Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin, built up high hopes and expectations when he gave a promise, via Facebook, to the residents living in the West End of Louisville, a week before his speech on how to combat the growing violence in Louisville.
The residents anxiously waited to hear from the governor — a man who is in the position to make powerful changes in policy and the ability to make economic proposals — in hopes that he would have a tangible plan to help uplift the community.
Hopes spanned from a new jobs initiative, a new community center, funding to revitalize the area or even calling for additional law enforcement on the streets of the West End during the evening.
Unfortunately, that is not what the residents of Louisville and local religious leaders were given. The power of prayer is a powerful thing, but for the people in these neighborhoods — many living among dilapidated, boarded-up houses — can be encouraged by prayer, but cannot be changed through prayer.
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As James 2:20 in scripture tells us, “Do you not know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” Yet on that Thursday, Bevin delivered a monologue calling on residents to canvass the West End by groups of three or more in the evenings to combat the violence through a method of prayer.
Religious leaders were baffled, leaving many disillusioned and frustrated. These same religious leaders of the community were later criticized by the administration when they expressed their frustration with Bevin’s plan of “praying away the violence.” Many of them have been praying and canvassing these areas when Bevin was a New Hampshirite.
The people came to have a dialogue with the governor and were met with a sermon; yet have been criticized for speaking out against the governor’s condescending remarks.
These residents and leaders of the West End have been praying for their community. These residents and leaders of the West End have faith. For these individuals to be told to pray for their community was demeaning and patronizing to those who have devoted their life to their faith and have worked tirelessly to combat the violence that has continued to spread throughout their community.
We need viable solutions, not elitist rhetoric that demeans efforts of those who have devoted their time, effort and faith to combating this problem.
As James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
State Rep. Tom Burch is a Democrat who represents Louisville.