Author LaVerne Johnson from the Hyde Park Writers Group 

    November 7, 2109

Brothers and sisters, boys & girls!!  Look around you, there’s an epidemic in our neighborhoods. It’s running rampant and no one is coming to rescue us but us.  Wake up. Recognize what’s happening!! Our neighborhoods are the only neighborhoods where this poison can be found. We’re allowing ourselves to destroy our race and creating your own genocide. 

How dare you sell that poison to your own Mothers and Fathers, sisters & brothers?!! What can you possibly be thinking? Take responsibility. Come on now, be for real. Our ancestors died so that we could be free, and addiction is the worst form of slavery. How dare you allow yourselves to be part of such a cruel joke?

This time they’re sitting back laughing while dropping off that garbage for us to sale in addition to making it possible for us to possess these high-priced weapons with little or no money to use and shoot up our neighborhoods. Our children are being killed inside their own home. Why be a part of that drama?! Hold your head up! Be what you were given life to be. Joyful & proud!! 

Any other scenario has nothing to do with love or happiness. Some nights a single person can spend enough money on drugs to take a trip out of town, to a place where they could go and come back with dignity. Without the shame of hiding from your landlord, knowing that you’ve put all his rent in a pipe.  The shame of having no food to give your children. 

What will you say to them when they tell you that they’re hungry? Anything with so much shame connected to it can’t be any good. Chasing a feeling that lasts a matter of minutes. Spending more and more even after that feeling is gone and you’re too ashamed to leave because you don’t have any money left and you don’t want to face your family. Ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror because you know better. Being sad, lonely or bored is no excuse to violate your body with poison and ruin your life. It’s sheer utter madness. Women will trade their bodies for a little piece of nothing.

Jails are overflowing with our Fathers, brothers & sons. We’ve got enough to deal with when the incidence of HIV and AIDS is higher among our women than women of any other color or in any other neighborhood. Our babies are being born HIV positive and with very little or no chance at life. Wake UP people and Listen UP!! What are we teaching our children? Will there be a next generation? A quick buck, an easy dollar, a quick fix, just what is the price that you’re willing to pay? Give it up while there’s still hope and it’s all in your hands while you have the choice… Listen Up!!!

What is artificial intelligence?

Darrell M. West


Editor’s Note: This report is part of “A Blueprint for the Future of AI,” a series from the Brookings Institution that analyzes the new challenges and potential policy solutions introduced by artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

Few concepts are as poorly understood as artificial intelligence. Opinion surveys show that even top business leaders lack a detailed sense of AI and that many ordinary people confuse it with super-powered robots or hyper-intelligent devices. Hollywood helps little in this regard by fusing robots and advanced software into self-replicating automatons such as the Terminator’s Skynet or the evil HAL seen in Arthur Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which goes rogue after humans plan to deactivate it. The lack of clarity around the term enables technology pessimists to warn AI will conquer humans, suppress individual freedom, and destroy personal privacy through a digital “1984.”

Part of the problem is the lack of a uniformly agreed upon definition. Alan Turing generally is credited with the origin of the concept when he speculated in 1950 about “thinking machines” that could reason at the level of a human being. His well-known “Turing Test” specifies that computers need to complete reasoning puzzles as well as humans in order to be considered “thinking” in an autonomous manner.

Turing was followed up a few years later by John McCarthy, who first used the term “artificial intelligence” to denote machines that could think autonomously. He described the threshold as “getting a computer to do things which, when done by people, are said to involve intelligence.”

Since the 1950s, scientists have argued over what constitutes “thinking” and “intelligence,” and what is “fully autonomous” when it comes to hardware and software. Advanced computers such as the IBM Watson already have beaten humans at chess and are capable of instantly processing enormous amounts of information.

The lack of clarity around the term enables technology pessimists to warn AI will conquer humans, suppress individual freedom, and destroy personal privacy through a digital “1984.”

Today, AI generally is thought to refer to “machines that respond to stimulation consistent with traditional responses from humans, given the human capacity for contemplation, judgment, and intention.” According to researchers Shubhendu and Vijay, these software systems “make decisions which normally require [a] human level of expertise” and help people anticipate problems or deal with issues as they come up. As argued by John Allen and myself in an April 2018 paper, such systems have three qualities that constitute the essence of artificial intelligence: intentionality, intelligence, and adaptability.

In the remainder of this paper, I discuss these qualities and why it is important to make sure each accords with basic human values. Each of the AI features has the potential to move civilization forward in progressive ways. But without adequate safeguards or the incorporation of ethical considerations, the AI utopia can quickly turn into dystopia.


Artificial intelligence algorithms are designed to make decisions, often using real-time data. They are unlike passive machines that are capable only of mechanical or predetermined responses. Using sensors, digital data, or remote inputs, they combine information from a variety of different sources, analyze the material instantly, and act on the insights derived from those data. As such, they are designed by humans with intentionality and reach conclusions based on their instant analysis.

An example from the transportation industry shows how this happens. Autonomous vehicles are equipped with LIDARS (light detection and ranging) and remote sensors that gather information from the vehicle’s surroundings. The LIDAR uses light from a radar to see objects in front of and around the vehicle and make instantaneous decisions regarding the presence of objects, distances, and whether the car is about to hit something. On-board computers combine this information with sensor data to determine whether there are any dangerous conditions, the vehicle needs to shift lanes, or it should slow or stop completely. All of that material has to be analyzed instantly to avoid crashes and keep the vehicle in the proper lane.

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Homeschooling Special Needs Panel Discussion

Mon Oct 7, 2019 7:33 pm (PDT) . Posted by:

“Kathy Wentz” kwentz9044



Approximately 25 percent of homeschooling families have at least one
student with special needs. These special needs can be physical, emotional,
or educational. Dealing with these unique needs means :creating a unique
supportive learning environment. A panel of experts in various fields will
help you better understand how best to meet your child’s unique situation
and succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Confirmed Presenters:
Jean Kulczyk, M.Ed., Edu. Consultant, Special Education Advocate;
Jamie Fox, M.A., CCC-SRP/L with Pediatric Interactions;
Tracy Lyndon, OTR/L with Therapeutic Links, PC

Stop Political Corruption / Political Profile: Susan Sadlowski Garza / Senator Hastings: Do the Right Thing!

Stop Political Corruption

Reprint from:

MG Media / Craig Wall

Several recent reports released ranks Chicago as the most corrupt city in the country and Illinois as the third-most corrupt state. “What we find is a very dreary picture. In nearly every sector, whether you talk about aldermen, you talk about Chicago schools, you talk about contracts, in every area corruption is still rife in the city of Chicago,” said Dick Simpson, lead author of the Continuing Corruption in Illinois study and a University of Illinois Chicago political science professor.

Simpson cites the convictions of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert in a sex abuse scandal, Congressman Aaron Schock’s indictment on fraud and theft charges, and the case against Chicago Ald. Willie Cochran for bribery and extortion. In addition, Chicago’s red-light camera scandal sent an assistant transportation department commission to prison for bribery and extortion.

“What that means is that it’s harder to get businesses to come here because of its corrupt state, we’re losing population and corruption is one of the reasons we’re losing population. We have undermined faith in government,” Simpson said. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, during a school visit, cited a series of reforms he’s enacted over the last seven years to deal with corruption.

“I would question the judgment about where we rank, but I’m gonna leave that aside, ’cause that’s not important. What’s important is, do you have the political will to make fundamental changes in the system? And while we’re not resting on our laurels, I think when you look where I was on day one and where we are today, we made those series of changes,” Mayor Emanuel said.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner repeatedly railed against corruption since before he was elected. During his tenure, his office cited several ethics reforms he has put in place through executive order including a ban on legislators doing work before property tax appeals boards. “Clearly, there is still work to be done and we call on our partners in the legislature to join us and take a stand against public corruption to restore public trust,” Rauner said in a statement.

Correspondent Chuck Sweeny: Illinois’ biggest problem is corruption. There’s an old saying: No one is safe when the Illinois General Assembly is in session. That’s probably too cynical. Personally, I have both hopes and fears about what legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker will do.

We Illinoisans have just endured four years of inertia and uncertainty. Businesses and people hate uncertainty. That and our state’s unreasonably high property taxes have caused people to pack up and leave the Land of Lincoln. Between 2017 and 2018, more than 45,000 people left Illinois, the fifth year in a row that the state lost population. Since 2013, we’ve lost 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the states that border Illinois have been growing.

Keep in mind that the people leaving are those who can afford to pack up and move — people with good jobs who pay the taxes that make it possible for local and state governments to operate. The next General Assembly, even though the Democrats have overwhelming majorities in both the Senate and House, must begin to turn that around.

Pritzker is a businessman who has a great track record of starting and nurturing tech companies through his “1871” firm. From its headquarters in the Merchandise Mart, 1871 has created 7,000 jobs in its first five years of operation. The governor can bring to state government his understanding of the business world and moderate the Democrats’ traditional view that capitalism is evil and must be heavily taxed, regulated, litigated against and unionized to even be allowed to continue its existence — if the increasingly radical House and Senate will work with him.

Illinois will have to walk and chew gum at the same time. We’ve got to grow the economy and avoid over-taxation and over-regulation. And we have to tackle our growing unfunded pension liability, now at $130 billion and growing. We also must reform the pension system, which is reducing local governments’ ability to provide needed services as a growing percentage of property tax receipts must be used to fund pensions that grow at three percent a year regardless of the rate of inflation.

One of the main reasons our state economy is stalled is corruption. The state’s history of government officials using their positions to line their pockets is sordid, all the way from ex-Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell’s $54 million theft from that small city’s coffers to a rogue’s gallery of Chicago aldermen who extorted money — although it must be said that Crundwell is in a league of her own.

The Definition of Political Corruption: Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain


George Ryan — Governor from 1999 through 2003. After leaving office, he was convicted of racketeering for actions as governor and secretary of state. In November 2007, he began serving 6 1/2 years in federal prison

This corruption highlighted currently by the federal indictment for extortion against 50-year Ald. Ed Burke, until recently the powerful chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, makes businesses wary of coming to Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, says Crain’s Chicago Business. “In Chicago, businesses are ripe targets for political toll-takers when they need city approval to expand a plant, remodel a restaurant or improve a driveway,” Crain’s said. “These extra expenses raise the cost of doing business in the city. Higher costs, in turn, influence business decisions about coming to Chicago, expanding here and staying here.”

That tradition of corruption stretches to the state level — four of the governors elected since 1960 have gone to prison along with a sleuth of other elected officials like U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. No other state can match Illinois’ dubious history. However, a lot of Illinois’ corruption is legal graft, something described in the book on machine politics, “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall” as “I saw my opportunities and I took ’em.”

This is how some elected officials enhance their government salaries, by taking advantage of things they know that the public doesn’t, and using their position of influence to encourage constituents to steer business to their non-governmental jobs, such as law firms that specialize in property assessment reduction and insurance businesses. In Illinois, legislators are part-time workers, allowing them to have outside jobs.

Where exactly is the line between legal and illegal graft? That’s the question with which courts have grappled for generations. We never talk about ending corruption in Illinois government, preferring instead to talk about the usual issues — taxes, regulations, and debt. However, until we put a serious dent in the ability of politicians to make money on our dimes, Illinois will go nowhere and businesses will leave.

Unfortunately, in an interview with our Editorial Board during the campaign, our new attorney general, Democrat Kwame Raoul, expressed no interest in tackling corruption in government, saying emphatically it wasn’t the AG’s job. Well, who the hell’s job is it? Governor? Mr. Speaker? Crickets?

The Definition of Political Corruption: Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. Forms of corruption vary but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. Corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, though it is not restricted to these activities.

Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is also considered political corruption. Over time, corruption has been defined differently. For example, in a simple context, while performing work for a government or as a representative, it is unethical to accept a gift. Any free gift could be construed as a scheme to lure the recipient towards some biases.

In most cases, the gift is seen as an intention to seek certain favors such as work promotion, tipping in order to win a contract, job or exemption from certain tasks in the case of junior employee giving the gift to a senior employee who can be key in winning the favor. Some forms of corruption – now called “institutional corruption” – are distinguished from bribery and other kinds of obvious personal gain. A similar problem of corruption arises in any institution that depends on financial support from people who have interests that may conflict with the primary purpose of the institution.

An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under the code of law or involves trading in influence. The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. For instance, some political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some cases, government officials have broad or ill-defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions.


Alderman Ed Burke       
Former assessor Joe Berrios



Whether former Gov. Blagojevich prison sentence is commuted or not, (I don’t believe it should be) one thing is for certain — Illinois’ long history of political corruption and insider influence peddling is once again in the spotlight.

This spotlight is a good thing because corruption, self-dealing and pay-to-play politics are a way of life amongst the political elites in Illinois and no one political party has a monopoly. Call it the combine. Call it establishment politics. Call it what you will. It exists, neither party is immune to it and average Illinoisans pay a steep price for it.

The reputation and reality are embarrassing, but more importantly, it hinders our state’s ability to enact meaningful reforms that would benefit regular, working-class Illinoisans looking for better opportunities. Companies see little advantage of investing in Illinois because of these insider deals that lead to an environment that is lucrative for the political players and special interests but are very adversarial and unsustainable for the job creators.

Talented, successful and reform-minded leaders are less likely to get involved in Illinois’ government because they know that without major changes, it is impossible to accomplish anything good in a corrupt state such as Illinois. Political corruption is not the only factor in Illinois losing 45,000 people last year, but it’s most certainly a factor.

The need for reform in Illinois is self-evident. Thankfully, we are finally seeing signs of improvement, at least when it comes to the City of Chicago. Newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot, to her credit, has taken some bold action to address political corruption in the Windy City. She pushed through legislation prohibiting aldermen and city employees from representing private sector clients seeking a reduction in their property tax burden, and she increased the fines and penalties for ethics violations from public servants.

These efforts in Chicago are a positive development. Even the most corrupt city in the nation is capable of enacting strong ethics legislation. So, what is the state of Illinois doing? Well, the feds have raided the homes of highly connected Springfield players, indicted another sitting alderman in Chicago, and just recently, a sitting State Senator has been indicted for receiving income from the Teamsters Union for work he allegedly never performed.

But hey, this is just how things work in Springfield. Big money special interests take from working-class people and give to politicians in order to buy influence to maintain the status quo. All of this is done to prop up an unsustainable system that has failed before and will continue to fail the very people they are supposed to be protecting. The lack of oversight for members of the General Assembly has once again been exposed. The spotlight on the status should be a catalyst to provide some momentum for enacting real reforms on ethics, insider dealing and putting citizens above the system.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any push for ethics reforms or any other reforms in the upcoming veto session. In fact, what we will probably see is a push for even more sweetheart deals, bailouts and insider exchanges that continue to prioritize special interests and highly connected corporate conglomerates. Instead of bailing out broken systems and connected insiders, we need to be focused on rooting out corruption in Illinois. It is time to make meaningful ethics reform a priority in Illinois.

As corruption looms large in Illinois, Pritzker reforms are MIA. Tackling Illinois corruption isn’t just a moral imperative. It’s a financial necessity. Federal authorities are taking a keen interest in Illinois-style government. And they don’t seem to like what they see. This year alone, Illinoisans have witnessed:

Three federal raids at the homes of members of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s inner circle. Just to name a few. Cashing in on her landslide victory at the ballot box and a mandate to clean up city government, Lightfoot received unanimous approval from aldermen on a package of ethics reforms that included empowering the Chicago inspector general to audit City Council committees, limiting outside employment for aldermen and more than doubling the maximum fine for ethics violations.

It’s not enough. But it’s an encouraging start. And Lightfoot has been unafraid to point a spotlight on the city’s culture of corruption every chance she gets. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has done the opposite. “The governor has said previously there is an ongoing investigation and we need to see how that plays out,” Pritzker’s administration told political blog Capitol Fax in response to news of raids on some of Madigan’s closest allies.

Those include the speaker’s decadeslong confidant and former lobbyist Mike McClain, former Ald. Michael Zalewski, who represented a ward that overlapped with Madigan’s Southwest Side House district for 20 years, and former political lieutenant Kevin Quinn, who served Madigan for nearly 20 years. In addition to news of the May raids, the Chicago Tribune reported federal agents are now investigating $10,000 in behind-the-scenes payments from prominent Illinois lobbyists to Quinn after he was fired from Madigan’s political operation for allegations of sexual harassment.

Illinoisans statewide saw few significant ethics reforms in Springfield this spring. When Chicago is beating you on anti-corruption efforts, something is wrong. Lightfoot ran on breaking the machine. But Pritzker has funneled more than $10 million to two political committees chaired by Madigan – the Democratic Party of Illinois and Democratic Majority. And as of April, the governor himself was the subject of an active federal investigation into property tax appeals on his Gold Coast mansion, according to WBEZ.

In an upcoming report, Illinois Policy Institute Chief Economist Orphe Divounguy estimates public corruption cost Illinoisans more than $550 million per year from 2000-2017, for a total of $9.9 billion. That’s nearly $800 per resident. Lightfoot realizes that before uttering a word about tax hikes on some of the most overburdened residents in the nation, she must show progress in rooting out corruption.

But the governor does not yet seem to think there’s a problem worth addressing. No governor – no matter how qualified, hardworking and persistent – should be above pushing for critical changes. – MG Media / Craig Wall

The 13 Colonies

Excerpts from the History Channel


Traditionally, when we tell the story of “Colonial America,” we are talking about the English colonies along the Eastern seaboard. That story is incomplete–by the time Englishmen had begun to establish colonies in earnest, there were plenty of French, Spanish, Dutch and even Russian colonial outposts on the American continent–but the story of those 13 colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) is an important one. It was those colonies that came together to form the United States.

How The US Has Evolved Since July 4, 1776

Excerpts From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Territorial evolution of the United States. The United States of America was created on July 4, 1776, with the Declaration of Independence of thirteen British colonies. Their independence was recognized by Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which concluded the American Revolutionary War.

Seeking independence from England and the British Crown, thirteen American colonies declared themselves sovereign and independent states. Their official flag is shown below. In the early history of America, western borders of most colonies varied some from the modern-day state borders shown above – because in the west – the British still controlled vast territories up to the Mississippi River. At that time the colony of Virginia included all of the lands of what is now called West Virginia.

In the end the thirteen colonies were: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey were formed by mergers of previous colonies.

Political Preachers


Political Preachers



This story is addressed to preachers and is about preachers. While many of the reflections may be useful for all Christians, I’m writing specifically with my fellow pastors in mind. We live in a day where politics are everywhere, and everything is about politics. On one level this has always been true:

Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. That’s a political statement. Every sermon touches on the polis, on the city of man, on our earthly citizenship. But that’s not what I have in mind, at least not entirely. What I mean by “politics” are the elections, the elected officials, the political parties, and the endless stream of policy debates and legislative, economic, and judicial controversies that so much of our daily news and social media feed to comment on constantly.

What is a pastor supposed to do with these controversies and debates? That’s my question. When preachers are quickly criticized for saying too much (you’re not gospel-centered!) or saying too little (you’re not woke!), it behooves us to think carefully about the relationship between pastoral ministry and politics. Here are seven thoughts:

1). Let the Bible set the agenda for your weekly pulpit ministry. I love preaching through the Bible verse by verse. I’m not smart enough to decide what the congregation really needs to hear this week. So they’re going to get John 5:1-18 this Sunday. Why? Because last week they got John 4:43-54. And in the evening they’re going to get Exodus 24 because last Sunday was Exodus 23. That means I’ve talked in the last two months about abortion, social justice, and slavery because that’s what’s been in Exodus. I want my people to expect, that as a general rule, the Bible sets the agenda, not my interests or what I think is relevant.

2). The gospel is the main thing, but not the only thing. To be sure, we must never wander far from the cross in our preaching. But if we are to give the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27), we must show how a thousand other theological, philosophical, and ethical issues are connected to Christ and him crucified. Thabiti is right: “A ‘gospel-centered’ evangelicalism that becomes a ‘gospel-only’ evangelicalism ceases to be properly evangelical.” The Bible is a big book. It doesn’t say everything about everything, and it doesn’t say anything about some things, but it does say a lot about more than just a few things.

3). Distinguish between the corporate church and the individual Christian. We need believers in all levels of government and engaged in every kind of public policy debate. But there is a difference between the Bible-informed, Christian citizen and the formal declarations from church pronouncements and church pulpits. In the early part of the 20th century, most evangelicals strongly supported the Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, and Prohibition, in general. When J. Gresham Machen made the unpopular decision to vote against his church voicing support for the amendment, he did so, in part, because such a vote would have failed to recognize “the church in its corporate capacity as distinguished from the activities of its members, on record with regard to such political questions.”

4). Think about the nature of your office and the ministry of your church. I studied political science in college, and I’ve read fairly widely (for a layman) in economics, sociology, and political philosophy. I have plenty of opinions and convictions. But that’s not what I want my ministry to be about. That’s not to say I don’t comment on abortion or gay marriage or racism or other issues about the which the Bible speaks clearly. And yet, I’m always mindful that I can’t separate Blogger Kevin or Twitter Kevin or Professor Kevin from Pastor Kevin. As such, my comments reflect on my church, whether I intend them to or not.

That means I keep more political convictions to myself than I otherwise would. I don’t want people concluding from my online presence that Christ Covenant is really only a church for people who view economics as I do or the Supreme Court like I do or foreign affairs like I do. Does this mean I never enter the fray on hot button issues? Hardly. But it means I try not to do so unless I have explicit and direct biblical warrant for the critique I’m leveling or the position I’m advocating. It also means that I try to remember that even if I think my tweets and posts are just a small fraction of what I do or who I am, for some people they are almost everything they see and know about me. I cannot afford to have a public persona that does not reflect my private priorities.

5). Consider that the church, as the church, is neither capable nor called to address every important issue in the public square. This is not a cop-out. This is common sense. I’ve seen denominational committees call the church to specific positions regarding the farm bill, Sudanese refugees, the Iraq War, socially screened retirement funds, immigration policy, minimum-wage increases, America’s embargo of Cuba, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, global economics, greenhouse gas emissions, social welfare, and taxation policies. While the church may rightly make broad statements about caring for the poor and the oppressed, and may even denounce specific cultural sins, the church should not be in the business of specifying which types of rifles Christians may and may not use (a real example) or which type of judicial philosophy Christians should want in a Supreme Court justice (another real example).

Again, Machen’s approach is instructive. He insisted that no one “has a greater horror of the evils of drunkenness than I” and that it was “clearly the duty of the church to combat this evil.” And yet, as to the “exact form” of legislation (if any), he allowed for a difference of opinion. Some men, he maintained, believed that the Volstead Act was not a wise method of dealing with the problem of drunkenness, and that enforced Prohibition would cause more harm than good. Without stating his own opinion, Machen argued that “those who hold the view that I have just mentioned have a perfect right to their opinion, so far as the law of our church is concerned, and should not be coerced in any way by ecclesiastical authority. The church has a right to exercise discipline where authority for condemnation of an act can be found in Scripture, but it has no such right in other cases” (394-95).

6). Consider if you have been consistent. Obviously, there is a lot of talk at present about social justice and a host of issues often associated with the left. This makes people on the right a bit nervous, and understandably so. The gospel mission of the church has been buried before in an avalanche of humanitarian causes and social movements. At the same time, the concerns of the right ring a little hollow when pastors pass out partisan voter guides, tweet about the Second Amendment, sing the Star-Spangled Banner in church, and then when anything about race or justice comes up, start harrumphing about politics in the church. I’m sure the same thing happens in both directions: we are fine being political until someone on the other side gets political too.

7). Be prepared to fire when necessary, but keep your powder dry. There are times when the national crisis is so all-consuming or the political issue so obviously wicked (or righteous) that the minister will feel compelled to say something. Think 9/11. Or riots in your city. Or the declaration of war. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Our news media, not to mention social media, make us feel like every day is a global meltdown and every hour is a moment of existential crisis. Don’t believe the hype. There is no exact formula for when you interrupt your sermon series, when you drop a blogging bomb, or when you add current events into your pastoral prayer. These things call for wisdom, not one-size-fits-all solutions. But let me suggest that when it comes to politics and public policy, parenting is a good analogy: yelling works only when it is done sparingly. – Kevin DeYoung

Pastors cannot use their church (as a 501c3 entity) to endorse a candidate

trump preac

President Donald Trump’s order to ease limits on political activity by religious organizations is being met with both enthusiasm and dread from religious leaders, with some rejoicing in the freedom to preach their views and endorse candidates and others fearing the change will erode the integrity of houses of worship. Trump recently signed the executive order, saying it would give churches their “voices back.” It directs the Treasury Department not to take action against religious organizations that engage in political speech. “It’s never good for the church or the state when the two get in bed with each other,” said the Rev. Gregory Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, a nondenominational church in suburban St. Paul

Religion and Politics: Two things you’re not supposed to talk about in public. But pastors face the difficult challenge of potentially having to speak out in both worlds. In this video, Kelly Shackelford, President of Liberty Institute, walks through exactly what a pastor can and can’t do in the political arena.

Cultural pressure continues to mount against pastors and churches—challenging the long history of Christianity in our nation. More now than ever, pastors and church leaders find themselves backed into the corner by political correctness. Can pastors push back and speak out on topics in the political world? Shackelford, says yes. Kelly sets the record straight on a pastor’s involvement in the political process.

Kelly is a constitutional scholar who has argued before the United States Supreme Court and testified before the U.S. House and Senate on constitutional issues. In the past few years, Kelly has also won three landmark First Amendment and religious liberty cases at the state level. Kelly identified four misconceptions about what a pastor can and can’t do with regard to politics and elections, and explained exactly what pastors can do:

Pastors can talk about any political issue, such as abortion, immigration, or freedom of speech.
Pastors can educate their people, encourage them to register and vote, and pass out non-partisan voter guides.
Pastors can have candidates speak in their church, so long as they extend the invitation to all candidates running.
Pastors can individually participate in the campaign of someone who’s running for office.
No one has ever successfully prevented a pastor from doing any of the above four things.

Think through the current issues in our culture that the church can and should speak out about. Knowing that you have the legal freedom to do so, what could you present to your church on those issues? How?
Pastors have the legal right to provide their congregants with non-partisan voters guides and materials discussing crucial political issues. Have you distributed these kinds of materials in the past? How would your church congregation benefit from having a solid voter guide?

Not every pastor feels comfortable having a candidate speak to their congregation—but it’s still a legal right so long as that pastor extends the invitation to every candidate running for the political office. What would be the benefit to your congregation of having a candidate or candidates speak at your church? Are there potential drawbacks? If so, what are they?

The final misconception Kelly dealt with says pastors can’t participate in a political campaign. But Kelly pointed out that, as an individual, pastors can be engaged with a campaign or even endorse a candidate. Does the freedom as a pastor to engage in a campaign encourage you? If so, why?

Where the four misconceptions above dealt with what the pastor as an individual is free to do, the two points below limit what a church as an organization can do. Kelly pointed out that, for now, the IRS is the only organization enforcing these rules. They have not yet been tested against the First Amendment in court. But the threat of losing tax-exempt status is usually significant enough to encourage churches to abide by these two limitations:

Pastors cannot use their church (as a 501c3 entity) to endorse a candidate.
Pastors cannot use their church’s money or resources to support a candidate. If, as a pastor, you chose to engage in the political realm in your individual capacity, what safeguards could you put in place to avoid tying your entire church as an organization to a political candidate? What kind of language could you employ that would help define the line between what you as an individual endorse in a political race and what your church’s stance as an organization is?

What is one key point that you came away with from Kelly’s clarification of a pastor’s ability to engage in the political realm? How will it change the way you lead your church this month? This year? As a pastor, you have the unique responsibility of equipping the people of your church to take their Christianity into every sphere of their lives. That means engaging well in the political system of our country. This month and this year, prepare the people of your church to make wise and God-honoring decisions. – RightNow



Pastors involved in politics? Should churches be politically active?
It’s no secret. I do have an active interest in politics, both domestic and global. I am also keenly aware that my interest in politics must not overshadow my interest in the Gospel. I believe that many pastors and Christian leaders have allowed their interest in politics to subvert them from preaching the glory of God and the grace that flows from the cross of our Savior.

I think that Satan would gladly give Christians a victory in the polls on election day if it would mean that a great many would no longer listen to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus. Or to put it the other way around, I think we should be happy to lose every political battle if it means we win more men and women to genuine obedience of faith to our Lord and Saviour. We should sacrifice all to the Gospel.

I am not naïve. Political and cultural issues do affect the proclamation of the Gospel. I am also aware that political decisions do give direction to cultural trends. Furthermore, the Biblical doctrine of common grace means that Christians should actively work to bring betterment to human society. We do know that issues, like abortion, reflect upon the value that is placed on human life. Issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity do have implications on everything from marriage to the structure of a better society. But, my point is that if we achieve a better society but lose Gospel influence, we have lost the greatest part.

A conversation between a preacher and a politician. All of what I have said is but an introduction to the story. Not long ago, I was seated at a table with a federal politician. He is a committed follower of Jesus. And so, our conversation was between a preacher and a politician. I expressed to him my desire that he would win the next election, and that his party would win as well. He responded by saying that, even though he was thoroughly committed to his calling as a politician, he was content to know that the next election would ultimately be settled by a sovereign God whose designs are infinitely above our own.

As I now reflect on that conversation, it seems to me that our roles were reversed. I was playing the politician, and he had become the preacher, reminding me to trust ultimately in God and not the partisan politics of the day. And that caused me to reflect: how easy it is, almost without noticing, for a preacher to forget his calling, and to become the politician.

In 1 Corinthians 2:2Paul lays down not only the commitment of his own ministry but the commitment of all who are called to proclaim Christ. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That statement did not preclude Paul from speaking to the issues in the church in Corinth. Those issues included divisions in the church, lawsuits among believers, sexual immorality, church discipline, principles regarding marriage, spiritual gifts and the theology of the life to come. From Paul’s perspective, all of these matters must be dealt with. But, he dealt with them from the vantage point of the cross. For Paul, the preaching of the cross directed his view of all other things.

As I reflected back on my conversation with the politician that evening, it helped me focus anew on the ministry of Christ’s church and her preachers. Ours is the role to proclaim Christ and to allow nothing but nothing to subvert that message. – Dr. John Neufeld

Tio Hardiman

Tio Hardiman

Who owns the Amazon?

Op-Ed Columnist

 Reprint from the New York Times Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Op-Ed Columnist

Hello, readers. As a reminder: While I’m taking a short break from writing the newsletter, Quinta Jurecic of Lawfare is taking over this week. As always, you can find links to the full Times Opinion report at the bottom. — David
By Quinta Jurecic
At the Group of 7 summit, aides to President Trump complained that the French president, Emmanuel Macron, was focusing the summit not on the global economy but on “niche issues” — among them climate change. At the same time, fires continued to burn in the Amazon rainforest on a level not seen in nearly a decade.
Mr. Macron sought to present himself as a leader in the effort to quench the Amazon fires. In doing so, he positioned himself as a foil to the far-right president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, whose policies encouraging deforestation of the rainforest have contributed to the blazes. After Mr. Macron threatened to pull support for a major trade deal between the European Union and some South American nations, including Brazil, over Mr. Bolsonaro’s inaction, the Brazilian president seemingly changed course, mobilizing the country’s military to tackle the fires.
The Amazon fires are a test case of sorts for how the climate crisis will strain the usefulness of seemingly simple concepts — like national sovereignty. Before calling up the military, Mr. Bolsonaro accused countries donating money to preserve the rainforest of wanting to “interfere with our sovereignty.” He also declared that the international condemnation he faced spoke to a “colonialist mentality,” criticizing what he saw as Mr. Macron’s encouragement for the G7, which does not include Brazil, to grapple with the problem on its own. These remarks speak to Mr. Bolsonaro’s nationalist politics — he came to power in part by decrying globalism — and they are overly simplified. But it would be a mistake to write them off completely.
The traditional understanding of the nation-state demands that — up to a certain limit — each nation has control over its own affairs. Climate change poses a problem for this framework: The burning Amazon affects not just Brazil but the whole world. (The portion of the Amazon in next-door Bolivia, for example, is also burning.) Does it really make sense, then, to defer to the sovereignty of the Brazilian government in addressing the problem?
One answer, obviously, is no. Mr. Macron’s solution is to exert pressure through the usual ways that states have meddled in one another’s affairs — in this case, economic strong-arming. But as the threat of a changing climate grows more and more dire, the usual tactics may no longer hold. Writing in The Atlantic, Franklin Foer argues that “the battle against climate change demands not only new international cooperation but, perhaps, the weakening of traditional concepts of the nation-state.”
The problem is that, from the perspective of Brazil — and the other countries that may feel the brunt of this logic — this brave new paradigm risks becoming a very familiar story: The more powerful nations muscle their way in over the less powerful.
While the Amazon is burning, Greenland is melting: Temperatures in the Arctic have soared this summer, contributing to troubling decreases in the country’s glaciers. Denmark colonized Greenland centuries ago, and Greenlanders voted as recently as 2008 to move their country in the direction of greater self-government. President Trump and his allies meanwhile continue to dig in on the notion of “acquiring” a country whose long-term future is threatened in part by the Trump administration’s own refusal to admit to the existence of climate change. One of the puzzles of the current age is how nationalist leaders are both struggling with the reality of crises spanning national boundaries and doing their best to double down on the idea of borders in the first place.
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