Tag Archives: Moral Values

Tri-Faith Open Letter

SEABROOK SAYS: Mark Epstein is brilliant – and a superb writer.  He has been a very active member of the Interfaith Trialogue (a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Gaston County) for many years.  Read with interest his thought-provoking words.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

A Tri-Faith Open Letter to Our Fellow Citizens of Gaston County

Whereas recently and all too often we are witness to senseless tragedies in the name of religious faith, we the undersigned and many others issue this statement to calm, to ease fear, and bring us closer to a world filled with love and peace, where swords have been bent into plowshares, and the lion has laid down with the lamb. To this end we proclaim, and hope all will likewise proclaim, that WE:

    • Believe that faith in God gives purpose and meaning to human life, and is a force for good in the world; that all people are created in God’s image and thus equally deserving of human dignity.
    • Hold that God’s greatest desire is for his creation to live in joy and peace, with forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
    • Understand that evil exists in the world, but believe God extended to humankind grace and the ability to discern right and wrong, to be used in the pursuit of righteousness, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.
    • Acknowledge that although fear may at times draw close, it should not and need not govern us, and we will not be bound by it. It is within our human capacity to transcend and overcome fear, from which too often anger, discord, and spiritual weakness inevitably flow. It is together, resolute in cooperation and not divided in fear, that we will prevail over those who wish us harm.
    • Hold that Truth of Holy Scripture does not mean its most difficult, even violent, language and passages are a prescription for violence today, nor arrogance of faith, nor demagoguery, nor disdain of other faith traditions.  
  • Reject and disavow violence in the name of God or select scripture, or to advance one’s faith and precepts. WE JOIN OUR MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN RENOUNCING ALL SUCH VIOLENCE.

 

  • Yet recognize the unfortunate fact that any faith tradition will have its misguided fringe, unrepresentative of and rejected by nearly all of its worldwide adherents.
  • Affirm and embrace timeless American values: Liberty, Life, Inclusiveness, Religious Freedom, the democratically-established Rule of Law, and urge all to stand by them no matter how difficult our challenges.
  • Embrace and rededicate our lives to the universal ethics of our traditions: Justice, Kindness, Good Conduct, Charity to care for the least amongst us. Conversely, our traditions commonly hold that God forbids injustice, immorality and oppression.
  • Affirm that our traditions each embrace God’s most important directives: to love Him, to love our neighbor, and also to love the stranger. We thus oppose any effort at discrimination – socially, religiously, or politically – directed towards any faith tradition.
  • Are grateful to the men and women of all races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds who work tirelessly and often at risk to their own lives, to protect our freedoms and liberties.
  • Issue a call for Interfaith dialogue, understanding, and acceptance – for when people of good will gather together in the study of scripture, God is present among them.   And as it enriches each other and our community, it is the same as enriching the whole world.

With these avowals, we and many more are proud to call Gaston County home, and a beacon and stronghold of interfaith diversity and strength.   We join hands to put aside fear, to engage and make our corner of the world better, and to continue our daily work of bringing peace on earth and good will toward all men and women.

 

SIGNED,

Members and Friends of the Gaston County Interfaith Trialogue

(Meeting for 14 years with the purpose of fostering understanding and harmony among the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam)

  • Dr. Mark Epstein, Temple Emanuel, Gastonia
  • Charles Gray, First United Methodist Church, Gastonia
  • Sam Shoukry, Islamic Society of Gastonia
  • Rev. Sydnor Thompson, Myers Memorial Methodist Church Gastonia
  • Charles Brown, Temple Emanuel, Gastonia
  • Rafat Hamam, Islamic Society of Gastonia
  • Rev. David Christy, First United Methodist Church
  • Hassan Ebrahim, Islamic Society of Gastonia
  • Bill Gross, Temple Emanuel, Gastonia
  • Rev. T. Steven Bolton, ret.
  • Mark Hanna, Trinity United Methodist Church
  • Linda Gibbons, Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church, Belmont
  • Rev. Richard Boyce, Union Presbyterian Seminary
  • Jason Shiflet, First Presbyterian Church Gastonia
  • Cindy Buckley, Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, Belmont
  • Rev. Joan Martin, Gastonia
  • Cam Tracy, Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church, Belmont
  • Chuck Duncan, First Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church, Gastonia
  • Rev. Vic Wilfong, Covenant & Trinity United Methodist Churches
  • Dr. Bob Blake, First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia
  • Sally Williams, Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, Belmont
  • Andi Brymer, The Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Gastonia
  • Geof & Judy Planer, First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia
  • Steve Knight, Open Hearts Gathering Disciples of Christ
  • Jeremy Whitener, Open Hearts Gathering Disciples of Christ

 

 

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‘Tis the Season

SEABROOK SAYS: Who here in Gaston Country would have ever thought we could be giving thanks and giving back as we have?  Read what Carrie Meier has to say. Who would have thought teen pregnancy would be reduced by 57.2% in a relatively short period?  We have proven we can do more – now let’s dedicate ourselves to doing even more.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The holidays are upon us and we often see this as a time to give thanks for what we have, to give back to our community, to reflect on what has happened throughout the year, and to gather together with family and friends.   For those of us who work in teen pregnancy prevention and reproductive health, we have much to consider this holiday season.

Giving Thanks

According to data recently released from the State Center for Health Statistics, Gaston County’s teen pregnancy rate dropped for the eighth year in a row in 2015. Since 2007, our teen pregnancy rate declined by an incredible 57.2%.  I am extremely thankful to see this number continue to fall.  I am thankful for the five years of funding, attention, and resources that the Gaston Youth Connected (GYC) project brought to address this issue in our community.  I am even more thankful for those who have continued to stay involved and dedicated to this cause now that millions of dollars are no longer at play.  If you have provided accurate information about sex to a young person, coordinated a sex education program at your church or home, joined the Teen Action Council, attended a teen pregnancy community advisory meeting, or helped a youth make an appointment at the Teen Wellness Center, I thank you.

Giving Back

So maybe you haven’t been involved in the effort to curb teen pregnancy… yet. Here are some ways you can help and give back to your community.

  1. Tell the young people in your life that you care about them and are available to answer their questions about sensitive topics. Their health and their futures are worth enduring an uncomfortable conversation.
  2. If you aren’t feeling up to #1, use your resources! Gaston County DHHS has programs to educate young people about puberty and sex AND programs to educate parents and other adults on how to talk to young people about these issues. There are also excellent websites with tips and good information – check out SHIFT NC or Advocates for Youth to start.
  3. Talk to leaders at your child’s school about the importance of comprehensive sex education. For many youth, school is their only source of sex education outside of the media, which can be highly inaccurate and biased.

Reflection

Though we’ve seen great success in Gaston County, we still have work to do. Our teen pregnancy rate is still higher than the State’s.   The rates among minorities are still disproportionally high when compared to those of young white women.  In fact, from 2014 to 2015, there was a slight increase in the teen pregnancy rate among African Americans in Gaston County.   We need to focus our efforts to ensure that this does not become a trend.  We cannot allow our minority youth to fall victim to cycles we have worked so hard to break.  We can’t do it alone.  We need your help.

Gather Together

Each quarter, DHHS hosts a Community Advisory Council meeting on the topic of Teen Pregnancy Prevention. This group, affectionately called GYC 2.0, has adopted the mission of Supporting efforts that empower Gaston County youth and their families to make safe and healthy decisions.  We need as many people as possible to advocate for this mission, to be aware of the work that is still happening, and to spread the word far and wide.  We need your participation and your support.  Join us.

Happy holidays to all.

 Carrie Meier is the Community Health Education Administrator at the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services. She can be reached at carrie.meier@gastongov.com or 704-862-5405.

The Most Common Path to Jail

There are a multitude of factors leading to crime: substance abuse, peer pressure, mental illness, opportunity, poverty, environment, genetics, illiteracy, gang affiliation, and a host of others. Yet, my 41 years as a lawyer and judge in our state’s criminal courts have convinced me that there is something that is present in almost every case where someone breaks the law: a weak set of moral values. The most common path to jail involves an individual who does not possess those morals our society upholds: personal responsibility, respect for others, accountability, and the overall good of the community. The person whose driving forces are self-gratification, self-centeredness, and “the ends justify the means” mentality, is more likely than anyone else to break the law and go to prison than anyone else.

A drug addict robs a convenience store because his craving for the next fix outweighs any concern for the owner’s rights. The teenager wanting to fit in, bows to the dictates of “the wrong crowd” because he does not have the backbone to stand up to the mob when they break into a home. The swindler who scams a trusting senior citizens to make easy money cares nothing for those who sweated and saved their whole lives to acquire something to live on in their twilight years. The man who kills a stranger for quick cash, a gang initiation, or on an impulsive whim has not thought once, let alone twice, about the wake of untold pain, grief, and shattered lives his senseless act will cause. In every case, someone with a strong code of morality would not yield to such temptations. Indeed, there are individuals who are substance abusers and suffer various mental illnesses, who daily honor the law because they have the inner strength and courage to refrain from committing a crime. Without a set of moral values, is it any wonder that two-thirds of those who get out of prison are soon re-incarcerated?

The average annual cost of keeping someone in prison totaling $29,160. We cannot imprison every criminal forever or we will go broke. We have to find ways to indoctrinate morality into those who would break our laws. Two proven programs to help are Cognitive Behavior Intervention (CBI), which teaches judgment making skills, and Moral Recognition Therapy (MRI), which teaches a set of morals upon which to make these judgments. But the courts cannot do this alone, if we are to salvage these people and keep them from harming someone else. We all have to get involved. We need those in our schools, churches, civic organizations, and businesses to help us teach people about proper values. Yes, they should have been taught this at home, but they weren’t. Unless we help them learn it, we may be their next victim. Every at-risk criminal offender should have some type of network of support, the kind Alcoholics Anonymous offers its participants.

It is good to see the preacher in court with the defendant, but I would rather see four or five church members there supporting her. I am glad Mama is in court with her son I am sentencing. I would rather see his employer present. When I see someone’s boss sit in court for hours, losing a day’s pay to ask for a second chance for the defendant, this tells me the defendant has a real support resource. I know his or her boss will scrutinize and support his efforts to lead a wholesome life.

Each of us knows someone at risk, who is in need of encouragement, moral support, and friendship. If not, we can find them in countless ways. Most of us can do something, from helping in a homeless shelter to volunteering in a prison ministry. Maybe the best place to help is to try to proactively deal with the problem before a young person breaks the law, by mentoring an at risk student in our school system, volunteering with a youth program. By offering some kind of help to show offenders what a life with moral values looks like, we are all in a position to help narrow, and hopefully close, the most common path to jail.

Jesse B. Caldwell, III

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge

Judicial District 27A