Category: Public Policy

raphaelsanzio_healingofthelameman - CopyJohn Teevan’s recent profile of Bob Woodson and the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) reminded me of a profoundly impactful tour I took of George Wythe High School in Richmond, Va., which was led by Mr. Woodson as a case study of CNE success.

The tour was part of a seminar with the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, and was intended to showcase effective solutions to social problems. In this, it greatly succeeded, highlighting that any such solutions can only be effective insofar as they take into account the full needs and dreams of the human person.

The school had recently emerged from a season of heavy violence and crime, due in large part to its partnership with CNE’s Violence-Free Zone Initiative, which seeks to restore peace and trust to broken communities by equipping local schools with on-the-ground “Youth Advisors” and partnering with local organizations, churches, and law enforcement.

Rep. Steve Southerland, who also joined the tour, wrote a brief account of the trip, which includes a good summary of the initiative and how it’s benefited George Wythe:

This violence-reduction and high-risk student mentoring program prepares students to learn by equipping them through relationships with the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome violence. The Richmond public schools system has worked in conjunction with CNE to create the Violence-Free Zone. Youth advisors who are affiliated with the Richmond Outreach Center, a local church, and who have overcome similar challenges, work as hall monitors, mediators, character coaches, and trusted friends.  For the 2009-2010 school year, George Wythe reported a 26% decrease in fighting, a 68% decrease in truancy, and a 63% reduction in dropouts since the inception of the Violence-Free Zone program. (emphasis added)

Led by Woodson, we able to interact with several Youth Advisers and local pastors, each of whom poured out their hearts, telling numerous stories of reconciliation and restoration with students and explaining how, thanks to the people and programs now in place, many conflicts are being promptly defused while students see greater and greater levels of success and empowerment—spiritually, socially, academically, and beyond. (more…)

322904-thumbnailThe Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in Washington is led by Robert Woodson who founded it in 1981 to help neighborhoods where what he calls “the poverty industry” doesn’t seem to help much. He’s torqued that many fellow African Americans have abandoned their poor brothers except to exploit them noting that 70 cents of every welfare dollar goes to social workers, counselors and others. His organization has trained 2,500 field workers in 39 states. He believes that instead of more government programs there is a need for investment in cities.

His alternative method is to find the 30 percent of homes in a neighborhood where there are moms and dads and to work with them to start businesses. His method is not to sue banks or insurance companies, but to arrange meetings to get people to see each other and to hear about proposals such as new housing citing one such project in Detroit.

It’s worked not only in housing, but with tree trimmers, barbers, cab drivers, and locksmiths who have been helped through the maze of regulations that block their entry into the small business market. He’s also a fan of faith-based help to “former drug attics and criminals, who tell you that prison couldn’t change them and a psychiatrist couldn’t change them but a spiritual experience did.” It works!

After a farmer in Australia had a change of heart about keeping his chickens in battery cages, he freed all 752 hens. The video below (via Rod Dreher) shows the chickens taking their first steps on soil, and feeling sunshine for the first time.

What is your initial reaction on seeing the video? Did you roll your eyes at the liberal-leaning, anti-business, vegetarian-loving motive that surely inspired the clip? Did you automatically assume the “animal rights” nuts (the video was created by Animals Australia, a group founded by the evil-promoting bioethicist Peter Singer) are off on one of their Quixotic crusades again? Or did it make you sad — like it did me — that an atheistically inspired movement appears to be more concerned about God’s creatures than are many of our fellow Christians?

If a poll were taken on the question of which group has the most care and concern for the welfare of animals, Christians—whether Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, etc.—would invariably be near the bottom of the list. How did we lose our status as stewards of creation? After all, animal welfare was once considered the province of Christians. In fact, one of the first organized movements for animal welfare dates back to 1824, when William Wilberforce‚ the British politician who worked to abolish the slave trade‚ and other evangelicals helped establish the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Catholics too have a long and rich history of concern for God’s creatures that dates back at least as far as St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. Theoretically, the Church’s position hasn’t changed. In an interview given before he became pontiff, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said that animals must be respected as our “companions in creation.” He acknowledged that while it is acceptable to use them for food,
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Creation and the Heart of Man by Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss

Creation and the Heart of Man by Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss

Is global warming irrational? Is it bad science? Yes, to both says Nigel Lawson, a member of the U.K. House of Lords and chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. However, Lawson takes it one step further; he calls global-warming alarmism “wicked.”

In a lengthy piece at National Review Online, Lawson first details being threatened by those who insist on the “facts” of global-warming. However, he insists that – at least professionally – he has nothing to lose at this point, so he proceeds to disassemble the arguments for global-warming. Is there climate change? Indeed, says Lawson, there is:

The climate changes all the time, in different and unpredictable (certainly unpredicted) ways, and indeed often in different ways in different parts of the world. It always has done this and no doubt it always will. The issue is whether that is a cause for alarm — and not just moderate alarm. According to the alarmists it is the greatest threat facing humankind today: far worse than any of the manifold evils we see around the globe that stem from what the pope called “man’s inhumanity to man.”

He calls global-warming a “belief system” and evaluates it as such. He tackles the greenhouse effect, the question of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, whether or not the planet really is warmer (and if so, is that a problem?) and the question of whether or not we can legitimately do anything about global-warming, if it indeed exists. (more…)

keep-calm-and-expect-the-unexpected-18Today at Bloomberg we find this unexpected news about unemployment:

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-week high, underscoring the difficulty adjusting the data for seasonal variations such as the Easter holiday and spring recess at schools.

Jobless claims rose by 14,000 to 344,000 in the period ended April 26, the highest level since Feb. 22, Labor Department data showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 320,000.

There are two things the media never expects: (1) The Spanish Inquisition and (2) increases in jobless claims. Over the past five years, in 30 of the past 60 months,  the media has considered it “unexpected” when jobless claims increase:

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tusAt the bottom of this storm and tornado roundup from The Weather Channel, there is a powerful slideshow on the devastation in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The death count in the region stands at 31. Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant described yesterday as “The most active tornado day in Mississippi history.”

Some people forget that it is denominational church agencies that often are the first to meet the material needs and bring comfort to the afflicted. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is well known for their rapid response. I covered that agency more in depth in the “The Church and Disaster Relief: Shelter from the Stormy Blast” in the Spring 2011 issue of Religion & Liberty. The article is a good introduction into how church agencies are more efficient and effective than governmental agencies when it comes to disaster response. This is in part due to the fact that they already have built in relationships and organizations on the ground.

The Southern Baptist Church has almost 90,000 trained volunteers—including chaplains—and 1,550 mobile units for feeding. They have chainsaw teams, power generators, shower and laundry facilities, water purification devices, and offer child-care, to name just a few of their services. I saw firsthand how Hurricane Katrina really multiplied the power and commitment of religious agencies to provide lasting hope through a long-term commitment to rebuilding. It might surprise some readers that Christian churches are still sending volunteers and money to the Gulf Coast which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

People who face devastation need to feel like they are not alone. A human touch that has the power to reflect the incarnated Christ who was sent to lift up and resurrect a disordered world is invaluable. The great promise of Christianity is that the Lord is a God of recovery and restoration. While government can offer services and help, it can’t offer the kind of hope that has overcome the things of this world.

tenth-200In our modern era, the ancient sin of covetousness primarily manifests itself in three forms: greed, theft, and arguments about inequality. The greedy selfishly desire to acquire what others have, thieves illicitly acquire what others have, and equality advocates want the government to redistribute what others have.

It would be unfair, of course, to assume that all critics of inequality are driven by covetousness. But if you stripped away that sin as a motivation, the number of people who care about inequality could be fit into an Occupy Wall Street drum circle.

Imagine if we all took a vow to shun covetousness, especially when advocating public policies. Garett Jones suggest we do just that, with his proposal for the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club:
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DiversityWith its decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ended systemic racial segregation in public education. Now, sixty years later, courts have released hundreds of school districts from enforced integration—with the result being an increase in “resegregation” of public schools.

Numerous media outlets have recently picked up on a story by the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica about schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. According to the report:

In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South and nearly a quarter in Alabama now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended intensely segregated schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.

Why has this resegregation occurred? A forty-year-old experiment on racial diversity might just hold the answer.
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, April 25, 2014
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In conjunction with Arbor Day — a day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the U.S. and other countries CLF - Olmstead Parks— Ashley Evaro offers a brief theological reflection on the role of trees in the story of our salvation:

Christians should care about National Arbor Day (to those who don’t know, that is today). Even if you are not a devoted celebrator of trees, it is worth your time to stop and consider what wonderful things trees are. Not only are they ascetically appealing, they are present in almost any climate, and provide shade and food. Practicality aside, the Bible illustrates many points through trees. The prevalence of trees and tree imagery in the Bible should shed light on other ways to appreciate and consider these majestic pillars of nature. To explore this idea, let us look at some specific examples of trees in the Bible and examine what they ought to signify to the Believer.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, April 24, 2014
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cittfcSpeaking of Thomas Piketty, here’s a very helpful and revealing interview with Matthew Yglesias, “Thomas Piketty doesn’t hate capitalism: He just wants to fix it.” (HT: PEG)

A few highlights with some comment:

On the need for a historical perspective in economics:

Thomas Piketty: … It’s not only economists’ fault. Historians and sociologists are too often are leaving the study of economic issues to economists. Sometimes nobody does it.
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