My Brother’s Keeper Program May Have Lofty Goal, But Makes Faux Pas - And Response (4)

Saturday, December 20, 2014 - by David Tulis

A federal president known for misuse of the Christian scriptures has done it again, but this time with Chattanooga city government following him into a program whose name falls from the lips of humankind’s first murderer. 

The query “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is from a slab of dialogue in which Cain is defiant to his creator, who is asking the whereabouts of his missing brother, Abel. The query is the height of sauciness, implying that God requires something of Cain that He does not. 

A forum was held downtown to launch My Brother’s Keeper, a program hatched in the White House and adopted by 100 cities to help blacks overcome systemic disadvantages brought to them by intergenerational contact with the welfare state. 

As ground soaks up Abel’s blood
The biblical narrative in view is in the fourth chapter of Genesis. Context makes clear that “my brother’s keeper” is not what President Barack Obama and his retainers understand it to be saying. 

The sons of Adam are riven by the hatred of Cain for Abel. God accepts Abel’s sacrifice, not Cain’s. Cain has brought an offering to God from the fruit of the ground. But Abel brings “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and he countenance fell.” God accepts for atonement for sin an offering involving the shedding of innocent blood just as Jesus’ blood later is shed for sinners. 

Cain kills his brother in anger, making him the first martyr for gospel truth. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” 

The cavil of a murderer can hardly be trusted to frame God’s requirement for charity. The question attributes to God the notion that God expects Cain to be Abel’s keeper, which he is not. Cain and Abel are free men, serving God in their duty to family, children and productivity. Cain’s false implication is that God names one brother over another, makes one keeper, the other the kept. 

A federal master speaks
National government’s condescension to blacks is palpable in many programs, including this one. The White House program favors mentoring of young blacks, creation of jobs networks and the teaching of job or college skills. It intends to address “persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color” and ensure that “all young people” reach their full potential. 

But the program’s concept arises within the existing plantation mentality that many blacks such as Patrick Hampton at Goodwill Industries in Chattanooga have fled. My Brother’s Keeper accepts early state control of children via kindergartens (school readiness). It assumes the value of schooling per se, even extended forms of it. It touts the university which in our day is showing itself an outmoded education delivery system filled with debt serfs and political correctness
The city program will pump employment over ownership. Employment is “the relationship between master and servant” (Black’s Law Dictionary). Far more valuable to teach would be the benefits of entrepreneurialism, free markets and new modes of service in the era of decentralization in the economy. 

Employment is a fine thing if being hired is the best you can do. But long-term it is more profitable to be an entrepreneur who eventually hires young people as employer. Young blacks are good for more than just employment touted by the federal government as a form of economic salvation. A better theory would be creation of independent businesses such as those promoted by the Launch program here helping Tyner high school students Lorenzo Foster and Terry Sales develop a high-tech mop bucket with two other colleagues. 

Local economy doesn’t need people to be kept in the servant part of employment. It doesn’t need people living out somebody’s vision of serving others in the marketplace. It needs not obedient order takers, but risk takers, imaginative men who think about others, men who think about solving the problems of others, who want to aid other people, who work for themselves and bring profit to themselves, their families and their hometowns. 

In the Americas in the 19th century, blacks were a kept people. God in His providence made use of slavery as blacks tugged cotton from the rows and taking it to market. Along the way they discovered the benefits of Western civilization and Christianity. But let’s not encourage anyone to want to keep one’s brother, or to be kept by him. 

— David Tulis hosts 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at Hot News Talk Radio 1240 910 and 1190 AM, covering local economy and free markets here and beyond.

Sources: Joy Lukachick Smith, “City launches ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ effort,” Dec. 19, 2014, Chattanooga Times Free Press 

* * *  

Brotherhood among citizens does not mean keeperhood by the state.  

David Tulis wrote an essay using a Bible quote twisted like a pretzel to persuade others to fault, as he does, a proposal by the President of the United States.  Mr. Tulis fails in his persuasion because his political point of view has no proposals for brotherhood among citizens.  

Most Christians, whatever their political point of view, do. 

Kathryn Wilcox
Lewisburg, W.V. 

* * *  

I am not going to respond to all of Mr. Tulis’ comments, but want to add my own.  

Entrepreneurial spirit is fantastic, but I don’t know of many successful entrepreneurs who didn’t work their way to entrepreneurial greatness.  I truly believe that for almost all young people, helping them find their first part-time job is one of the best things we can do for them.  Education is imperative, but a productive work history is also important in helping them get on their way to successful independent living.  

Among other things, I often talk to young people in large settings and one-on-one about the importance of starting and protecting their work history as it is the beginning of their future career regardless of what their future holds.  Specifically, I tell them that very few people get jobs by filling out an application.  It’s a step, but it’s not enough.  

I talk to them about showing up, seeking out the manager, offering a proper hand-shake and expressing a real desire to work at the establishment, and about follow-up.  I tell them that whatever it is that they’re doing, if they work it like it’s their “dream job” bigger and better things will open up for them.  

I talk to them about how employers like to hire people who have proven themselves, and about how it is easier to get a job when you have a job, about how they should give an hour’s worth of work if they expect and hour’s worth of pay, and about how their work history follows them much like their grades and other things.  (Sadly, I have to have the same conversation with unproductive adults sometimes.)  

A part-time job teaches responsibility, teamwork, the value of a dollar, and so much more.  It fills unproductive time.  It takes kids off the streets.  It puts them with responsible, productive people.  It provides some often desperately needed money.  It leads to bigger opportunities.   

I wish I could put my hand on an article I read a few years ago that outlined the number of successful CEOs who started their working careers bagging groceries.  Lessons learned working with others and serving the public can lead to a multitude of entrepreneurial success stories.

Let’s focus less on the particular program or who launched it and focus more on helping as many young people as possible get their start.     

I often have people ask what they can do to make a difference for young people in Chattanooga.  If you’re a business person, take a chance on a young person that you might otherwise overlook.  Make the commitment and spend the time it takes.  You’ll not only get a good employee, but you might just change a life in the process.  

Rob Philyaw
Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge  

* * * 

David Tullis is correct in his premise that it is better to emphasize entrepreneurship over employment in the general sense. I also believe he is pointing out that the Bible nowhere teaches the universal brotherhood of man which is also correct. In practice, that type of belief was held in societies like the Soviet Union. And what did it yield there? The collectivization crisis of the 1920’s in which millions of its citizens were sent to Gulag’s or died of starvation. It is worth reading The Gulag Archipelago in schools today but there is more of a chance a young student will read the New York Times articles of Walter Duranty as an “informational text” in a Common Core English assignment. 

Why bring this history up? It is not that I believe that “My Brother’s Keeper” is some evil plot, but because it is born of the same well-intentioned thinking that always leads to disastrous unintended consequences. As Milton Friedman said in a debate once “you confuse the will with the deed.” This type of program has nice intentions but Mr. Tullis did an excellent job of demonstrating how damaging it will be in practice. 

Rob Philylaw raises a great point about the need for entry level job skills. It’s not reasonable to think that most people can go from zero to business owner without first learning many things about a particular business along with what it takes to own and operate a business in general.  I would ask Mr. Philylaw to consider two questions: Why should a business owner focus on anything other than making sure his/her business is as profitable as it can be? What is so different today than in the past that keeps businesses from hiring the future CEOs that you documented in your response? 

Rob Bower 

* * * 

Am I my brother's keeper, whether referenced in the Bible or out the universal concept, accepted, is that we do help out the less fortunate.  We do it lavishly over the holidays and see people from all walks of life helping, giving and being stewards of good.  

Those that despair that our society does too much for ungrateful black community are missing the entire point of the "keeper" idea.  I would like to correct both misconception and the prejudice attached to comments.  The inner city black child that fails to achieve in the largely middle class schools is destined to not only create what is the black child experience but perpetuate it.

Schools do an admirable job of providing an education base to the so-called middle. It does not, however, do the same for the highly gifted and those less ready, ie the inner city black child. Oh, I will hear some responses that the highly gifted are provided for but will stand by what I state herein. 

The inner city child's plight is further damaged by large percentages of out of wedlock births to underage mothers.  The child then grows up in an environment without good male role models. He is likely to be on free lunch, welfare, foodstamps, subsidized housing  and other and go to school with mostly black children.  His reading skills, already damaged before he even enters school are further hastened by poor educational standards teaching the same reading curriculum to all, ie. Dick and Jane or variations of.  He is not read to at home and lives in an isolated community rife with potential hazards for society to have to deal with , ie crime, drugs and an assurance that nothing will change.  My brother's keeper wants to change all that. 

Why not prepare this child before age five?  Why not age three or even birth?  Why not provide inexpensive home care and educational tools to help the new mother cope; to change; to be the role model the child needs?  Why not so improve public education, Head Start and etc. that child, so deprived has the very best educational tools available.  Why not have every child tested and a deficit, strengths chart is known for all and educational approaches are based on that individual needs not the schools.

Does it cost more? Not really, compared to what society pays for crime; for incarceration; for programming after the need is present, etc. Let the city go forth with development of the Baby College; drastic improvement in the Head Start program; encourage local high schools and colleges to provide male influencers in the programs so the children see men of color working with them and helping them achieve. There is more. 

Robert Brooks

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