And might it not be possible that these problems are a direct result of a mindset, a "progressive" mindset unleashed in the 1960s (which, ironically, Howard Dean announced at the Sojourners conference that he wants to "enter again") that marginalized and minimized personal responsibility and traditional personal standards of behavior? It was indeed the very argument that personal standards are relative and not relevant to our public life that served as the rationale for the Roe v. Wade decision.
Literally trillions of dollars have been spent since the 1960s to address poverty, both in the United States and in developing countries, in exactly the manner that Revs. Wallis, Sharpton, and Jackson suggest we should continue doing today. That is, to cast poverty not as something that individuals rise above and out of, but as something that bureaucrats spend other people's money on to eliminate.
The result, after trillions spent, has been negligible results and massive social costs. The so-called "progressives" are really "regressives." For reasons that I cannot explain, they want to return to a well traveled path to nowhere.
On the other hand, what is quite clear is that the likelihood of a black child in the United States living in poverty is five times higher if that child is living in a home headed by a single parent than in one headed by married parents. It is also true that the incidence of child poverty in homes headed by married parents is virtually no different between blacks and whites.
We can look to the Europeans to see how Rev. Wallis' and Rev. Sharpton's progressive agenda works. France and Germany sit with double digit unemployment rates, massive red ink from welfare state obligations, and fertility rates so low that their overall populations are shrinking.
The beauty of a free country is that we can choose to interpret the bible as we wish. However, if indeed there is a truth, and anyone of faith must conclude that there is, time will tell who is right.
My take on scripture puts individual responsibility front and center and says that the quality of our lives directly reflects how we choose to live our lives. Rev. Sharpton wants to continue to insist that "The problems in our community have been systematic and because of structural problems within the system."
The black left has dominated black life and thinking for the last 50 years. Black family life is, on average, in much worse shape today than 50 years ago and black poverty persists.
Our Lord is merciful and forgiving. But surely we should not expect infinite patience. We have some responsibility to learn from the errors of our ways. I think those errors are pretty clear. It is time to get some real work done, one human being at a time.