11/03/13 Iva Carruthers

Century of Lies

DPA Conf IV: Faith Community Panel with Mod Dr. Iva Carruthers, Rev John E Jackson of Trinity United, Rev Kenneth Glaskow and Rev Peter Laarman of Justice not Jails

Audio file


Century of Lies November 3, 2013


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Hi, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. This week we are going to present the first part of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Panel, “Can You Hear Me Now? Speaking the Language of Reform to Faith Leaders”.


IVA CARRUTHERS: We’re going to begin this afternoon session. It is a very, very powerful opportunity for us to have conversation with each other and we dare not lose any time doing so.

I’m delighted and privileged to speak to you this afternoon and serve as your moderator. I am Iva Carruthers and I serve as the general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. We are very, very privileged to be a partner with the Drug Policy Alliance. In that partnership we have collaboratively struggled with trying to make sure we engage the faith community in this conversation around reform and transformation as it relates to drug policy not just in this nation but, indeed, in the world.

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference is a network of clergy and lay leaders, seminarians, activists, advocates who are grounded in what we would consider to be the prophetic tradition of the African-American church. That simply means that we should first of all understand that the African-American church is a very diverse church but the prophetic tradition of that church is a tradition which carries its belly the fire of the voice for social justice.

It is only appropriate that we would be at this table. We have been asked to consider and reflect on the issue of “Can You Hear Me Now? Speaking the Language of Reform to Faith Leaders”.

I want to remix that a bit and say that what we are going to be talking about is this issue of the message within the message. By that we mean what do we say, to whom do we say it, who says it and how is the best way to say it.

It is a very important issue as you know because so much (as Dr. Saunders has already shared with us this morning) so much of what we believe is driven by the spirit and so much of our capacity and power is often driven by the spirit.

As we consider this conversation we do so recognizing and confirming the diversity of the faith tradition and that we have to have this conversation recognizing the diversity of those who are engaged in this work. That diversity is not only in terms of tradition it is in terms of gender, it is in terms of institution representation, it is in terms of theological belief, institutional structures and most of all we acknowledge that we have to message within the message with competing messages because more often than not we are the minority voice.

One of the things I had to first of all acknowledge and step back and say, “What do I do about this?” is that all of our panelists on this round table are male. Have you all noticed that?

So to my sisters in the audience I want to say that I acknowledge that and, therefore, to begin this conversation I want to say that I stand here in the tradition of Isabelle Baumfree who became Sojourner Truth and she said, “Ain’t I a woman?!”

I stand in the tradition of Harriot Tubman who said, “I would have freed more of them if they had only known that they were still slaves.”

I stand in the tradition of Fanny Lou Haimer who said, “I’m tired of being tired.”

I stand in the tradition of Ella Baker who said, “We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.”

And, finally, I stand in the tradition of those South African women who said, “You have struck a rock and, therefore, you have hit the woman.”

It is within that notion of the feminine energy of the spirit that the sisters in the room are going to engage in this conversation acknowledging that the brothers who I will call up to the stage fully affirm our participation in this movement.

I would like to ask for the Honorable Craig DeRoach to join us. He is the former Speaker of the House in the state of Michigan and he is president of Justice Fellowship.

We have agreed collectively that we’re going to be short on introductions so that we have the best use of our time. Pastor Kenneth Glaskow who serves as the founder and the Chief Servant of the Ordinary People Society, Dotham, Alabama. Reverend Alvin Herring, Director of Training of Lifelines to Healing the PICO National Network, Baton Rouge, Louisiana but now the National Director of Training and really based in Washington, D.C. Reverend John E. Jackson of Trinity United Church of Christ, Gary, Indiana. Reverend Peter Laarman, co-convener of Justice Not Jails, California Faith Action, Los Angeles, California, Doctor William Martin, Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy, Baker Institute, Rice University, Houston, Texas, Reverend Edwin Saunders who we’ve already heard from who is on his way and, of course, he will join when he comes, Reverend Al Sharp, Interim Director, Community Renewal Society from my home city, Chicago, Illinois and last but certainly not least Doctor George Walters who is the Executive Director of the Center for Church in Prisons, Inc.

So, Dr. Peter Laarman, can you share with us a little bit about some of the power of language and words that are often barriers to this conversation? I know you’ve done a lot in that area.

PETER LAARMAN: Thank you, Dr. Carruthers and thanks to all of you for being here. It’s a privilege and may we thank God that we have the emerging national voice of good religion.

I want to talk a little bit about good religion and bad religion and I use those terms freely but I think that the spirit of condemnation and punishment - and I wrote a little bit about this in a thing I put in the back. The spirit of condemnation and punishment hangs over this whole discussion of criminalization.

In my sets of things we wouldn’t criminalize users. We wouldn’t have the capacity to criminalize users were it not for our predisposition to judge others and to reach conclusions about others and bad religion has obviously played a huge role in building up the capacity for harsh judgment.

The capacity (I think Jesus warned people about this) but the capacity to come to church and say in their prayer, “I thank you father that I am not like those other people.”

Our faith communities are bastions of respectability and they are bastions of denial in regard to our own participation in systems of oppression. So, yes, I think language is profoundly important. I really want to be brief in the spirit of collegiality here so I want to say that I think in respect to the resources that good religion brings to this conversation we have the capacity theologically to raise up that different voice and raise it up powerful in the pulpit and also in the life of the community.

In the pulpit the message is that we absolutely need to hear that addictions and use of substances are here to stay – not going away – and people use differently but just about everybody uses in some fashion or another. Not everyone who uses becomes an addict. Obviously criminalizing use or criminalizing users solves nothing and wreaks horrendous damage and suffering.

Theologically our God is a god of second chances and in as much as God still speaks to us God is saying, “Your addiction is your addiction to judgment and condemnation.”

That’s the addiction that needs to be treated and it can only be treated in the spirit (I’ll speak a moment as a Christian) only in the spirit of Jesus who said, “Judge not lest you be judged. Why are fussing over the speck in your neighbor’s eye when you have this big beam in your own eye?”

...the Jesus who went out in search for the lost sheep and embraced the lost sheep, the Jesus who taught us about the prodigal son, the Jesus who was the great physician not the great corrections officer.

So the safe-based congregation part (and this is the interlife of congregations) the safe-based congregations this stuff is so deep and so embedded that you need to create an opportunity for people to meet and talk and expose themselves, reveal their own heart about how they judge, how they struggle with their own stuff and those conversations, of course, should be informed by the presence of formerly incarcerated people. It should be a safe place for formerly incarcerated people to be present and be welcomed and the families of the formerly incarcerated. That keeps it real. It grounds it.

I conclude by saying that with knowledge begins responsibility so that as people in your faith community become aware it doesn’t stop there. It’s not good enough to become aware and then say, “I’m done.” Right?

With knowledge comes responsibility. We are building a movement here. I think it’s possible in any church or any house of worship in this country to say honestly to people, “If you want to be part of the freedom movement of this era this is the freedom movement. This is the struggle that you cannot be absent from.”

I’d like to say in my own tradition (I’m a Church of Christ minister) we have a bumper sticker that says, “The day of non-judgment is at hand.”

May it come quickly. Amen.


IVA CARRUTHERS: So, Reverend Jackson, I know you usually do your sermon preparation on Thursday evening or Thursday day and you struggle with it through Saturday night. As you think about the consequential and collateral damage that the black community and black believers in the faith struggle with and the multiplicities in which we have to understand the theology and the preached word what are some of the ways in which you are guided to speak this truth to your people?

JOHN JACKSON: The issue of biblical interpretation informing one’s theology I believe is very important. For me it is the way you look at scripture that will allow you to either be empowered or enslaved. It is a way to look at a narrative.

The first thing is Dr. Jerome Ralls out of Virginia Union, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Virginia Union Dr. Jerome Ralls points out that when you look at the bible you see people under oppression from Genesis to Revelation. It is a text that deals with people under oppression and how they deal with that.

Then you narrow it down to looking at different texts of the scripture. When one is able to embrace that liberation theology in the text which it is prevalent in the text then that’s the way one will look at it from then on.

I just wanted to give an example of how I do that not only in the preach moment but in the bible study moment and conversations about different texts. It’s a way of looking at the scriptures that allows the scriptures to say, “Thank you for seeing what is underneath.”

One of the things that people can do is you can take down Mark the ninth chapter and you can read it in your own private time and you’ll see what I am saying. In Mark the ninth chapter many of us in here who attend church have heard the story of a man who came to Jesus because his son had been seized by a spirit of subjugation.

The spirit had thrown the boy down in the fire and the water trying to kill the boy. The man had brought his son to Jesus but Jesus was on the mountain at that time so he couldn’t find Jesus so he went to the church. Jesus’s disciple couldn’t do nothing about it.

When Jesus came down off the mountain the man exasperated said, “I brought my son to you. Your disciples couldn’t do anything about it. Here I am with my son.”

Jesus then issues a reprimand to the disciples. When you look at the text he says, “Oh, unbelieving generation.”

In other words you all did not do what I empowered you to do. So then he says to the father, “Bring your son to me. Bring the boy to me.”

So when he brings the boy that spirit started convulsing the boy. Jesus did as what I call a touch of tenderness. In other words he identifies with empathy to the father. He says, “How long has he been like this?”

In other words it allows the father to tell his story. He says, “He’s been going through this since childhood. He’s been convulsed since childhood.”

Then the man says, “If you can do anything. Take pity on us and help us.”

What that said in the text is when one member of the family is suffering everybody is suffering. The boy is the one who has the spirit but the whole family is tormented because of the suffering. In other words when one member of the family or community is suffering the entire community suffers.

That would not have come out if Jesus had not added some empathy and compassion. I call it a theology of compassion. So then Jesus says something that we have mistranslated by saying that Jesus reprimanded the man for lack of faith. He didn’t do that. What he did was reassure the man that those who walk by faith and not by sight, those who really take in this relationship with me can do what others think cannot be done.

If all things are possible for those who believe then he rebukes the spirit and the man expresses his struggle with the experiences he has had. He’s gone everywhere. He’s even gone to the church and they weren’t able to do it. So the man says, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

In other words he’s saying it’s not that I don’t believe I just had too many experiences where people let me down. Jesus then commands the spirit out of the boy. The boy kicking the habit, kicking the spirit, kicking this thing going on within him then all of the sudden when the spirit leaves him it seems he’s dead.

Then the people say it looks like he’s a corpse. Jesus shows us in that moment (and I got this part from Chad Meyers’s “Binding the Strong Man.” He has a commentary on Mark) He says Jesus demonstrates then what the reality of resurrection is.

The boy is a corpse. In other words without saying a word Jesus reaches his hands down, lifts the boy up and he stands up. In other words Jesus is saying, resurrection is saying that nobody is beyond redemption. Nobody is beyond restoration and nobody is beyond resurrection. Nobody is beyond it.

In other words even those situations that seem dead, even those situations that look like a corpse to us – lifeless situations – if we embody this resurrection spirit of Jesus Christ then they have life in them.

The final point I want to make and I’m going to pass the mic is there is an addendum here because there’s much more to it but in the interest of time the disciples pull Jesus aside and say, “How come we weren’t able to do this?”

They had already had the power. Jesus had given them the power to drive out subjugated spirits in chapter 6 but they didn’t believe in the power they had. One of the things about domination in this culture and in the first century is it drives people to feel a sense of resignation. “No, we can’t do anything about this. This is overwhelming. I don’t have the power to do this. We just a little church over here. I’m just a pastor of a small group of people.”

When we talk to faith leaders the majority of them have a feeling of being overwhelmed. What Jesus said is this kind only comes out by prayer. In other words the ground of our work has to start with prayer that we don’t go to the bargaining table with God but prayer where we deal with the demons within us that try to get us to be disillusioned, depressed, despondent – where we just feel like, “I can’t do anything else.”

Jesus says the key is prayer should be used as battlegrounds so you can use my words to counteract the presence of inertia and apathy that go on in all of us in this struggle. So that’s just one of the ways that I consistently look at scripture no matter what the situation is to help folks see that there’s liberation out there.

IVA CARRUTHERS: I would just like our brother Reverend Kenneth Glaskow who is unapologetic about his story and who comes out of the tradition of the black church to testify.

KENNETH GLASKOW: One of the things that we must realize is that the church is the most trusted institution in the community. When that trusted institution of the community that’s supposed to be the safe haven, the refuge, the place for us to seek restoration and redemption (as you said) is not there then we tend to have a failing community and the church is responsible for it.

One of the things I’m going to say real clearly before I even testify is that it’s a shame to all of us, all of us as pastors or ordained or people that consider ourselves Christians to sit up here and have to come to a Drug Policy Alliance conference to be called to the carpet so to speak to do our own jobs that we should be doing anyway.

What’s even a bigger shame is Jill and Ulandan and all the others has to be the ones who we as the pastors should be doing but they are the ones that’s doing the ministry that we have been called to because they see the oppression and the injustice in the laws that exist against our people that we minister to in our congregations to.

In my testimony I am a formally incarcerated person of 14 years. I got my epiphany to do TOPS, The Ordinary People Society, in prison. What’s so profound is you asked Dr. Carruthers that you wanted me to testify. In my testimony I always tell people that in 1994 when I was in prison I studied all religions – I got 2 doctorates now, theology and all that since I’ve been out of prison – but in that particular time I was studying Islam, I was studying Buddhism, every religion there was. I didn’t just go with theology. I studied theosophy – that’s the study of all religions.

I learned all these different prophets and all what they did and God just gave me this thing and inside all of my speaking and doing coupons and all that God stopped me and the Muslims rejected me because I started leading the prayer service and got up one day and said, “[inaudible] in the name of Jesus.”

The Muslims got mad. “You just said in the name of Jesus.” I realized that God had called me back to my original place that my mother brought me from. I studied the bible. I studied all the prophets. I found out that even though I was in jail and incarcerated guess what? The prophets in there went to jail too.

Even in my other study I found out Jesus went to jail too. He broke the law by healing somebody on the Sabbath Day. I said, “Wait a minute. According to the moral standards of religion I done failed morally by being the person incarcerated that committed a crime. But yet instilled in that bible I see where crimes were committed by standing up for morality and spreading the gospel.

So where have we failed? I looked at Amos and I seen that God said, “I don’t care about your festivals. I don’t care about your praises. I don’t care about your singing your songs. I despise your sacrifices until justice rolled out the muddy waters in righteousness in a mighty stream.”

We forgot that. I looked at Matthew 25:33 through 46 which is the basis of TOPS – the whole organization. It says, “I was hungry but you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty but you didn’t give me a drink.” I was sick in prison which makes both synonymous to one to another. I love to do entomology on the words, Bill, and when I looked at it of being sick and in prison and it said that the reason they put them both together was because we were to administer to the needs the same way – administer to the needs of both in the same way.

Then I looked at the prodigal child project that we have and I looked at Luke and it says that the father first of all received with open arms first. Second he killed the fatted calf and gave them food, clothing and shelter. Third he gave him shoes on his feet to give him direction. We still talking about the church.

And what did he do? He put a coat of colors on them that all of us know as preachers that those colors are our emotions, our depressions – come on, come on – the things that we go through. Stages that we are the cover and we are supposed to be teaching on as we preach to congregations.

And last but not least what did they do? They give him a ring on his finger that meant that he belonged – the authority, his citizenship – as Paul says it.

So I say what’s wrong with the church? One of the biggest factors that there was and what I believe especially in the black church is that we are so concentrated on our outreach somewhere along the line we forgot about our in reach.

So now we need to do an enema on the church. I’m gonna say it. We need to get back to the fact that people like me that was on crack and drugs, people like me that was incarcerated and all that, and some of the main people who were smoking drugs and stopped because I told them hey, you don’t want to hear what God got to say and they mysteriously stop getting high with me but they had enough sense to tell me, “Why don’t you get a pulpit and put the pipe down?”

They seen the act of God but those of us in the church don’t see it. We get so stuck on this and I’m going to say this and I’m going to end we get so stuck on this touch not my anointed, do my prophet no harm but we forget, Sister Jill Harris, that the anointed comes on a person prior to them becoming saved not after they become ... because Jesus said, “I called you even in your mess I called you.”

One of the biggest controversies we go through is whether a person is saved or stays saved, whether God hears a sinner’s prayers and all that and a man came and said God still hears a sinner’s prayer but Paul said it in the bible, “When I was yet killing Christians, when I was yet on my way to meet God spoke to me.”

Last thing I would say is if we are the last trusted institution we must realize that Samson (one of the biggest prophets in the bible) he killed more in his death than he did in his life but it says when he went to prison it said his hair started growing back in the 16th verse, Brother George.

You know what that means? Restoration came on him while he was yet in his sin.


DEAN BECKER: Well, that’s about it. I’m hoping you’ll check out my videos I’ve posted on YouTube/fdeanbecker which features a tour of a major grow site by the general council of River Rock Wellness, Mr. Norton Arbeloz.

Be sure to tune into next week’s Century of Lies where we’ll continue this round table, “Can You Hear Me Now? Speaking the Language of Reform to Faith Leaders”.

I think this show underscores what I’ve been saying for these 12 years – there is no justification for this drug war. It is a sham, scam, flim-flan. We have been duped.

Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org