Earlier this month, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin addressed the violence that is plaguing the West End section of Louisville with one government program few would expect even the conservative evangelical Christian to propose:
In a program he has called “Reclaiming Our Communities,” Bevin invited churches and other community groups to commit to “adopt” an inner-city neighborhood block to visit two or three times per week over the course of the next year. They would then “respectfully” walk the perimeter in teams of three to 10 individuals, praying for and get to know local residents.
“I truly believe we’re going to see a difference in this city,” he said to a group of 400 faith leaders and concerned citizens at Louisville’s Western Middle School on June 1. “I personally believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen it evidenced in our community and across others.”
Almost immediately, liberal activists in those communities, including a number of Christian faith leaders, mocked Bevin’s proposal. Joe Phelps, the pastor at Highland Baptist Church and one of the leaders of the EmpowerWest coalition of African-American and Caucasian clergy and churches, wrote that he was “embarrassed” by the governor’s “non-plan.”
“Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to address violence was a low day for Christianity in Kentucky’s Commonwealth,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Moments after his plan was unveiled I was asked for a reaction and responded that the governor’s tepid non-plan was an embarrassment to Christianity.
“These harsh words were spoken in frustration in the heat of the moment. But upon reflection, I stand by them. I’m embarrassed that non-Christians will assume the governor’s plan, couched exclusively in Christian jargon, represents our only response to violence.