Friday, August 10, 2012

Symptoms of a Greater Disease

A cough and sore throat may simply reveal that the patient is suffering from a common cold. These same symptoms can also indicate a more insidious disease, such as throat cancer. Doctors that simply treat the symptoms, often keep their patients suffering from the disease that may not be diagnosed until it is too late. While alleviating symptoms may make the patient feel better temporarily, this will not cure the root cause of those symptoms. Treating the person as a whole, diagnosing the malady and prescribing a course of treatment that will lead to a cure, will make the patient whole again. An article printed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel March 15th, 2012 reported that the ELCA has issued yet another draft statement in their long line of social commentaries. This particular meddling in the affairs of the secular world calls for reform of the nation’s criminal justice system. Jeff Barrow, Bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA, called this a great idea and lamented about our broken justice system, stating, “The criminal justice system has not brought about any reforms, it’s expensive and I think there are better ways to make our communities safe.”

The article goes on to state, “Thursday’s statement says the ELCA affirms the fundamental principles of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as due process and the presumption of innocence, but that the system is in need of reform. The ELCA is troubled by the high rate of incarceration compared to the rest of the world, and racial disparities that lead to a higher rate of incarceration for minorities. It notes that 1 in 31 adults is in prison or on parole or probation; 1 in 11 for minorities. The statement calls for, among other things, greater use of prison alternative programs, changes in the national drug policy and opposition to the trend toward privatizing prisons.” Again the ELCA, so enamored of the world, fails to look toward God’s will for His children, and instead, looks to repair our broken world without His guidance.

After serving the Greater Milwaukee area as a law enforcement officer for almost 30 years, I have had more than a little experience in dealing with our criminal justice system. Those convicted of crimes are incarcerated according to state statutes and federal laws.To be a member of society requires one to obey the law of the land.  Those that choose to violate those laws pay the consequences for their disobedience.  In larger counties however, such as Milwaukee County, the justice system tends to be much more lenient, due, in part, to the vast number of criminal cases brought into the system. Many criminal charges are dismissed without the offender ever seeing a court room and many other offenders are diverted to alternate programs that often lead to the trivialization of the law. 1 Peter 2:13-17, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”

The misguided leaders of the ELCA try to cure the symptoms without regard to the very cause of the maladies befalling those that run afoul of the criminal justice system. We live in a society that actually promotes and rewards out of wedlock births. What was once a safety net for families in need, has now become an avenue for those who would rather depend upon the government for their livelihood than try to support themselves by entering the workforce. Offered just more than subsistence living conditions, low income women have numerous children by numerous fathers that often have little or no role in the upbringing of those children that they have fathered.  Families receive payments for each child, health care and transportation assistance.  These children are raised without a father's guidance, instead leaning almost exclusively on the women of their extended family. God rarely has a place in these families, so moral responsibility has become foreign to many of these children. This vacuum in their lives is often filled by association with other amoral individuals that have no respect for others, engaging in criminal and gang activity. These families have indeed become slaves to the government that supports them, nurtures them and makes them beholding to the politicians that enact these entitlements that many now believe that they deserve. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

While Scripture calls for God’s children to obey the laws of the world and that each of us should cheerfully give of ourselves to build up God’s kingdom, the leaders of the ELCA think it better to weaken the law and promote the selfishness of humankind. Without consequence those choosing to violate the law will not choose to obey if the laws are made more lenient. This tact does nothing to address the root cause of the crowded jail system in this country, nor will cause the crime rate to diminish.  If the leaders of the ELCA would choose to use their “bully pulpit” to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and call to repair our broken families, it just may begin to alleviate the problem with the disparities in our prison population. As we know, the ELCA is so obsessed with quotas, so perhaps they can begin with promoting the quota of one mother and one father as the family heads that work together raising children, teaching them the Lord’s prayer, the Ten Commandments and bringing them to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to know and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

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