Monday, October 29, 2018

Bible and the Ballot Voting Workshop

Here are a few resources to prepare you for the November 6th 2018 general election… Using this website, you can find information on your public officials, polling places, and download a SAMPLE BALLOT based on your address. You can use this for research and take the sample ballot into the polls with you on election day. You will find a comparison of candidates and questionnaires.  You can search the voting records of your current public officials. These are resources for researching judicial candidates Highlights campaign donations

Important Dates:
11/1/18                                                                                Last day to request ballot for mailing
11/5/18                                                                                Last day to early vote
11/6/18                                                                                General Election Day

Voter Bill of RightsYou have the right to:

  1. Cast your ballot without interference.

  2. Vote if you are in line by 7:00 p.m.

  3. Go to your home precinct and present IDs on election day to (a) register to vote or (b) update your registration, and then cast a ballot if you have not voted already at this election.

  4. Vote at your old polling place if you moved less than 31 days before the election.

  5. Get help voting from the election judges or from an eligible relative or friend.

  6. Use endorsements, sample ballots or notes while voting.

  7. Protect the secrecy of your ballot.

  8. Check your ballot choices and correct any mistakes.

  9. Have your ballot counted fairly and impartially.

  10. Have your young child with you in the voting booth.

Remember, your vote matters!      Happy Voting!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Crime, poverty, and superhero citizens 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

I recently spent a week in New York City wandering around, visiting old friends. While there, I decided to catch a train to Harlem, the African-American cultural mecca. Unbeknownst to me, my subway ride would the most enlightening and inspiring event the entire week. 

In true New York fashion, a battle over space on the subway platform bubbled over into a full-scale argument. A gentleman confronted another passenger, and what seemed like a simple disagreement quickly became much more. The men, from different ethnic backgrounds, became increasingly aggressive with one another and one lifted his shirt to flash a possible weapon. A middle-aged African-American woman stepped up to this gentleman and grabbed him by the arm. She said to him, "Don't do this brother. You know when the cops arrive, they'll shoot you first. You know that's what always happens. Step back so you can save your life and ours." The gentleman pulled back, collected himself, and walked away. She immediately ran upstairs and outside of the subway. I walked up to her, thanked her, and asked her why she did it. “I saw the guy may have had a gun and I didn’t want to get hurt. I was concerned for myself and everyone else," she said. Motivated by self-interest or not, it takes a great deal of courage to play peacemaker. She momentarily set her own safety aside and decided to get involved. That day she was a true hero who most likely saved lives. 

The causes of violence and subsequent solutions are not complicated. The man who was persuaded to walk away felt disrespected and without agency to prove his own value. He appeared neither wealthy, important, nor powerful. He had nothing to lose, making him a perfect potential victim or perpetrator of crime. According to the Bureau of Justice, there is a clear correlation between crime and poverty. Persons in poor households at or below the Federal Poverty Level (39.8 per 1,000) had more than double the rate of violent victimization as persons in high-income households (16.9 per 1,000).  In a city like Chicago, known for its high levels of gang violence and murder, half of the residents are low-income or living in poverty. 

The desperation, social isolation, and hopelessness of poverty make these statistics possible. With nearly 40 million Americans living below the poverty line, this issue is not isolated. It is all of our problem. Yet when ordinary people step forward and become agents of peace, we have a chance. When people move beyond their own sense of fear and work towards the greater good, we have a chance. When average citizens realize that we are all responsible for a safer and more equitable nation, we have a chance.

Aristotle wrote that poverty is the parent of crime. Consequently, solving poverty requires holistic solutions that are both institutional and individual. Not only must the government commit to this perspective, but also citizens. As we collectively work to promote peace in the face of conflict or help to root out poverty one person at a time, we change the future for us all. Individuals like the woman I met in Harlem can be a great catalyst for this change. As a nation we should empower, support, and learn from people like her.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

Justice and the Van Dyke Verdict

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Prov. 29:7

The verdict in the Jason Van Dyke trial, was a watershed moment in Chicago and American politics. Some viewed it as evidence of American justice coming to fruition for a traditionally marginalized group. Others saw it as a sad day for police officers, setting the precedent for their criminal prosecution. Still others thought the jury, which convicted Officer Van Dyke of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery, failed to go far enough. 

What can scripture contribute to this discussion? 

It is difficult to ignore the obvious connections between this case and the biblical principle laid out in Proverbs 29. McDonald, a ward of the state, with no wealth, family, or major support structure was not considered a model young man by any accounts. His short life reflected the kind of deviance that makes demonizing him relatively simple. However, this is why his story so tragic. 
McDonald is the exact kind of person that deeply required society's justice in life and now even more in death. 

By definition, the concept of justice means "acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright and good, conforming to a standard of correctness, or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments". Providing justice for the poor and disenfranchised is a biblical priority because, by nature, we tend to overlook this group. Universally, humans have always heaped respect and admiration on the rich and powerful. They are consistently deemed worthy of our highest levels of veneration. The life of a teenage, African-American, poor, orphaned, drug-user is easily devalued in most circles. For this reason, it wasn't difficult for Van Dyke to shoot repeatedly because he subconsciously recognized McDonald's societal lack of worth. Imagine the potentially different police reaction if McDonald was an ostensibly wealthy and drugged out bar-hopper in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.   

Race and class are as much a part of the American identity as they have ever been. The infamous videotape, which clearly displayed an excessive use of force, was perceived differently based on who was watching. Those who could empathize with McDonald and his identity had a drastically different reaction than those that connected with Van Dyke. However, justice is not about tribal divisions and class-informed perceptions. It is about impartially upholding what is right and fair, particularly for the powerless among us.

Biblical justice is blind. Although extremely difficult to attain, we must strive towards this end. The verdict in this case represents a step in the right direction. 

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