Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin has a radical solution to end Louisville’s growing violence problem: He wants roaming prayer groups to patrol the troubled communities.
Bevin said during a press conference yesterday that his plan involved “harnessing people of faith to pray for the community” and urging them to “engage with the community by physically walking blocks in that community.” He asked religious individuals to commit to gathering in groups, then patrolling each block every night at 7:00 p.m., for a commitment of no less than a year.
It doesn’t matter the age of people. We need young and old people alike who genuinely believe in the power of prayer, who want to restore dignity and hope into these communities, and they want to do that by physically being in those communities and walking around. That’s what we’re looking for.
Bevin presented several maps depicting communities in which prayer groups are already providing “help,” including the 2.5-mile area where 67 percent of the city’s murders occurred in the last three years. He petitioned religious believers of all stripes to “take a block and walk around.”
We asked people of different churches, congregations, synagogues, people who believe in the power of prayer and wanted to put their feet to work along with their convictions and their faith, to come consistently… I truly believe we’re going to see a difference in our city. I personally believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the evidence not only in our communities, but beyond, and this is what we’re asking people to do.
I know. Asking random citizens to walk around in Kentucky’s most deadly communities, while praying to their respective deities to make things better, sounds like a home run.
But here’s why it’s a bad idea:
- It’s dangerous. While this isn’t a government-run program, Bevin presumably hopes to save taxpayer funds by proposing this no-cost solution to Louisville’s crime wave. But he’s actually putting his own constituents’ lives at risk by asking them to walk around at night in areas where the most homicides occur. That’s the sort of thing a police force would do… but that would cost money.
- Prayer doesn’t help. It may make the community watchdogs feel better, but it isn’t the solution to rising murder rates. God’s Word doesn’t stop bullets. If Bevin’s goal is simply to make people feel like they are doing something, he might be making the right move, but he’s lying to himself if he thinks this will actually solve the problem. In fact, it might make things worse if everyone feels like this is a legitimate substitute for police officers.
- This is like community “faith healing.” Kids die all the time because their parents think prayer is an acceptable replacement for medical treatment, and Kentucky’s governor wants to do something similar with the citizens of his state. People are suffering. They need help. But instead of letting professionals handle it, he’s hoping group prayer will do the trick.
- It ignores the root problems. These communities aren’t struggling because of a lack of prayer. There’s poverty, homelessness, health care needs, systemic racism, and more. Those require serious investments, which Bevin doesn’t seem to want to make.
I’m not the only one who has a problem with this. Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, the director of a group that leads many of Louisville Metro’s anti-violence programs, said Bevin “indicated that he’s not interested in bringing resources to the table.”
“He’s really having an oversimplified discussion about a cultural and spiritual deficit, which is really irresponsible at the end of the day.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s also telling, as one community resident noted, that Bevin has no plans to join in on these walks.
“He doesn’t care about the West End,” [Toya Johnson] said after walking out early. “He is an insult to Louisville. … He won’t come down and walk with us.”
Kentucky deserves far better than this, and residents like Johnson have every right to demand more.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)