Unitarian Universalists Speak Out


chalice(A shorter version of Reverend David Carter’s message will be published on the Opinion Page of the Wichita Eagle, most likely Sunday, March 23rd, according to Phillip Brownlee, Opinion Editor. Watch for it and share it with friends.)

An Unsubtle Message

The unsubtle message of the March 9th Eagle article, “About 1 in 10 Wichita Cab Drivers Has a Felony Record,” is that Wichita’s lawmakers are putting Wichitans at high risk of violent abuse at the hands of unrepentant, degenerate lowlifes because current laws permit irredeemable felons to prey on an unsuspecting public while posing as trustworthy members of a respectable service industry, the taxi business.

This argument gives oxygen to the notion that every convicted felon must be forever barred from gainful employment, even after having served their time in jail or else innocent people will be hurt. Such a notion is worse than grossly unfair to former lawbreakers. It is a prescription for societal failure. And it’s untrue: People can change. We know this well.

Witness three very famous former “felons” transformed: Moses, the patriarch, whose offences included both faithlessness (Num. 20:10-12) and homicide (Exodus 2:11-15); King David, who committed adultery (2 Sam. 11:1-27) and murder (2 Samuel 11:14-17); and St. Paul, the apostle, who severely persecuted Christ’s early followers (Acts 8:3) and who participated in the martyrdom of St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1).

Condemning former lawbreakers to the invisible dungeon of unending unemployment will likely produce the kind of desperation directly linked to the very thing such a misguided measure aims at preventing—a rise in violent crime. People forced to suffer perpetual “incarceration,” even after their release, ravaged by societal apathy and ostracism, and forbidden the chance to reclaim their lives so they can make positive contributions to society, are practically being encouraged by shortsighted policies to become repeat offenders. Is that enlightened community building? Is that where we want to go?

Most will see that the article plays upon people’s deepest fears without proposing proactive measures to address the underlying structural changes needed in society to reduce crime and recidivism. Instead, it encourages unwarranted severity and judgementalism towards former transgressors. Such an uncharitable repudiation of the intrinsic goodness and perfectibility of human beings is worse than simply ignorant and unfair—it sets the table for profoundly antisocial, escalating consequences, as above-mentioned, harming rather than healing society. We can and must do better than that.

And, for God’s sake, with wisdom, faith, and love we can and we will do way better!

Rev. David Carter