The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Seeking the welfare of Baltimore

Politics | Pastors focus on ministry amid a hurricane of tweets
by Harvest Prude
Posted 8/01/19, 04:25 pm

The Rev. Rodney Hudson of Ames Memorial United Methodist Church in Baltimore knows the problems his city faces. His church is in Sandtown, where neighbors rioted in 2015 to protest Freddie Gray’s death in police custody.

“We have rat-infested places,” he told me. “We have high crime. Can’t negate that that’s some of the issues of Baltimore.” Those issues came to the national forefront this past weekend when President Donald Trump took aim at the city’s Democratic congressman, Elijah Cummings, on Twitter. The president tweeted that the congressional district was the “Worst in the USA … a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

Cummings is chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the White House and the Trump family’s business interests. He responded that it is his job to “conduct oversight of the executive branch” as well as “fight for my constituents.”

Cummings’ district is about 55 percent African American, and Trump’s tweets drew fresh accusations of racism. A group of clergy from the Washington National Cathedral, a congregation of The Episcopal Church, released a statement saying that such political discourse “violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God” and “plays to racist elements in society.”

Some Republicans also criticized the president, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who on Monday called the remarks “outrageous and inappropriate.” Others, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson dismissed concerns the insults were racially charged.

Baltimore has long dealt with issues of government and police corruption and violence. While the city lowered its violent crime rate in 2018, it still had more than 300 homicides for the fourth consecutive year. In Sandtown, Pastor Hudson encounters drug addicts, families torn apart by violence, those troubled by mental health issues, and people who are hungry and homeless. He challenged Christians to focus on problems and solutions, not one or the other.

“How come we can’t focus on both? Let’s talk about what was said [by Trump] and how inappropriate it was, but here are the solutions we’re going to work toward,” Hudson said. “Our rally isn’t going to be against Trump—our rally is going to be against poverty. Our rally is going to be for poor people to get them the help they need so they won’t feel hopeless and helpless.”

He said people know that they can knock on his door, even late at night, and he’ll give them a sandwich. “Our church is open seven days a week,” Hudson said. The church offers a youth program, community kitchen, food bank, and other services.

The Rev. Craig Garriott helped plant Faith Christian Fellowship, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America, in Baltimore in 1980. Now he serves as the executive director of Baltimore Antioch Leadership Movement, an organization that seeks to equip Christian leaders to serve their communities with emphasis on ministry to the poor. He had advice for politicians with their eye on Baltimore.

“I think one of the first things, whether one is a local or national politician, is to have a heart for the city,” Garriott said. “How can I love this great city that God loves? Jonah had a hard time loving Nineveh and really just wanted God to condemn the wicked city, but God was determined to show compassion.” He pointed to God’s command in Jeremiah 29:7 to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.”

“How much do we speak critically about our city versus praying positively for it?” Garriott said.

    Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Rep. Mike Conaway

    Over and out

    A growing number of Republican lawmakers are making plans to leave Congress. Five retirement announcements in the past two weeks could signal the start of a bigger GOP exodus before the 2020 elections.

    Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas on Wednesday became the latest Republican to say he will not seek reelection to Congress next year, following recent similar announcements by fellow Texan Pete Olson, Paul Mitchell of Michigan, Martha Roby of Alabama, and Rob Bishop of Utah. A total of seven Republicans have said they will retire, and two others have already said they are running for different offices.

    Republicans are adjusting to the challenges of life in the minority in the House as senior lawmakers reach party-defined term limits in committee leadership positions. Conaway and Bishop both noted their time serving as the top GOP member on committees was drawing to a close.

    Increasing partisanship has also grated on them. “Rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city,” Mitchell said on the House floor recently. Roby also previously sparred publicly with President Donald Trump, creating challenges with fellow Republicans.

    While many of those who have announced retirements come from solidly GOP districts, others like Olson would likely have faced tough reelection bids. Like other representatives from suburban districts, Olson saw his margin of victory narrow in the midterm elections amid a backlash against Trump.

    Turnover due to retirements is common in Congress—34 Republicans and 18 Democrats did not seek reelection in 2018. But Democrats claim the latest retirements show their strong hand heading into 2020.

    “It’s no secret why: House Rs know they don’t stand a chance at taking back the majority in 2020,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tweeted, noting it is targeting 33 Republican-controlled seats in the next election. —Anne K. Walters

    Associated Press/Photo by Carlos Osorio Associated Press/Photo by Carlos Osorio Democratic presidential candidates before Wednesday night’s debate in Detroit

    2020 update

    Democrats descended on Detroit Tuesday and Wednesday for the primary season’s second round of presidential debates. On the first night radical Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sparred with the other candidates over policy differences. On night two, attacks became more personal, with front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden defending his record on hot-button topics from immigration to abortion.

    The third Democratic debate will be Sept. 12 in Houston and feature a less-crowded stage. To qualify, candidates have until Aug. 28 to meet a polling threshold of 2 percent in four national Democratic National Committee–approved polls and have a total of 130,000 unique donors comprising at least 400 unique donors in 20 or more states. In the past two rounds, candidates only had to clear one of those bars.

    So far, eight candidates have met all the requirements: Biden; Sanders; Warren; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Kamala Harris of California; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas. Former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro has met the donor requirements, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has met the polling benchmark. —H.P.

    This week in Congress

    In the House of Representatives:

    There was no activity in the House this week, as representatives left town last Friday and returned home to their districts for the August recess.

    In the Senate:

    • On Monday, a vote to overturn President Donald Trump’s veto of legislation blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia failed by a 45-40 vote. (A two-thirds majority is needed to override a presidential veto.)
    • This week, the Senate confirmed at least 13 nominees for federal judgeships at the District Court level across the country.
    • On Wednesday, lawmakers confirmed Kelly Craft as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
    • Senators passed a massive two-year budget deal Thursday by a 67-28 vote. The president is expected to sign it.
    • The Senate leaves for the August recess at the end of this week. —H.P.
    Harvest Prude

    Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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    • VISTA48
      Posted: Thu, 08/01/2019 07:08 pm

      Do the math. The current mayor of Baltimore is black, as was his predesesor. Nine of the fourteen Baltimore City Counsel members, including the Counsel President are black. The US Representative is black. If racism is the problem, then these people must all be racists. Baltimore was given $15.7 Billion tax dollars in 2018, and they can not or will not tell us how that money was spent. Give me a break. Cummings, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and their ilk have bilked the American taxpayers and the black community for decades. Perhaps it is time for a reckoning. There are certainly racists in the world, but they are not all white, and not all wearing MAGA hats. In many ways, those who used to be the oppressed have become the oppressors. Racism is ugly, regardless of the color of the perpetrator.

    • Jarofclay
      Posted: Sun, 08/04/2019 08:38 am

      Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
      Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore
      “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
      For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
      Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

      Romans 12:16-21