Is It Time for a Paradigm Shift?

June 14, 2016
What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails. I remember this rhyme from my childhood. It suggested that girls are made of nice things (sugar and spice, and everything nice), and boys were made for trouble.

If one were writing the rhyme today, what would it say? Perhaps guns, video games, and violence? Our society has changed in the last 50 years, from the innocence of pranks such as pulling girls’ pigtails to having a handgun tucked in your belt. Children grow up surrounded by violence, and it has had a disastrous effect on our sons.

In her documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom explores the descent of the male adolescent. In 2015, guns killed over 3,590 children under 18. The statistics do not include other types of violent death. Most of these were boys. Every day mothers cry in the streets over sons who have been gunned down. They are like “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more" (Jeremiah 31:15).

Lack of common sense gun laws is part of the problem, but it is much more complicated than that. Our children are exposed to violence from a very young age. As the documentary shows, society teaches boys that they are weak if they express their feelings in “feminine” ways. They learn to repress their feelings. When they internalize pain, hurt, and anger, they are like time bombs waiting to go off.

Children and teens today do not know the world without the Internet. "Today about 80 percent of teens between 12 and 17 own a cell phone, and about half of those own a smartphone," said John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications, and fraud at the National Consumers League. "That's about twice the rate from just two years ago." [1] Cell phones can make our lives more convenient and keep us in touch with our children. However, smartphones can also be a child’s gateway into a world of violence and sex. The same is true for any other device that grants unmonitored access to the Internet.

KidsHealth.org reports that

·         two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day

·         kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs

·         kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost two additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games. [2]

What are our children learning from all of this exposure? They see the same things that we see. They can watch the same television programs, view the same pornography, play the same video games. If parents are not supervising their viewing, they are limited only by their curiosity and imaginations.

As a culture, we are infatuated with violence. Even while we decry and mourn mass shootings, we gather in front of our TVs and computers, grab our remote controls and video consoles, and engage in violent behaviors either as active participants or as voyeurs.

Unfortunately, many children experience violence first hand. According to an article in the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, “More than 1 in 9 (11 percent) were exposed to some form of family violence in the past year, including 1 in 15 (6.6 percent) exposed to IPV [intimate partner violence] between parents (or between a parent and that parent’s partner). One in four children (26 percent) were exposed to at least one form of family violence during their lifetimes. Most youth exposed to family violence, including 90 percent of those exposed to IPV, saw the violence, as opposed to hearing it or other indirect forms of exposure. [3]

Our favorite pastimes – sports and games – have become more violent as we seek a bigger thrill and focus on winning at all costs. Children view this form of violence on TV and in person when they attend events. It also occurs on their playing fields. Coaches and teammates criticize, bully, and verbally abuse players. Coaches and parents model behaviors that are aggressive and sometimes completely out of control.

We are out of control.

As Americans mourn yet another senseless tragedy in Orlando, we have to ask ourselves, “Is it time for a paradigm shift?” A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in thought, action, and belief. It is just such a fundamental change that we need in the United States.

Can faith communities be the catalysts for this kind of shift? Can we create spaces and opportunities for conversations, education, and resourcing to help our country end its love affair with violence? Listed below are a few ideas of what we can do. The list is not exhaustive, but a beginning place:

·         Bring communities together to view “The Mask You Live In,” and other such documentaries, followed by discussion.

·         Offer classes and resources for parents and grandparents on raising children without violence. (i.e. Besmartforkids.org and peaceeducationprogram.org) Many denominations and parachurch organizations provide curricula and resources for study.

·         Preach and teach Biblical and theological concepts such as grace, love, peacemaking, non-violence, and mercy.

·         Encourage parents to consider all the consequences of allowing young children cell phones and other Internet-connected devices.

·         Provide information on child-monitoring and blocking apps for media devices.

·         Ask parents and extended families to take a pledge to monitor their children’s exposure to inappropriate media, and refuse to buy video games and movies that contain violent images.

·         Lobby legislators for common sense gun laws.

·         Lobby media companies to offer alternatives to violent and sexual games and programming.

Faith groups want to have a prophetic and relative voice in today’s world. They struggle to find a central focus for their mission and ministry. What if creating this paradigm shift is our calling?




[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/kids-with-cell-phones-how-young-is-too-young/.

[2] http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/tv-affects-child.html.

[3] https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/232272.pdf, October 2011.

MLK Jr Celebration with Empower West

There are many MLK Jr celebrations going on this weekend, and I imagine that they are all excellent and worth attending. The one I chose to attend this year was held at St. Stephen Baptist Church in West Louisville. I opted for this one for a couple of reasons:

1. It was sponsored by Empower West, an ecumenical coalition of churches and pastors focused on improving economic development in West Louisville, and

2. Because the guest speaker was Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament scholar and my former seminary professor.

I made a wise choice. The morning was inspiring and challenging, and it was good to be with a mix of folks from the west and east ends of Louisville Metro. Here are a few highlights of the conversation (B=Brueggemann, C=Cosby):

B: "If you do not practice economic justice with ALL the neighbors, you cannot imagine that you are right with God." 

B: Police are the slave-drivers of our time.

C: Police and Polity come from the same root word. The problem is with the policy. Police are there to enforce the policy. We have to change the policy.

B: Whites are so ingrained in racial superiority, that it is a surprise to them to realize that they are privileged. Every day, Whites have to be intentional about changing their worldview. Every day Blacks have to insist on that change. Racial reconciliation can only happen with insistence from Blacks and intentionality from Whites. 

C: One of the privileges of being white is never having to think about [race]. 

B: "Whites are A race, not THE race."


The Ecumenical Choir was wonderful!

The presentation was followed by worship, where Dr. Brueggemann preached a powerful sermon based on Mark 7, Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, using the metaphor of bread to talk about equality and justice. Worship was also led by an ecumenical choir from the participating churches, and included a reading of Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech and a couple of video clips about his life and ministry.

The gist of Dr. Brueggemann's sermon was the change that happened in Jesus when the Syro-Phoenician woman challenged his worldview. In Mark 6 Jesus feeds the 5000 in Galilee, a Jewish community. In Mark 8, he feeds a crowd of Gentiles. In between these two feeding stories, is the exchange with the Syro-Phoenician woman.

"Jesus had not fought past is own Jewishness, his racial identity," said Brueggemann. In their exchange, thewoman taught Jesus that "the wonder of God cannot be monopolized by Chosen people."

She forced the issue, and Jesus changed his worldview. "She would not let the Messiah rest in his comfortableness. ... She would not let old racial distinctions determine who would get healthcare."

Brueggemann went on to ask how this could be translated into what is happening in Louisville today. He called for confrontation and re-education to determine how "bread" would be managed in the city. He also gave a word of encouragement to those who are working for change. "No one expects the leadership of privilege to be converted, but it happens." He added that geography is not destiny. The geography of east and west Louisville does not have to define justice and equity.

I left St. Stephen with a greater appreciation of the work of the KY Council of Churches. At our table Blacks and Whites come together to work for the benefit of all the Commonwealth, particularly for those who are "the least of these." I pray that we will always keep that mission before us; that our African American churches will keep insisting on fairness, and our Anglo churches will be intentional about recognizing privilege and working for equity. 

In Dr. King's words from his speech, "Don't Sleep Through the Revolution":

"We must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. It is out of this notion that the whole doctrine of white supremacy came into being, and the church must take a stand through religious education and other channels to direct the popular mind at this point, for there are some people who still believe this strange doctrine. ...

It is not enough for the church to work in the ideological realm, and to clear up misguided ideas. To remain awake through this social revolution, the church must engage in strong action programs to get rid of the last vestiges of segregation and discrimination." (Delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, Hollywood, Florida, May 18, 1966)

On this MLK Jr. weekend, however each of us chooses to observe it, may we be inspired and challenged to share the bread and continue working for justice and equality, so that all may be fed. (literally and metaphorically).

Peace, Peggy



ORANGE WALK On December 12

Guest Blog & Invitation from Kathy Wolfson, Moms Demand Action
December 14, 2015 will mark the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, a day that left our country horrified and heartbroken. It is also a day that shocked so many of us into action, and resulted in the founding of Moms Demand Action. Over the past three years, we have honored the victims and survivors of gun violence every day by taking action—calling Congress, lobbying at statehouses, demanding gun sense policies in American businesses, and bringing more and more supporters into our movement. We’ve made great progress in the past three years, yet we know all too well that we have much farther to go. This year, we will commemorate the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy and honor all victims and survivors of gun violence by hosting “Orange Walks.” Together, we acknowledge that one of the best way we can honor the victims and survivors of gun violence is to keep moving forward, keep making progress, being visible, and never giving up. At the conclusion of our Orange Walks, we will ask all of our supporters to take one important, immediate action: to urge President Obama to take executive actions to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

WHAT IS AN ORANGE WALK? Orange is fast becoming a symbol of the gun violence prevention movement. It represents the value of human life and our shared commitment to do everything we can to reduce gun violence in our country. The “Wear Orange” campaign (www.wearorange.org) was inspired by a group of Chicago teens after their friend Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed just one week after marching in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. The students asked their friends to wear orange—the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others—to help honor Hadiya’s life and all those stolen by gun violence each year.Orange Walks are events at which we: the moms, dads, brother, sisters, survivors, mayor s,, and faith leaders of America, gather together to show our shared commitment to ending gun violence. The walks represent the significant strides that our movement has achieved and also show our recognition that we have much further to go. As we walk together, we prove to the gun lobby, to elected officials, and to the voices of extremism, that we will be loud, we will be visible, and we will never stop fighting to keep our families, our communities, and our country safe.

Join us for an Orange Walk in Louisville on December 12 at 10 am to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and all victims of gun violence. Be sure to wear orange - the color of gun violence prevention and awareness!
RSVP here >>>


A Time to Speak - Support for ending the death penalty is growing

By Father Patrick Delahanty, reprinted with permission from The Record

We are living in some exciting times for the campaign to end the death penalty in Kentucky. First of all, you can imagine the joy that swept over me as I stood outside on the lawn at the U. S. Capitol and listened to Pope Francis call again for the abolition of the death penalty.
His ringing endorsement of the work of those like the many Catholics in Kentucky working for repeal is an affirmation of our work. Pope Francis, as did his immediate predecessors, asks us to be “champions” of life willing to protect it from conception until natural death.
The Catholic witness on this issue has always been important in Kentucky and continues to be so. Since July, in all four dioceses, pro-life and social-concerns committee members of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky have been finding Catholic constituents willing to meet with state senators and state representatives to discuss repealing the death penalty in Kentucky. These meetings will continue.
So far reports to me as chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (KCADP) are heartening. At least one legislator has changed his position and is now willing to vote to repeal the death penalty and some other proponents are saying they have not shut the door and are open to more dialogue. This is healthy, respectful and a civil approach to changing public policy.
Catholic leadership in the Covington diocese led to the formation of the Northern Kentucky Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty. Part of a national movement among social, political and evangelical conservatives, this brings a new dimension to the work in Kentucky. Conservative voices like these announce that repealing the death penalty is not simply the work of one party, nor a partisan issue, but an issue about respect for human life that members of all parties are called to have.
Thomas More College in Covington recently hosted Sister Helen Prejean for an evening presentation. The pro-life and social concerns committee members of the Catholic Conference had approached the college to arrange for the event. In Lexington, members from these same two committees set up presentations at a parish and at Lexington Catholic High School. In the Archdiocese of Louisville, staff of the Merton Center worked to have
Sister Helen speak at Bellarmine University and engaged Interfaith Paths to Peace as an additional host. She also spoke at DeSales High School.
The series of articles published in the Courier-Journal on Sunday (Nov. 8) indicate how broad the support for abolition is becoming. Written by a former executioner and dean, a victim family member, a state representative and a leader of the group, Conservatives Concerned, the opposition to the use of the death penalty now spreads across the political spectrum.
Catholics are some of the leaders of this opposition. I hope readers will visit the Coalition’s website and sign up for the eNewsletter and the legislative alerts that KCADP distributes. KCADP posts a special video to its Facebook page each Thursday.
Many of these could be used in classrooms and religious education programs. These reflections by Kentuckians — murder victim family members, family members of those on death row, Kentuckians all over the state — often speak of forgiveness and other values that mirror our beliefs about human life and dignity. After viewing these, you can help ensure others see them by clicking on the “like” button and sharing them with your own Facebook friends.
Kentucky has executed three men in 40 years; 60 percent of the death sentences imposed have been struck down by the courts; we have not executed anyone in seven years; only one death sentence has been imposed since 2010; and Kentucky is under court order not to proceed with any executions at this time.
What better time could there be for legislators to move ahead and repeal the death penalty? They will when they hear from readers who champion human life asking them to do so.
Father Patrick Delahanty is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish to Death Penalty.  http://therecordnewspaper.org/a-time-to-speak-support-for-ending-the-death-penalty-is-growing/.