Over the years of conducting my research, I’ve been a leadership skeptic, influenced by the evidence that complex organizations achieve greatness through the efforts of more than one exceptional individual. The best leaders we’ve studied had a peculiar genius for seeing themselves as not all that important, recognizing the need to build an executive team and to craft a culture based on core values that do not depend upon a single heroic leader. But in cases of decline, we find a more pronounced role for the powerful individual, and not for the better. So, even though I remain a leadership skeptic, the evidence leads me to this sobering conclusion: while no leader can single-handedly build an enduring great company, the wrong leader vested with power can almost single-handedly bring a company down.
–Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, p.61-62
At last, C.J. Summers of the Peoria Chronicle announces his candidacy for Peoria City Council.
It’s late and I’m tired. Otherwise, I’d have some glowing words here about C.J. When he announces more details on his candidacy, I’ll say more about why I think voting for him is a no-brainer. But for now, I’ll just say that I’m really excited to have a candidate on a ballot that I can actually be excited about voting for.
This is one of those thoughts that has been kicking around in my head for a while that hopefully won’t get me in trouble.
So, since I was exposed to Christian hip-hop recently, I’ve been thinking about hip-hop culture. Folks like Lecrae, Trip Lee, or Thi’sl are always decrying the state of the black community, especially the glorification of sin that is a part of hip-hop culture. Just think about the stereotypical rap video: barely-dressed women draped over some rapper who is dripping with gold chains and giant jewelry, maybe driving down the street in a car with shiny rims, maybe smoking a joint or drinking from a champagne bottle. (Now, perhaps I’m a bit out of touch with the current scene, though, honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to go poking around too much for music videos to illustrate my point.)
And so, we look at this sort of thing and shake our heads in disgust. The filth! The depravity! The degradation of women! And, yeah, it’s all true.
Ah yes, the hip-hop dream: money, sex, and power, all on display. But then I ask myself, “How is this really different than rest of America?” Look at the mainstream culture. Think about the movies, the music, the magazines. Maybe the skin color is lighter, but aren’t there the same trends? Barely-dressed women, offering themselves? Fast cars? Pompous displays of wealth and power?
When you stop and think about it, we’re all chasing the same paper and lusting after the same things. Hip-hop culture is just more honest about it. (Well, it’s also gaudier in its pursuit, but that’s not really relevant.)
So, once again, the problem isn’t race or class or wealth. The problem is sin. And the answer, for both black and white, rich or poor, is repentance and faith in Jesus.
In this blog post I asked several questions:
1) Orange Street isn’t on Bradley University’s campus, nor is there off-campus housing located on Orange Street (that I know of). How does the Bradley University Police Department have jurisdiction in front of my house?
2) Was this situation really resolved in a professional way by the Bradley University Police Department? Couldn’t they have prevented this from escalating? Better yet, was this really the best problem to focus on at this time?
3) Am I really required by law to carry identification on me at all times? Do I need a license to ride a bike?
I’ll grant that #2 is mostly rhetorical, but I’m serious about the other questions. In particular, I’d like to know the answer to question #1. What are the limits of the Bradley University Police Department’s jurisdiction? Can anyone answer this question for me?
I stumbled across an article today on the “pay-if-you-go” prison proposal. The short version of the proposal is that the government should force wealthy inmates to pay for their prison stays. The current example is the incarceration of the fraudster Bernie Madoff. As Daniel Freedman writes in Forbes:
In April of each year, the victims of Wall Street fraudster Bernard Madoff will write out checks to pay for his upkeep.
They will do it every time they pay their taxes–so that means ordinary taxpayers, too, deserve to feel aggrieved about Madoff’s offenses.
Freedman is right to be outraged; this is indeed an injustice. However, his solution is simply attempting to apply duct tape to a sinking ocean liner. The problem is systemic, and its roots are found in our flawed penology. We punish thieves–and Madoff is simply a clever thief–by warehousing them in prisons. Instead, what if we were to apply the penology found in Scripture?
If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.
Restitution and punitive damages are the focus of a Biblical penology. The thief had to pay back what he stole, and then some. The thief didn’t owe “society”, which really means the government. Rather, he owed his victim.
If we were more concerned about addressing the wrong done to victims and less concerned about the harm done to the system, we would be able to make real progress towards doing justice in this nation. Until then, we will continue to have more and more desperate schemes like “pay-if-you-go”.
“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” (Augustine of Hippo)
I had a couple more thoughts to append to my post on privilege and responsibility.
1) When I say that the rich have certain responsibilities, I mean that they have certain ethical responsibilities. This is different than saying that they have certain legal responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the government to protect people from each other by (say) enforcing contracts and the like. It is not the responsibility of the government to require that the rich be charitable. Confiscatory taxation to fund social programs is totally contrary to what I’m talking about.
2) When I say that the rich have certain responsibilities, I’m generally talking about anyone who can read this blog. Is this a generalization? You betcha. However, I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to avoid calling themselves rich.
Here’s an example. For the last couple of years, my GenCon demo for Dirty Secrets has featured various members of the independent roleplaying community, who have graciously agreed to appear in my demo. As a result, I’ve asked several people to “stat” themselves out in Dirty Secrets terms. This means writing down your age, sex, race, social class, and legal status, each chosen from a specific list. The options for “social class” are simply rich, middle class, and poor. Most people were very uncomfortable identifying their social class, even though they generally settled on “middle class”. And, to be fair, it’s an awkward question. How do you go about answering that one? I mean, what social class are you?
But when these discussions come up, it’s often human nature to push ourselves toward the median. I mean, I’m not living in a house with a dirt floor, but I’m not in a mansion, you know? So I must not be poor or rich, right?
Of course, these categories aren’t tight; rather, they form a spectrum that shifts from “dirt poor” to “poor” to “working class” to “middle class” to “upper middle class” to “rich” to “filthy rich” to “Vanderbilt”. And that’s not really a fair spectrum either.
So, when considering these issues, don’t think about the “poor”. Think about “those who are poorer than me”. Specifically, think about “my neighbors who are poorer than me”. Because, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, Jesus didn’t say, “Love humanity”. He said, “Love your neighbor.”
Sigh. I feel like I’m in the middle of a series of blog posts dedicated to removing whatever conservative credentials I might have left. Hmm. Never mind. That’s not really a bad thing. Because I’m not really a liberal, either. Be that as it may, I’m about to do something dangerous.
I’m going to talk about privilege.
Wikipedia files this concept under “dominant privilege” and offers this definition:
“Dominant privilege is a sociological concept describing the unearned advantages enjoyed by members of the dominant culture.”
There’s also a link to a syllabus about privilege (PDF).
Now, I’ll wave the tattered remnants of my conservatism and say that I generally get irritated by discussions of privilege. I’ve seen my share of privilege discussions, and they often go like this:
Non-white non-male: Waah! My life is so hard because The Man keeps me down.
White male: Are you sure The Man is keeping you down?
Non-white non-male: Shut up! You have privilege and therefore are incapable of understanding me or having any wisdom at all!
Or like this:
White male: I have privilege, and now I have guilt! I am a terrible person and refuse to be consoled, because I am white and male. I abase myself for my genetics.
Yeah, these sorts of conversations irritate me. A lot. So much that I’d be tempted to pitch the whole concept.
Except that it’s kinda true.
I tend to focus on socio-economic privilege, so let’s talk about the rich and the poor.
I love the wisdom literature of the Bible. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes just lay it out there without apology, explaining life the way it is. And, not surprisingly, both books say a lot about the rich and poor. For example, Proverbs 10:15 says:
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
In a related passage, Ecclesiastes 7:12 says:
For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
These passages lay out a simple fact: having money protects you. The rich have protection from the world, but the poor are exposed to additional suffering. Or, as my mother put it, having money makes life easier.
(Yes, I’m aware that the Bible is full of warnings about the deceitfulness of wealth. However, this is because wealth actually does bestow power, though not as much as the rich think.)
The conservative response to this fact tends to be something like this: “Sure, having money makes life easier. But, this is America. We all have an equal chance to get money. Those with money just did the work, while the poor just refused to work hard.” Really? Proverbs 22:7 says:
The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
For all that we want to deny it, the poor are at the mercy of the rich. This is a fact of life. We are not all equal. Some are stronger than others, and that will not go away.
In other words, we will not be able to rid ourselves of privilege. This is simply true, and we need to stop lying to each other and ourselves about this.
So, what then?
If the rich are stronger than the poor, then the rich have a greater responsibility than the poor. The Biblical principle is that the strong care for the weak. As an example of this, Romans 15:1 says:
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Think about it like this. I’m a pretty big guy. It’s a rare occasion to meet someone who is taller than me. Over time, I’ve realized that this means that I need to be very careful when I move around people, especially children. If I’m not careful, I will knock someone over or step on someone. Because I’m bigger and stronger, I have a greater responsibility to consider the impact of my actions.
Privilege is often used to attempt silence the strong. That’s wrong, because it’s simply an attempt to attack the strong. Instead, the powerful should be reminded of their privilege in order to remind them of their responsibilities to those who are not privileged.
Of course, this goes side-by-side with the need to remind those who are not privileged that they should not envy those who are privileged. Rather, the strong should help the weak because it is their responsibility, and the weak should humble themselves to accept help from the strong.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17)
In light of all this, next time I’ll talk about an issue that’s been on my mind recently: gentrification.
See you then.
So, Crystal is asleep right now, so I have a little time to think about things other than an impending baby. Like today being Easter.
Of the various claims that Christianity makes, Easter celebrates the most insane: that a man who had been unjustly prosecuted, condemned, and then executed returned from death, never to die again.
Yep, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A singular event in history, upon which the entirety of our religion stands or falls. It is the reason that we live and love and believe. If this truth is a lie, then, as the Apostle Paul writes, “We are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)
But Jesus was resurrected, and that makes all the difference.
I’ve been doing my media immersion as I begin design work on Major Crimes (the game formerly known as Dirty Cities). This game is specifically about using the crime story to address social issues. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the various social issues that plague us. We are victimized by our own corrupt institutions while the oppressed oppress each other. Injustice reigns in our cities, from the halls of power to the streets of our ghettos.
And yet, by His resurrection, Jesus triumphed over injustice. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced by corrupt authorities, and yet, God vindicated Him and demonstrated it to all by raising Jesus from the dead. And now, He has been given complete authority to extend the justice of God across the entire world. And that is exactly what He is doing.
So, as I look at the injustice and suffering in this world, I do not lose heart. I know that The Man is in charge, and He overcame all injustice once and for all. I know that He has ushered in the new era, in which He is busy tearing down all corrupt, wicked power structures and bringing a reign of true justice. And I know that He will not rest until everything is set aright.
And who can stop Him? Our most powerful threat is the ability to inflict pain and death. That is the threat in every domestic beating, every armed robbery, every military action. But He is beyond pain and death; He overcame them in His resurrection, and now they cannot touch Him. So He is beyond our ability to threaten and coerce.
An unkillable, unstoppable warrior of justice. Kinda makes Superman look like a pansy, ya know?
Happy Easter, everyone.
Heh. I think that Emerge has this one correct:
Welfare queens all over the news.
For those of you who haven’t heard:
We are facing what I have known as a crisis for quite some time. Although the murder rate was down 2008 the incidence of illegal gun usage was up and there were people and cars shot at on a routine basis. (Gangs) with (their)/ it’s loose network of community terrorist associates, have taken it upon themselves to terrorize our communities and inner city. We must act and must act as a cohesive group to defeat the enemy that is fueling these (various factions). However we will not fight with the weapons known and respected in the streets:
2 Cor. 10:3-4~ “3-For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4-(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)”
It is my prayer that you will join me at a community pastoral meeting to address this urgent situation at which I will unveil information that is essential in assisting with our understanding of this enemy that we face. I also plan to unveil a community strategy that will involve you and your church in a proactive method of attack against this terrorist group. I am convinced that our inaction is fuel to the flames of the community terrorists who have staked claim to our schools and our streets. It must end and that end must begin with us and our churches. I do not believe that we can expect a government bailout to assist us with this one.
Please join me at 6:30 PM Thursday evening at Higher Dimensions Worship Ctr. at 2610 W. Nebraska Peoria, IL. (Pastor Bob Randle)
Please pass this urgent request on to associates and other pastors who may also be interested in taking strong action against this (these) community terrorist group(s). Thank you and God bless you greatly.
I’m planning on attending this meeting, and I wanted to pass the word to others.
Billy is correct:
And frankly, I think it’s time for the city council to reconsider what exactly qualifies a neighborhood organization as the go-to people to speak for a neighborhood. For example, the RRRI allows renters to sit in on meetings, but doesn’t allow them to join and vote.I’m pretty sure that the many-long time renters who live in my building and in neighboring buildings have rights and are affected by the Methodist expansion too. Renters pay property taxes — it’s part of their rent.
But I was really surprised to see this from the comments:
But yeah… do any neighborhood associations really represent their neighborhoods? The utter lack of participation in support of these organizations is alarming. It’s a classic little red hen story… the poor hen making her bread and no one helps her. But they sure as hell complain when it something affects them in a way that matters to them. Here in the uplands only about a couple dozen people (out of 375 or so households) are involved in any tangible way with the neighborhood association. It is frustrating.
That was really surprising to me. I’ve always had the impression that Uplands really had their act together in terms of organization and participation. If a solid association like Uplands only has a “couple dozen people” participating, then what about the less organized ones?
In light of all this, I have to ask: is the neighborhood association concept really the best way for the city to reach its citizens?
So, in this season, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. But consider the facts of this story in something resembling a modern context. From the outside, all we see is the birth of a baby who is born in a garage to a blue-collar couple who had conceived outside of wedlock. (Oh sure, they claimed otherwise, but who believes that nonsense?) Then, later that night, they are visited by the local Waste Management crew who said they had been told to come to that garage by UFOs.
That’s…uh…a little crazy.
Ooh! Let’s go on!
This baby grows up to start a cult. He wanders around the countryside, homeless and poor, leeching from the poor saps who follow him. All the pastors are outraged at him, because he is teaching crazy things to their congregants, who are hanging on his every word.
Oh yeah, he claims that he is God.
Then, finally, the cult blows apart. One of his inner circle defects, letting the cops get their hands on him. He is embarrassed on national television and is then executed for his crimes.
Then the cult reforms and starts telling stories about how he came back from the dead. Oh, but you can’t see him now, because he went back to heaven.
Yeah, they still claim that he is God.
This is the craziest, stupidest, most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, other religions are respectable, but this is really dumb.
Unless, of course, it’s true.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I love Jesus. I believe all those crazy things that He said. Make no mistake about it.
But part of embracing that means embracing the folly of the gospel. Christmas has become so full of sentimentality that we have lost track of the fundamental foolishness of the story that we tell. But, it is in that foolishness that the story gains its strength.
So, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas, then remember what you’re celebrating. It’s crazy! It’s ridiculous!
It’s glorious. Glorious and amazing.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Barb, I still owe you an answer. Between being sick and the blog server being switched over, I haven’t gotten there yet. But I will! I have a draft started and everything!
But, in the meantime, Paul Czege happened to link to something really, really useful for Dirty Cities:
The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s database of street terms for drugs.
I mean, how cool is that?
I can already envision portions of this working their way into Dirty Cities.
Plus, I am a geek.
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness. (Proverbs 11:10)
That’s for those of you who have been wondering why I’ve been so happy about this.
Also, for those who are interested, you can find the affidavit here (PDF) It makes for some fun reading, actually. I’ll admit to only having glanced at portions of it, but the chutzpah that Blagojevich displays is pretty impressive.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown. (Proverbs 11:11)