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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Police Agencies and Politics, Part II

Scioto County, Ohio -- by nearly all measures a place where public indifference, questionable political practices, and criminal enterprise have choked needed reform. Joblessness, over dependence on public assistance, mediocre leadership, chemical dependence, and poor public health thrive in this downtrodden area that possesses no true vision of a better, more stable future.

Scioto, a county where high school and college graduates pack their bags and leave in droves for environments with better opportunities and fewer risks. It is an area poisoned with stagnation  largely because the sins of so many fathers and mothers have become an accepted way of life. "Get out of town" has become the most accepted solution in the minds of youth who realize that the quality of life in their Appalachian home continues to decline.

Those who represent the best products and resources of the area, the well-schooled and intelligent youth, seldom return to subject themselves to an attitude rooted in the impossible dream of returning to the heyday of manufacturing and "easy," high-paying jobs. How much loss of good character can an area suffer before its total integrity is lost? I fear we are very near to that mark unless significant, well-planned change occurs.

You Can't Live "It" By Just Talking About "It"

The consensus that Scioto Country has major problems in government, enforcement, and infrastructure is overwhelming. People here talk about "wrongs" all the time. A rumor or a truth about any indiscretion spreads like wildfire in a place that desperately looks for scapegoats -- a place quick to find someone and some thing to blame for poor conditions and miscarriages of justice.

Then, after people complain and the bad news fades, people return to their lives "as normal" because they lack human motivation to initiate change. What do they fear? What do they lack to make them put their own hands to work for the common good?

Many good people here have a litany they repeatedly recite when they perceive injustice.

Source: Yet another sin exists in our wicked county.
Response of the People: We are helpless to correct the transgressions of those who stray.
Source: We ask for divine help to stop these evil wrongdoings.
Response of the People: May the Almighty take control and cleanse the hearts of the sinners.
Source: Let His will be done.
Response of the People: Now, live in the hope that God will deliver us from evil.

The good-intentioned people in the county want a better life, a prosperous existence where truth, equality, and freedom reign. They wish; they implore; they put their trust in God. But, few put themselves on the front line of the fight for better conditions. What good are the faithful unless they act out their beliefs and help realize the fruits of their commitments? Until significant numbers of people in a county of 80,000 residents rise to action, the hills will echo with unhappy voices that do nothing but lend to the mood of helplessness.

Let's examine the religious community. Instead of focusing on affecting the world, many churches, and many within them, have become "self-focused" and not "service-focused." Much of the focus of the faithful is bound by the walls of a church building and the personal lives of the members. Faith is more relevant today than ever. Shouldn't believers "take up their crosses" and turn commitments into actions that can engage the power of the Holy Spirit in them to change the county and the entire world for Christ?

Being "ordinary" or "passive" in their lives, many Christians believe attending church and tending to their own lives is enough. Doesn't God want more than this in terms of action from a religious person? So many accept a Christian job description that excludes the political process. Why? This is the way a democratic society conducts its public affairs.

In other words, they don’t feel that it’s their job as individuals or as a church to do something about the world except to get people converted to Christ. Thus, they leave problems such as social injustice, discrimination, crime, and poverty up to politicians to solve. Yet, isn't God interested in the world humans "make for themselves"? He surely expects his people to take part in community and world affairs.

I believe God is passionately concerned about the world here and now. I believe God becomes agitated when people accept living with serious problems and ignore injustice. Doesn't He care when the poor, the orphan and the widow are victims of corruption and inequality?  After all, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:9-10).

God cares about this world and wants a world where there is justice, peace, goodness and well-being. There is evidence that Jesus understood politics and used many common political strategies. Here are some examples:

1. He claimed divine authority for his actions.

 When Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven announced, “This is my Son, who pleases me.”

2. He recruited followers and mounted a campaign.

Jesus led a diverse band of followers, ranging from the political extremes of Matthew, the tax officer, to Simon, the Zealot. Matthew was a collaborator with the occupation forces of Rome, whereas Simon was connected to a violent, revolutionary party.

3. He canvassed the country for support.

All the villages of Galilee got a visit from Jesus or his disciples. Each pair of disciples was required to find a sympathetic homeowner in each place they visited and use that home as a base of operations to win popular support for Jesus.

4. He kept the pressure on the regime.

Each time Jesus visited Jerusalem, he managed to offend the authorities in some visible way. He always did it on the feast days when his followers were in town, then retreated back to Galilee, away from the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem authorities.

5. Jesus got himself publicly proclaimed King of the Jews.

On that famous Passover preceding his death, Jesus brought the voters to Jerusalem, where by voice vote they announced his kingship as he rode the donkey into Jerusalem under the very noses of the Roman military officers, who couldn’t understand what was happening

6. Jesus occupied the city and cleansed the temple.

Jesus used the temple to make political speeches about the kingdom and publicly humiliated any opponents who dared challenge his authority.

7. Jesus obtained the recognition of the Roman government for his regime.

The Roman governor put up a sign proclaiming, “Jesus, King of the Jews,” at his crucifixion. Under that sign, Jesus announced amnesty for his country’s enemies by forgiving them. A new kind of warfare had begun. By forgiving their enemies in the prisons and arenas of the empire, the Christians conquered.

My Take

I believe it is up to the populace to ensure the redemption of Scioto County. By securing redemption, I do not necessarily believe that people must act religiously in a denomination sense to take up the fight and contribute to improvement. Instead, I think all good people should evaluate their own spiritual contributions to better the work outside the confines of their church buildings, church congregations, and, yes, out of their selfish desires.   

I think spiritual weakness here is great. The general lack of faith in humanity and the specific lack of trust in local leadership in recent decades has dampened our beliefs that any personal political support can strengthen our community. Hopelessness breeds hopelessness as the spirit suffers from lack of motivation. Some even seem content with the "same old."

Do you want a better county? How hard is it to vote for change? How hard is it to dedicate yourself to learning "what really transpires" instead of believing rumors and distortions? How hard is it to take a hand in fixing something here that is broken? Many concerned citizens are spending a lot of time bolstering positive movement. They do get disgusted when movements stall and more people do not join their efforts.

If you sincerely want the "same old," conditions propagated by leaderships that lacks the vitality and spirit necessary to best serve the county, do nothing. However, if you want better, grab your own laces and "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." Vote for positive change this November. Then, offer your help to make the change possible.

"Failure is not fatal,
but failure to change might be." 
-John Wooden, head basketball coach at UCLA and winner of ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row.

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