I’ve been watching basketball a long, long time.
This. Is. Crazy.
I’ve been watching basketball a long, long time.
This. Is. Crazy.
This video below pretty much speaks for itself, and addresses an ongoing concern as to how our government and military wields its power. It also makes clear that the conservative GOP candidate, Rick Santorum, has no problem with a calculated program of assassination carried out by our government.
Santorum, speaking about Iran during an October campaign stop in Greenville, S.C., said: “Now, I’m hopeful, when we see some of the things we’re seeing in respect to their nuclear program, that the United States is involved with. That is on occasion scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.”
His response to “Well, well we can’t go out and assassinate people? “We’ve done it. We’ve done it to an American citizen.” And people belittle Ron Paul and call him “a kook.”
And this isn’t the first time the Aerosmith front man has sung the The Star Spangled Banner before an event. I have to say, he sounded a little pitchy in spots. ;^)
While still a pastor, sometime around 2008 or 2009, I began to think about what a different kind of small group literature for a local church could look like. A few years earlier, when taking about 70 Sundays to preach through the Bible, it became clear that many people in my church (and I think most people in most churches) did not have a grasp of the grand narrative, or big picture, of God’s plan and purpose in redemption. All the stories of the Bible were just that: stories. They are true stories, but it is not always evident how they are connected to any larger purpose. For many believers reading the Bible is like scanning snippets from a dozen different newspapers accounts of minor skirmishes in the midst of World War Two with no reference to either the European or Pacific theaters.
One of the rooms at our church had been fitted with a marker board wall upon which I sketched ideas about a multi-year curriculum that would, beginning at about the age of three, thoroughly teach the big picture of what God is doing in all of human history. Within this grand narrative the major themes of the Bible would be covered in depth, demonstrating how the well known–and lesser known–stories fit within the larger framework. Alas, once the idea was sketched, owing to too little time and resources, it never took flight. It turned out to be one of those, “If only…” moments that pastors often have.
Fast forward to 2011 when, in the provision of God, I was hired at LifeWay Christian Resources. My role is not in that of curriculum development or writing, but I quickly heard of a new study being readied for release: “The Gospel Project.” I was very excited to hear that it functioned very similarly to what I had envisioned not too long ago. From the LifeWay News department press release:
‘The release of The Gospel Project marks the first time in more than a decade that LifeWay will release ongoing studies for children, students and adults under one theme,’ [Managing Editor, Trevin] Wax noted.
The Gospel Project, slated for preorder in June, will feature a three-year study plan with 13-week units, each using an age-appropriate voice, depth and course of study. Bible study resources will be available in multiple formats, such as print, downloadable, as well as e-reader and mobile app formats.
This is how General Editor, Ed Stetzer, describes the process:
‘We brought together a group of scholars, pastors and church leaders to speak into this project at the outset…We received direction regarding the topics we would cover, the approach we would take – Christ-centered, mission-driven, shaped around the narrative of God’s redemptive plan – and the level of accessibility we should strive for.’
In case you skimmed over it, The Gospel Project is a three year course of study during which children, students and adults cover the big picture of scripture. This has within it the seeds of great discussion starters for families who are in church together.
One thing I really like about this course of study is the student material. It is deep from the outset. I firmly believe students need to be challenged in their thinking about the Kingdom and the lack of such a challenge has contributed to apathy and disinterest. There are only so many different ways you can tell students, “Don’t drink. Don’t use drugs. Don’t cuss. Don’t have sex until you are married.” Too much supposed “Bible study” for students has become a more theological version of Dr. Phil. It tends toward, as Dallas Willard puts it, “sin management.” Consider this excerpt from The Gospel Project Personal Study Guide for Students on the sin of pride:
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT about what makes Christianity unique as a religion? You might think about stuff like the virgin birth, miracles, or the prophecies of the old Testament, but think about this, too: Christianity is the only religion that tells people how bad they are.
According to Emil Brunner, the Swiss theologian: “All other religions spare us the ultimate humiliation of being stripped naked and being declared bankrupt before God.” That’s pretty strong language.
And yet it points to the humiliating nature of Christianity. Other world religions don’t treat humanity with such pessimism. In all other schools of thought, we have something to bring to the table. We can strive toward God and meet Him, and in a sense, be congratulated when we do.
In Christianity, we bring nothing to the table. In fact, the only thing we bring to the table with God is the sin we need to be rescued from. Perhaps that’s why, if we look back into history, Christianity has been called the religion of women and slaves. In cultures of the past, neither of those two groups had many rights, so it wasn’t a far stretch for them to admit their abject need of God’s complete and total intervention on their behalf.
The bottom line is this: The one character flaw that has, and will continue to, keep most people from Christ is not greed. It’s not lust. It’s not lying or stealing or killing. It’s pride. That’s the only thing there is no room for at the foot of the cross.
Recognizing that today’s students have grown up in an image oriented culture, student books use well done graphical presentations like the one pictured below to enhance the text-based sections.
The adult material delves even more deeply with important theological concepts, and scattered quotes from both early church and current theologians. Consider this section from and adult lesson on general and specific revelation (followed by a sidebar quote):
How is God’s “divine nature” revealed through what we see? One of the clearest imprints is not just in the way we search for objects to worship but is right here inside, in the way we think and act. We read in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.”
Because we are creatures made in God’s image, we have innate senses and compulsions that point to the reality of God’s divine nature. Of course, we are not divine ourselves, and after the fall of mankind, the image of God in us is obscured and broken. Still, we can nevertheless see that mankind’s generally innate sense of justice and fairness, compulsion to create, ability to express and experience love, and frequent appeals to conscience all point away from our being the evolved result of a random electric current in a primordial goop.
‘One effect of a persisting objective revelation is an uneasiness with our state, a longing and groping. We are restless with our condition, “knowing” we are made for more, in a quest for “transcendence,” and engaged in speculation about human homelessness in the philosophies of our own time.’ –Gabriel Fakre
If you are a pastor, minister of education, small group leader, spiritual formation pastor or anyone with Sunday School/LifeGroup/Small Group buying authority give an in depth look at The Gospel Project. If I were pastoring a church right now implementing this would be a top priority. You can download pdf copies of the Personal Study Guide for Students and the Adult Leader Guide as well as view a video introduction to the children’s curriculum.
To download multiple samples of curriculum for children of all ages please visit The Gospel Project samples page.
I am so excited to see that Pulitzer prize winning author Douglas A. Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name has been made into 90 minute documentary. It is scheduled to air in February on PBS. Sam Pollard, who was a longtime editor on Spike Lee’s films, directed the project, which takes a hard look at the many ways involuntary servitude continued for African Americans long after the abolition of slavery. (My 4-part interview series with Doug Blackmon begins here.)
Constitutional attorney, John Whitehead, is the author of numerous books, including The Second American Revolution and The Change Manifesto and founder of The Rutherford Institute. Whitehead and the Rutherford have long been defenders of religious freedom, those victimized by illegal search andseizure, free speech and the right to life. For those of us long frustrated by the antics of the ACLU and People for the American Way, Rutherford provides a trusted voice.
The American Declaration of Independence informs us that we are “endowed by our Creator” with certain rights. These rights are called “inalienable,” or irrevocable, and are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The government provides other rights, as enumerated in our Bill of Rights. To serve as contrast, I’ll call these rights “alienable,” because they can be bestowed and removed as the activity of the government. The most common term, however, is civil rights, or, as Whitehead terms them, civil liberties. Recently, Whitehead wrote a commentary revealing the sad state of civil liberties in the United States, liberties/rights, we do well to remember, theoretically codified in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. But, as we are learning, can be removed with nary a whisper.
It’s been a year of populist uprisings, economic downturns, political assassinations, and one scandal after another. Gold prices soared, while the dollar plummeted. The Arab Spring triggered worldwide protests, including the Occupy Wall Street protests here in America. Nature unleashed her forces with a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, flooding in Thailand and Pakistan, a severe drought in East Africa, and a famine in Somalia. With an unemployment rate hovering around 9.5%, more than 4 million Americans passed the one-year mark for being out of a job. After a death toll that included more than 4,500 American troops and at least 60,000 Iraqis, the U.S. military officially ended its war in Iraq. At the conclusion of their respective media circus trials, Casey Anthony went free while Conrad Murray went to jail. And Will and Kate tied the knot, while Demi and Ashton broke ties. All in all, it’s been a mixed bag of a year, but on the civil liberties front, things were particularly grim.
Welcome to the new total security state. The U.S. government now has at its disposal a technological arsenal so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. And these technologies are being used by the government to invade the privacy of the American people. Several years ago, government officials acknowledged that the nefarious intelligence gathering entity known as the National Security Agency (NSA) had exceeded its legal authority by eavesdropping on Americans’ private email messages and phone calls. However, these reports barely scratch the surface of what we are coming to recognize as a “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance. The increasingly complex security needs of our massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental bureaucracy.
GPS tracking and secret spying on Americans. Technology, having outstripped our ability as humans to control it, has become our Frankenstein’s monster. Delighted with technology’s conveniences, its ability to make our lives easier by performing an endless array of tasks faster and more efficiently, we have given it free rein in our lives, with little thought to the legal or moral ramifications of allowing surveillance technology, especially, to uncover nearly every intimate detail of our lives. Consider how enthusiastically we welcomed Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, which use orbiting satellites to produce accurate and continuous records of their position and of any person or object carrying the devices, into our lives. We’ve installed this satellite-based technology in everything from our phones to our cars to our pets. Yet by ensuring that we never get lost, never lose our loved ones and never lose our wireless signals, we have also made it possible for the government to never lose sight of us, as well. Indeed, as a case before the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear, the government is taking full advantage of this technology to keep tabs on American citizens, and in the process, is not only violating the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures but is putting an end, once and for all, to any expectation of privacy in public places. Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have introduced a bill that would require police to obtain a warrant and prove probable cause before tracking someone via GPS. Senators Franken and Blumenthal have also sponsored legislation to “require companies to get a user’s consent before sharing cell phone location information.”
Internet surveillance. In late July 2011, the House Judiciary Committee passed the cleverly titled “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” which laid the groundwork for all internet traffic to be easily monitored by government officials. Most recently, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), making its way through the House of Representatives, and its sister legislation in the Senate, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), have shown the government’s intent to control all internet traffic. The bills, which are supposedly intended to combat copyright violations on the internet, are written so broadly so as to not only eliminate internet piracy but replace the innovative and democratic aspects of the internet with a tangled bureaucratic mess regulated by the government and corporations.
Intrusive pat-downs, virtual strip searches and screening stations. Under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), American travelers have been subjected to all manner of searches ranging from whole-body scanners and enhanced patdowns at airports to bag searches in train stations. Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams laid the groundwork for the government’s effort to secure so-called “soft” targets such as malls, stadiums, bridges, etc. Some security experts predict that checkpoints and screening stations will eventually be established at all soft targets, such as department stores, restaurants, and schools. Given the virtually limitless number of potential soft targets vulnerable to terrorist attack, subjection to intrusive pat-downs and full-body imaging will become an integral component of everyday life in the United States.
More powers for the FBI. As detailed in the FBI’s operations manual, rules were relaxed in order to permit the agency’s 14,000 agents to search law enforcement and private databases, go through household trash, and deploy surveillance teams, with even fewer checks against abuse. FBI agents were also given the go-ahead to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect individuals, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing. These new powers extend the agency’s reach into the lives of average Americans and effectively transform the citizenry into a nation of suspects, reversing the burden of proof so that we are now all guilty until proven innocent. Thus, no longer do agents need evidence of possible criminal or terrorist activity in order to launch an investigation. Now, they can “proactively” look into people and groups, searching databases without making a record about it, conducting lie detector tests and searching people’s trash.
Patriot Act redux. Congress pushed through a four-year extension of three controversial provisions in the USA Patriot Act that authorize the government to use aggressive surveillance tactics in the so-called war against terror. Since being enacted in 2001, the Patriot Act has driven a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well. The Patriot Act has also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience are considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.
Drones over America. Attached as an amendment to the “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Act” (S.223), the legislation allowing drones—pilotless, remote-controlled aircraft that have been used extensively in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan—to fly in general American airspace cleared Congress, thanks to support from military contractors and a lack of opposition from those who should know better, including an American populace preoccupied with rising gas prices, a dismal economy and endless wars abroad. However, police agencies across the nation are already beginning to use spy drones, and some officials are considering outfitting them with “nonlethal” weapons. Just recently, police in North Dakota working with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested a family of farmers using information acquired by a spy drone. The FBI and DEA also use spy drones in their domestic police work.
Increased arrests for recording encounters with police. Thanks to ubiquitous cell phone technology, more Americans are recording police encounters. Consequently, police have begun arresting those who attempt to record them, citing wiretap laws as justification for the arrests. While many of those wrongly arrested for recording police activity were acquitted, the courts have not been consistent in affirming the First Amendment right of citizens to record police activity.
Terrorism Liaison Officers. In another attempt to control and intimidate the population, the government has introduced Terrorism Liaison Officers (TLOs) into our midst. TLOs are firefighters, police officers, and even corporate employees who have received training to spy on and report back to government entities on the day-to-day activities of their fellow citizens. These individuals are authorized to report “suspicious activity” which can include such innocuous activities as taking pictures with no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements and drawings, taking notes, conversing in code, espousing radical beliefs, and buying items in bulk. With the Director of National Intelligence now pushing for a nationwide program, you may soon see these government-corporate agents in a town near you.
Fusion centers. TLOs report back to so-called “fusion centers”—data collecting agencies spread throughout the country, aided by the National Security Agency—which constantly monitor our communications, everything from our internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected—the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police—a relationship which will make a transition to martial law that much easier. As of 2009, the government admitted to having at least 72 fusion centers. A map released by the ACLU indicates that every state except Idaho has a fusion center in operation or formation.
Merger of the government and the police, and the establishment of a standing army. At all levels (federal, local and state), through the use of fusion centers, information sharing with the national intelligence agencies, and monetary grants for weapons and training, the government and the police have joined forces. In the process, the police have become a “standing” or permanent army, one composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband. In appearance, weapons and attitude, local law enforcement agencies are increasingly being transformed into civilian branches of the military. Indeed, the average citizen is helpless in the face of police equipped with an array of weapons, including tasers, etc. The increasing militarization of the police, the use of sophisticated weaponry against Americans, and the government’s increasing tendency to employ military personnel domestically have us teetering on the edge of a police state.
Court rulings affirming the right of police to invade our homes without warrants. In Barnes v. State, the Indiana Supreme Court broadly ruled that citizens don’t have the right to resist police officers who enter their homes illegally, which is the law in most states. Yet consider how many individuals have been killed simply for instinctively reaching for any kind of weapon, loaded or not, during the initial trauma of a SWAT team raid. In Kentucky v. King, the U.S. Supreme Court gave police carte blanche authority to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Specifically, the court ruled that if a SWAT team arrives at the wrong address but for whatever reason suspects the citizen inside the home may possess drugs, these armed warriors can break down the door and invade your home—all without possessing a warrant.
Bringing the war home. America became the new battleground in the war on terror. A perfect example of this is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which was passed by the Senate with a vote of 93–7. Contained within this massive defense bill are several provisions which, taken collectively, re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the rule of law—our U.S. Constitution, becomes the map by which we navigate life in the United States. In short, this defense bill not only decimates the due process of law and habeas corpus for anyone perceived to be an enemy of the United States, but it radically expands the definition of who may be considered the legitimate target of military action.
What does 2012 hold for us? Only time will tell. But as Jane Addams, the first U.S. woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize advised, “America’s future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.” If we want to avert certain disaster in the form of authoritarianism, then we’d do well to start teaching the principles of freedom to our young people right away and hope the lesson sticks.
Read more of John Whitehead’s commentaries here. A selection of Whitehead’s books are available below through Amazon.com.
If this post is problematic to you, please blame Emily Hunter McGowin. I tried to not have enough time, but she suggested I write it anyway.
Another video about Jesus went viral last week. Called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” (aka, Jesus>Religion), it appeared in my Facebook news feed regularly for several days. I’m not a great fan of the “Spoken Word” genre so I didn’t watch it, but could grasp enough from comments to figure that a great number of people were being blessed by it.
Then, as sure as the sun rises in the east, another link began appearing in my Facebook feed promoting a blog response to the video. Comments on Facebook ranged from the innocuous, “Here’s another view on the Jesus>Religion video,” to fully supportive, “If you’ve seen the Jesus is greater than religion video then you need to read this.”
The post, entitled Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really was a critique of the video essentially arguing that, despite its good points, the poem was erroneous. After a lengthy critique, author Kevin DeYoung concludes with a direct appeal to writer/performer Jefferson Bethke,
You have important things to say and millions of people are listening. So make sure as a teacher you are extra careful and precise (James 3:1). If you haven’t received formal theological training, I encourage you to do so. Your ministry will be made stronger and richer and longer lasting. I encourage you to speak from the Bible before you speak from your own experience. I encourage you to love what Jesus loves without tearing down what he also loves and people are apt to misunderstand. I encourage you to dig deep into the whole counsel of God.
Thanks for reminding us about Jesus. But try to be more careful when talking about religion. After all, there is one religion whose aim is to worship, serve, know, proclaim, believe, obey, and organize around this Jesus. And without all those verbs, there’s not much Jesus left.
At some point after DeYoung’s essay, my friend Trevin Wax tweeted this: “Excessive critique on the part of leaders will squelch the passion of the next generation.” I have no idea what sparked the thought, but with it I utterly agree.
Leaders have the weighty responsibility of shepherding their flock with integrity, love, compassion and wisdom. If discretion, as the old saying goes, is the greater part of valor, then, I would say, deference is a great part of wisdom. Specifically, deferring to the Holy Spirit rather than jumping headlong into every perceived controversy that arises.
Since the advent of the written page, I suppose, people have had the tendency to launch critiques at things with which they disagree. The existence of printed historical polemics bear witness to this. Many are needed, some are crucial and some are a waste of everyone’s time. Since the advent of the internet, it is not only possible but incredibly easy to publicly critique people with the exact same results. The primary difference being instead of a hundred or so of the intelligentsia as an audience, literally 10’s of thousands to millions may be able to read. When the critique is needed this is a good thing. When it isn’t? Well…
Romans 14:1 is most appropos to this discussion. Paul addresses the issue of dealing with Christians who are not mature, and who may not be right where they need to be in their particular stage of spiritual maturity. What was his counsel? “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (ESV). “Accept the one who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues” (HCSB). “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (NASB). An application specific to this discussion is: Don’t level criticism at a weaker brother simply because he has a different opinion than you.
The book of 1 John portrays spiritual leadership as a parent, specifically as “fathers.” One of the critical components of parenting–and spiritual leadership–is knowing when to let your kids make their own mistakes. By extension this means that spiritual leadership is identified by a wisdom that chooses to defer critique, preferring instead to let the Holy Spirit do the work of maturation. One person asked the question, “Shouldn’t this kid be open to some sharpening?” Sharpening only takes place by those close to you. Judgment is all that can take place from afar.
When we look at the life of Jesus it is clear that His words of critique and rebuke were virtually always leveled at either 1) the Pharisees who had set themselves up as judges and arbiters of spiritual truth, or 2) His disciples who were on a crash course of being the earliest foundation stones of the Church. Paul’s and Peter’s harsh criticisms were addressed to false teachers, slackers, and those who had abandoned the faith. In fact, Jesus exhibited more patience with lost people (the woman in adultery and the Syro-Phonecian woman, for example) than some Christian leaders give to young believers. Christian maturation is a long, rocky, laborious process. It is given to fits and starts, lulls and spurts. Only God is wise enough to know all things related to the spiritual growth of His children. Sanctification does not flow along the length of a 1-size fits all wall chart.
Did he deny the faith? No. Question the fundamentals? No. Deny the gospel? No. But by the response of some you’d think He had done all that and proposed adding Lassie to the Trinity. I’m not sure where all the grace went from some who supposedly cherish the “doctrines of grace” as the best expression of biblical theology.
When critique and the spiritual equivalent of visiting the proctologist are what is to be expected when following the leading of the Spirit, then Trevin’s analysis will hold true. Young believers will stop attempting great things for God since, even though they might expect great things from God–like 12M+ YouTube views in a brief while–they might also expect great and unnecessary criticism from those who would be better served judging themselves.
One of the greatest speeches ever given, King’s speech is worth watching regularly. The text is below the video.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
If Ron Paul’s foreign policy is viewed by some as out of the mainstream, and if his views on the gold standard are misunderstood, it seems his views on decriminalizing drugs and putting an end to the so-called “War on Drugs” are simply opposed. I think much of this opposition is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on drugs itself and an unwillingness or inability to admit that said war has not been as successful as we had hoped. By most non-governmental accounts it is a failure.
In times past my view was to decriminalize drugs was an implicit admission that it was okay to do drugs. If drugs were made legal there would be stoners on every corner. The solution was more money, more agents, more enforcement–more, more, more. We had to win. “Just say no!” “This is your brain on drugs.”
A little history: not only have I never smoked or inhaled pot, to my knowledge I have never held a joint. I have never taken a pill that was not over the counter or prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacist. I do not smoke cigarettes and have never tried. I do not drink alcohol of any kind, though I really like those Jack Daniels Steaks at TGIFriday’s and Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice Eggnog is the best. (Yeah, yeah, it is non-alcoholic.)
Drugs were popular when I was in high-school, so predating them is not an issue for me though I was not around when Dr. Pemberton was slipping coke into Coke. I knew kids who came into school most every day stoned. There was one kid who overdosed before school, but it did not reach full effect until after we were in gym class. His overdose became obvious when we saw two of his drug user buddies carrying him as they ran to the office for help.
When I was a junior, a senior girl did a skit for a pep-rally in which she played the role of Gilda Radner’s SNL character, Rosanne Rosanna Danna. Her “cheer” went this way:
Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar,
All for a 714 stand up and holler!!
Much to the surprise of everyone in the gym, all the drug users stood up (slowly and unsteadily, but up they went) and cheered lustily, laughing the entire time. The fact they never moved during pep-rallies and that no one else got it made it all the more weird.
It was only later I discovered that “Lemmon 714″ was the production name of the popular sedative Quaalude and “714” was shorthand for it.
In Ron Paul’s previous and current campaigns for the White House, he has been very clear that he opposes the “War on Drugs.” This is not a unique position, even for a mainstream politician. In 1996 William F. Buckley, the “preeminent voice of American conservatism” (George Nash) said this to the New York Bar Association about the problem of illicit drug use:
We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen — yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect.
Little has changed in the ensuing 15 years. Here are a few reasons I think Paul is right about our government’s attempt to curb the drug trade being a failure.
1. The war on drugs is bad strategy.
I have become convinced the negative reaction by many people against the decriminalization of drugs is a knee-jerk reaction resulting from too little information. The way some people carry on about it, you’d think Ron Paul was going to appoint Cheech and Chong to his cabinet. This is the height of low thinking. Here are a view stats on the cost and success of the war:
Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: More than $51,000,000,000
Number of people arrested in 2009 in the U.S. on nonviolent drug charges: 1,663,582
Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2009: 858,408
(Number of people in history who have died from smoking marijuana: 0)
Number of Americans incarcerated in 2009 in federal, state and local prisons and jails: 2,424,279 or 1 in every 99.1 adults, the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Estimated annual revenue that California would raise if it taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana: $1,400,000,000
Number of murders in 2009 in Juarez, Mexico, the epicenter of that country’s drug war: 2,635+, the highest murder rate of any city in the world. (See source.)
2. The war on drugs is racially unjust.
From the Palm Beach Post had this to say following the report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy in June 2011:
[The Commission found] “Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.”
The commission noted that current policies have generated massive violence and undermined political stability in drug-producing and distributing countries. At the same time, such countries as Switzerland, Portugal and the Netherlands, which have replaced repression with harm-reduction, have seen significant public health benefits and, in the case of heroin, reductions in use and addiction.
Of particular concern, the War on Drugs has led to widespread violations of constitutional and human rights, racially skewed enforcement, and an explosion in the U.S. prison population, by far the world’s largest. In 2008, four out of five arrests were for mere possession of drugs, one-half of those for marijuana. Due to selective enforcement, those imprisoned are primarily minorities.
While there is no evidence to support that African-Americans use drugs at a higher rate than white Americans, and although they make up only 12.6 percent of the general population, African-Americans account for 37 percent of total drug arrests annually and 56 percent of incarcerations. As Georgetown University law Professor David Cole put it, were whites being arrested at the same rate as blacks, “We would almost certainly see this as an urgent national calamity, and demand a collective investment of public resources to forestall so many going to prison.”
Christians all over America are speaking about about justice issues. Here is a justice issue that has been going on longer than abortion on demand yet from most Christians there is nary a peep.
3. Year in and year out the abuse of legal drugs kills larger numbers of people than illegal drugs.
Who has not seen those commercials for various prescriptions drugs imploring us to “ask your doctor about Quadaludiquiacil” followed by the world’s fastest talker warning of the possibility of contracting everything from hives to cancer. The fact is that drugs–all drugs–kill people if used in excess. In the United States, however, the abuse of legal drugs kills more people each year than the abuse of illegal drugs. A September 2011 L. A. Times article notes:
Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.
Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
4. Treatment is more effective and substantially cheaper than incarceration
What are the relative costs, on the one hand, of medical and psychological treatment for addicts and, on the other, incarceration for drug offenses? It transpires that treatment is seven times more cost-effective. By this is meant that one dollar spent on the treatment of an addict reduces the probability of continued addiction seven times more than one dollar spent on incarceration. Looked at another way: Treatment is not now available for almost half of those who would benefit from it. Yet we are willing to build more and more jails in which to isolate drug users even though at one-seventh the cost of building and maintaining jail space and pursuing, detaining, and prosecuting the drug user, we could subsidize commensurately effective medical care and psychological treatment. (Wm. F. Buckley, sourced above)
In addition to Buckley’s assertions, numerous countries with more lax drug use laws have found this to be the case.
5. The war on drugs is manipulated by the for-profit corporate prison system (sometimes called “the prison industrial complex”) in the United States. According to a report from the Justice Policy Institute (Gaming The System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies, pdf)
[T]he private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA [Corrections Corporation of America] has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO [Group] spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
While drug arrests certainly are not the only means of the increasing prison population, the four decades since Nixon’s declaration of war has witnessed a 5-fold increase in the prison population. From CBS News:
From the 1920s through the 1960s, the proportion of the population that was incarcerated remained remarkably stable at about 100 inmates per 100,000 people, researcher Robert Brame, PhD, of the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, tells WebMD. Today, Brame says, that figure has soared to 500 inmates per 100,000 people.
The vast majority of drug convictions are for non-violent offenders.
7. The war on drugs increases income for and violence by drug cartels.
The reason drugs continue to be smuggled is because it is profitable for the growers and sellers. Extreme violence is the normative behavior used to protect this income.
“The cross-border flow of money and guns into Mexico from the United States has enabled well-armed and well-funded cartels to engage in violent activities. They employ advanced military tactics and utilize sophisticated weaponry such as sniper rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and even mortars in attacks on security personnel. DTOs have openly challenged the GOM through conflict and intimidation and have fought amongst themselves to control drug distribution routes. The results led to unprecedented violence and a general sense of insecurity in certain areas of the country, particularly near the U.S. border. (Source: United States Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I, Drug and Chemical Control,” U.S. Department of State: March 2010, pdf)
An aside here is that the Operation Fast and Furious fiasco multiple guns into the hands of a drug cartel. These were among seventy firearms used in an attack on a Mexican military helicopter in May 2011.
During the 2008 election cycle I had occasion to speak with a state law enforcement agent in Georgia about this subject. I asked him, “What would happen to the price of illegal drugs if they were suddenly made legal?” He responded, “The bottom would fall out of the price and the market overnight.” That means the cartels would go out of business because few people want to sell a product that has no profit margin.
I am not for using drugs, but in the same way that Prohibition gave rise to crime bosses like Al Capone the drug war has given rise to gangland violence, cartel warfare and unnecessary expansions of government to prop up a failed strategy. The murders in Juarez, Mexico alone should be enough to give pause to people who believe murder to be a sinful tragedy making us ask, “Is this the best way?” I agree with Ron Paul that it is time for a different strategy. My next post will consider his position of decriminalizing drugs.
For other parts in this series: Part 1, How one Christ follower decided to vote for Ron Paul, Part 2, How one Christ follower decided to vote for Ron Paul: Foreign Policy, Part 3, How one Christ follower decided to vote for Ron Paul: Abortion.