A homeless shelter may be a refuge for those with no place to turn, but the entrance at its gate comes with a steep admission price: “Turn in your LINK card.” “Make your bed.” “Attend religious services daily.” “Stay sober.” “Be in by curfew.” At the Harm Reduction in the House 2016 conference which I attended last Friday, two young people who had experienced homelessness could quickly rattle off lists of requirements. These requirements mean that the choice to seek out a shelter or stay under the Wilson Street viaduct requires a careful cost and benefit analysis. If staying out late with friends or smoking marijuana gives you the comfort you need in the face of loss and trauma, the trade-off for four walls and a roof may not be worth it.
“Theology and Peace” is an informal association of pastors, theologians, and lay people that seeks to advance the intellectual work of philosopher Rene Girard as the basis for transforming North American Christianity. On May 24-26, this group held its 9th annual conference in Northbrook, Illinois on the topic “People and Policing: Compassion for OUR Violence.” CNDP Project Coordinator Rev. Kathryn Ray offers the following reflection. “My son was about two years old. I had taken him to the park to play… Two little boys, one blond-haired, the other red-headed, ran down to the car where my son was playing. Seeing them coming, my son immediately jumped out… The little red-headed boy… saw my son looking on… With all the venom that a seven- or eight-year-old boy could muster, he pointed his finger at my son and said, ‘You better stop looking at us, before I put you in jail where you belong. … At two years old my son was already viewed as a criminal.” (pp. 86-7) In her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas shares this story to illustrate the depth to which the criminalization of African-American men and boys has permeated the American psyche. In 2012, a neighborhood watch captain singled out Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, as “suspicious” character, pursued him, and killed him. In acquitting his killer, the jury determined this characterization to be justified. Trayvon Martin had not committed a crime. But like Kelly Brown Douglas’s son, he had been criminalized- he had been named “criminal” by another. The label led to his murder.
State legislators in Rhode Island are considering whether their state should become the fifth in the nation to legalize marijuana. On May 10, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Providence, Thomas J. Tobin, issued a public commentary in opposition. Rev. Alexander E. Sharp, Executive Director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, offers this letter in response.
Our May 2 newsletter described the way in which harm reduction, including Insite, the only legal, supervised injection site in North America, can save lives and improve health. We offer the testimony of Rev. Edwin Robinson, Director of Urban Strategies and Live Free for Faith in Texas (part of the People’s National Network), who participated in this study tour to Vancouver, Canada on April 11-13.
By Rev. Kathryn Ray The season of Lent has fallen upon us once more, a time when many Christians call to mind the forty days Jesus spent facing temptation in the desert. Some of us may choose to symbolically sojourn with Jesus through this time by taking on a Lenten discipline. This season of fasting gives us an opportunity to consider the plight of those struggling with substance abuse through the lens of our own addictions.