To be honest, it took a very long time, significant amount of prayer and much outside counsel before I decided to start writing again. I love to write and share ideas that challenge the norm. However I knew that writing on subjects like poverty, gentrification, prison reform, the Church and leadership in the 21st Century – particularly in today’s political climate in America – could be somewhat controversial, cause me to lose friends or bring about the loss of supporters for Impact! Ministries. I may be an advocate for the impoverished and incarcerated , but I do not share the opinions for overcoming homelessness, crime, systemic poverty, inmate aftercare and gentrification that many people do these days. Mainly, my thoughts, beliefs and proposed solutions come from direct work and close proximity with the impoverished and incarcerated for the past 15+ years. In my experience, I have seen the overly compassionate, hand out with no parameters, non-confrontational, semi-socialist mode of “helping” the less fortunate actually do more harm than good. Coddling those with lifelong addictions, providing unlimited food or shelter to the chronically homeless, welfare payouts with no limits or requirements, the constant meddling by city planners to “combat” affordable housing and the Church’s failure to properly assume the role of caregiver that God instructed in the New Testament has left America in crisis.
Coddling those with lifelong addictions, providing unlimited food or shelter to the chronically homeless, welfare payouts with no limits or requirements, the constant meddling by city planners to “combat” affordable housing and the Church’s failure to properly assume the role of caregiver that God instructed in the New Testament has left America in crisis.– Rev. Chris Elrod
In essence, our system for dealing with the impoverished and incarcerated in America is broke. I’m all for compassion, but sympathy without accountability brings no solutions. I’m all for helping others, but “hand outs” instead of “hand ups” leads to ongoing systemic poverty. I’m all for treating people with dignity, but where there is no honesty there is no realization of the need for change. As I’ve heard many of my pastor friends say, “It IS okay to be not okay. It is NOT okay to stay not okay!” Unfortunately, the way in which we handle the poverty-stricken, perpetually addicted and constantly incarcerated in America serves only to remind people that it is okay to be not okay – it is okay to stay not okay – don’t worrying about overcoming or bettering yourselves – we’ll provide your every need from now on. There is something just fundamentally – and Scripturally – wrong with that mentality and approach. It is NOT working and serves only to make the problem and crisis worse!
As I’ve heard many of my pastor friends say, “It IS okay to be not okay. It is NOT okay to stay not okay!”– Rev. Chris Elrod
Before I began wiring on a regular basis I felt a need to explain myself a little, to set some ground rules for commenting and establish that there must be wholesale change in how America approaches poverty and prisons. With that in mind, here are five things you should know about me before we go any further
1. God’s Word is the ultimate authority in my life.
As a Christian and a pastor of the Southern Baptist Convention my ultimate authority in life is the Bible, I believe that it is God-inspired and without error. My belief in – and guidance from – holy Scripture supersedes any thoughts, ideas or opinions provided by other resources or people. At times, this puts me at odds with modern thinking and political correctness in America.
2. I’m a registered independent that has voted for both Democrat and Republican candidates.
I am a registered Independent. This is not a political move, it just allows me to sleep better at night knowing I’m not affiliated with a specific political party. However, in my professional life I do work with many politicians from both sides of the aisle. One day I may be meeting with a Republican senator’s social justice liaison in Washington, DC. The next day I may be sitting on a panel discussion about gentrification at a state Democrat Party gathering. In my assessments and solutions concerning the impoverished and the incarcerated in America I never let political agendas play into my thought process. Both parties are – at times – right and wrong about certain aspects concerning welfare, healthcare, addiction treatment and prison reform. One of my goals is to get both sides to come together to develop common sense solutions that actually work.
3. Every day I work with, live in and am friends with the impoverished.
Six years ago my wife and I felt a calling from God to leave the nice country home we lived in and move into a run-down rental house in a neighborhood plagued by poverty, drugs and gang activity. We spend quote a but of time with our neighbors each week. Soon after we moved, we also planted a church that was in the heart of the homeless community of Lakleand, Florida. Every night 30-40 homeless and addicted people would sleep in the sanctuary. We loved many of those folks through their addictions and remain friends with them to this day We regularly have the homeless stay in our house overnight, spend our own money to provide clothing for them, take them out for meal, get them to medical appointments and walk alongside them as they struggle with their demons. In essence, I am not standing on the sidelines writing about the impoverished – I am living it every day. Some of my best friends have no roof over their head and spend every day hustling for money to buy drugs or alcohol. I love every one of them and value our relationship!
4. I spend a lot of time in prison working with the incarcerated.
I spent six years working with Prison Fellowship as a platform guest with Operation Starting Line. As a result I was in hundreds of state and federal prisons nationwide each year working directly with the inmate population. I still go into several dozen prisons all over America each year to hang out with inmates, show them the love of Christ, teach them skills needed for re-entry and share the Gospel with them. I also work on their behalf with politicians and law enforcement agencies to bring about significant prison reform. Finally, the church I formerly pastored worked hard to provide aftercare to multiple ex-inmates and help them become re-established into society. As a result I speak at many churches across the United States each year about the Church’s role in prison reform.
5. I rarely make time to argue with people online.
Feel free to leave comments, but do not expect a reply from me in most cases. While I value and – at times – enjoy lively debate, I rarely have the time for it. Most of the debates I participate in are usually in-person with other advocates or experts dealing with the homeless, addiction and inmate crisis in America. They come with well-prepared thoughts and verifiable facts – and the goal of creating solutions. However I find that most “debates” online basically come down to name calling, rehashing last night’s cable news’ commentator or stating facts gleaned from a meme seen on Facebook. It is mainly personal opinions or political agendas rarely backed by experience or true education of the facts. I don’t mind it, I just don’t have the time to respond to it. Be passionate and lively – comment as much as you want – but be considerate and professional. If it gets personal or nasty (“Hey Elrod, you are a heartless thug that probably kicks kittens while cussing out your mama…”), I’ll delete it and block you from the site.
I find that most “debates” online basically come down to name calling, rehashing last night’s cable news’ commentator or stating facts gleaned from a meme seen on Facebook.– Rev. Chris Elrod
Why take the time to share a little about myself? Mainly because I want the readers of this blog to understand that my ideas, solutions and proposals are not coming from some cable news anchor, a politician looking to score points with a quick soundbyte, a ultra-conservative evangelical pastor I heard at a leadership conference or an op-ed piece from a newspaper journalist. They come from experience – day after day experience – of working one-on-one with the impoverished and incarcerated. I certainly do not expect every one to agree with me – or even like the things I post – but I at least wanted people to know where I was coming from.
Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy post. Not all of them will be this long or be so self-serving. Next week I’ll be back with post about the five reasons why welfare in America is not working and needs a complete overhaul.