a distance. While it was once common for friends, family, and even strangers to pay respects to someone on her deathbed, historian Philippe Aries says,“It is no longer acceptable for strangers to come into a room that smells of urine, sweat, and gangrene, and where the sheets are soiled. Access to this room must be forbidden, except to a few intimates capable of overcoming their disgust, or to those indispensable persons who provide certain services.”3 Surgeon and author Sherwin Nuland tells of an Alzheimer’s patient who had moved from New York to Florida for his retirement. When he was diagnosed with the disease, all his children were still in New York. His wife spent every day with him in the nursing home, and she lovingly cared for him during the remaining years of his life. But his children only visited once. Rather than watching a slow decline, the man’s out-ofstate children saw one massive drop in their father’s health. Horrified, they never visited him again.4 Their mother supported her children’s decision, saying she didn’t want them
4OO PRO LIFE
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people of religious faith (95 percent of whom were Christians)5 were three times more likely to choose aggressive medical treatment at the end of their lives, even though they knew they were dying and that the treatments were unlikely to lengthen their lives.The study determined that “relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death.”6 According to one of the researchers, “Patients who received outside clergy visits had worse quality of death scores in comparison to those who did not.” Those who intensively rely on their faith when suffering from terminal illness, the study found, “may choose aggressive therapies because they believe that God could use the therapy to provide divine healing, or they hope for a miraculous cure while intensive medical care prolongs life.” Not only did they choose more aggressive medical interventions, but the study also found that religious people were less likely to have done any end-of-life planning or to understand the legal documents involved. Many Christians believe it is simply morally wrong to forgo any potential opportunity to prolong their life, even if only by a few days. However, as the study notes, “Because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with poor quality of death and caregiver bereavement adjustment, intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome.” One researcher said, “We believe that the problem is that religious people who are dying … along with their families are not receiving spiritual counsel in their medical decision making.” The researchers say these patients are “not being counseled in how to die.”7 Aside from increased pain, less ability to interact with family members, and other personal challenges, there are also spiritually “negative outcomes.” Every Christian doctor, ethicist, pastor, or theologian I spoke to believed that while aggressive care had its place, there must come a point when Christians shift their focus from extending life to preparing to die. A funeral director in Wheaton, Ill., said that the most common Bible verse families print on funeral bulletins or have read during services is 2 Timothy 4:7.They quote Paul saying, “I have fought the good fight.” “Except,” the director says, “they’re not talking about spiritual things. They mean this person tried every medical option they could to stay alive.”
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4HE #HRISTIAN TRADITION OF THE GOOD DEATH
tunity of a death to remind congregants of the source of death — sin — and its remedy through eternal life in Jesus Christ. In all these ways, people learned how to die well, so that when the time came, they were prepared. Another feature of this tradition taught that the dead were a permanent part of church life. Centuries ago (and in some traditions today that still celebrate All Saints Day) the church saw itself made not only of the members who sat in the pews each Sunday but also those entombed believers awaiting the resurrection.The bodies of those Christians were often buried in the cemetery next to the church building, under its floor, and inside its walls. The “communion of the saints” meant far more than potluck dinners and small group fellowship. For 19 centuries Christians in different cultures understood that their attitude toward death should be infused with hope, for they worshiped a Lord who had defeated death. They died and cared for the dying differently from others in pre-Christian societies. Believers created the first hospitals and ended flippant attitudes toward the deaths of the unborn, newborn, and elderly. They created organizations dedicated to caring for the dying poor and widows.The first Christians distinguished themselves in Roman society by remaining in
Instead of fighting death until the end, church history teaches us about the good death — one in which a believer seeks to faithfully express her hope in eternal life. It is a tragedy that the church has lost this vision of the good death. We are sending fellow believers into eternity unprepared for their journey. They may be sure of their destination but unsure how to get there. For Christians in previous centuries, death was a sacred moment long prepared for. It was considered one of the most important events in life, an event on which hung all of eternity. Christians took care to perform their dying faithfully. Family and friends sat watch with the dying person, seeking evidence of their entrance to heaven. Christians sought to learn from the dying because of their increased spirituality as they neared eternity. “Christians living in early modern England and America,” writes pastor John Fanestil, “believed that the closer a person drew to the edge of death, the closer that person’s soul was to God.”8 Deaths were recorded by family and friends and retold to those in the community who could not be present. The community drew comfort and encouragement from reports of those who crossed over in peace and hope. Preachers took the oppor-
VE T ER AN
Paul, a World War II veteran, was dying of complications from diabetes. A father of four girls and one boy, he lived with his family in Wisconsin. After the war, he worked to raise his large Catholic family. However, those memories of the war remained an important part of his life and eventually his death. Growing up, Becky would listen to her father’s stories and the faith he had in God, who Paul believed provided very real protection from harm during the war. Though he dodged bullets in Europe, diabetes slowly caught up with him. He entered a local hospice program, but just when it seemed that Paul’s life would soon end, the family’s hospice nurse took another job. It devastated Becky and her family. “Dad was at least a couple months in hospice, and they really grew to love her,” says Becky. “She was a source of strength for the family at that time. My mom was really upset about the nurse leaving, and my dad too.” Becky’s family came home, and they had nearly all arrived on the day of the new hospice nurse’s first shift.The family was in the living room where Paul’s bed was. “The new hospice
person comes to the door,” Becky says, “and he walked in and introduced himself to all of us. He walked over to my father, and he said, ‘Paul, I’m Jeff, and I was a soldier myself. I served in Vietnam, and I’ve come as one brother to another to carry you home.’” The nurse then turned to the family and asked if they were Christians. Becky’s family all said they were believers. “Paul is on a journey,” he told them, “and his journey’s nearly ending. He’s on his way home.” Becky says,“We almost thought God sent an angel to actually carry him and be with him. He was wonderful.” As Paul grew closer to death, Becky’s sense of divine intervention would only increase. Typically very private about their faith, the family prayed together and read Scripture that night. It was just two weeks from her parents’ anniversary.Without her mother knowing, Becky and her siblings helped their dad sign a card. “He was so weak that we had to move his hand,” Becky says, “and try and help him sign this card.” Later, at her mother’s request, Becky tried to test his blood sugar.
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the cities when epidemics struck, caring for the ill and burying the dead when the rest of society refused to touch anyone who was ill.9 Though modern Christians have undone their work, early brothers and sisters in Christ brought cemeteries from outside of towns and cities into their center, integrating the community of the dead with that of the living. But by the end of the 19th century the ground had been prepared for a radically new approach to death. According to historian Gary Laderman, “new ideas about science, medicine, and the life of the spirit contributed to a breakdown of religiously authoritative positions.” Christian interpretations of death, he says, “were challenged, downplayed, or modified.”10 It was natural that superstitions about disease give way to scientific explanation, but in the exchange Americans radically reinterpreted divine action in the deaths of their loved ones. “By the 20th century, to prepare [for death] was to vaccinate and filter water, not to ready one’s soul for an unpredictable call,” writes historian Robert Wells. “Once epidemics were understood to be secular problems and not God’s judgment, it was possible to take action to remedy the worst conditions, but it was only another small step to make all deaths natural, devoid of spiritual significance.”11
Christians once saw a window to the next world as a fellow believer entered eternity.Visions of heaven, Jesus, and family were once common on the deathbed. This provided faith-sustaining, hope-inducing, and grief-allaying comfort to those who survived the death of a loved one. Wells cites a newspaper account of the 1817 death of Schenectady, N.Y., resident Anna Vedder: “The newspaper remarked that the manner of her death was ‘not only calculated to soothe the grief of those by whom she was held dear in this life, but also to inculcate most strongly, upon the minds of all, the blessedness of those that die in the Lord.’ The paper assumed that ‘it cannot be uninteresting to hear that she died in the full assurance of faith.The candle of the Lord shone upon her head. Death had lost its sting. She walked over the waters of Jordan … shouting the praises of redeeming love. She declared, moreover, that she beheld a place more splendidly decorated than the tongue of mortal could describe, wherein was a seat prepared for her.”12 An expression that heaven was in view was once common and expected among Christians. Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy, “Before the widespread use of heavy sedation, it was quite common for those keeping watch to observe
Though she squeezed Paul’s finger, no blood came out. His feet had turned cold and dark. Becky knew that he would die soon, if not that night. Becky and her sister offered to take the first shift. As it got late, Paul, who just hours earlier had been too weak to sign a card for his wife, suddenly seemed alert and looked around the room as though he were seeing someone. The two sisters sat quietly, trying not to disturb their father. Eventually, Becky’s sister wanted to talk to her father and assure herself that he was ready for heaven. Paul responded to his daughter with both certainty and delight,“Oh, yes, I believe in Jesus.” It was unusually convincing, they felt, from someone who had been so private about his beliefs. After praying with him, the sisters sat back down to wait out the night. Once again Paul began looking all around the room. And then, Becky recalls, “Even though he was very weak, all of a sudden I saw him reach up and yank the oxygen off his face.” Paul’s breathing became very labored. Becky asked him if he wanted her to put the oxygen back on. He told her no. “I knew that he knew right where he was going. He was ready.
He was on his way. It was like he had one foot in eternity and one foot out.” Then, Paul’s behavior changed again. He began to talk to people, and Becky was shocked to hear him say, “Mom.” “His mother died when he was three months old,” Becky says,“so he never knew his mother. He kept saying ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’ Over and over he would say that. And then he’d be watching, looking around. It was such an amazing thing.” Becky woke up her family to let them know their father was now dying. Suddenly, the family heard a strange sound, like air moving quickly.“It was like the life was sucked out of him,” Becky says. And then he died. “Wow,” Becky said,“He’s gone from his body.We really are just vessels.” The experience changed Becky’s views of death and life after. “It gave me such great hope,” she says with a smile. “After watching that, there is absolutely not a doubt in my mind that there is a heaven.” From The Art of Dying (IVP, 2010). Reproduced by permission.
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'OOD $EATH I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:3).
something like this. The one making the transition [dying] often begins to speak to those who have gone before. They come to meet us while we are still in touch with those left behind.The curtains part for us briefly before we go through.” When asked about this passage,Willard said, “My brother, who died of Parkinson’s, had been in a state of noncommunication for a long time. Just before he died, he turned and said to his wife, ‘Now, dear, you must let me go.’ And he went.” Those who work with the dying consistently report similar stories. These range from accounts of angels and lights to sublime spiritual sensations. How would our faith be strengthened, how would our grieving be eased if only we knew to look for these things, and if we made medical decisions that would make them possible? If Christians object to stories of angels or the miraculous attending someone’s death, perhaps it is because they have ceded that ground to spiritualists and New Age seekers, who have then populated the territory with their own ideas. Surely God is quite active at the deaths of his beloved, for precious in his sight are the deaths of his saints. Unfortunately, such stories never make it into our obituaries, even in Christian publications. We hide the deceased’s final months and years.We list accomplishments, books written, or organizations led. We measure the subject’s significance, and we quote the fond remembrances of friends and loved ones. But we never mention how the subject died, how he faced his end or how she prepared for the life to come. Walter Wangerin Jr., a Lutheran pastor and author who when suffering from terminal cancer and facing his own death complained about newspaper obituaries that describe battles with diseases, as if anyone ever wins. “Why not use the imagery that acknowledges how one experiences dying?” he wrote. “How one behaves in the face of death? What one has to offer those who stand by in love and relationship?” 13 Even with today’s heavy sedation, some people do witness their loved ones talking to people and seeing things that are not apparent. It is scientifically accepted that the dying are sometimes able to know what reasonably they should not. For example, studies show that the dying are sometimes aware that a relative recently died, even when no one else in the family was aware of the death. “These mysteries imply that the boundary between life and death is not sharp for people dying gradually,” writes author Stephen Kiernan. “It is a blurry line, a transition zone. … People near the end appear to go back and forth, showing not anxiety but ease, a welcoming of what is to come.”14 Of course, we cannot expect miraculous signs to attend every death.They are not promised us. John Wesley, who always asked his followers who were near death if they saw Jesus, never mentioned seeing Jesus at his own death. But Jesus did promise his followers this: “If I go and prepare a place for you,
4HE NORMALCY OF THE SUPERNATURAL
Being with those who are nearing death brings us nearer immortality, in the sense that those who are dying will soon be entering eternity. On the deathbed it is possible to have a preview of the next life. What’s striking about the experiences of those near death is how natural the supernatural seems. Such intrusions are unexpected, perhaps, but not extraordinary. Though some people explain these occurrences as the physical result of the dying process, Christians throughout history and those who spend time with the dying today often believe there are spiritual explanations to seemingly spiritual events at the end of life. Dying people often report friendly visits, sometimes from strangers, sometimes from friends and relatives. And usually these people have come to help them on their coming journey. Nancy Capocy, a devout Christian and the director of a hospice program in suburban Chicago, has assisted hundreds of people in their deaths. She says the process of dying is as miraculous an event as being born. It is a basic physical event that is surrounded with mystery and miracle. Witnessing this process has “made my faith even stronger, as I see people making the transition.” Capocy says the presence of spiritual beings is often apparent. “As I’m watching people die, you can almost tell what they’re seeing.” Capocy says her patients often talk to or are aware of people unseen by everyone else. Some people say these visions are hallucinations, the result of chemical changes in the dying brain. “I don’t buy that,” Capocy says. “I think they’re talking to people who have died. And I don’t think they’re hallucinating. I think they actually see the people. I think they actually converse with them. I think people who have died before them are actually calling them home. And as I see that, it reaffirms my own spiritual beliefs.” Rather than merely awaiting or dreading the terror of the grim reaper, death can be — in fact it is when we let it be — a spiritual journey as real as our salvation. N Rob Moll has written extensively on healthcare issues, faith, and rural America. He is an editor-at-large with Christianity Today. This article was adapted from his book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, just released by InterVarsity Press (PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515; IVPress.com). It is reproduced here by kind permission of the publisher. (Editor’s note: Due to space limitations, the endnotes for this feature have been posted at ESA-online.org/2010endnotes.)
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FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP HAROLD DEAN TRULEAR
The Difference between a Volunteer and a Disciple
are offered, whether by church or government. We volunteer as mentors to work with troubled youth, we volunteer at soup kitchens to feed the hungry, we volunteer for prison ministries to preach the gospel to the incarcerated. We do the work — but does the work go deep? Does it catalyze a change of heart, a transformation that reflects a regenerative experience with Jesus Christ? The passage of the Second Chance Act I raise the question because after over of 2007 made federal funding available 20 years of studying, monitoring, docufor, among other things, community and menting, and even participating in good faith-based mentoring programs for per- volunteer programs, I see that something sons returning from incarceration. This is still missing. I see people volunteering critical legislation moved to address and to go to prisons — but not building friendsupport the tremendous need for per- ships or offering support to people in sonal and community support among their own congregations with incarcerpeople transitioning from prison back ated family members. I see people voluninto society. teering to mentor children of prisoners Mentoring has proven to be an — but failing to show care for children important strategy in assisting persons under stress in their own congregations struggling with any number of social and communities. I see people volunteerchallenges, from incarceration to unem- ing to mentor people coming out of ployment to fatherlessness. But men- prison — but shying away from seeking toring programs are not a magic bullet out any in their own church or neighfor social ills. In some cases, we have borhood who need the ethic of the allowed ourselves to settle for mentor- Good Samaritan. ing at the expense of discipleship. Our I once served as pastor of a congregasense of “volunteer” needs biblical and tion with an active soup kitchen.We had theological expansion. one rule: No one eats twice. Our rule Two decades after “a thousand points was well intentioned, designed to help of light” and a decade beyond “compas- us maximize the number of people we sionate conservatism,” we have learned could feed with our food supply. One day, something about volunteers in general and the minister who operated our soup church volunteers in particular. Simply kitchen came to my office and said, put, while volunteer programs continue “Pastor, we have a problem! People are to grow and flourish with structure and eating twice!” funding, the basic ethics and ethos of “They’re breaking the rules,” I truly voluntary work escapes many.The responded. word “volunteer,” from the Latin verb “No, Pastor, it’s worse. They come “to will,” indicates that there should be in and eat, then go outside and change a genuine willingness on the part of the clothes with each other so we won’t recindividual to engage deeply in the work, ognize them and come back for seconds!” whatever it is. I was now horrified.“They are fooling However, our willingness to engage us while we are trying to help them!” deeply is often circumscribed by the “No, Pastor, it’s worse,” he replied. structure of the volunteer programs we “You see, if you and I changed clothes,
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everyone would know. The bad thing is that the only reason they can fool us is because we don’t know them!” What an indictment! To any casual observer, we had a successful volunteer ministry. But the truth was that, although voluntary, our program’s “will” suffered from tunnel vision.We wanted to rescue, not relate, feed, not fraternize, assist not adopt and heal. The passage of the Second Chance Act of 2007 made federal funding available to the faith community for one dimension of the process of providing social support to the formerly incarcerated. But other dimensions of the process remain. It is still easier to volunteer for a formalized mentoring program with social service agencies prescribing the “matches” than it is to be open to the mother in our own congregation whose son is coming home and needs help.We are more likely to approach the citizen returning from incarceration with a proscribed agenda based on training in “evidence-based practices” than we are to search our hearts and the Scriptures to see how we might respond. It is more popular to start a prison or reentry ministry as the particular province of a faithful few “trained volunteers” than it is to create an environment in the congregation that treats incarceration and hospitalization with the same resources of pastoral care and congregational support, acknowledging that both are part of the Matthew 25 criteria of how we serve our Lord. What about it? How are you going to treat the Inmate who died for our sins? Hand him a Bible and a plate of food, or wrap your arms around him and walk with him for a spell? Q Harold Dean Trulear teaches at Howard University School of Divinity and consults for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Faith and Families Portfolio.
WASHINGTON WATCH KATHRYN LEE
Camping on the Courthouse Steps Can you name the nine Supreme Court justices? On the first day of my constitutional law class, my students typically can name no more than five of the folks who sit on the most powerful court in the world. This leads into a discussion about the power of judicial review, the judicial process itself, and the seeming paradox that in a democracy nine unelected, life-tenured officials (and just five if that is how the Court splits on a decision) wield such power. Last semester some of my students observed in person the nine justices wrestle with a potentially important First Amendment case. I doubt they will ever forget the names of the justices they saw that day or the issues debated. The class had selected Christian Legal Society (CLS) v. Martinez to use in our class simulation. This case posed fascinating questions. The CLS chapter at Hastings College of Law had been refused official recognition by the law school because CLS does not permit those who engage in homosexual conduct to be either voting members or officers. Hastings has a nondiscrimination policy which registered student organizations (RSOs) must follow to receive certain benefits. In that policy, one of the bases on which an RSO cannot discriminate is sexual orientation. The case touched upon various First Amendment rights — free exercise, speech, and expressive association — as well as academic freedom. Just the type of case to rev up student interest. For the simulation, nine students were assigned the roles of the justices and four students represented the CLS and Hastings. The student attorneys presented their arguments, with the student
justices asking them questions crafted to reflect the perspectives of individual justices. The justices then gathered in conference, and the final vote was 5-4 in favor of CLS. It was obvious that the simulation had engaged the students’ interest in a way mere discussion of cases had not. I asked if they wanted to attend the actual oral argument in the case scheduled for April 19, warning that it would mean camping out overnight because it was a high-profile case and only 50 tickets are handed out to the general public. Nine of them jumped at the chance. At noon on Sunday, April 18, we arrived at the Supreme Court with sleeping bags, camping chairs, iPods, food, and drink in hand, and claimed our spot first in line. At 6:00 p.m. students from the CLS chapter at Georgetown Law School joined the line. Our campout soon turned into an endurance test. By midnight, the temperature dropped to the mid-30s with a brisk wind. At 1:30 a.m., the lawn sprinklers came on, showering us with cold water! At 2:00 a.m., another set of sprinklers sent us scrambling.At 6:00 a.m., a Supreme Court police officer got everybody up (the line now snaked around the block) and said tickets would be handed out as early as 7:00 a.m. The long wait was well worth it. Despite the politics of Supreme Court appointments, the judicial process does remain distinct from the political process. Whereas the political process demands and expects elected officials to represent the views of constituents, judges, especially appellate judges, follow different standards and criteria for decisionmaking. Oral argument is more than just a ritual. Justices have read the briefs and come with questions for the attorneys, each of whom has a half-hour to state his or her case. The justices use their questions to signal to other justices their points of view or to probe the issues at hand. My hunch is that the attorney for PRISM 2 0 1 0
CLS was not expecting to be quickly interrupted by Justice Anthony Kennedy who, frustrated with the confusion about the facts, asked abruptly, “What is the case we have here?” Other justices also asked questions about the exact facts in the case. How had Hastings actually treated the CLS? CLS, after all, had been permitted to meet on campus. How had Hastings treated other groups with membership criteria that seemed to conflict with the law school’s antidiscrimination policy? How far can a public university go in trying to promote nondiscrimination so as not to intrude on a student group’s right to define itself as it wants? At this writing, the Court has not rendered its decision. Given that the justices appeared frustrated as to the exact facts in the case, it could be that the Court might send it back for further development of the facts. Whatever the Court decides, the students experienced the judicial process at work, and, in particular, the Supreme Court as it tries to balance various interests in a pluralistic society. Earlier, in the classroom, some students found themselves in roles which put them at odds with their personal opinions about the case. As Christians, some argued for the right of CLS to define its membership as it wanted and still have access to the full panoply of benefits accorded officially recognized groups at Hastings; others argued that Christians should not expect public institutions to accommodate religious beliefs when the university has taken a nondiscrimination position. The students got a chance to witness firsthand that we ask the Supreme Court to resolve some of the most difficult questions we wrestle with as a society. + Kathryn Lee chairs the department of political science at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pa. She is active in the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia and belongs to the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Council.
ART & SOUL L A U R E N F. W I N N E R
The Art Patron Five years ago, I gave a lecture on memoir at a small Christian school in the northeast. The talk went pretty well, and many people in the audience had read Girl Meets God, the memoir that recounts a year shortly after my conversion from Judaism to Christianity. Afterward one of the audience members approached me. She said that she had enjoyed my book and had learned a lot about Judaism from it. But she was very disturbed by one passage, which she flipped to in her copy of the book. It was marked by a big black “X” in the margin, and an even bigger black question mark. The passage in question was my discussion of the first time I ever spent money on art, which was a paper cutting of Ruth 1:21 by a contemporary Jewish artist named Diane Palley. I purchased this paper cutting at a very particular moment: a season in which I was trying to understand what kind of relationship (if any) I could still have with Judaism; a time during which, in ways not always easy to articulate, I deeply mourned my own rejection of the Judaism in which I had grown up. In the midst of that mourning, the Book of Ruth came to have a lot of meaning for me. Ruth is, after all, a story about conversion. I found myself pondering Ruth’s place with her new family and people and wondering about the losses she had sustained on her way there. I paid $900 for Diane Palley’s paper cutting. It still hangs by my bed as part of an effort to make sense of my conversion and the losses it entailed. The woman at the lecture said she was disturbed by my willingness to spend that much money on a piece of art. I think that she felt I was too glib and flippant in narrating that purchase, that I hadn’t demonstrated any awareness of
the privilege entailed in dropping the equivalent of two months’ rent on a piece of art.“How, in terms of Christian ethics,” she asked,“can you justify spending that money on art when there are poor people to be fed?” I have pondered her question many, many times: $900 is a lot of money to a broke grad student — it’s a lot of money for just about anyone, except perhaps for the artist who had to buy the paper, pay for health insurance, and generally keep body and soul together. The woman’s concern that one perhaps ought not to spend extravagantly on art when there are poor people to be fed is, it seems to me, both insightful and problematic. It is a variation of a longstanding trope that tacitly criticizes the excesses of European cathedrals. Money for stained glass windows? Gold altars? Elaborate stone carvings? When there are starving
Christians are called to live out of an ethic of abundance. children around the corner? Scandalous! This is just one of the themes that has given many in the world — and many in the church — the impression that Christians, or at least Protestants, are hostile to the arts. At the same time, there was, in my interlocutor’s concern, an important challenge.To be honest — and this is not language I use very often — I think the Holy Spirit was speaking to me through that woman. I do not think the Holy Spirit was telling me never to spend money on art. But the conversation was an absolute awakening to my own privilege. Art requires a person to pay the artist, and on occasion I have been privileged to be that person. I honestly often do not know what to do about that privilege. I tried for a two-pronged response: on one hand, to take my interlocutor PRISM 2 0 1 0
seriously as a messenger speaking on behalf of the God who became poor himself; on the other, to undertake my obligations to that God and to the poor people in my neighborhood within the framework of what we might call a eucharistic ethics of abundance.The God who impoverished himself is also the God of abundance, and somehow, perhaps at times nonsensically, Christians are called to live out of an ethic not of scarcity but of abundance — an abundance that extends both to the homeless neighbor and to the artist neighbor. Beyond that, there is always a bit of self-justification involved when I purchase art. I can hardly call myself a “patron,” but there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that my one splurge purchase of the year has gone to support an artist who in all likelihood is struggling to make ends meet and to make art. And then there is this.The next time I feel like purchasing art, perhaps I should make that purchase with and for my community by buying a piece of art with and for my local church, for example. Or at the very least, I should take the art that hangs in my house as one more prompt to hospitality. I love the paintings on my walls, and I should share them with other people by welcoming people into my home. It’s one thing to talk in an abstract or even theological way about “supporting the arts.” It’s quite another to write a check for a piece of sculpture or a tapestry. This is a very concrete, practical piece of what it means for the church to support the arts: people with disposable income choosing to spend money on art; people budgeting and saving and supporting artists. Q This essay was adapted from chapter 5 of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing House, 2010), edited by W. David O.Taylor. Used by kind permission of the publisher.
OFF THE SHELF FRIENDSHIP AT THE MARGINS
personal friendships with some of the most economically distressed people on the planet, to overcome our consumer By Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl myopia and be mindful of these people InterVarsity Press as we make our daily choices in the global economy. In a penetrating discusReviewed by Steven McNerney sion of Isaiah 3:14-15, which warns that “the plunder of the poor is in your house,” Friendship at the Margins: Discovering the authors ask us to consider the posMutuality in Service and Mission awakens sibility of our complicity in worldwide our spirit and challenges our feeble for- poverty. They admonish us to rediscover ays into the prophetic calling of shalom. “our ability to blush” at our individual Authors Christopher Heuertz, inter- and societal consumerism. national director of Word Made Flesh Simultaneously, they acknowledge (a Christian ministry among the world’s that there are no easy outs. Total abanslum dwellers), and Christian ethicist donment of the economy is no option. Christine Pohl argue a simple thesis: Heuertz shares one of his strategies: He Friendship is a vocation. Only genuine invests in a US clothing company that friendship can turn cause-driven missions hires overseas workers, and then he gives into life-changing ventures. the stock dividends to his friends in India Christians often set out to minister to who actually sew the clothes, so that they the poor, but the authors call us to some- might enjoy more of the company’s profits. thing much more difficult and more It’s hardly a perfect solution. Justice advorewarding: ministry with the poor. cates might wish for Heuertz to protest According to the authors, when we truly the company’s wages, which fail to lift his invest in others’ lives, seeking radical friends from poverty, but Heuertz knows vulnerability and equality, we cease com- the wages are relatively high and that his modifying our relationships with them friends are proud of their jobs. His response and thus free them from the category showcases the complexities of these issues. of “other.” Word Made Flesh pursues a genuine They invite us to learn from their equality between the rich and poor: Its members live in the slums with the poor they befriend. Nonetheless, tensions and ambiguities mark the relationships; after all, the Westerners still possess assets and networks far beyond those of their impoverished friends. But this drives people like Heuertz into deeper commitment to friendships based not on helping but on sharing daily life. To those who wonder whether the book is light on evangelism, the authors pose a challenging question: Why would others show interest in our Savior if we display no concrete concern for their situations? Sharing life, for them, comes prior to sharing Jesus. As the book’s subtitle emphasizes, any sharing that takes place is genuinely mutual, and the authors take pains to discuss why the rich really do need the poor. PRISM 2 0 1 0
We must abandon preconceived notions of what we have to offer and grasp more clearly what we have to learn. Like our Jesus who embraced poverty and pursued deep relationships, we can respond to the groans of the oppressed and offer friendship. Our hearts, more than our wallets, will be stretched as we pursue a deeper vulnerability, humility, and holiness.“The journey will take its toll,” the authors admit,“but together with friends we find a way to move forward, stumbling into the open arms of a loving God.” Q Steve McNerney is the director of student activities and physical education at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, Va., where he volunteers his writing/ researching skills at the Center on Faith in Communities.
TENDING TO EDEN By Scott C. Sabin Judson Press Reviewed by Ruth Goring In the prolonged wake of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, a book offering insights from an organization that has been reversing deforestation and working on community development in that suffering nation is particularly welcome. Scott Sabin’s Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People is a good tool, with well-chosen stories, serviceable prose, and an appropriate tone for calling Christians (and others) deeper into earthcare and service to the poor. According to the mission statement of Plant With Purpose, the Christian nonprofit Sabin runs, the goal is to “reverse deforestation and poverty in the world, by transforming the lives of the rural poor.We plant, we teach, we create enterprise, and we share the gospel.” A great strength of PlantWith Purpose (formerly known as Floresta) is its refus-
al to take the “giver” position — that is, arriving as outsiders to dispense money, food, clothes, and construction and then departing.While acknowledging the need for relief after disasters and in other circumstances, Sabin points convincingly to the dependency that ongoing missions in that model create: “If we do for others what they can and should do for themselves, we rob them of their dignity and reinforce the lie that they have nothing to offer.” According to Sabin, Americans, with “our take-charge, cando culture,” have been slow to learn that there is an inverse relationship between subsidy and sustainability. “Small farmers are a vital part of the [earth’s] future,”writes Sabin.“Migration off the farm and into the overcrowded cities of the developing world, where unemployment rates skyrocket, is ultimately unsustainable.” PWP works mainly with subsistence farmers in Haiti and other developing countries. Such farmers, Sabin says, have significant, detailed knowledge of their land and its creatures — knowledge that must be put to use in reforestation and the movement toward sustainability. Partnerships among local communities and organizations and international agencies can draw on this knowledge to discover creative solutions for deforestation, erosion, soil degradation, and poverty. Although Sabin is honest about projects whose results have been mixed, most of the stories he tells are inspiring. In Kavanac, Haiti, residents were shocked when PWP arrived and announced,“We are not going to give you anything.” But PWP and its local partner organization stayed, and within three years a credit group had been formed, trees had been planted, rainwater was being collected and used, and families were buying the land they had been sharecropping. PWP did similar work in the community of El Porvenir, Mexico, whose hillsides had been entirely denuded of trees in order to obtain firewood. El
who need good tools and talking points to discuss environment and sustainability with others. Give it first to evangelical friends who understand that Christians should care for the poor but who are not yet convinced of the biblical mandate to care for the earth. Second, consider giving it to not-yet Christians, people who are well aware of environmental problems and are considering what it would mean to follow Jesus, like a friend of mine who was helped over the threshold of faith some years back when I gave her Restoring Eden’s compilation of scriptures on caring for the earth and the poor. Q
Porvenir now has thriving local businesses (sewing, bakery, fish farm) and a number of agroforestry and vegetable farms. Residents started a tree nursery and have planted thousands of trees on those once-barren hillsides, and some who had left to seek economic opportunity elsewhere have been able to return. Though many of the global issues Sabin cites require public policy responses, Tending to Eden offers no more than a couple of paragraphs on policy. Sabin devotes much more space to lifestyle choices and the way we do missions. I wish he had given some attention to NAFTA’s dire consequences for small farmers in Mexico or to the ways advocacy organizations can be hijacked by corporate structures. One of the strengths of Tending to Eden is its brief, accessible, but informative discussions of the advantages and disadvantages of various forestry, farming, and microcredit models. A bonus is its sidebar essays by other creation care leaders, particularly those by Mark Labberton and Tony Campolo on how justice and earthcare nurture worship. In spite of its too general and abstract study guide, Tending to Eden is nonetheless an excellent resource for Christians PRISM 2 0 1 0
Ruth Goring wrote one of the first Bible study guides on earthcare — Environmental Stewardship (IVP’s Global Issues series, 1990). Currently she recycles and practices vermicomposting in a Chicago condo, edits books at the University of Chicago Press, writes poetry, and worships at a neighborhood Mennonite church.
GREEN LIKE GOD By Jonathan Merritt FaithWords Reviewed by Peter Illyn Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet is not a theological treatise on environmentalism, nor is it an attempt to create an apologetic to confound doubters and detractors. More accurately described as a trail guide or a road journal, this readable book is the author’s candid personal journey, one that began as a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid (his father was president of the denomination) who, certain that he was on the right side of this issue, celebrated a cavalier disrespect for the earth. Merritt’s about-face occurred when, as a seminary student, he heard a professor state that “there are two forms of
for God’s creation.” Merritt winsomely weaves a discussion of the critical issues — consumerism, climate change, environmental degradation — into the narrative of his own journey. This is not the book for skeptics with arms crossed demanding an irrefutable case for environmentalism, nor is this a complex theological defense to force a critic to surrender. Instead it is an easy read, insightful and telling, the story of an honest quest to reconnect a personal faith to a world in crisis.Written with the gratitude of a blind man restored to sight, Green Like God will inspire some to leave the safe confines of a utilitarian worldview of nature. I predict that, like Merritt, they will find the journey worthwhile. Q divine revelation: the special revelation in Scripture … and the general revelation we receive through nature. Both are from God. When we destroy creation, which is God’s revelation, it is similar to tearing a page out of the Bible.” Suddenly Merritt understood that environmental stewardship was a vital, but missing, part of his Christian walk. As a jaded environmental evangelist myself, I realize that statistics, data charts, or even logical self-interest seldom cause one to prioritize creation care. It is almost always a change of heart — a born-again-againagain moment when the eyes of the heart open and the ear pricks up to the subtle song of praise sung by the rest of creation. Sadly, most people never slow down enough to listen nor choose to join in the choir, but Green Like God may help change that. Treading the dangerous middle ground, Merritt makes comments such as “Forcing environmentalism into a leftright dichotomy harms us all. If you consider yourself conservative, you can remain a solid supporter of biblical values like the sanctity of life, but you should expand your political interest to include historically progressive issues like global poverty, human rights, and aggressive care
Peter Illyn is founder and executive director of Restoring Eden, a ministry dedicated to serving Christ by working with God’s people to be a voice for God’s creation and all those who depend on it, advocating for natural habitats, wild species, and indigenous subsistence cultures.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD By Shawn Teresa Flanigan Kumarian Press Reviewed by Benjamin L. Hartley Bad news:This was a disappointing book. Good news: there’s a real need for a book like this and for the research it represents. For the Love of God: NGOs and Religious Identity in a Violent World analyzes secular and faith-based NGOs across a wide spectrum of world religions in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to discover whether and to what extent NGOs reinforce existing ethnic and religious tensions. The author does this by analyzing interviews she conducted with 100 management-level staff in NGOs providing healthcare and other social services. PRISM 2 0 1 0
Comparative studies like this one of countries that have roughly similar histories of ethnic and religious violence are useful for NGO workers and policymakers who are trying to better understand the role of religion in complex sociopolitical contexts. A great deal can be learned methodologically from interviewing professionals in a wide assortment of NGOs, and Flanigan seems to have done well with this important, time-consuming work of interviewing, transcribing, and data coding for her dissertation, on which this book is based. But good dissertations do not necessarily make good books, and this one contains some poor writing and dismissive generalizations. But beyond that, as a seminary professor I was disappointed that the author didn’t probe more deeply the nuances of interviewees’ faith beliefs. Flanigan notes that she herself is not a person of faith, but while a secular stance may have helped in some aspects of the interviewing process, it also likely inhibited how far she could probe in her conversations. Not surprisingly, in her final chapter she recommends strengthening secular NGOs in countries that have a history of religious violence, but having failed to fully understand the role of her interviewees’ faith, she lacks the data to
make that case. I am not at all convinced that secular NGOs can necessarily do a better job than faith-based ones in places that have experienced ethnic or religious violence. Flanigan concludes her book by noting that “fair and balanced restrictions on proselytization” should be created but that freedom to change one’s religious beliefs is also something that must be preserved. In light of this most valid concern, I found it curious that Flanigan mentioned the Red Cross Code of Conduct, which sets important limits on faith-based NGOs’ work, in only one sentence. I know that most NGOs strive to follow this code very carefully, but she does not explain how it might be strengthened or changed in order to further protect persons from being denied “services” by faith-based NGOs. This book represents some good dissertation research on a very important and timely topic and does so in about 150 pages — a remarkable feat in itself for a book that tries to tell the story of three different countries. In spite of my disappointment with the book as a whole, I do believe that NGO leaders especially will find the final chapter of the book worth reviewing.The bibliography could also point to some useful sources for further reading. Q Benjamin L. Hartley is associate professor of Christian Mission at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.
INTO THE MUD By Christine Jeske Moody Publishers Reviewed by James Thomas Africa is a magazine ad for a child support program.Young brown eyes pleading for help. Africa is a film about an American swept up in events beyond his
family money for food, not just once but monthly. With food to sustain him, Madondo sought out agricultural extension workers and a nearby university to come to his village to teach him and his neighbors how to increase the yield of corn from their fields. Over time they saw it increase sevenfold. With food on his table, he was still poor. Some would say to him,“If you are poor, you are not with Jesus, because Jesus would make you rich.” Madondo would answer, “Just because someone is blessed with wealth doesn’t mean he is blessed in his heart. God is not thinking like us — he does things his own way. In those years when I had nothing, I realized this: God was training me to not just folcomprehension as warlords battle with low the blessings of God but to follow machine guns and machetes for power or God. To know Jesus — that’s a blessing!” diamonds. Africa is a place that American Madondo has taught me something church youth groups fix a bit at a time about faith and abundance. I want to sit in two-week visits. at his feet or work next to him in his Africa is a cliché. It stands for bro- field and learn more.And Jeske has helped kenness and hopelessness. It allows us to me to better understand holistic ministry. feel generous and strong as we write a Her stories encourage me with small check. miracles, but they also confound me with But Christine Jeske won’t let us live paradoxes and unanswered questions just in that clichéd two-dimensional world. as life does.This refusal to settle for easy She introduces us to 11 Africans, one at answers and clichés, to walk into the a time. In Into the Mud: Inspiration for mud, sets this book apart from scores of Everyday Activists, she tells stories of how others on Africa. each person touched her life while she Jeske also holds back from sweeping was living in South Africa. In those sto- conclusions and prescriptions for what we ries, she gives them and us an invaluable should all be doing. She lets the details gift — their humanity. of the stories seep into our lives and Meet Madondo, for example. One day speak to us with their own voices. For when his wife complained that they had some, this will be frustrating. This book no food for the table, he said “You say is not for those seeking answers. But for we have run out of food and money. I say those seeking to transcend clichés, and we have run out of faith.” In obedience even to be changed by the remarkable to him, though perhaps also with a hint stories of ordinary people, this book is one of mockery, she cleaned the house, set to read and to discuss with others. Q the table, and prepared the ground for a cook fire — though they also lacked wood. James Thomas is an associate professor of In the meantime, Madondo went to epidemiology and director of the public health neighbors, asking for food. When he ethics program at the University of North came home, he found a Zulu pastor Carolina. He is also the founder and presiwho had felt called by God to give this dent of Africa Rising (AfricaRising.org). PRISM 2 0 1 0
MUSIC NOTES J.D. BUHL
a few small-run releases in the ’60s, the music education programs up and runband returned to recording in 1977 with ning. In the tradition of hospitality, artNew Orleans, Vol. 1, and has maintained ists as diverse as Pete Seeger and Angelique a consistent record-bin presence ever Kidjo were invited down to record; that since, most notably on Columbia Master- “vocal-like warmth” is doubled throughworks, and in recent years on the Hall’s out these wonderful collaborations with own label. In the liner notes to Vol. 1, many distinct singers. Preservation Hall seats only 50, and William Russell wrote that New Orleans Share with God’s people who are jazz is “not so much a kind of music as still lacks running water and air condiin need. Practice hospitality. a style,” a way of “playing a melody with tioning, just as it did when built in 1750. Romans 12:13 a beat.’” And that melody is never The March 4, 2010, issue of Rolling The Evangelical Lutheran Church in obscured, “but is sung by the various Stone reports that when Steve Earle waitAmerica (ELCA) Youth Gathering met instruments with a beautiful vocal-like ed until after 3 a.m. to record “T’ain’t in New Orleans last year to help rebuild warmth.” Such instrumentalists “strive Nobody’s Business” with the band, even the city, and it is breaking tradition by to help each other rather than grab the then, the place was so humid “that it took planning to return to the same city for spotlight …working together to pro- [him] half an hour to tune his guitar.” The hospitality must have been flowits next gathering in 2012. For the birth- duce the loose, relaxed beat.” That beat place of jazz is also a cradle for Christian is often found propelling what we would ing as others — including bluegrass and service. “I don’t think that we have call gospel music, such songs as “Over country heroes Del McCoury and Merle learned all we can from New Orleans in Gloryland,” “Amen,” and, of course, Haggard, gospel legends the Blind Boys yet,” says Youth Gathering Director “When the Saints Go Marching In.” of Alabama, roots-rock bandleaders Heidi Hagstrom. “New Orleans has so “Working together harmoniously,” writes Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and Cory much to teach us about practicing God’s Russell,“can generate a feeling of power.” Chisel, singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, Such power must have been evident all-around sideman Buddy Miller, allhospitality.” God’s hospitality involves more than when over 37,000 teenagers provided around weirdo Tom Waits, and even the a “friendly and solicitous attitude toward post-Katrina reconstruction muscle at disembodied voice of Louis Armstrong — dropped by to share music and gumbo guests,” as the dictionary defines it, though the last ELCA Youth Gathering. While the PHJB continued to tour, with the current eight-member configNew Orleans is certainly known for that. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul the hurricane kept the Hall closed well uration of the PHJB. Nineteen tracks of mostly traditional reminds him that one entrusted with into 2006. So the guest-star sessions that God’s work must not be overbearing, make up Preservation, a 2010 benefit material made it onto Preservation, with quick-tempered, or given to drunken- album, are meant to keep the club and its an overflow of six more making up a ness, violence, or dishonest gain.“Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Loving what is good, practicing selfcontrol, encouraging others — that’s the kind of hospitality young and old can find in the work of one of New Orleans’ most active proponents of “good time music to make the people happy,” the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Named for the famed music hall in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the PHJB A sampling of Preservation jam session artists. has been touring for over 25 years. After PRISM 2 0 1 0
Mary Ashley Johnson
Hospitality with a Beat
bonus disc. Jim James of My Morning Jacket describes the hall as full of “so much energy and power and ghosts,” and his rendition of “Louisiana Fairytale” is meant to evoke some of those ghosts with its efforts at sounding like a scratchy 78. But others sing them straight, and that’s where good-time music to make the people happy—and whistle along with —can be found. When Pete’s grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger leads the group through a jaunty “We Shall Overcome,”
I imagine this to be among the songs the Lutheran kids will sing when they meet in 2012. In the meantime, this and other examples of musicians striving to help each other rather than grab the spotlight are available to us on Preservation, because we have yet to learn all we can from New Orleans.
it is a welcome reminder that the song was never intended to be delivered only in solemn tones. “God is on our side” is J.D. Buhl is a music buff who teaches 8th to be sung with an exclamation point, grade at the Casady School in Oklahoma not an ellipsis. City, Ok.
1979 through major litigation, lobbying, and reform partnerships with policymakers. She does consulting on criminal justice for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, think tanks, and governments and is the author of the Healing Communities materials.
Justice, Mercy, and the Land of the Second Chance continued from page 20.
It wasn’t until the nation’s prison population passed the 2 million mark (over 7 million when you include those on parole or probation), until we started seeing over 700,000 people coming home unprepared from prison a year, until we noticed that almost a quarter of the US population has a criminal record, and until the voices speaking of redemption began to be heard that Winthrop’s other rule began to get some attention: mercy. Just as Americans recoiled at the sadistic treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib because it was so at odds with our values, many are recoiling over the harsh penalties imposed for drug offenses and myriad other crimes and the ceaseless punishment we inflict on people coming out of prison. Where, Americans are asking, is the mercy? How can we be a beacon of liberty to the world if we show no mercy, whether it be toward others or toward our own? Given the bipartisanship that flourished around the SCA, we might also ask: Can we not apply that lesson in cooperation to other issues and in other arenas? How can we be a beacon of liberty to the world if we expend so much political will battling so-called enemies on the other side of the aisle rather than debating constructive solutions to our shared problems, so many of which require measures of both justice and mercy? Enactment of the Second Chance Act delivered on the promise of justice and mercy, not only to the prisoner but also among the bill’s supporters. It was a dramatic change from typical lawmaking. May this be the model for realizing the other injunctions in Matthew 25. N
(Editor’s note: Due to space limitations, the endnotes for this feature have been posted at ESA-online.org/2010endnotes.)
Creating a Healing Community continued from page 18.
The Healing Communities model has gone viral. Since its launch at Casey-supported test sites in Detroit, Houston, and Richmond, it has now spread to seminaries, denominations, churches, and faith-based organizations across the country. Churches don’t need a grant to become a healing community, and all can benefit from the free Healing Communities curriculum. The Second Chance Act grants are highly competitive. Last year, there were 119 applications from state and local governments, yet there were funds to award grants totaling less than $8 million for the 15 successful applicants. There were 507 applications for adult mentoring grants, yet only $10 million was awarded and divided among 36 grantees. But changes in federal law, such as the Second Chance Act, can foster new attitudes along with new programs. Programs focus on changing outcomes; Healing Communities focuses on transforming hearts and minds. Both are essential to undo the damage wrought by crime and incarceration. See Linda Mills bio above.
Linda Mills, an attorney in Chicago, has focused on policy reform since
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Helping NGOs Fight Poverty
religious bias, threatened to take over many of the traditional roles of the church in education and care for the poor. In response, Dutch Calvinists led by Abraham Kuyper developed the theory of “sphere sovereignty”— i.e., God has established many societal institutions as With his endorsement of much of independent realms that rightly control President George W. Bush’s faith-based their own spheres. Instead of becoming initiative during his presidential cam- all-powerful and ever-present, governpaign and his subsequent actions as presi- ment should be limited and support these dent, Barack Obama has cemented this other institutions. But Kuyper also realconcept as a bipartisan consensus in ized that an unrestricted market econAmerican politics. But the liberal-con- omy was just as great a danger to family, servative battles over Bush’s initiative and church, and other community institutions the inherent weaknesses of his vision as was an all-powerful government. The practical implication of this social produced a faith-based initiative which theory was the vision that government was fundamentally inadequate for overrightly both places limits on market coming American poverty. capitalism and funds universal educaA brilliant new book by Lew Daly, tion/economic programs to empower God’s Economy: Faith-Based Initiatives and the poor. Furthermore, a great deal of the Caring State (University of Chicago the government funding for these proPress, 2009), places this whole debate grams should flow through a variety of over the initiative in a much broader NGOs. Churches and other religious context and shows us how its weakorganizations should be as free as other nesses could be corrected. groups to run schools and social service The core of Daly’s argument is that agencies, using government funds. ProBush’s faith-based initiative transcended moted by Christian Democratic political earlier debates between liberals and conservatives about anti-poverty programs parties, these ideas profoundly shaped (conservatives wanted to end govern- policies in education and social welfare, ment responsibility by privatizing wel- especially in Holland and Germany. As fare programs, and liberals wanted to a result, these countries have substanexpand government-run programs). tially less poverty than the US. Daly shows how these ideas — mediBuilding on ideas that originated in ated especially by James Skillen and European Christian Democratic circles, Stanley Carlson-Thies of the Center Bush (unlike Reagan libertarians) retained for Public Justice — influenced George a major role for government in comW. Bush. Bush argued that government bating poverty but greatly elevated the had an important role in overcoming role of faith-based organizations as the poverty. But he insisted that the organidelivery systems. Unfortunately, Bush’s zations delivering social services using uncritical embrace of a largely unregovernment funds should be greatly strained market economy prevented him expanded. He insisted on a “level playfrom understanding another key aspect ing field” that no longer discriminated of European Christian Democracy — i.e., not only an all-powerful state but against faith-based organizations in the also an unrestrained market can and does distribution of government funds. That, Daly argues, produced a major, positive destroy families and communities. In the 19th century strong national shift in American anti-poverty programs. Unfortunately, President Bush failed governments, often with a vigorous antiPRISM 2 0 1 0
to grasp another crucial aspect of European Christian Democrats. Bush uncritically embraced the view that there should be very few restrictions on the market economy. The vast majority of his tax cuts went to the richest 25 percent instead of empowering the poorer segments of society, and he failed largely to expand effective programs to empower the poor. In spite of President Bush’s new, significant faith-based initiative, the number of Americans in poverty steadily increased during his presidency. Understanding what Bush got right and wrong helps us see how to do it better. He was right in rejecting the dominant Reagan-Republican push to abandon governmental responsibility to alleviate poverty. He was also right to embrace a much wider role for NGOs in the delivery of government-funded antipoverty programs. Tragically, President Bush failed to provide enough funding to combat poverty and failed to see how an unrestrained market economy threatens families and communities just as much as an all-powerful government. The way forward, therefore, is to strengthen, not weaken, the role of a wide variety of agencies in the delivery of government-funded anti-poverty programs. That includes adequately protecting the religious identity of faithbased organizations. But the state must act to place effective restraints on markets in order to reduce their negative impact on families and communities. It must also expand funding for effective programs that reduce poverty.The common good trumps unrestrained private economic self-interest. To embrace that whole agenda, both liberals and conservatives will have to abandon one-sided views and partisan bickering. Hopefully large numbers of Christians and others of goodwill in both parties will insist that both Democrats and Republicans adopt this more holistic agenda for the common good. Q