hello again.

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm

theoretically i find blogs, articles and other long-form content much more interesting than facebook and a bit more interesting than twitter. however, it has been so long since i blogged that i had to reset my password before passing go. God give me the grace to bypass the expeditious for what i find more meaningful, beautiful and true.

quite a bit has happened since my last narcissistic exercise. i won’t bore you with the details here, but would like to let you know that i am transitioning out of my leadership role at the gathering in salem this month and over the past five months i have been participating in a social justice internship called leadboston.

transitioning out of the gathering has not been easy. everyone kellie and i have talked to – and i do mean everyone – has been overwhelmingly gracious about our decision to pull back from bi-vocational ministry and transition into a church community where we can continue to receive Word and Sacrament, encourage our children to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with both God and man, and plot our next move. we have benefited greatly from our time at the gathering and will look forward to continuing to serve as extended tribesmen by continuing to participate in the halloween mission, hosting the north shore emergent cohort at the gathering, etc.

the transition has been difficult because i am trying to cultivate a character that is marked as much by loyalty and commitment as it is by my contrarian bent. i have also been involved in leading or growing into leadership in christian communities ever since i got serious about the way of Jesus in 1996. i’ve never been a pew sitter and i am, i’ll admit it, a little terrified that choices like this are going to make me less of a preacher than a nonprofit middle manager. i have always been extremely reluctant to monetize my vocation, but, if i want to preach and participate in Word and Sacrament ministry on a regular basis, i’ll probably have to do that at some point in the years to come. we will see.

the leadboston experience that i mentioned previously has been very beneficial up to this point. leadboston is a cross-sector group of leaders that meets monthly to explore the need for and pursuit of social justice in boston. each month we have a topic like race and class in boston and we often meet onsite at innovative nonprofits like masschallenge, cultural institutions like the boston ballet or public facilities like the suffolk county house of corrections for the day.

yesterday we met at the latter location, took an extensive tour of the jail and wrapped the day up with a tour of the boston police department headquarters. i found it deeply affecting to visit the jail for a number of personal and social reasons. first, but for being a white, middle class guy with a bit of a calculating mind, i would have seen the inside of a jail before now. in my misspent youth i was charged for four misdemeanors that i committed but never was convicted for (and i’m not even counting the ridiculous charge of destroying public property by taking a piss on the side of a west virginia state highway) and, thanks to political connections, i was never even indicted for a fraternity prank turned felony that i was quite guilty of as well. my ability to bypass any real consequences for my illegal actions make me  feel particularly sensitive to the stories and needs of those – particularly young african-american and hispanic young men – who have had their careers and opportunities circumscribed by similar petty crimes.

second, as we walked through the jail, talked to the superintendent and his leadership staff – whose commitment to rehabilitation, clear compassion for the men and women under their care and quality of services was inspiring), met and crossed paths with the men and women inside – 80% of whom are african american or hispanic and 75% of which are incarcerated due to drug related crimes – i could not help but think about the apparently arbitrary way we determine which crimes are worthy of incarceration. for instance, there were hundreds of individuals in the suffolk county house of corrections because of heroin related crimes, but, apparently, precious few who were segregated from society due to their addiction to psychotropic perscription drugs that people of my class and race use, grow dependent upon and sometimes pop like they are candy. there were also a number of individuals who were being detained by immigrations and customs enforcement in preparation for their deportation, but there was not a special wing for the owners of the upper crust and other businesses who not only hire, but explicitly import undocumented immigrants in order to lower their bottom line. we also met and heard from an incarcerated woman who had been convicted of identity theft and related financial crimes, but i would bet all the money in my checking account (especially if it was my little personal account) that there was not a single mortgage broker who had lied about people’s income levels in order to secure another commission. later, at the boston police department, it quickly became clear that they are much more focused and effective at planning drug busts than they are at detecting the dishonest spreadsheets and guileless bank tactics that damn near collapsed our economy in 2008.

as a society we have incarceration rates that far surpass every other western country – including what we like to refer to as more “repressive” regimes like russia. i’m starting to suspect that exploring the crimes and the people that we consider worthy of incarceration can teach us a lot about our country.

those are some things i’m thinking about right now. i’m going to try and discipline myself to processing through some of these issues in this space rather than spending my time ridiculing utterly ignorant spectacles like american idle on facebook and twitter. thanks for hearing me out.

  1. Sure, I’ll like this, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks .

  2. Finally – something non-banal. I miss the blog-o-world. We all sold out to facebook, probably due to the ease of its comunications ie: not having to write long thoughtful stuff…

    Great words friend. We “north” american (I have to put that north in there now) middle & upper classers shun the thought of jail and its residents. To be incarcerated is to be vile.

    But you’re right. The standards for incarceration are out of whack. It’s a subtle, lesser known form of injustice: keep the yucky people out of my sight.

    Looking forward to more posts.

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