SOCIO-ECONOMICS & Research shows churches have grown weakest in communities that need them most: poor & working-class

Commentary by Professor B. In my books I advocate that growing and healthy churches will participate in the “3Rs of reconciliation” as put forth by John Perkins:

  • R-1 Reconciliation both spiritual and physical,
  • R-2 Relocation and as Robert Putnam points out in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,”
  • R-3 Redistribution of wealth should be on the agenda of healthy churches.

See my chapters/articles/interviews on this:

Still, I have grown tired and cynical at watching churches spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new sound and lighting systems to approximate a rock concert and “attract” a crowd when similar churches just a few miles away are struggling to stay open in lower social economic communities.

This article from The Washington Post highlights the research by Robert Putman which should be a warning to growing and healthy churches that Jesus admonition still holds today: “Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much…” Luke 12:48.

Why so many empty church pews? Here’s what money, sex, divorce and TV are doing to American religion

By W. Bradford Wilcox, The Washington Post, 3/26/15.

One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.

The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.

Courtesy of Robert Putnam, "Our Kids."
Courtesy of Robert Putnam, “Our Kids.”

In “Our Kids,” Putnam assigns much of the blame for the unraveling of America’s religious, communal and familial fabric to shift from an industrial to an information economy. The 1970s saw declines in employment for less-educated men, divergent incomes for college-educated and less-educated men, and a “breathtaking increase in inequality” — all of which left college-educated families and their communities with more financial resources, and poor and working-class communities with fewer resources. The figure below, taken from Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay on men’s employment, shows that work dropped precipitously for men in the 1970s.

wilcox1.png&w=480
(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor)

A key reason that working-class men are now less likely to attend church is that they cannot access the kind of stable, good-paying jobs that sustain a “decent” lifestyle and stable, married family life — two key ingredients associated with churchgoing in America.

Read more at … https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/03/26/why-so-many-empty-church-pews-heres-what-money-sex-divorce-and-tv-are-doing-to-american-religion

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

TRUMP/CLINTON & Chaos or Community? MLK Jr. Book Has Insight on Where We Should Go From Here

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. After a divisive election, people are wondering what to do. The best insights may come from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last book which followed very divisive elections in America. He urged Americans to distinguish between three types of biblical “loves” (eros, philia and agape), suggesting only with agape love (loving the unlovely) can systemic change be brought that will change the situation of the increasingly poor segment of the US population. Here’s an overview of his last and perhaps most relevant book for 2017.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY?

Introducer: Vincent Harding

King believed that the next phase in the movement would bring its own challenges, as African Americans continued to make demands for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, an education equal to that of whites, and a guarantee that the rights won in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be enforced by the federal government. He warned that ‘‘The persistence of racism in depth and the dawning awareness that Negro demands will necessitate structural changes in society have generated a new phase of white resistance in North and South.’’

King assesses the rise of black nationalism and the increasing use of the slogan ‘‘Black Power’’ in the movement. While he praised the slogan, he also recognized that its implied rejection of interracial coalitions and call for retaliatory violence ‘‘prevent it from having the substance and program to become the basic strategy for the civil rights movement in the days ahead.’’ Condemning the advocacy of black separatism, King maintained that there would be no genuine progress for African Americans ‘‘unless the whole of American society takes a new turn toward greater economic justice.’’ Despite King’s impatience with Black Power proponents, he ends the book on an optimistic note, calling for continued faith in the movement.

King maintained that there would be no genuine progress for African Americans ‘‘unless the whole of American society takes a new turn toward greater economic justice.’’

Reviews:

“Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the greatest organic intellectuals in American history. His unique ability to connect the life of the mind to the struggle for freedom is legendary, and in this book—his last grand expression of his vision—he put forward his most prophetic challenge to powers that be and his most progressive program for the wretched of the earth.” —Cornel West

Excerpt, From Vincent Harding’s Introduction:

… From this position of radical engagement it would have been relatively easy for King, if he chose, to confine his published writing to telling the powerful stories of the experiences he shared almost daily with the magnificent band of women, men, and children who worked in the black-led Southern freedom movement, recounting how they struggled to transform themselves, their communities, this nation, and our world. Instead, going beyond the stories, King insisted on constantly raising and reflecting on the basic questions he posed in the first chapter of this work—“Where Are We?” and in the overall title of the book itself, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

…Building on all of the deep resources of empathy and compassion that seemed so richly and naturally a part of his life, King appeared determined not only to pay attention but to insist that his organization and his nation focus themselves and their resources on dozens of poor, exploited black communities— and especially their desperate young men, whose broken lives were crying out for new, humane possibilities in the midst of the wealthiest nation in the world. Speaking later at a staff retreat of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King expressed a conviction that had long been a crucial part of what he saw when he paid attention to the nation’s poorest people. He said, “Something is wrong with the economic system of our nation. . . . Something is wrong with capitalism.” Always careful (perhaps too careful) to announce that he was not a Marxist in any sense of the word, King told the staff he believed “there must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. . . . ” This seemed a natural direction for someone whose ultimate societal goal was the achievement of a nonviolent “beloved community.” But a major part of the white American community and its mass media seemed only able to condemn “Negro violence” and to justify a “white backlash” against the continuing attempts of the freedom movement to move northward toward a more perfect union. (King wisely indentified the fashionable “backlash” as a continuing expression of an antidemocratic white racism that was as old as the nation itself.)

Meanwhile, even before Watts, King and the SCLC staff had begun to explore creative ways in which they could expand their effort to develop a just and beloved national community by establishing projects in northern black urban neighborhoods. (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, the other major Southern movement organizing force, was involved in similar Northern explorations by the mid-1960s, but both organizations were hampered by severe financial difficulties.) Partly because of some earlier contacts with Chicago-based community organizers, King and SCLC decided to focus on that deeply segregated city as the center of their expansion into the anguish of the North. By the winter of 1966, SCLC staff members had begun organizing in Chicago. At that point King decided to try to spend at least three days a week actually living in one of the city’s poorest black communities, a west-side area named Lawndale. From that vantage point, working (sometimes uncomfortably) with their Chicago colleagues, King and SCLC decided to concentrate their attention on a continuing struggle against the segregated, deteriorating, and educationally dysfunctional schools; the often dilapidated housing; and the disheartening lack of job opportunities…

In the face of such hard facts, King insisted on pressing two other realities into the nation’s conscience. One was his continuing plea for “a coalition of Negroes and liberal whites that will work to make both major parties truly responsive to the needs of the poor.” At the same time he insisted that “we must not be oblivious to the fact that the larger economic problems confronting the Negro community will only be solved by federal programs involving billions of dollars…”

From Dr. King’s conclusion:

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity . . . This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.”

Read more at … http://www.thekinglegacy.org/books/where-do-we-go-here-chaos-or-community

See also The Role of Agape in the Ethics of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pursuit of Justice by Jerry Ogoegbunem Nwonye, dissertation to the Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, 1/2009 available at https://books.google.com/books?id=_0b6NTQGcKUC&dq=Where+Do+We+Go+from+Here:+agape&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Hashtags:  #WesleySeminary #DMinTL

ADDICTION & Study Finds Marijuana Use Is Up, Mostly Among Poor

Takeaways:

(a) the national market has grown, especially in terms of the number of daily users;

(b) marijuana users remained economically “downscale” over this period, and in many ways resemble cigarette users;

(c) distribution networks appear to be professionalizing in a sense, as fewer users obtain marijuana socially;

(d) the typical purchase has gotten smaller by weight but not price paid, suggestive of a trend toward higher potencies;

Marijuana Market in the Decade of Liberalization Before Full Legalization

by Steven S. Davenport and Jonathan P. Caulkins (Journal of Drug Issues, Florida State Univ., 8/2/16).

Abstract

The past decade has seen a remarkable liberalization of marijuana policies in many parts of the United States. We analyze data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for coinciding changes in the marijuana market from 2002 to 2013, including market size, number and demographics of customers, and varying means of acquiring the drug. Results suggests that (a) the national market has grown, especially in terms of the number of daily users; (b) marijuana users remained economically “downscale” over this period, and in many ways resemble cigarette users; (c) distribution networks appear to be professionalizing in a sense, as fewer users obtain marijuana socially; (d) the typical purchase has gotten smaller by weight but not price paid, suggestive of a trend toward higher potencies; (e) marijuana expenditures vary by user group; and (f) respondents with medical marijuana recommendations differ from other users in systematic ways.

Read more at … http://m.jod.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/08/01/0022042616659759

SOCIOECONOMICS & The Original Underclass

by ALEC MACGILLIS and PROPUBLICA, The Atlantic Monthly, 8/9/16.

Sometime during the past few years, the country started talking differently about white Americans of modest means. Early in the Obama era, the ennobling language of campaign pundits prevailed. There was much discussion of “white working-class voters,” with whom the Democrats, and especially Barack Obama, were having such trouble connecting. Never mind that this overbroad category of Americans—the exit pollsters’ definition was anyone without a four-year college degree, or more than a third of the electorate—obliterated major differences in geography, ethnicity, and culture. The label served to conjure a vast swath of salt-of-the-earth citizens living and working in the wide-open spaces between the coasts—Sarah Palin’s “real America”—who were dubious of the effete, hifalutin types increasingly dominating the party that had once purported to represent the common man. The “white working class” connoted virtue and integrity. A party losing touch with it was a party unmoored.

That flattering glow has faded away. Today, less privileged white Americans are considered to be in crisis, and the language of sociologists and pathologists predominates. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 was published in 2012, and Robert D. Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis came out last year. From opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they made the case that social breakdown among low-income whites was starting to mimic trends that had begun decades earlier among African Americans: Rates of out-of-wedlock births and male joblessness were rising sharply. Then came the stories about a surge in opiate addiction among white Americans, alongside shocking reports of rising mortality rates (including by suicide) among middle-aged whites. And then, of course, came the 2016 presidential campaign. The question was suddenly no longer why Democrats struggled to appeal to regular Americans. It was why so many regular Americans were drawn to a man like Donald Trump…

“Welcome to America as it was,” Nancy Isenberg, a historian at Louisiana State University, writes near the outset of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. Her title might seem sensational were it not so well earned. As she makes plain, a white lower class not only figured more prominently in the development of the colonies and the young country than national lore suggests, but was spoken of from the start explicitly in terms of waste and refuse…

One of America’s founding myths, of course, is that the simple act of leaving England and boldly starting new lives in the colonies had an equalizing effect on the colonists, swiftly narrowing the distance between indentured servant and merchant, landowner and clerk—all except the African slave. Nonsense, Isenberg says: “Independence did not magically erase the British class system.” A “ruthless class order” was enforced at Jamestown, where one woman returned from 10 months of Indian captivity to be told that she owed 150 pounds of tobacco to her dead husband’s former master and would have to work off the debt. The Puritans were likewise “obsessed with class rank”—membership in the Church and its core elect were elite privileges—not least because the early Massachusetts settlers included far more nonreligious riffraff than is generally realized. A version of the North Carolina constitution probably co-authored by John Locke was designed to “avoid erecting a numerous democracy.” It envisioned a nobility of landgraves and caciques (German for “princes” and Spanish for “chieftains”), along with a “court of heraldry” to oversee marriages and make sure they preserved pedigree…

Accounts of this underclass as “an anomalous new breed of human,” as Isenberg puts it, proliferated as poor whites without property spread west and south across the country. These “crackers” and “squatters” were “no better than savages,” with “children brought up in the Woods like brutes,” wrote a Swiss-born colonel in the colonial army in 1759. In 1810, the ornithologist Alexander Wilson described the “grotesque log cabins” where the lowly patriarch typically stood wearing a shirt “defiled and torn,” his “face inlaid with dirt and soot.” Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter came back from an 1817 excursion with her grandfather telling of that “half civiliz’d race who lived beyond the ridge.” In 1830, the country even got its first “Cracker Dictionary” to document the slang of poor whites…

At various junctures, politicians (think Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson) turned humble roots into a mark of “backwoodsman” authenticity, but the pendulum always swung back. The term white trash made its first appearance in print as early as 1821. It gained currency three decades later, by which point observers were expressing horror over these people’s “tallow” skin and their habit of eating clay. As George Weston warned in his widely circulated 1856 pamphlet “The Poor Whites of the South,” they were “sinking deeper and more hopelessly into barbarism with every succeeding generation.” Speaking of this class as a separate breed—a species unto itself—was a way to skirt the challenge it presented to the nation’s vision of equality and inclusivity. Isenberg points up the tension: “If whiteness was not an automatic badge of superiority, a guarantee of the homogeneous population of independent, educable freemen … then the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were unobtainable…”

The distinction’s relevance persists today. Large areas of “real America” are almost entirely white. In Appalachia, that homogeneity, along with the region’s populist tradition, helps explain why white voters there took so much longer to flip from Democrat to Republican than in the Deep South. This does not mean that racism is absent in these areas—far from it. But it suggests that the racism is fueled as much by suspicion of the “other” as it is by firsthand experience of blacks and competition with them—and that political sentiment on issues such as welfare and crime isn’t as racially motivated as many liberal analysts assume. A focus on the South also eclipses places where low-income whites consist mainly of descendants of later European immigrants. (Think of the South Boston Irish, or Baltimore’s Polish American dockworkers depicted in the second season of The Wire)…

Read more at … http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/09/the-original-underclass/492731/

Also see:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, by Nancy Isenberg (Viking).

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J. D. Vance (Harper).