Tuesday, May 15, 2018

America's Inner Cities are the Best Mission Fields for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

America's Inner Cities are the Best Mission Fields for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

America's Inner Cities are the Newest Mission Fields for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Having long suffered the absence of Faith investment, vocational education, and economic resources, America's Inner Cities have suffered decreases in Christian values, high levels of unemployment and disinvestment, and insufferable levels of violent crime and welfare dependency.  The inner city is generally the central area of a major city, tend to have higher population densities than outer suburbs, and usually, occupy multi-floored townhouses and apartment buildings.  In the US, the term "inner city" is often used to describe lower-income residential districts in the city center and or impoverished minority neighborhoods.  Poverty is the scarcity or the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money.  After a decades war on poverty in the United States, those that have promoted its efforts have begun to reason that temporal relief of the conditions of poverty is not a cure.  The intended victors have become the unintended victims.  An intense strategy to reintroduce Christianity and capitalism to the Urban Mission Fields will result in greater evangelistic opportunities, profitable business developments that produce jobs, small businesses, and modest returns on philanthropic investments, and an overall reduction to the uncivil threats to public safety and demands for governmental investments.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:"--Matthew 28:19

America's Inner Cities are the Newest Mission Fields for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Messiah's command to His disciples was a threefold strategy of liberation: (1) Go; (2) Teach, and (3) Baptize.  The three commands allowed not only for both Jew and Gentile to know the Faith of Jesus Christ but promoted the liberation and civilization of the West.  Choosing men and women of Faith to spread the Gospel across the globe produced one of the world's most powerful economic philosophies--capitalism.  Under this system, capital goods are owned by private individuals or businesses and free exchange markets are promoted and protected.  The economic historian David Landes, an "unbeliever" by his description, denotes that the main factors of this great economic achievement of Western civilization are mainly religious:

• the joy in discovery that arises from each individual being an imago Dei--"image of God"--called to be a creator;

• the religious value attached to hard and good manual work;

• the theological separation of the Creator from the creature, such that nature is subordinated to man, not surrounded with taboos;

• the Jewish and Christian sense of linear, not cyclical, time and, therefore, of progress; and

• respect for the market.

As God placed the eternal destiny in the hands of the individual, capitalism placed the economic and financial responsibilities for success into the hands and hearts of individuals.  These were principles subscribed to by men and women of Faith for much of the existence of the United States of America.  Yet, when these principles were abandoned, our Inner-Cities began to perish.  The fault is not limited to those that departed from the principles but, shared by those that stopped instilling those principles

With the creation of the Second Bill of Rights in response to the Great Depression and the assent of the War on Poverty from the 1960's, many of America's Inner Cities witnessed a "progressive" departure from both the principles of Christianity and Capitalism.  Southern Baptist Pastor Alan Cross, in "Capitalism, Community, Christianity", said, "When capitalism was taken over by Darwinian philosophy and Christianity just bowed the knee to pursuit of the profit motive over the survival and flourishing of local communities, then you had the beginnings of the moral rot that would flash up in the 2007-2009 Economic Collapse and that now threatens us again.  When greed, a vice, became a virtue and Christianity in America followed along, the only possible result would be the destruction that we now see.  Instead of standing prophetically against the separation of business and care for community, we just moved along with it and supported market forces – as long as they benefitted us.  When they don’t, we howl." 

Many will ask, "How could the absence of many that pursued success in Suburban America in lieu of the political unrest and economic upheaval of the Inner-Cities possibly impact the latter so negatively?"  Pastor Cross advises, "That section of our city now is in massive decline, schools are failing, property values have collapsed, and social problems have arisen. Poor immigrants have moved in and the white people have left, leaving poor or lower middle class blacks behind.  The major businesses all left and no one wants to invest there.  And, you might drive through that area and blame the people who live there or outside forces in the economy, but having lived there and seen what happened, I can tell you that there was a lot more going on that the people involved in making it happen did not even have a framework to understand."  Past choices have created the Faith, education, and economic mission fields of today.  Those mission fields are today's Inner-Cities.

What is a mission field?  The modern church promotes the singular concept that such work is limited to foreign and remote places in Africa, Asia, and South America.  The primary definition of the day is that a mission is a group of people who have been sent to a foreign country to carry out an official task.  Jesus, however, did not define the mission fields with such cavalier distinction.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus measured the boundaries of the mission field beginning at home and then, spreading abroad.  It is written, "And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  Jesus made it plain that our mission field is first, always within our reach, and then, spreads abroad as a result of our overall efforts and successes.  Those that wish to rebuild the people of Inner-City America must first reveal a strong commitment and sense of duty to do business and achieve economic accomplishments through employment, small business development, and wealth creation inclusive of homeownership.  Weekly, pastors and ministers extol their congregations with the assurances that "God spoke to me and told us to go on a mission to the poorest country in the world to spread the Gospel."  We must reclaim that definition to advance the Kingdom of Jesus' request of his modern disciples: a mission is the activities of a group of Christians who have been sent to a place to teach people about Christianity and Capitalism. 

However, this shall not be a "service campaign" akin to a "government relief strategy".  For years “The City” has been the pet project of Christians throughout America.  Mission trips were made to homeless shelters, food pantries, and poor neighborhoods, all in an effort to “clean up,” “rehabilitate”, and “evangelize” in Christ’s name.  These trips merely placed a band-aid on the systemic problems of a larger wound in need of stitches.  Painting the walls of a school that has broken windows and a busted furnace may make someone feel better about themselves and there impact pursuits.  Unfortunately, the children freeze on the next cold day.  The remedies that we offer as Christians should not limit us to placating the symptoms without providing a cure.  This feel-good Christianity is unacceptable to those that deliver the service and to those that receive it.  This is especially true when Jesus has outlined a way to deal with poverty although it will never be completely solved.  This will take years of faithful commitment requiring more than a weekend exhibition of works.  In order to improve the conditions of life for Inner-City Americans, we must apply the Gospel Economic Policy of Jesus Christ based upon the "Fish" paradigm.  Giving "fish" to those in need only soothes the condition momentarily, at best relieving the state of poverty while conditioning individuals to remain dependent on the "fisherman".  Teaching men and women to "fish" upholds the sovereignty of the individual while improving their chances of breaking the cycles of poverty for life.     

Faith is a very large part of the Inner-City experience.  In Proverbs 22:2, it is written, "The rich and poor meet together: the LORD [is] the maker of them all."  Where shall they come together?  They come together in corporate worship.  In the body, if there is a lack then, there will be some that will resource.  According to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, nearly eight-in-ten African-Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among the U.S. adult population overall.  Religion also is important in the lives of many African-Americans who are not affiliated with any particular religion.  Fully 45% of unaffiliated African-Americans report that religion is very important in their lives.  More than eight-in-ten black women (84%) say religion is very important to them, and roughly six-in-ten (59%) say they attend religious services at least once a week.  No group of men or women from any other racial or ethnic background exhibits comparably high levels of religious observance.  This means that a significant portion of African-American Inner-City men does not participate in religious services which open the door for significant evangelistic opportunities. 

The absence of men from the gathering tends families to poverty.  Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, single motherhood is now becoming the new “norm”.  Single Mother Guide reports, today, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18—a total of about 17.2 million—are being raised without a father.  Only half were employed full-time all year long, almost a third (27.5%) were jobless the entire year.  Among those who were laid off or looking for work, less than a quarter (22.4%) received unemployment benefits.  The median income for families led by a single mother in 2016 was about $35,400, well below the $85,300 median for married couples.  The lack of income puts a strain on a family and its well-being.  Without the financial support of fathers, families tend to dependence on government programs, Faith and religious groups, and altruistic individuals and families.  Active participation in churches does not eliminate the risks of sin.  However, it does encourage "strong" marriages and fervent paternal support.  The body of Christ must take its place in the daily lives of the people and its neighborhood.  When it does then, the people prosper.  Henri Nouwen wrote, "Nevertheless, I’m profoundly convinced that the greatest spiritual danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the church.  The church is the body of the Lord.  Without Jesus, there can be no church; and without the church, we cannot stay united with Jesus."  The life of the body and the spirit of the families and neighborhoods is revived in and by the church. 

In the District of Columbia's Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Plan, 2016-2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser boasted, "In a city as prosperous as ours, everyone deserves a fair shot. That is why my Administration has fought to ensure that all of our residents-whether they have been here for five generations or five minutes-have a pathway to the middle class.  That is why we are proud that our unemployment rate has declined 1.1% in the past year, and even more so in Wards 7 and 8. Our economy is growing, small businesses are thriving, and new amenities and services are popping up in all 8 wards."  In spite of this acknowledgment, there are approximately 60,000 adults in the District who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent–about 71 percent of which are African American.  The absence of vocational educational outlets limits individuals and families to a substantial period of poverty.  The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that 56% (7,271) of children whose parents do not have a high school degree live in poor families.  As well, 45% (12,121) of children whose parents have a high school degree, but no college education live in poor families.  The employment outlook for those most at risk is not very good.  Even in an invigorated economy, the DC unemployment rate is 5.6%.  The city's rate is third highest amongst US territories and tied for second highest amongst the States.  The lacks of educational accomplishment and comparable vocational education opportunities confine individuals to the dependency of state. 

After a decades war on poverty in the US, those that have promoted its efforts have begun to reason that temporal relief of the conditions of poverty is not a cure.  The DC WIOA State Plan reports: "While there are some employment opportunities in the District for those without a four-year degree, including in high-demand sectors such as business administration and information technology, construction, healthcare, hospitality, and security and law; the availability of jobs for individuals with lower literacy levels, individuals who do not have a high school diploma or GED, and residents who only have a high school diploma or GED are far more limited. This is due to the fact that in many cases these residents need connections to adult basic education, adult secondary education and progressive levels of education, training, and other supports to start and advance along career pathways in these areas."   Taxpayers are burdened with the plight of unchanged poverty.  According to the DC Department of Human Services, the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget reformed DC’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by repealing the District’s rigid 60-month time limit which would have left approximately 6,000 DC families—including over 10,000 children—without vitally need case benefits.  As well, the (FY) 2019 budget raised the maximum benefit for a family of three will increase from $576 in FY 2018 to $644 in FY 2019, which is more in line with benefits in other high-cost jurisdictions.  For a family of three, this sustenance does not satisfy its overall needs either short or long term.  Imagine if a faith-based organization could provide a vocational training program that would assure an income of $4,167 per month.  That family of three now has better housing, food, transportation, education and life options.  When long-term poverty is not met with vocational education opportunities then, individuals and families languish. 

In Urban settings, small and mid-sized firms are the most relied upon for employment creation.  Where there is little income, there is little desire of businesses to invest in impoverished neighborhoods.  The absence of economic stakeholders, especially banks and financial institutions, limits lending opportunities and capital for development.  Without lending, small business development becomes non-existent.  Chris Myers Asch, Washington History Editor, writes, "In the next decade (the 1990's), as crack and crime consumed public housing projects and formerly middle-class apartment complexes alike, banks closed their branches, grocery stores pulled out, and landlords neglected upkeep, reinforcing the association of the term “east of the river” with poverty and crime.  That negative connotation has endured in the twenty-first century."  Asch identifies the distinctions between separate  geographical regions within Urban America, "...the area as a single socioeconomic entity—“East of the River”—that was the mirror opposite of the affluent neighborhoods “West of the Park.”  Individuals and organizations are not willing to risk investing in socio-economically challenged neighborhoods for fear of loss and personal well-being.  Capital flows into areas where that are less socio-economically risky and offer higher-skilled human resources. 

The Urban Institute (UI), in 1990, identified neighborhoods that can be classified as “challenged,” meaning that the neighborhood’s unemployment rate, the share of residents with less than a high school degree, and share of households headed by a single mother all exceed the citywide average by at least 20 percent.  Their findings were that 60 percent of challenged neighborhoods were located east of the Anacostia River.  Well, this must have changed significantly for "the least, the last, and the lost" in two decades.  Right?  UI found overall, 28 neighborhoods were classified as challenged in both 2000 and 2006-2010, only 6 are located west of the river.  Companies need profits for the sake of retiring debt, expanding into new markets, hiring staff, and investing in new innovations.  In hiring staff, small and mid-sized businesses are more willing to take risks on individuals with questionable criminal records, socially and financially erratic personal backgrounds and no or low job skills.  In Washington, DC and most American Inner-Cities, the absence of businesses reduces overall employment options and limits wealth creation potential for the citizens and residents in the most challenged neighborhoods.

Crime in urban neighborhoods is a great concern.  Inner-Cities like New York, Detroit, or Chicago constantly struggle with the plagues of poverty and crime. The challenged neighborhoods are perfect havens for criminals.  According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (USBOJS), "People living in households in the US that have an income level below the Federal poverty threshold have more than double the rates of violent victimization compared to individuals in high-income households."  USBOJS found that "urban poverty increased the risks of violence and crime for US households".  Blake Taylor, Poverty and Crime [2006], writes:

"Crime offers a way in which impoverished people can obtain material goods that they cannot attain through legitimate means. Often threat or force can help them acquire even more goods, this induces them to commit violent acts such as robbery, which is the second most common violent crime. For many impoverished people, the prize that crime yields may outweigh the risk of being caught, especially given that their opportunity cost is lower than that of a wealthier person. Thus, poverty should increase crime rates...The degree of [a] minority population in an area is also correlated with poverty due to the disproportional amount of minorities living in impoverished urban areas. In addition, racism towards minorities can lead to lower wages and fewer jobs, resulting in higher poverty rates. In 1995, all Metropolitan Areas with unemployment rates over 12% also had a population composed of at least 30% minorities."

Crime and poverty dramatically impact a city and its citizenry.  Losses to property and income, although sizeable, never equate to the loss of life--innocent lives, especially--that result from violent crimes.  Open Heart Close Case (OHCC) was created as a result of such a loss of innocent life.  On Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at approximately 9:40 pm, Ms. Charnice Milton was shot and killed in the 2700 block of Good Hope Road, SE.  The 27-year-old Washington, DC journalist was murdered after she was used as a "human shield" while attempting to catch her final bus home after covering an event on Capitol Hill.  A man or older teen on a dirt bike with a group of riders fired at another group of bike riders.  Sixteen (16) persons were involved in the murder.  As reported by DailyMail.com, Mayor Bowser said, "We want to know. We know that people were in and around the area.  We have gotten very little information and we need the public to provide that information so Charnice's killer can be captured."  No arrests have been made.  Charnice Milton is the Daughter of OHCC Founders Kenneth McClenton and Francine Milton.  An innocent life was taken in an impoverished neighborhood in Urban America. 

We believe that in order to resolve the great criminal activity threats to public safety in Urban America that stakeholders must focus on strategies that will produce vigorous economies.  The best weapon against crime is employment.  Sydney, Australia's Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) reports that "The best crime prevention tool, in the long run, is not tougher penalties or more police or better rehabilitation programs, it’s a strong and vibrant economy … If we just divert people from prison and do nothing to stop them reoffending, the money we save on prison will be spent responding to an increase in crime."  Poverty and crime statistics prove that when people are able to satisfy their basic needs, then their standard of living improves.  When individuals have employment opportunities that provide maximum wage growth no matter the educational attainment then, they are more likely to meet their needs through legitimate means.

Having long suffered the absence of Faith investment, vocational education, and economic resources, America's Inner Cities have suffered decreases in Christian values, high levels of unemployment and disinvestment, and insufferable levels of violent crime and welfare dependency.  The effects of living in high-poverty communities—such as poor health and educational outcomes, as well as limited employment opportunities—are far-reaching and generational.  According to research by Patrick Sharkey of New York University, more than 70 percent of the African American residents in the nation’s poorest urban neighborhoods are the children and grandchildren of those who lived in similar neighborhoods and conditions 40 years ago.  As a result, he states, “any interventions designed to address neighborhood disadvantage must reach multiple generations of family members.”  Only the Faith-based organizations have the power, love and resolve to reach multiple generations that suffer from poverty's impacts. 

There are over 250 major mission fields with impoverished Inner Cities in the US.  The intended victors of government relief efforts have become the unintended victims.  An intense strategy to reintroduce Christianity and capitalism to the Urban Mission Fields will result in greater evangelistic advancement, profitable business developments that produce jobs, small businesses, and modest returns on philanthropic investments, and an overall reduction to the uncivil threats to public safety and demands for governmental investments.  We believe that our application of the simplest Faith, educational, and economic principles will greatly benefit the individuals served, the local and state governments, and our neighbors in the reduction of dependency, improved public safety, increased tax collections through payroll and property ownership, and improved standard of living for all.  The opportunities for social, financial, and Kingdom impact are tremendous.

An Urban Conservative Whose Mission Is to Spread the Good News of Christianity, Conservatism, Capitalism, Constitutionalism, and Individual Sovereignty throughout the World.  Devoted to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, He Believes that in Order to Save the United States, We Must Mutually Pledge Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor to Save Urban America.

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