The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Father Who Tried

Philadelphians are all too aware of the escalation of gun violence in our city and of the particular rise in shooting at police officers. A couple weeks ago a section of the city was on lock down for hours, and some areas for days, following the fatal shooting of officer Chuck Cassidy. A couple days ago, two undercover officers were treated and released from the hospital after being shot during a drug raid. The alleged shooter is a sixteen-year-old who will be tried as an adult.

Unfortunately, the involvement of young brothers is an all too familiar element in the drug and gun saga of our major cities. With inadequate education (this young man failed to show up for 10th grade this year) and no sense of purpose for their futures, a segment of our young people turn to and almost revel in a life of criminality.

What separates this case from so many others about which we hear is the heartfelt concern and candor of this young man's father. Both on television and in the press, Willie "James" Taylor has tearfully described his unsuccessful attempts to provide stability and loving discipline for his son, including his efforts to seek intervention from social service agencies before his son's behavior escalated to the felony level for which he is now charged.

The efforts of Mr. Taylor, who is scheduled to preach his initial sermon this Sunday, remind us all of the complexity of issues that contribute to the problem of crime, especially drug-related crimes, in our community. Although it is clear that our communities would benefit from the more active presence of fathers and positive role models, quality time with Dad is no panacea.

The question that Mr. Taylor's son and John Lewis, who confessed to killing Officer Cassidy, both raise for our families and our community is this: How do we combat the aimlessness and wandering that underlie drug activity? Part of the answer is lies in the home. Part of the answer is found at school. Part of the answer is with the government. And part belongs to the church which has an important role in helping people to find their ultimate purpose in life.