Monday, March 31, 2008

FannieMae and Homelessness

On February 8, 2008, FannieMae released the findings of its national survey on the attitudes and perceptions of the American public toward homelessness.

Stacey D. Stewart, FannieMae Senior VP--Office of Community and Charitable Giving, said, "We wanted to know what assumptions Americans shared about people who are homeless and find out what Americans were willing to do to help homeless people. And we wanted to see how close homelessness had come to our neighbors."

The report resulted in the production of a 26-minute video summation entitled, "Homeward Bound: The Path to Ending Homelessness." This presentation introduces viewers to organizations working to overcome homelessness, as well as a number of people who know homelessness personally.

Among the findings of the survey were these interesting tidbits:


  • 89% of Americans believe that our communities are safer when people do not have to live on the streets

  • 93% want to live in a community that provides for the care of its homeless citizens

  • 81% believe communities should construct more affordable housing to serve all of their citizens

  • The majority of Americans polled believe that homelessness is increasing

  • 28% have worried at some point that they might not have a place to live

  • 44% have taken in a friend or relative who was facing homelessness

  • 85% believe that alcohol and drug abuse are major reasons for homelessness

  • Only 9% believe that homelessness can be eliminated

How do you feel about homelessness in your community? How would your answers and experiences line up or differ from those above?

Can homelessness be eliminated?


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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Community Canoe


John Greenan, our resident canoe expert, sent me this photo of what must be considered the ultimate canoe, especially for anyone interested in a community experience!

John's day job is leading the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation in developing housing for our low-income neighbors. But his heart is always on the water!

I can just seem him guiding us down the Trinity River in this rig!

Thanks, John for the new vision of your ultimate dream!

Anyone ready to sign up for a trip with John?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Urban Connection--Austin movin'!



Last Thursday night, 50 or so hopeful folks gathered at the Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas for a meeting with Dean Smith.

Dean is CDM's "man on the ground" in inner city Austin. He is working hard to craft an appropriate approach to the wonderful urban communities that are a vital part of life in the capitol city of Texas.


The group discussed the vision, the dream and the hopes of our efforts in this great American city.

The meeting ended in the same way we began thinking about expansion into Austin almost five years ago: the group prayed.

To find out more about our efforts check out http://www.urbanconnectionaustin.org/.

We are underway!
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Friday, March 28, 2008

WAR!



Check out Christopher Anderson's photo journalism presentation of the war from a photographer's perspective--in this case, war as his generation has seen it:

http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/. When you get to the site, click on the top right quarter of the splash page and watch Christopher's work.

Sand wars.

Moving.

Real.

Horrid.

Not for the faint of heart.

Reactions?

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Urban America needs this war to end



I care about the cities of our nation.

Millions and millions of us call the city home.

Cities concentrate both amazing opportunity and staggering difficulty.

The inner cities of our nation need renewal.

Renewal costs.

At present, funds are drying up for housing, public and higher education, health care, nutrition, infrastructure maintenance and development, employment training and many other necessities of life and growth.

Our inner city communities need help, leadership and new life--the kind of investment that could lift an entire generation of youth out of poverty and onto a new path.

What I have in mind is a "Marshall Plan-type" approach that could break the cycles of generational poverty that continue to devastate our children.

As a nation, we were actually making progress in this direction.

Then came the war.

The cost of the Iraq War staggers the imagination. You can watch a running tabulation of the soaring costs at: http://www.nationalpriorities.org/Cost-of-War/Cost-of-War-3.html. You'll also be able to see the comparative costs as to what these expenditures could purchase in other, much needed services and capital improvements.

Last night we watched the destruction continue, the loss of life, the crippling injuries. . .now inside the "Green Zone" of security.

I find the costs, the rationale and our approach in this conflict bizarre and bewildering from start to finish.

It is time for this war to end, for the incredible spending to stop for the sake of our children, our cities and our national future.

More than 4,000 American dead. Tens of thousands wounded. And this, before we count the Iraqis--and yes, they count too.

The Iraq war should end. Our safety and security as a people would be better served for the next generation if we would turn our attention toward improving life in our urban centers.

The costs are far too high to justify taking even one more step in the current direction.

Our cities need the war to end.

Our children and our grandchildren deserve better.

The cost to our urban centers in terms of the loss of American lives will forever remain inestimable.

It is time that people of faith and moral courage speak up.

Urban America needs this war to end.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's after e-mail????

My fellow teammate, Jeremy Gregg directs our fund development efforts at Central Dallas Ministries.

Take a moment and visit his blog page at: http://theraiser.blogspot.com/2008/03/whats-after-email.html.

Amazing stuff!

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Community organizing paying off

For several months now, Janet Morrison and her team inside Turner Courts in the Rochester Park neighborhood have been working to organize neighbors and city leaders to crack down on the really sub-standard "food stores" in the community.

As I've said here repeatedly, the lack of access to even marginally adequate grocery markets remains a big problem in South Dallas.

Neighbor response to the community organizing efforts has been good and growing.

Now comes this report from WFAA--TV Channel 8 news on the latest results of these efforts.

Take a look at this link.

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Retreating on the poor. . .

Did you see the report on the group of men who took part in a spiritual retreat in Austin, Texas during Holy Week?

It seems the leader of a homeless ministry in that city leads such a group of "seekers" onto the streets for three days. The goal of the retreat is "to connect with God" by striping away the normal creature comforts of the participants. The intention is to "walk among the poor as Jesus did" to grasp the power of the resurrection. Appropriate Easter theme.

One of the participants commented, "We're made aware again just how much of a chasm there is between who we are and who we could be." You know, there but for the grace of God go I.

Another confesses that he wants to "see Jesus in the faces of people who live here permanently." The experience of detachment from the materialism of his normal life causes him to feel like
"standing on a mountaintop and shouting 'Don't you see where the peace is?'"

Such analysis always prompts me to think or to say, "Wonder if the homeless and the impoverished frame their poverty in such joyous, spiritual terms?"

One of the men is a retired theology professor who reported that he has been thinking about the randomness of his situation compared to the homeless people he will meet on the streets. "You meet people in the world who are really powerless. The shoe could be on the other foot." He makes a clear connection between his experience on the streets among the very poor and a personal discovery of how Jesus shared in the human condition during his life.

I expect this little group of Holy Week pilgrims discovered great benefit in their short-term street experience. I expect they learned a great deal from the experience, including new insights about themselves.

But, am I the only person put off by the entire concept?

Wouldn't a more productive way to escape the troublesome limits of materialism involve giving and sharing the wealth and the goods that success brings on a consistent basis? I mean, is it really a good thing to use the poor to grow spiritually in such come and go fashion?

How about forming a new spiritual commitment to doing the hard, daily work of battling poverty on as many fronts and in as many ways as are both possible and necessary to see things actually change?

Maybe these men leave the streets more committed than ever to put an end to homelessness in the Texas capitol. But the report I read in the Austin American-Statesman did not mention such new resolve born of the group's Lenten repentance.

To presume to "come and go" for my own personal "spiritual benefit" seems to raise lots of questions that don't have very satisfying answers.

Maybe it's just me. What do you think?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Destination Home" on Christian News Focus

Thanks to 90.9 KCBI Dallas/Ft. Worth's "Christian News Focus" program for profiling our Destination Home program.

Below is an audio player for their story, which can also be heard here:
http://www.houndbite.com/?houndbite=2656. I thought it might be encouraging.

It is fairly simple really. This initiative is built upon one realization: Homeless people need places to call home.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Senator Obama's Address on Race in America

Over the weekend, I saw Jim Wallis on a CNN interview talking about the speech Senator Barack Obama delivered last week in Philadelphia dealing with race relations in the United States.

Wallis made an important comment that stood out from the other participants who were being interviewed. He suggested that every parent in the nation should sit down with their children and watch the speech together and talk about it. Wallis, and many others, believe that the speech's importance transcends the current political battle going on in the Democratic primary process.

I think Wallis is correct. The speech should be watched and read. Then, we should find ways to reflect on it with others. The subject of race and reconciliation across our nation's racial divides is an important one. It relates directly to the work we are doing in the inner city here and it transcends partisan politics.

Just for the record, here's what the Senator said in a speech he titled, “A More Perfect Union."

_________________________

Constitution Center
Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so na├»ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ray Hunt on great organizations

Ray Hunt runs the Hunt Oil Company. A couple of weeks ago, Hunt delivered a speech to the Texas Energy Council. He talked about economics and the cost of gasoline, predicting that our current high prices are here to stay.

But my interest in his speech has to do with what he said about "the five characteristics that separate great companies from good ones."

1. Great companies develop a strong corporate culture, with shared values and a strong work ethic. "If you have a group of men and women with shared personal values and work ethic, they can do anything," Hunt said.

2. Great companies possess the ability to differentiate themselves from other groups. "If you are like everybody else, that means you're average," Hunt declared.

3. Great companies demonstrate adaptability. Change is expected, never a surprise. The DNA of great teams directs that they will be ready and expect to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and challenges.

4. Great companies adapt with amazing speed. It is no longer enough to be able to change or adapt. It is now necessary to be able to adapt as quickly as possible, and that as a part of normal operating procedures. So much for over valuing the 5-year plan!

5. Great companies are very willing to be contrarian. "If you see the whole industry going in some direction, you will not find us there," Hunt confessed. Hunt expects his employees to make mistakes. In fact, an error-free year likely indicates that a team member was not being aggressive enough. "There is no penalty in our company for a bad idea," Hunt said.

While there is not much connection between the business operations of an oil exploration company now hard at work in Iraq, among other places around the world, and our non-profit, the principles apply. I'm wondering if at some point we would be well-served to have a more in depth conversation with Mr. Hunt.

(The Dallas Morning News, Friday, March 7, 2008, pages 1, 5D)

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Two ways. . .


Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30. It was the beginning of the week of Passover, the most sacred week of the Jewish year. . . .

One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the kingdom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class. . . .

On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Jesus's procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate's proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus's crucifixion. . . .

Imagine the imperial procession's arrival in the city. A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful.

Pilate's procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology. According to this theology, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God. . . . For Rome's Jewish subjects, Pilate's procession embodied not only a rival social order, but also a rival theology. . . .

We return to the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. . . . Jesus planned it in advance. Jesus approaches the city from the east at the end of the journey from Galilee, he tells two of his disciples to go to the next village and get him a colt they will find there, one that has never been ridden, that is, a young one. They do so, and Jesus rides the colt down the Mount of Olives to the city surrounded by a crowd of enthusiastic followers and sympathizers, who spread their cloaks, strew leafy branches on the road, and shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" As one of our professors in graduate school said about forty years ago, this looks like a planned political demonstration.

The meaning of the demonstration is clear, for it uses symbolism from the prophet Zechariah in the Jewish Bible. According to Zechariah, a king would be coming to Jerusalem (Zion) "humble, and riding a colt, the foal of a donkey" (9:9). In Mark, the reference to Zechariah is implicit. Matthew, when he treats Jesus's entry into Jerusalem, makes the connection explicit by quoting the passage: "Tell the daughter of Zion, look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Matt. 21:5, quoting Zech. 9:9). The rest of the Zechariah passage details what kind of king he will be:

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations. (9:10)

This king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land--no more chariots, war-horses, or bows. Commanding peace to the nations, he will be a king of peace.

Jesus's procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate's procession embodied the power, glory and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus's procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God. this contrast--between kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar--is central to. . .the story of Jesus and early Christianity.

from The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's final Week in Jerusalem, Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan (HarperCollins 2006), pages 2-5.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Two groups of robbers. . .

Rev. Robert E. Price, Pastor for the New Mt. Zion Baptist Church here in Dallas has become a great new partner with us. His church supports our Destination Home initiative that provides permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless men and women.

Recently, Rev. Price offered a prayer on behalf of CDM and our efforts among our homeless neighbors. He referred to Jesus' familiar story of the Good Samaritan. He said that there was a man who fell among two groups of thieves.

The first group robbed him and beat him up.

The second group passed him by in his time of distress.

Only the Samaritan stopped to care.

What an insight!

There are all kinds of ways to rob people, aren't there?


I'm thinking the second group of robbers were the worst of all.


How about you?

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Neighbors Together: Jim and David

I've written about Dr. Jim Walton a few times on this blog. I've written about his work at Roseland Homes, a public housing community where Central Dallas Ministries has maintained a constant presence for more than a decade.

I've written about his leadership as one of the architects of the partnership Central Dallas Ministries enjoys with Baylor and with Health Texas Provider Network, the physicians' group supporting the Baylor system.

I've shared his own writing with you, and the good news that he was named the Chief Health Equity Officer for the Baylor Health Care System.

I've also shared with you how Dr. Walton even makes routine, weekly house calls... but today I want to invite you to attend one of those calls with me.

Click here to get to a special site that we've set up to take you deeper into the lives of our neighbors who come to CDM.

This site, http://www.neighborstogethercdm.com/, currently features a film about Dr. Walton and one of his patients, David.

Like many immigrant families, David's family lacks insurance. When David was struck with an intense form of meningitis that left him in a coma for months on end, his family's finances were pushed to the limit.

Thanks to Dr. Walton's work with Central Dallas Ministries, I am proud to say that David continued to receive the care that he needed to not only survive, but to begin to thrive again.

Click here or on the image below to see this miraculous story of neighbors working together to build community.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

511 N. Akard

These shots of our citywalk @akard building were taken recently by friends from the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

We are about 1/3 complete on the asbestos removal and the demolition. By early 2009, 200 units of affordable housing will be open to the public for lease. Fifty of these will be set aside for the homeless.

A friend is pictured below selling copies of Streetzine, a publication designed and marketed by the homeless.

I hope this gentleman finds a place of his own in our building.





Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mayor Tom Leppert Challenges Us

Last Thursday morning, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert provided the keynote address during Central Dallas Ministries' 13th Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast. Over 1,100 guests filled the hall at the Hilton Anatole Hotel to hear the Mayor and to pray for our city.

The Mayor challenged us all to engage more actively in the battle to overcome poverty and to craft a high quality of life for every resident of Dallas.

I expect that his speech will be streaming on our website soon. For now, your can read about the event in The Dallas Morning News' report from last Friday morning (March 14, 2008) right here: Dallas mayor urges businesses to fight homelessness .


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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Community, not charity

Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (NIV)

It may be my favorite snippet from Jesus. Just a brief reflection he offered when at a party table himself, thanks to the invitation of a wealthy religious leader of his day.

I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in his interpretation:

Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God's people." (The Message)

No telling how many times I've read the words. But I just saw something new and extremely important about this story.

No doubt, Jesus is seated at a table with his host for the party meal. As he observes the assembly of invited guests, he offers his suggestion about the guest list the next time his rich friend throws a party. He encourages his friend to invite people who don't often, if ever, receive an invitation to a party.

But, here's what I hadn't thought of until now.

Jesus doesn't have in mind a soup line or a giveaway effort.

What he imagines is exactly what he is enjoying. A sit-down dinner at the host's table. He's talking about serious friendship and fellowship! He wants his friend to discover the joy of the poor.

The reciprocity will not come in the form of any future invitation to come to their homes for a "pay back" party.

No. The payback will be in the event itself and in the eternal scheme of things to come.

I love it.

We dare not settle for the confines of controllable charity. We must dive into the deeps of genuine community engagement.

There we will find the true joy!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

One-Minute Golf Lesson or Finding a Leader is Essential!

Leadership is beyond essential.

Most of us don't stop to consider or to understand just how essential.

Real leaders model new ways of being, new levels of performance. Leaders are consistent, hard working, diligent, tireless, disciplined.

I love this video.

When leadership disappears, everything slides back to "normal." And "normal" is seldom best.

Developing leaders must become a major priority for any person or group interested in community development or renewal.

Enjoy. . .and consider.




Friday, March 14, 2008

Crime, Fear and Community Reality

Crime in the streets unsettles a neighborhood.

We've lived in inner city East Dallas since 1999. For the most part our eclectic community has been free of crime, especially the violent sort. A few petty thieves, the normal run of drug mules and low-level dealers, gangs in the park--that sort of crime.

But now we have a ring of thugs who are smashing in front doors when people are at home. The latest wave of crime is very violent, incredibly brazen and very disturbing because of what appears to be the desperate nature of the criminals.

A couple of nights ago we observed the latest, and by far the clearest, evidence of the serious nature of what's going on here in our neighborhood. A block over from our street the police set up a check point. I don't think I've ever seen one in a residential neighborhood here before.

They were stopping every car and pedestrian moving up or down Fitzhugh Avenue between Junius and Worth Streets. Their purpose: to establish a visible presence in our neighborhood to send a clear signal to the "bad guys" that they needed to go away.

I'll have to admit that it made me feel good seeing them out there in full force. Must have been 6 or 7 squad cars and a full contingent of officers stopping cars, talking to everyone and letting everyone know they were here to stay, at least for a while. What we observed was obviously a well-planned "operation."

As I thought about it, my mind turned toward another neighborhood located in far South Dallas.

It is a very poor community. Crime has been widespread and expected in this area for a long, long time. The neighbors are working hard these days to turn out even a fraction of the police presence we observed in our area this week. I know because some of my friends and work associates are deeply involved.

Our neighborhood is poor, but not as poor as the South Dallas community I have in mind. Ours is very mixed, diverse in about every way. The South Dallas area is all minority and extremely poor, populated mostly by renters. The crime there is much worse, just as violent or more so than our recent eruption, and enduring to the point of being a community tradition.

The desires of the vast majority of the residents of both communities are clearly the same.

We want safe, clean, healthy, kid-friendly neighborhoods.

A few bad apples attempt to ruin it for both areas.

Sadly, the public response to these problems is quite different from one neighborhood to the other.

These differing responses speak clearly to the sorts of problems we still face here in Dallas.

Unfortunately, race, class, income, property values, home ownership rates and reputation still carry far too much weight in terms of how our city invests its limited public safety resources. And, I'm convinced it is the same in many other aspects of our public life and how we divide our assets.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The beauty of reconciliation

Wonder if reconciliation across all the "dividing lines" of our world is even possible?

Disturbed by all the hatred?

Concerned about some of your own feelings of alienation and despair?

Take the time to sit back, possibly grab a beverage, relax and just watch this amazing story brought to you by YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZjZQ6KkiUk.

I'd really appreciate your reactions.

Peace.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Class Action???

No doubt, my attorney buddies, like John Greenan, Ken Koonce, David Deary and Liz Cedillo-Pereira, will be quick to set me straight on what I am about to suggest (I'd expect talk that includes terms like "summary judgment," "not possible,"or the like).

But, hey, good advice has never prevented my throwing wild ideas out, so here goes!

Sitting in immigration court on Monday with two really smart graduates of DISD schools, both of whom face deportation, started my thought process.

These young people attended our public schools for 11 years each. From second grade forward, Monica and Jesse worked their way through our education system, a public institution that I paid for, at least in part, with my tax dollars.

Here's my idea: a class action law suit against the U. S. Department of Justice, Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for squandering my investment in these young lives by removing them from our community.

In fact, the action to deport two really fine students at a time when our workforce and our educational systems are crying for well-trained bi-lingual employees makes the situation even more ridiculous.

Give me a couple of days and I'll come up with the metrics on what my investment has been in these two students--annual cost to educate a child from second through the senior year. Multiply that by the number of children/students who are being deported by our government at present and you can arrive at the total cost in taxpayer dollars of this colossal disinvestment.

In my opinion it is highway robbery. If the federal government intends to deport all of these students, I demand a refund!

Now all I need is a good, courageous lawyer with a bit of free time. Any takers?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Immigration Court on Monday. . .

Sitting in federal immigration court here in Dallas provides insights into the current national struggle for reform, as well as the heritage we enjoy as a people. While often enraged by the manner in which our current policy is working against so many great people who desire to be part of our national life, I am moved by the personal stories that unfold in the courtroom.

Monica's hearing Monday was set last on the docket, so we heard every other case before lunch. I took some notes as I listened.

One man from Mexico received "voluntary deportation," which means he has to be out of the country in 120 days, the maximum delay the court can award. In determining the length of his "grace period," the judge asked him how much time he needed to leave. His answer revealed that he would need to sell his home before leaving. The man, in his mid-thirties, was obviously a very hard working provider for his family, who were also present in the courtroom.

Obviously, I don't know his story. But if first impressions mean anything, he impressed me as the sort of gentleman I'd love to have for a next door neighbor. He paid property taxes. He worked hard. He was an asset to our community. But he must leave.

Then, there was the woman from El Salvador who had applied for asylum under the immigration statute. She had no attorney because she could not afford the fee required by the lawyers she consulted and Catholic Charities was receiving no new clients. With her was her precious baby girl. She appeared to be about 9 or 10 months old. The judge seemed perplexed by her situation and didn't know what do advise regarding counsel.

Liz, Monica's attorney, signaled the judge and he asked the woman to step outside for a moment with Liz to discuss her case. It seemed a very unusual and compassionate move by the judge. I joined them outside the courtroom to offer our support. Liz calmly laid out a strategy for helping her out. Liz, a Catholic Charities probono attorney, will represent her and Central Dallas Ministries will be there as well going forward. When we returned to the court and her case continued it was very clear that the judge appreciated Liz's responsiveness.

When things were complete, the judge invited the woman to bring her baby up to the bench. The judge took the child in his arms and played with her and encouraged the mother. I later learned that the judge is expecting his first grandchild, a little boy.

Returning to the courtroom, we heard the end of the case of an 11-year-old boy. He had evidently been picked up at the border when fleeing from El Salvador and placed under the supervision of the court. The judge reviewed his report card and directed him to return to court in early summer. Who knows what his status will be at that time.

Another man appeared before the court without representation. He could not afford an attorney. He accepted voluntary deportation in four months. As his hearing concluded, it was clear that his main concern was to recover the bond his father-in-law had put up when he was detained. He seemed to care more about that obligation than his own future. Listening to him was very sad to me.

During the proceedings, others were deported or received voluntary departure status. Each story was compelling.

One aspect shared in common by all who were in the court to appear before the bar of the U. S. Department of Justice seemed to be economics. Almost all were poor or very poor. Many had no representation before the court. All were working people.

I don't think anyone, no matter what their ideology or politics, could sit in this courtroom and not be touched by the dilemmas facing good people who are here for many different reasons, all of which tie back to the essence of the dream our nation holds up to the whole world.

They want to be here.

Who can blame them?

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Update on Monica

Thanks to the brilliant tactics of Monica's attorney, Liz Cedillo-Pereira, and to a very fair and open judge, Monica's case was delayed for another two months. During this time, we will be working on promoting a private bill in the U. S. Congress on her behalf. This very inefficient and unwieldy process leaves a lot to be desired, but it may be our only recourse at this point.

We are also pursuing options in Mexico in the event that Monica is forced to leave the United States.

Thanks for all who prayed for her this morning. Something very special took place in the courtroom today.

More later.

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Monica

We will be back in federal immigration court again today. Monica (for details and background, type her name in this page's Search tool) appears for what might be her final hearing.

Last week Jose received a "voluntary deportation" directive to be fulfilled in 120 days.

Legal counsel is not optimistic that Monica will receive any different determination.

Questions, so many questions arise as I consider the future of these wonderful young people.

Both were brought to the United States by their undocumented parents when they were very small children. For years, as a community, we have invested in their growth, education and productivity. Now that they are at the very beginning of adulthood, enrolled in college and eager to learn and to serve, we as a nation cast them out.

Sorry, but I cannot see the sense or the logic in this action.

We need comprehensive immigration reform, an impossibility in the short run. In the meantime, we need the D.R.E.A.M. Act to provide relief, hope and a fair remedy to young people like Monica and Jose.

Please pray for them today.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fundamentalism, a very real problem

Fundamentalism is a problem, a very real problem.

The notion that we can arrive at and possess “the truth,” objective, absolute truth, runs counter to just about every real life, human circumstance or experience I can imagine. Not only is absolute truth beyond my reach, in reality I never even come close to it.

On an autobiographical note, I was reared in a religious tradition that assured me that absolute truth was attainable. All I had to do was read the Bible and it would be mine. Early on I came to realize that was not true! Ironic, huh? I've spent the last 30-plus years unraveling that childhood conditioning.

We move to a new level of absurdity when we promote the idea that this “attainable” truth can be gleaned from a particular source. Most onerous in this regard would be to focus on any one of several “holy books.” And, it’s not so much the books, but the conviction that my particular reading of these sources leads me to “truth” that cannot be challenged, must be defended and, even worse, must be propagated as a part of my life mission.

Fundamentalism, with its sharply contrasting black and white approach to issues, renders life largely, if not completely unworkable in a pluralistic, complicated world such as ours.

The particular brand of Fundamentalism doesn’t matter so much. The outcomes of the pursuit of such a system end up being about the same no matter what the particulars of the various sources.

Islamic Fundamentalists blow themselves up and kill innocents with great confidence and in the name of Allah for the sake of their Truth. Such extremists live to murder infidels as a sacred obligation before passing on to Paradise.

Jewish Fundamentalists refuse to recognize the claims of their Palestinian neighbors, claiming the Truth of the great land promises laid out so clearly in their Hebrew Bible. No concession can be tolerated for those who seek to block the certain eternal truths of the promises of their God.

Christian Fundamentalists preach a black and white message, are quiet certain about the truth of their Gospel and seem absolutely unquestioning in their approach to the Bible. With absolute confidence they murder doctors who perform abortions, regard homosexuals as perverts or objects of disdain, if not extermination, and consign those with differing opinions to Hell’s literal lake of fire.

In general, Fundamentalists don't do much to promote the positives of their various religious heritages.

Unfortunately, Fundamentalists are missionaries by definition. They must spread "the truth," their truth, no matter the cost. If called on, they willingly die def ending the truth about which they are completely certain. No room for conversation or new understandings.

Fundamentalism is a problem.

Too often it leads to death, literally and spiritually. Death is never good.

It cannot aid us in solving our most pressing problems today. In fact, it only adds to the problems we face. Dividing communities into warring parties, Fundamentalism stands over against almost every value necessary for human reconciliation and community building.

Fundamentalism is a problem, a very real problem.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Trout and Better Living. . .


Trout fishing--well, simply put, there is nothing quite like it.

Since my college days in in the Ozarks, when I scheduled classes to allow for plenty of "stream time," I've been hooked on the sport.

I prefer fly fishing, but I've caught more than my share using spinning gear, not to mention country boy garlic cheese set ups! the soybean farmers taught me a lot about landing Rainbows!

Watching a Brown run at a dry fly, breaking the water as it scoops up what appears to be a tasty morsel--hard to beat in my book.

Rainbows, Brookies, Cutthroats, Goldens, Browns. . .each is so unique and truly beautiful.

Catch.

Observe and appreciate.

Release, unless it is lunch time.

Just being out in the woods, wading a stream, camping on a river bank--it all adds up to renewal and regeneration.

I'm a card carrying member of Trout Unlimited (http://www.tu.org/).

Trout magazine comes with membership. In the latest issue (Winter 2008), I learned that what's good for trout turns out to be good for people.

The editors of the magazine published their legislative agenda in this issue. I was amazed at how each point, if enacted by the Congress, would make life better for both fish and humans.

Here's a sampling for your consideration:

In the current Farm Bill (the same one that funds the Food Stamp program for low-income families, as well as the free and reduced lunch programs for our children), TU is lobbying for $6 billion in funding for conservation and water improvement projects to protect the habitat we humans share and enjoy with the fish of the land!

Hardrock Mining Law reform provides for action to improve 40% of Western headwater streams that have been degraded by pollution from abandoned gold and silver mines. The recommended bill would clean up old mines that compromise the health of fish and folks.

Clean Water Restoration Act (H. R. 2421 and S. 1870) would allow for the ongoing regulation of streams and wetlands development--again, provisions that benefit trout and the rest of us.

The Energy Bill needs strengthening so that regulatory protection does not allow oil and gas exploration on public lands without the application of Clean Water Act regulations.

Fish-friendly agency budgets that fully fund conservation programs, including fisheries and a number of conservation projects, are also targeted for support in the next authorization legislation.

Trout lists several other legislative issues, but you get the picture.

Take care of the trout and we'll be insuring higher quality of life for ourselves!

Got a pole? Or, maybe a canoe?


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Friday, March 07, 2008

Sad growth

Common knowledge informs us that approximately one million Americans each year over the past five out of six years have fallen below the poverty line in terms of their household earnings.

That is a staggering number.

We encounter the personal plunge on a daily basis. It is undeniable.

For the latest evidence, consider the numbers we've collected here at Central Dallas Ministries during the first two months of 2008 in our Resource Center on Haskell Avenue. We distribute food products and provide our own version of "neighborhood case management" from this high-traffic community center.

During January-February 2007, we provided services, friendship and hope to 6,202 individuals representing 3,783 families. We did so thanks to the volunteers who provided us 2,564 hours of service time.

Compare the same January-February period this year and you discover that we engaged 8,315 individuals from 4,832 family units--an increase of thirty-four (34) and twenty-eight (28) percent respectively. Our volunteers logged 3,052 hours in providing for these dramatically increasing needs.

I'm glad we are here.

I appreciate our volunteers--the vast majority being great folks with few material resources who receive our services themselves.

But, I see this as very, very sad growth.

We should be doing better as a people and as a nation. Sadly, in my view, no one in the current presidential campaign addresses this pressing national problem.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Unusual appeal. . .hard funding



Raising almost $9 million in 2008 to underwrite our work presents a major challenge.

A few things are working against us.

Historically, funding for non-profits trends downward during election years. Don't ask me why, but this is what the experts tell us. For the record, this has not been our experience here. I am hoping we will continue to buck the averages.

Then, the economy seems headed for the cellar! Already donors are telling us that their personal financial planning will likely involve trimming the line item marked "Charitable Donations" in their budgets.

No matter what the financial climate from year to year, there are some financial needs that are very hard to fund due to their special, unique and "indirect" nature.


Try this one on.

Over the past year we have been working hard to build an auto, truck, RV and boat resale business as a way to raise unrestricted funds to pour back into our operations budget. We have had considerable success, especially in view of the fact that we have put very little in the way of funding into the project and we've only been at it a short time. Our return on investment has been surprising.

One thing we have learned. Auto donations follow directly on our advertising efforts. Thanks to a supporter who owns a billboard company, we have had great responses and results.

Now we intend to plaster our food trucks with advertising for CDM Cars. The cost to paint our two large trucks: right at $6,000.

Hard funds to raise. But, funds for a project that will deliver much more funding. Such "investment" philanthropy is not for everyone.

Anyone out there who would be willing to help us with this project?

Let us know or just send your checks to me at: "Truck Project," c/o Larry James, Central Dallas Ministries, P. O. Box 710385, Dallas, TX 75371-0385 or go online at http://www.centraldallasministries.org/ and donate there--be sure and note that you are giving for the special CDM Cars project.

We'll see.

[I've posted the art work for you to see.]

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Prisons and the Destruction of Life and Community

Too many of our men and women, especially African Americans, end up in prison. Too often innocent people land in prison without relief for years and years. Thanks to advances in DNA technology, a number of people enjoy freedom today. But, their release doesn't return the years lost locked up unjustly.

The entire question of prisons and inner city communities is one we face again and again.

On Monday, our own Gerald Britt (VP of Public Policy and Community Program Development) published a strong Op-Ed piece in The Dallas Morning News.

Here's a bit of what he said:

Gerald Britt: Prisoners of the streets At the risk of overstating the obvious, the world was a different place 27 years ago.

There were no cellphones, DVDs were unknown, and VCRs were budget-busting toys. "Green" was just a primary color, the Cold War was still raging, and the Reagan era had just begun. And Charles Allen Chatman was sentenced to 99 years for rape.

On Jan. 3, Mr. Chatman became the 15th man in Dallas County to be released from prison, exonerated by DNA evidence. This will probably be categorized as old news by some readers; others won't even recognize the name or the case. And, for me, that's troubling.

Follow the link above to read the entire essay. Gerald's works are on target, as usual.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Living in Dallas. . .Housing That's Affordable?

Last Saturday, Mike Simms offered an Op-Ed essay in The Dallas Morning News regarding the increasing cost of housing in the city of Dallas. Worth reading.

Here's a taste of it:

Mike Sims: Can Dallas workers afford Dallas? Everywhere you look in Dallas, we are making progress. The national bird of Texas, the construction crane, fills our skies once again. In my North Dallas neighborhood, bulldozers are knocking down $500,000 houses so $1.5 million residences can replace them. Not far from Presbyterian Hospital, thousands of low- and moderate-income apartments have been razed, and acres of vacant land stand ready for redevelopment.

I hope you'll take the time to "click in" and read it all. Simms understands what we are facing here as a community.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Jose: Deported



Last week my young friend, Jose appeared once again in federal immigration court here in Dallas. We pled his case with the federal prosecutor, begging him to exercise his administrative discretion and delay deporting our young friend until he completed college.

We informed him that Central Dallas Ministries committed to stand with him, pay for his higher education and support him in every other way as he completed college. All we wanted was a delay until he completed his education.

The prosecutor's office had indicated in earlier conversations that such an arrangement might be possible, even desirable.

In court those hopes were dashed.

The government's attorney argued that if he did it for Jose, he would be compelled to do it for every other young person like Jose. What he failed to acknowledge was our commitment as an organization to stand with the student over the four-year period in question.

Jose was brought to the United States as a child by his undocumented parents. Now he must return to a nation he knows nothing about. Sending Jose to Mexico would be about like my sending my daughters to Scotland when they turned 18.

Jose received a judgment of "voluntary deportation" in 120 days--four months.

The only alternative we and Jose have is to lobby the U. S. Congress for an individual bill declaring that he can stay in the country, a very unlikely prospect given the current climate regarding immigration.

It is a very sad development. I honestly don't know what we as a people are thinking. When will we wake up?

[Jose is pictured above standing at the left of a Washington Bureau reporter for The Dallas Morning News in the halls of a U. S. Senate Office Building where he had gone to lobby Senators on behalf of the D.R.E.A.M. Act that would have provided relief to young people such as himself. To learn more about the background to this case, enter "Monica" in the search box above.]



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Sunday, March 02, 2008

When atheists love Jesus. . .

I "lifted" this photo from the blog of a person of faith.

The gent on the left in the "Atheists for Jesus" T-shirt is best-selling author and atheist apologist, Richard Dawkins.

Hmmm.

Let's see now. An atheist, even a famous atheist, wearing an "advertisement" for Jesus even though he has no faith in God or the idea of a deity.

What's up with that?

I expect it has something to do with the radical, people-honoring values of Jesus. He can be irresistable in that regard.

Wonder what would happen if those who claim to follow Jesus resolved to act like him, especially in regard to other people on the planet?

Here's an idea: Christians shut up. . .er, excuse my harshness. . .stop talking.

No more words.

Just remember what Jesus did and go and do likewise!

Just a thought.



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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Took care of it early. . .





Anticipating a crazy day next Tuesday, Brenda and I voted yesterday.

Something about voting always excites me, no matter how many times I enter the voting booth.

I suppose I remain naive and optimistic enough to believe that it all matters. I know for sure that the sort of freedom we enjoy here did not come easy or on the cheap.

The early voting location nearest us is in Fair Park at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center. The lines were long and the campaign workers abundant!

I have to admit, I love the process.

If you haven't cast your vote, I hope you will. If you have, either in Texas or somewhere else, thanks for taking the time to invest your opinion in an extremely important process for our national life.


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