1. Johnny Cash and prison reform
Johnny Cash is well known for his live record At Folsom Prison and for his (mostly fictional) song lyrics about doing time. But the BBC has a piece on Cash’s campaign for prison reform, asking whether his appeals to Congress were ultimately successful:
Cash not only outlined to the senators on Capitol Hill what he thought was wrong with the American penal system, he also told them how he believed it could be improved. His proposals included the separation of first-timers and hardened criminals, the reclassification of offences to keep minor offenders out of prison, a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and counselling to prepare convicts for the outside world and reduce the possibility of them reoffending. At a time when countries around the world are still wrestling with the question of how to handle those they incarcerate, many of the issues Cash raised that day feel just as relevant today. The fact that we are still debating them 40 years later suggests Cash failed. But did he?
2. Solving the immigration puzzle
In what seems to be another sign that when it comes to immigration reform the times they are a-changin’, a prominent Republican politician from Florida and a Libertarian from an Arizona think tank (it’s no coincidence that both states have large Hispanic populations) are co-authoring a book called Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. They wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, touching on a number of “realities [that] must be faced squarely,” including this pertinent point:
Critics of comprehensive reform often argue that illegal immigrants should return to their native countries and wait in line like everyone else who wants to come to America. But unless they have relatives in the U.S. or can fit within the limited number of work-based visas, no line exists for such individuals. For most aspiring immigrants, the only means of legal admission to this country is an annual “diversity lottery” that randomly awards visas to 55,000 foreigners. There are roughly 250 applicants for each visa every year. The absence of a meaningful avenue of access increases the pressure for illegal immigration.
3. Summoned from the margin
One of the books I’d really like to read this year is a memoir by African historian and missiologist Lamin Sanneh (who teaches at Yale) called Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African. The publisher, Eerdmans, posted a 23-minute interview about his own upbringing in a polygamous family and some insight into the personal history behind his academic interest in Christian-Muslim relations.
4. Young churches, old buildings
Martin Swant explores the trend among relatively new churches (especially “young, restless, Reformed” ones) “undertaking multimillion-dollar renovation projects to breathe new life into historic churches or other structures, instead of building a contemporary big-box.” It’s a fascinating read. Though of course the story would feel a lot different for those belonging to the congregations being phased out, here’s the perspective of one Louisville pastor:
I think it’s a wonderful thing to kind of reclaim, restore, and renew a place. I think it’s a picture of the gospel as well that Christ is making all things new, but at the same time I think people love contemporary. Are people attracted to old? Yes. Are people attracted to the contemporary? Yes. We want to make it really clear that we are not the first to step into the scene. We are just one of many in this larger story.
5. A Tall Order
With the New Year Rate deadline for The Justice Conference simulcast coming up in a few days on January 31 (register now!), there’s a new promo video featuring Micah Bournes waxing poetic on the streets of Philadelphia. It’s amazing.
Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!
[Image credit: Sony BMG via cmt.com]