Written by Eric Kearsley, Willow Street. This LTE was first published on September 17, 2020 in LNP/LancasterOnline. Reprinted here with permission from the author.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Ricardo Muñoz continue to emerge, but the following seems to be clear:
Ricardo Muñoz’s mental health problems were well known to his family and the community. Family members recognized that he was in trouble and called for help that never came. Can’t we all agree that our crisis intervention and mental health programs are inadequate?
The lone city cop dispatched to the scene was confronted by a man charging toward him waving a large knife. Can’t we all agree that in those circumstances, a cop’s use of deadly force could be justified?
Some individuals responded to this tragic event with arson, vandalism, and rioting. Can’t we all agree that this is not legitimate social protest, it is criminal behavior that should be prosecuted?
There are a lot of unanswered policy issues. When a serious mental health issue is flagged, particularly by the family, what can be done to intervene quickly to ensure public safety? What options for non-lethal force are available that could/should have been used in this kind of crisis.
Let’s not make this another left-right argument where our debate is mostly focused on simplistic partisan slogans. We all share the common goal of public safety.
Justin Wilson was born and raised in Philadelphia. He attended Central High School and graduated in 1994. After attending Hampton University for two years, he transferred to Temple University in 1997 and graduated with a B. S. in Biology in 1999. Justin went to Temple University School of Medicine and graduated in 2003 with an M.D. in Medicine. In 2004, Dr. Wilson completed a Transitional Medicine year at Lehigh Valley Hospital. His Diagnostic Radiology training was performed at Hahnemann University Hospital from 2004 to 2008. In 2008, Dr. Wilson returned a United States Army commitment at Weed Army Medical Center, Fort Irwin, California and was discharged honorably in 2010. Dr. Wilson worked for a year before receiving additional training in Advanced Body Imaging at the University of Southern California from 2011 to 2012. Since 2012, Dr. Wilson has worked in Lancaster where he resides with his beautiful wife of over ten years and two lovely girls, ages 3 and 7.
Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb has professional expertise as a certified pastoral counselor, with a marriage and family specialty, and is an internationally known speaker and author. As a ministry leader, Dr. Webb draws on her own 20 years of experience in a specialized mission field in over 8 countries to help churches and church related ministries deal with the addiction pandemic. Her website, www.marytheresawebb.com, contains some of her many books and programs. Her most recent books are Following Jesus in the Age of Trump and Costly Freedom. She cofounded Conservation Consultants, the GOAL Project and is a member of Braver Angels and Lancaster Stands Up.
Dr. Webb holds graduate degrees and certificates from the University of Pittsburgh, Trinity School for Ministry, the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute, and the University of America.
After graduating from Ursinus College, New Holland native Rebecca Class Branle used her pen to push products as a senior copywriter for QVC, and then as a creative director for a Philadelphia-area retail advertising agency. Today, she partners with her husband, Mark, to head up a small community bike shop known for its big heart. She writes to demand a kinder world for her three kiddos (who can recite every word of Hamilton), two dogs, and one very fat cat.
Written by Rebecca Branle, Ephrata Township. This piece was first published on Sept. 30, 2020 on Rebecca’s blog, basicallybeckyblogs. Reprinted here with permission from the author.
But I want to be kind and I want to leave the door open, with a welcome mat, and I want to remind you that you can still walk through. But we have to talk about the hard stuff, and I understand that your first instinct will be to push back. That’s okay. That’s human. But could you listen for a sec? Please?
I know that so many of you are willing to (probably reluctantly) excuse racism, rampant lying, misogyny and fraud in order to defend your pro-life platform. I know that, even though the president called out the Proud Boys last night and told them to “Stand by,” so many are still going to stand in the voting booth and cast a vote, (hopefully reluctantly), for Donald Trump because of your pro-life platform.
But here’s the thing: Donald Trump’s party isn’t pro-life. It’s not even pro-birth. It’s certainly not Christian. I know these words are walls, that they’ve probably blocked you from listening further, but if you’re still here, please stay.
Republican politics (please note that I said politics, not people) don’t support life.
The reasoning is simple, and statistically proven. Abortions decrease overall by greater margins during democratic presidencies, and by the sharpest margin during Barack Obama’s presidency. Why? Overall, policy. And for Barak Obama’s sharpest decline, you can’t point directly to the Affordable Care Act. Affordable healthcare means less abortions. Full stop. If Republicans were really committed to decreasing abortion, they’d be doing more than intimidating women outside of Planned Parenthood. They’d be working their asses off to provide affordable healthcare to every American, which, unlike bullying, actually saves lives.
When women, and men, have access to affordable and free healthcare, they’re far more likely to use protection. And, by women and men, I also mean boys and girls. I kind of lagged behind the rest of my peers when it came to sex, but I can tell you that the majority of my friends were sexually active starting their freshman or sophomore year of high school, some even earlier. The Welsh Mountain Clinic and its supply of affordable birth control and, later, PlanB, kept them from having to make a decision about abortion. Republicans work hard to fight funding for just such clinics. Without these clinics, as data has proven in communities where they were removed, there are more unwanted pregnancies, and more abortions (and, more adult death. Without affordable cancer screenings, too many women find out too late that they’re sick).
Affordable healthcare doesn’t just prevent abortion through condoms and birth control pills, it also prevents abortion because of the peace of mind it provides.
Statistically, most women choose abortion because they don’t have healthcare, and, as an extension, won’t be able to afford healthcare for their child. It’s common sense, really, and yet Republicans who call themselves pro-life are also standing in the way of affordable healthcare. How can that possibly be pro-life? Here’s where I have to ask you to sit quietly with God for a sec. Do you think Jesus would be like, “Yeah, so I think only some people should get healthcare, and I think we should only give that healthcare to the folks who are more inclined to be healthy, and more able to afford it.” The Bible doesn’t make us wonder what His stance is on this issue. Verse after verse points us in the right direction. I’ll include just one: “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (Proverbs 14:31 ESV)
This is the point where I usually hear about your friend. You know, the French/Swiss/British/Canadian who had to wait in a super long line last year when he hurt his knee. I’ll just say it’s wildly convenient that everyone seems to share that one friend, that anecdote that goes against all statistical data. But let’s say your anecdote holds water…do you think Jesus would say, “Well, friend, I would hate for you to wait additional time for your care. How inconvenient. To solve this for you, let’s just continue to deny healthcare to millions who’d be happy to wait in your stead.” Nah. Pretty sure not.
I know it’s said often, but it needs to be said – you can’t claim to be pro-life and fund policies that lead to massive loss of life. The most obvious of these policies is the stripping away of healthcare. But what about this pandemic specifically? Donald Trump has repeatedly, openly, misled the American public concerning its severity and its spread. He’s pushed back against masks because, well, he doesn’t like the way they look and he doesn’t like the image they project for his re-election chances. Yet scientists the world over point to proof that masks stop spread, and save lives. It’s such an easy ask, wearing a mask, and yet there are groups called “Faith over Fear” that site God as a reason to forego mask wearing. Again, verse after biblical verse would seem to point the faithful in the opposite direction, you know, the “love your neighbor” route. And, image aside, masks actually solve more than health problems, they help economically. If we all wore masks, businesses could more safely continue to operate. Instead, we have a large portion of the population refusing to care for their neighbor and, as a result, creating a devastating physical and financial impact for the middle and lower class…the very people Jesus fought hardest for. As a result of the attitude from the top, over 205,000 people are dead. How can that possibly be pro-life?
Speaking of the Prince of Peace, I’ll never understand conflating guns and God. Love your guns, but please leave God out of it. I think, often, about how sad this must make Him…this tying His name with an angry defense of weapons made to murder. In 2017, 23,854 people took their own lives using a gun. 14,542 were murdered by gun. 4 women per day are killed by their husband or boyfriend. The Violence Against Women Act works to reduce this number, but Mitch McConnell refuses to bring this bill, which has bipartisan support, up for a vote. Why? Because like so many in the Republican Party, he’s in bed with the NRA. Because the NRA gave Trump 30 million dollars. Because the NRA is a money-making machine with one aim – selling more guns, to whomever wants them (and taking really great vacations for themselves). The NRA and Mitch McConnell have women’s blood on their hands and they stand in direct opposition to everything Jesus taught. So, go ahead, support the second amendment, but abandon the NRA and embrace background checks and safety measures. If you’re sane, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Please know I understand. I understand how strong the pull is to support the party you’ve been loyal to your entire life. And I’ve tuned into Fox, read the mailers, and taken in the rhetoric. I promise you, you’re not being told the truth. Consult an unbiased source, or listen to the President speak, but, please, sit with it, quiet those word-tracks you’ve been fed by Fox and its pundits and sit with the information. And then vote pro-life, and I mean real pro-life. I mean the pro-life that actually drastically reduces abortion. I mean the pro-life that provides healthcare (please, my family will lose our healthcare if the ACA is struck down). I mean the pro-life that works to end systemic racism, bring about unity, and stop unjustified murder. I mean the pro-life that wants to take guns out of the hands of the dangerous. I mean the pro-life that wants to address mental illness (through healthcare and programs that will work in tandem with police). I mean the pro-life that honors of the sanctity of all life.
Written by Eric Kearsley, Willow Street. This LTE was first published on June 4, 2020 in LNP/LancasterOnline. Reprinted here with permission from the author.
One more example of reprehensible policing tragically reminds us that we still have more work to end the terrible story of racism in America. Every time this happens, we make some progress: there are now more black mayors and more black chiefs of police than ever before, community-based policing is becoming the norm, and body cams are now in widespread use. With all that and more, the murderous act of one cop surrounded by other cops who inexplicably fail to intervene sets off nation-wide protests for justice. Two easy changes: we need a national ban on the use of neck restraints of any sort and police training that emphasizes shared culpability for all on-scene tragedies.
In cities across the country, including Lancaster, we also see images of cops taking the knee to show their support for the people who are in the streets to peaceably protest the brutal injustice we witnessed in Minneapolis. Sadly, there are other, more sinister forces taking advantage of the situation: extremists who just want to sow chaos, looters out to make a score, and an unchecked White House using any means to achieve its ends. We need the overwhelming number of peaceful demonstrators as well as the good cops in this country to help stop the looters and the extremists and then we need the people in November to change the occupant of the White House.
Eric Kearsley has a PhD in Radiation Physics from the University of Wisconsin. He is also a retired US Navy Captain and a retired physics teacher from the Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools. Currently he is on the Board of Lancaster Quest for Learning and also hosts a meeting of the LGBTQ+ Family and Friends support group at Willow Valley Communities.