Thursday, June 9, 2011

The War on Drugs & Baptist Political Engagement

The War on Drugs
Mark Osler is a former federal prosecutor and a former Baylor University professor.  He currently serves as a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.  Osler is a blogger and a regular columnist for The Huffington Post.  He is also the author of Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment.
Osler is one Baptist voice that socially-concerned moderate and progressive Baptists need to pay attention to.  His latest HuffPo column is titled Narcotics: Attack Capital, Not People.  Osler begins:
The war on drugs is over. Drugs won.

Osler explains that there are two common answers on what to do next:
The political establishment (including the Obama administration) largely supports doing the same things we always have — locking up lots of people who are selling, making or carrying drugs. Meanwhile, increasingly vocal groups of reformers on both the right and left support the legalization of narcotics.
They are all wrong.
With apologies to GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, the legalization of hard drugs is not an option.  Osler stresses, “There simply no ignoring the way hard drugs can rip apart the social fabric of a family or community–especially in areas that are already economically vulnerable.”
Osler argues for a third way approach: attack the capital flow from the street to source countries such as Mexico.  Attacking labor (people) is not the solution, according to Osler.  He concludes, “Without capital, there is no product–there is no mule carrying drugs over the border, there is no dealer on the street corner, and there is no baby left alone while her mother buys meth.”
Here’s what I like about Osler.  He doesn’t just sound a vague call for reform.  He actually offers specific suggestions on how reform can be achieved.  Baptists have historically failed to deal with specifics when discussing pressing social concerns.  We do a good job of critiquing the other side especially the most extreme and offensive corners of that side.  We recognize dangerous arguments and proposals that do not further the common good.
But we generally fail to offer specific solutions to societal ills.  In recent years, Baptists have publicly pledged to end environmental degradation.  Baptists have pledged to end severe poverty.  Most recently, Baptists in Texas have committed to Bike Out Hunger.  But how can Baptists help achieve these goals without discussing specifics and without offering specific ways to become involved, to become effective advocates at the local, state and national levels?
Too often it seems we leave the task of actual activism and dealing with specifics to the professionals at organizations like the Texas Christian Life Commission and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
Baptists, moderate and progressive alike, need to rediscover the biblical ideas of Christian Citizenship as articulated by previous generations of Baptists like T.B. Maston and Henlee Barnette.  Baptists need to reclaim the slogan – Every Christian a Lobbyist – popularized by James Dunn in the 1970s.
With a renewed commitment to these biblical ideas, we can make our words more meaningful through concrete action.

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