Thursday, May 31, 2018

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

       The Los Angeles Times reports on "A California church flirts with an unusual social experiment: to never call police again." The church in question is the First Congregational Church of Oakland, which is apparently a fully converged organization more concerned about not offending minorities than the safety of its congregants. 
       “We can no longer tolerate the trauma inflicted on our communities by policing,” Torbett, a white church volunteer, said in front of churchgoers who held photos of African Americans shot dead by law enforcement. The church, she promised, would never call the cops again in nearly every circumstance. Dozens of members had agreed to do the same. 
        "How do police help? They often don't," Torbett later said in an interview. "So, especially as white people, why call them?"
Or, as more likely the case, they are virtue signaling:
        They call it “divesting” from police. The church is part of a tiny but growing movement among liberal houses of worship around the nation making similar vows. They include another church in Oakland, one in San Jose and one in Iowa City, Iowa. It’s mostly white ministers and majority white congregations leading the efforts, which come as debates over racism, stereotypes and the role of law enforcement hit universities, businesses and neighborhood councils across the U.S.
I am reminded of Christ's teachings on virtue signaling:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
(Matt. 6:5).

       In any event, the church apparently likes to leave its doors open, welcomes into its walls the homeless, mentally ill and those suffering from drug addiction. It has no security system and, combined with the open doors policy, suffers from burglary and theft. In order to be helpful and welcoming, "[i]t offers a food pantry, transit cards and a place to nap," but draws the line at people staying overnight.

       And that is where the problems mostly developed. According to the article, the church had an incident where a homeless person objected to being ejected when the building closed in the evening, the police had to be called, and, allegedly, "[p]olice were called and church members who fit the description were hassled by police."

     Oh my! Well, we can't have police questioning people that matched the description of the suspect (why there wasn't a church worker present to point out the offending person to the police, I don't know). So, the church is going to resort to self-help--but in a kind and gentle way. In the event of someone not leaving at night, "[a]ccording to current guidelines, church members would not call police if such a situation arose again. In lieu of police services, the church has secured a $10,000 grant to train its members and other community groups on de-escalation tactics and self-defense."

       And, as for burglaries, the church is adopting a practice of instead of calling the police, persons that have been the victims of theft will instead go to the police station to report the crime. Probably a better idea anyway if all they are reporting is petty theft. But then, there is this:
Church leaders said they could prevent crime by forming better relationships with neighborhood residents. Their theory, put simply: Friends won’t steal from friends. But if crime still happened, church members prayed they could make peace between victims and perpetrators directly without police or courts.
"Friends won't steal from friends." How cute!

        Obviously, this church is being presumptuous in assuming that these thieves and vagabonds will want to be friends, let alone that that will keep them from wanting to stay overnight or help themselves to an unguarded handbag. What is the old saying: "there is no honor among thieves"?

       More dangerously, the church and its leaders are making the mistaken assumption that the people with whom they will be dealing will think and respond the same way as they would. That is, that people visiting their church will respond to kindness with kindness. In most cases that is true. But when dealing with the mentally ill, they, by definition, do not think the same way as a normal person. Some crazy homeless person may just shove a shiv into a volunteer's belly when asked to leave the building, and laugh as he walks out. And as for the criminal element, the predator and sociopath don't have "friends," they just have resources and common interests.

       It will be interesting to see how this social experiment plays out, and whether the church goes back to calling police or hires a security service.

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