At a recent circuit picnic, I was talking with Pastor Mike Saylor about a recent trip he and a number of his parishioners made to Cleveland to work with Building Hope in the City. He talked excitedly about the impact which their several days had on the people and places where they had served, but also about the impact the trip made on the people he brought with him to Cleveland. The paint job they gave the school at St John, South Euclid, spruced the place up just in time for their open house. The school saw 12-15 new families register. Some fatherless pre-teens received some positive male-bonding from the visiting teens. That inner city life is different from rural northwest Ohio struck one adult as he remembered the response one little girl gave when instructed to make something with the ball of clay set before her: “I think I’ll make some cocaine.”

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The federal government gives financial breaks to whomever it wills. Often those benefits go to industries which it wishes to foster, or to those industries it wishes to protect from foreign competitors. Agriculture has often been on the receiving end of such breaks. So has the petroleum industry. For some time churches have received favors from local, state, and federal governments in the form of tax-exemptions. The rationale was that these organizations help society in a variety of ways that otherwise might not be possible if taxes were imposed on them.

We may be moving into a new day in which governments hungry for revenue take a second look at their policies. One reaction on the part of churches would be to roll over and pay. When outsiders ask, “Why should the church get tax breaks?” this group is ready to swallow hard and bring out the checkbook without uttering any defense.

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I recently read an article in First Things entitled, “Alone in the New America.” It talks about how our society has betrayed certain numbers of our population. Reference is made to Jennifer Silva’s, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty. This study reports that most working-class young adults have difficulty trusting people and institutions. One interviewee, Brandon, found himself $80,000 in debt earning a degree in criminal justice. Eleven years later, he only has a retail job and says, “I was sold fake goods,” when told that a college degree was the way to get to the land of milk and honey. Another, Tori, enrolled in a local college for massage therapy, but when she took the state test to get her license, she discovered that her classes had not covered most of the required material. Her class had a 2 percent pass rate. With no license or degree to show for her work, the best she has found is an $8/hour job as a home health care aide, but hasn’t worked for two months now. At twenty-three, she has $20,000 debt and no job to show for it.

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