The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘prison

How about cage-free people?

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A cock and a hen roosting together.
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US land of the free: 2,131,180 prisoners

I wonder at the oddness of it.

We in the USA prefer the eggs of cage-free chickens. Yet we cage more people than any other nation.

I guess we think cages bad for chickens but useful for humans.

At caging the latter, we are certainly the world’s most prolific:

clipped from www.nytimes.com
The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. […]

“Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror,” James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last year in Social Research. “Certainly there are no European governments sending delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons.”

This series of articles examines commonplace aspects of the American justice system that are actually unique in the world.

Previous Articles in the Series »

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Now, surely most people in prison are not there because they’re dangerous. Violent crimes are only a small fraction of jail-meriting offenses here. So most prisoners are not locked up to protect the rest of us.

We must have locked them up, then, because we thought it good for them.

But we’re sure it makes chickens worse.

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Young heroes of peace in Israel – in prison

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They’re called Shministim – Israeli teenagers who refuse conscription into the Israeli army because of its apartheid treatment of innocent Palestinians.  Listen to their voices in this quiet and moving two-minute video:

I have signed the letter they mention; I invite you to, as well, by going to Tell Israel – Free the Shministim!

Let’s change the world.


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American Drug War Economics – Vol.1

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Marijuana
Image by warrantedarrest via Flickr

When I was a college kid in the 1970s, buying pot was easier than buying cigarettes (though, to be honest, I don’t remember ever buying either!)

Probably, it hasn’t changed. But here’s what has:  I didn’t know of one single person who’d gone to prison over it.  It’s a whole lot easier to end up in prison today.

Kids,  just like kids of my generation, act like kids.  But “get tough” laws are on the books now.  They rip kids’ futures away, and give them instead a bed in the most violent, gang-dominated, drug-permeated neighborhoods in America:  our prisons.

When they get out, they’re marked. Getting a job is tough.  Getting scholarships is nearly impossible (“get-tough” legislators having pre-wired the FAFSA to identify criminal records), so education is almost out of the question.  Careers that require certifications are mostly closed. The options they had planned for are gone.

Visitors entrance to Utah State Prison's Wasat...
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For all that, what have we, as a society, gained? Nada.

These horrific laws, easily passed and rarely opposed (what politician wants to be labeled “soft on drugs“?), which incarcerate many of our best and brightest and then leave them with few non-poverty options, have utterly failed to reduce drug use. And they have cost us a fortune.

Meanwhile, your legislators are looking for more billions to build more prisons because this juggernaut crushes kids by the thousands every single day.  No other nation imprisons as many of its own as we do in “the land of the free.”

It will continue until we stop it.  And, since lots of people make lots of money keeping things just the way they are, it won’t stop easily.

But here’s one place—of many—to begin.

American Drug War Economics – Volume 1
Ending drug prohibition and focusing on addiction as a sickness, like alcohol and prescription drugs, could save the U.S. economy and millions of lives. Please pass this video on to as many people as you can. We need your help to end the Drug War.http://www.americandrugwar.com, http://www.sacredcow.com, http://www.sacredcowstore.com; Produced by Kevin Booth and Ryan Kaye
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Let’s get started.


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Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted: worship music

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Violin and Guitar, 1913Update, 12-8-08: Before you launch into this post, here’s an excerpt from a sermon that mentions something similar. You can see it in context here.

Can we look at our worship and come away with a sense that our group’s big thing is caring for humans who suffer? We’ve seen it in Jesus – nearly every single chapter, sooner or later, he’d get back to caring for human needs.  And now he’s used it to define ultimate success or failure.

Consider our songs of worship as a measure of what matters to us.  Here are some titles and first lines.  See if they reflect this passion for dishonored sufferers Jesus has been preaching about:

  1. “How beautiful!”
  2. “You are my hiding place.”
  3. “You are here, among us.”
  4. “Jesus, you are the one, gives me hope when the day is done.”
  5. I’m trading my sorrows.”
  6. “We want a new passion for Jesus – one that will burn in our hearts, like never before.”
  7. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord – I want to see you” [especially amusing, given today’s gospel story about how the good guys were the ones who served without seeing]
  8. “I’m here, to meet with you. Come and meet with me.”
  9. “Lord, I lift your name on high – Lord I love to sing your praises” [why?] “I’m so glad you’re in my life – I’m so glad you came to save us.”  [I’m so glad I work for Honeywell]
  10. “You-ou are, forever my friend.”
  11. “This is the air I breathe – your holy presence, living in me . . . and I’m lost without You.”

Nope. They’re about ooey-gooey with Jesus, as if no one else on earth existed.  And lest we get snobbish about modern Christian music, remember that that the songs in the hymnal are no more world-focused.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. [ I’m on my way to heav’n I know, so I’ll let others be.]

The inestimable delight of sensing God’s nearness that our music reflects is a wonderful thing.  But we skipped dinner and went straight for the dessert.  What’s going to happen with that kind of diet? […]

But wait – didn’t Jesus picture himself standing at the end of time dividing the gentiles sheep from goats based upon how they cared for wounded people?  Would you think that would at least appear somewhere in our hymnology?  What is up here?

Could it be that the church has become so ensconced in pushing its own theology that it no longer reflects the priorities of Jesus himself?

Now, the real post:

We live in a day more drenched with beautiful worship music than any in history. But I need some things I can’t find.

Two years ago, I began preaching through the Bible via the Revised Common Lectionary. Why? To allow the Bible’s priorities – assumedly, God’s – a greater role in shaping my preaching priorities. If something came up a lot (I reasoned), it was because it was in the Bible a lot. So it must be important to God.

I was surprised by what those things were. For instance:

– loving one another well (building the authenticity of the community of faith) came up all the time
– God’s preferential passion for people of little earthly influence was a constant hot topic
– Jesus Christ was much more the focus of the Bible than my preaching had previously reflected
– the ongoing transformation of the people of God was the sine qua non of evangelism.

So far, so good, this was exciting.

Then I’d go looking for worship music that reflected what I was finding in Scripture.

Bzzzt! Sorry, you chose the wrong door, there’s no prize behind that one!

For building the community of faith, we’ve sung The Servant Song a lot (enough to get gentle snickers from the worship band) because there wasn’t much else! We have plenty of paeans to the glories of our radically individualistic faith, but almost nada about how “we are being built together” or “Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness” (Eph. 4.6, The Message), or “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

For extolling Jesus’ passion for the poor, I found . . . ah . . . [imagine sound of thumping on empty barrel]. Yet Jesus insists that we serve him by serving them. It is a passion he lives and breathes – perhaps the one mentioned in Scripture more than any other – and can you think of a song or hymn that calls us to it?

As for songs that see us as a people getting better, becoming more attractive to those who can see Christ living through us – again, I’m stumped.

Weird, huh? Here is Jesus, living out these wonderful, radical, world-changing priorities . . . and those priorities are virtually invisible in the hymnology of his followers!

So, my plea: Help me out here.. Help me find worship music that tells of the longings of Jesus himself, that tells of the miraculous building of communities of love, that tells of the Master’s preferential passion for the dispossessed, that tells of the transformational reality of life together beneath the Cross, that tells of the Kingdom of God’s movement into our work and world. New or old, I’m game.

Whatcha got?

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