Category: common peace consensus

Tulia-style drug bust draws suspicion in Wichita Falls

Alleged Tulia kingpin, Joe Welton Moore

The good folks in Wichita Falls, Texas are celebrating the arrest of 44 drug kingpins, with four or five additional arrests waiting in the wings. 

“It’s a good number of arrests, but the reality is there are probably still five-times as many of these types of criminals out there,” Sheriff David Duke told the Wichita Falls Times Record News. “It’s a scary thing to think that this stuff is being sold in our neighborhoods, near our children. A lot of these dealers are armed because of competition with other dealers. And many will steal, rob and commit financial crimes to facilitate their operations.”

No one associated with the infamous Tulia drug sting of 1999 can read these words without recalling the proud pronouncements of Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart and his undercover man, Tom Coleman. (more…)

Perry fiddles while Texas burns

By Alan Bean

“This is an engineered crisis—a thing that was done on purpose by people who do not mean well for our community, our city, our state or nation.” Jim Schutze

Texas is facing an estimated $27 billion deficit.  Governor Rick Perry and his fellow ideologues gutted the state’s property taxes two years ago, then sat back and waited for the inevitable.  At the time, according to this terrific article by Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer, Texas Comptroller, Diane Keaton Strayhorn, predicted that this radical decrease in tax money would create a deficit of $23 billion by 2011 unless new sources of revenue could be found. 

Ms. Strayhorn didn’t factor in the worst financial crisis since the great depression, but the accuracy of her numbers suggest that any thinking Texan could have seen the current imbroglio coming.  (Thanks to Gerald Britt at Change the Wind for bringing Mr. Schutze’s article to my attention). (more…)

Is prison a down payment on hell?

By Alan Bean

Megachurch pastor, Rob Bell has a new book coming out that claims hell is freezing over.  “Eternal life doesn’t start when we die;” Rev. Bell asserts, “it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.”

Not surprisingly, Pastor Bell is being trashed by the evangelical establishment . . . and the book hasn’t even come out.

Have you ever noticed the strong correlation between a stout belief in hell and support for mass incarceration? I doubt anyone has done any polling on this, but there is a powerful narrative connection between hell and prison.  If God plans to toss the miscreant into the lake of fire at judgment day, why should we be concerned about rehabilitation here below?  God gives up on people; why shouldn’t we? (more…)

Stories we believe in: learning from Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm

By Alan Bean

American liberals can’t fathom the appeal of the Tea Party phenomenon.  Here we are, struggling to recover from a recession created by massive tax cuts, military adventurism, and an under-regulated financial sector and what are they asking for: more tax cuts, even less government regulation, and more military spending.

Moreover, this message sells in the heartland, big-time.

By every standard of rationality, progressive politics should be enjoying a renaissance.  The alternative has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  And yet politicians aligned with Tea Party rhetoric are winning elections and shaping the political agenda.  How can these things be? (more…)

“To save money, let’s all quit our jobs and drop out of school!”

A week ago, Gerald Britt wrote a column for the Dallas Morning News questioning the sanity of the program-cutting frenzy in Washington (see below).  In his blog, Rev. Britt updates his crique.  The striking conclusion to the blog post sums things up nicely:

The Rev. Gerald Britt

“In order to rebuild the economy, we must cut education spending, cut job training, cut supports for the low-income and elderly, cut access to health care for those who can least afford it AND give tax cuts to those who have no track record of utilizing tax cuts for 10 years to provide jobs to stimulate the economy?! And, after we have enacted all of these cuts, the poor and low income, the untrained, the elderly, the homeless, the hungry, the incarcerated, the sick and the poorly educated and the inadequately educated will provide the foundation for a new and revived economy?

Seriously?

It’s the equivalent of a family deciding that, in order to save money on gas, we will all quit our jobs and drop out of school.” (more…)

Campolo: Why the Christian Right will Dominate

As an evangelical Christian with a progressive social agenda, Tony Campolo has occupied and defended an uncomfortable patch of territory in the American religious world.

I’m not sure how much of the horror story Tony relates in this article is autobiographical, but we can be sure the Eastern University sociologist and American Baptist preacher knows whereof he speaks.  This frank discussion of a painful subject was written for Christian Ethics Today, a publication sponsored by moderate evangelicals seeking to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.

Have you ever wondered why there are so few progressive religious voices in the popular media?  Dr. Campolo tells us exactly why that is, leaving little to the imagination.  As we seek to forge a new moral consensus for ending mass incarceration, we need to know what we’re up against.  Alan Bean

Why The Religious Right Will Dominate

By Tony Campolo

Eastern University

There are reasons why Religious Right Evangelicals will continue to dominate religious discourse, not only in their own sector of the Christian community, but also in what transpires in mainline denominations. Moderate voices, for the most part, are being sidelined and those with liberal views will find fewer and fewer means to express their opinions or gain an audience for their convictions. (more…)

Texas history texts ripped by conservative group

By Alan Bean

“If all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”  – George Orwell, 1984

George Orwell learned how easily the past is misremembered as a combatant in the Spanish Civil War and during his years with the BBC in WWII.  Orwell is a hero to both the left and the right because he believed in relating historical fact as objectively and honestly as fallible flesh is able. 

As the culture wars rage, it is incumbent upon partisans on the left and right to police their own side of the conflict.  When 57% of Republicans believe the president is a Muslim, 45% believe he was born outside the United States, and 24% believe Mr. Obama may be the antiChrist, we’ve got a problem that only Republican leaders can effectively address.  We aren’t selling out when we critique our own people; we’re ensuring that the game is fairly played.

That is precisely what the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has done in its report on the historical curricula taught in American schools.  Their dissection of the Texas State Board of Education’s distorted historical vision is utterly devastating.  I have pasted some of the pithy highlights below, but I urge you to read the entire report. (more…)

Isaiah 58:1-12: a word to the righteous

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

 A new moral consensus for ending mass incarceration must flow from narratives of faith.  Isaiah 58 is a natural starting place. 

The setting for this prophecy is the hard years following the return from Babylonian captivity, approximately 500 BCE.   The people who made the trek back to Jerusalem quickly became disillusioned.  The walls of holy city were still broken down.  Solomon’s glorious temple lay in ruins.  Work began on a new temple, a modest structure a fraction the size of the building it replaced, but progress was slow.

The people had expected more.  Much more.  They couldn’t understand why God was letting them down.  Their commitment to Torah had strengthened considerably during the hard years of exile.  Worship attendance, sabbath keeping and tithing were all way up. 

Still the people struggled.  They couldn’t understand why such bad things were happening to such good people. 

Isaiah’s response speaks for itself. (more…)

Can we end mass incarceration without mentioning race?

By Alan Bean

The criminal justice reform movement has two distinct branches that may have trouble sharing a common message or strategy.

The first branch of reformers is best represented by Michelle Alexander’s “New Jim Crow” thesis.  Alexander sees the war on drugs as primarily an assault on poor people of color.  Reformers, she argues, have either avoided racial arguments altogether, or have focused on Rosa Parks-type defendants who transcend racial stereotypes.  Consider this quote from her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

Challenging mass incarceration requires something civil rights advocates have long been reluctant to do: advocacy on behalf of criminals. Even at the height of Jim Crow segregation—when black men were more likely to be lynched than to receive a fair trial in the South—NAACP lawyers were reluctant to advocate on behalf of blacks accused of crimes unless the lawyers were convinced of the men’s innocence . . . outside of the death penalty arena, civil rights advocates have long been reluctant to leap to the defense of accused criminals. Advocates have found they are most successful when they draw attention to certain types of black people (those who are easily understood by mainstream whites as ‘good’ and ‘respectable’) and tell certain types of stories about them. Since the days when abolitionists struggled to eradicate slavery, racial justice advocates have gone to great lengths to identify black people who defy racial stereotypes, and they have exercised considerable message discipline, telling only those stories of racial injustice that will evoke sympathy among whites. (more…)

Does banning the noose change anything?

For the fourth straight year, Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced an anti-noose bill.  The Noose Hate Crime Act of 201 stipulates that “Whoever, with intent to harass or intimidate any person because of that person’s race, color, religion, or national origin, displays a noose in public shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.”

Hate crimes legislation, though admirable at first glance, raises serious First Amendment issues.  In practice, it will be difficult to prove that a specific noose hanger was motivated by a desire to “harass or intimidate”. 

Jackson Lee’s bill was first introduced as a response to the noose hanging in Jena Louisiana, but I’m not sure it would (or should) apply to that kind of situation.  What would have been gained by locking up the Jena noose hangers for two years?  Would this teach them a lesson they would never forget, or would it simply harden the racial resentment that motivated their act in the first place? (more…)