Limits to Civility

Two posts in one day! But in these times it is necessary to clarify the boundary line of one’s tolerance for people with inhumane views. This lesson comes from my experience 1994-1996, as the UU parish minister in the midst of Dorchester, MA’s worst crime wave in ages. It was one of the worst in the nation, and it involved young people killing each other in gang wars.

The Boston Police responded with a community policing program which still gets mentioned as a high spot in policing history. Its foundation, I firmly believe, was the cops were required to live in the city’s narrow boundaries. No driving in from quiet suburbs for them. Shootings were on their streets, fights were on the playgrounds their children had to use also. Yes, that was a help.

Also, they. were good people. Mostly, anyway, often enough to make a difference in many cases. They also valued observations and analysis made by human beings, not computers.

Here’s what they came up with.

Gangs were found to consist of two layers. At the heart, and in the vanguard, stood people of genuine ill will. These leaders, selling drugs, wielding guns, hanging shoes, wearing bandanas, had no interest in community improvement alternatives or calls for civility. For them, arrest and jail was the answer. Cops drove around with warrants for these people at easy access.

The other layer consisted of folks who felt they had no alternatives for advancement in society, other than up the gang ladder. For these folks, the police urged practical educational support, jobs and job support, sports teams (remember midnight basketball?), and family support through community centers and adequate food and housing for those these young people were trying to support.

The current civility debate seems focused on the former group, fomenters not just of hate, but of cruelty and incapacity for those of whom they wish to make unwitting accomplices. I support this aspect of incivility. It is the other layer my previous post reaches out to.

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Can Southern Baptist Ministers Serve God and Country?

Can Southern Baptist Ministers Serve God and Country?

You might dismiss the debate about Shariah law in the US, but it’s not a minor point.  We just aren’t experiencing the imposition of religious fundamentalism via legislative action; we’re experiencing it through lack of regulatory protection.

The problem, as illustrated above, is not the government establishing a particular code, but rather, refusing to protect the full range of citizens exercising our legal rights to personal choice when the professional arm of a faith-based organization moves to become the sole service provider in an area.

The Baptist chaplains are one example, but the real issue is the Roman Catholic medical-educational complex. While individual practitioners — many of whom are rebellious-spirited nuns — might not agree with the bishops’ pronouncements, they accede to such terms in order to receive funding, advertising, prestige. But sadly, whereas the medieval tradition of Roman Catholic nuns, with their hospitals and orphanages, was often highly universalist, today’s medical-educational complex has had to give that up to keep the big bucks.

This article talks about service to all women and men in harm’s way, but really, if your wife is in an emergency room with complications to a pregnancy you both wanted, if you and your same sex partner want your child to be treated equally in the nearest medical trauma center, you are just as much in harm’s way. You, like the men and women of our military, assume equal access, equal support, equal care.

It is time for our legislators to limit their support for faith-based organizations. Certainly the dominion-based religions do much good, and deserve enough funding to be available for those whose souls need what they offer. But at no time, through any mechanism, should they be allowed to become the sole or dominant provider, in terms of real-time access, for any part of the population.