Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.


Last Sunday was our second class on “God with Us: Being the Temple for the World.”

(Because not everyone at Life on the Vine is able to made the class, and perhaps others on the inter-webs might be interested, so I’m trying to write up quick summaries of each class.)

After reviewing what we are doing in the class we jumped into a discussion of Genesis One.

Material or Functional Beginnings?

At the beginning of The Little Mermaid, Ariel comes to the Scuttle the seagull asking about certain human artifacts that she has collected.  She pulls out a fork and asks what it is?

What kind of answer does Scuttle give her?  Does he give her a material answer? Does he say, “This is a silver-copper alloy, weighing about 17 ounces and a length of 4 inches and consisting of 3 tines (the pointy parts”?  No, that is not what he says.  And not what we would expect him to say.

Rather, he calls it a “Dinglehopper” and claims that you use it to comb your hair.

Scuttle gives a functional answer, not a material one.

Old Testament scholar, John Walton, in The Lost World of Genesis One, discusses how the ancient world always thought in terms of functional origins (what is something’s purpose) rather than the modern understanding of material origins (what is something’s properties).

When we focus on material origins in scientific worldview we often lose the purpose (or telos) of a thing. And when it comes to the cosmos this leads to a deistic view of God (that God distant and merely fashioned everything and then let it be).

But when we think of functional origin then we can wonder about the purpose of it all (but this is getting ahead of ourselves).

Functions and Functionaries

Turning to Genesis 1:2 we read that the world was “was formless and empty.”  Walton says that this is not primarily a material formlessness, but a functional purposelessness. The world was unproductive and lacking structure.

Turning to the rest of Genesis 1 (the six days), we see God creating Functions and Functionaries (or God is Forming and Filling).

Days 1-3: Functions/Forming

Day 1 = Time (light and dark)
Day 2 = Weather (separation of waters)
Day 3 = Food (vegetation) 

Days 4-6: Functionaries/Filling

Day 4 =  Sun/Moon/Stars
Day 5 = Creatures of the sea/air
Day 6 = Creature of the land/human

After this we talked for a bit about how all this changes the different emphases that we often gravitate toward when reading Genesis one (but I don’t have space to add all of that here).

But, for what purpose?

God, then, was forming and filling the cosmos so as to bring function to the everything.  But what exactly is this purpose?

We find it on the seventh day, the day of rest, but not in the way we usually think.  But that is for next week (HINT: It has to do with “temple” and God’s “presence”).

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

Not only to Believe, but also to Suffer (Phil. 1 and Prayer)

This morning I read this after hearing of the horrible deaths of 21 Egyptian Christians. “Lord have mercy.”

Phil. 1:27-30:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. … 
28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.



Invitation to Confession

The saints were faithful unto death
and now dwell in the heavenly kingdom for ever.
As we celebrate their joy,
let us bring to the Lord our sins and weaknesses,
and ask for his mercy.

Kyrie Confession

We are often slow to follow the example of Christ.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

We often fail to be known as Christ’s disciples.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We often fail to walk the way of the cross.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


Almighty God,
by whose grace and power your holy martyrs in Lybia
triumphed over suffering and was faithful unto death:
strengthen us with your grace,
that we may endure reproach and persecution
and faithfully bear witness to the name
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Being the Temple for the World #1

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.


newjer_02_0On Sunday we started new class on “God with Us: Being the Temple for the World”

I know that not everyone at Life on the Vine could make it, and perhaps others on the inter-webs might be interested, so I’m going to try and write up quick summaries of each class.

We started with the question of “What does the phrase ‘God with us’ make us think about it”?  Answers ranged from this being a comforting promise to it being a truth that can seriously let us down.  Is God ‘with us’ in our ideas, opinions, our community, the world?  And really, how, when, and where is God ‘with us’?  Is “GOD with us” or “God with US”?  And what does this have to do with “salvation”, and “eschatology”, and all those other theological words?

God With Us

After this discussion I began to set the terms and outline for the class.  The first is “God with us.”

When we look at Matthew’s Gospel we see an angel of the Lord come to Joseph and tell him not to put away Mary for the child was from God.  Matthew then tells us that All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matt. 1:23).

This statement, Emmanuel, God with us, sets the tone for God’s work in Jesus, that now in a new way God is going to be with humanity.

And we see this confirmed at the end of Matthews Gospel:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28: 16-20)

In a sense, Matthew is telling us that God’s work of salvation is not so we can be with God “up” in heaven some day, but that God desires to be with us on earth everyday.

At the end of Revelation we hear of the New Heavens and the New Earth (as one).  A voice declares: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21: 3).

Heaven and Earth

This allusion to Revelation leads us to our second guiding term, or terms: Heaven and Earth.

Just think of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come; your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus understands the work of prayer, indeed, the work of God, to be that of bring God’s kingdom rule and kingdom will from heaven down to earth.  These are not mutually exclusive terms, but rather ones that are separated for a time but being slowly brought back together.

The question for this class is “Are there other places, other ways of heaven coming to earth?” beyond just Jesus in the incarnation and the final end, or the finalé, of all creation?

Place, Person, People

The answer is emphatically yes, that God has been and will be “with us” in different ways.  In the following classes we will broadly look at three ways that God has been with us.

First, God’s presence was principally located in a Place, the Temple of Israel.

Second, God’s presence was principally located in a Person, Jesus the Son of God.

Third, God’s presence was principally located in a People, the Church,  new Temple.

But before we get to all this, we are going to start with Genesis 1 and 2 and ask if we can see God’s presence dwelling with humanity at the very beginning and what this might mean for the rest of the story.

So this Sunday we’ll be talking about Genesis One.

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

Showing up for Advent?


In this headlong tumble into Christmas it is easy to just show up for Advent. 

Starbucks served “Thanksgiving” blend on the day of Thanksgiving, but then it was right back to “Christmas” blend, an inevitable march from mid-November to December 25th.

We can’t seem to get to Christmas soon enough, with its gifts and vacations, and stresses and families.

But in our rush, do we just show up for Advent, or do we actually expect God to show up in Advent?


It is easy to do in our culture, where we running around trying to finish off the year strong, get our friends and family just the things (or just shooting out gift cards because we have no idea what the right thing is).  We have parties, celebrations, and vacations to catch.

Or we are just getting by and can barely hope for something more.

In all of this, are we just showing up for Advent, offering the bare minimum of our selves to God because we have given everything else away.


What we really need to do is turn Advent around and think more about what God is doing and wants to do in your life.

Do we have a hope and expectation that God is still at work? Or have we resigned ourselves to the life we now lead, mostly devoid of God’s vibrant presence?

When we look at the stories of Jesus’ birth we find people who were eagerly hoping and expecting God to do something.  Is it any surprise that God arrived in and around those who were hoping he would?


1) Make Room: We need to make room in our lives, in our schedules, in our hearts and our minds for God to arrive.

Maybe this means watching less TV in the evening, or creating a time after dinner with your families, or praying in the morning.  Maybe this means finding regular time for fellowship with others, getting out of the house (or getting people into your house).  Maybe you need to go on a spiritual retreat or go serve the homeless.  It could mean many different things to make room for God to arrive.

2) Watch and Expect: After you have made room, then begin to watch for God, expecting that God will show up.

Maybe God will speak to you in your times of prayer. Maybe God will speak through you in times of fellowship.  Maybe God will come to you in a friend or stranger. And maybe God will come to others in your service.  It is hard to know, and you won’t see it if you don’t expect it and watch for it.

by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896
Annunciation ~Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

3) Respond: Lastly, we have to respond.  We have to follow. We have to obey.  While making room and watching might be hard in our busy and distracted lives, we must remember that the response is the whole point.

Mary didn’t come the mother of God because we was devout in prayer (though she was). Nor was it because she had a conversation with an angel (which she did).  Rather, she gave birth to God in the world because she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Let us respond similarly.


So, how are you making yourselve (your communities) ready for God to show up this Advent?

Please stay connected by subscribing to “Into the Far Country” at the top of the righhand column.  Then you’ll never miss a post.


Prodigal Christianity

Prodigal Christianity Cover GIF

Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier


Prodigal Christianity offers a down-to-earth, accessible, and yet provocative understanding of God’s mission of redemption in the world, and how followers of Christ can participate in this work. It speaks into the discontent of all those who have exhausted conservative, liberal, and even emergent ways of being Christian and are looking for a new way forward. It offers building blocks for missional theology and practice that moves Christians into a gospel-centered way of life for our culture and our times.

  • Offers a compelling and creative vision for North American Christians
  • Puts forth a theology and ten critical signposts that must be observed to follow a missional way of life: post-Christendom, missio Dei, incarnation, witness, scripture, gospel, church, sexuality, justice, pluralism
  • Asks questions and points to issues that trouble many leaders in the post-modern, post-denominational, post-Christendom church

This book can fill the gap for the average Christian left discontented with the current options “after evangelicalism.”

BUY NOW: Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier

From the Inside Flap

Where is the Christianity that journeys into the difficult places, the places where the Christian language is not yet spoken? . . . Where is the renewal of what the church has always been but sometimes forgets to be: a people sent in mission? Where are the signposts that can direct us into the missional frontier?”
—From the Introduction

Prodigal Christianity asks the questions that point to the issues troubling church leaders in the newly secularized post-Christendom cultures of North America. How is God revealed? What is the gospel? Where is the kingdom of God? And, most importantly, how do we live these realities amidst the sexualities, pluralism, and injustices of our time? Faced with these questions, many are looking for a way beyond the Emergent and Neo-Reformed movements, which seem to speak only to the people already convinced. Prodigal Christianity moves us beyond Christian-culture-bound ways of being Christian to living radically as Jesus’s people present in the world.

Using ten “signposts,” Prodigal Christianity charts the journey every Christian must take into “the far country.” It is a journey that is radical and yet generous, defined by the very way God has come to us in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Nothing is compromised as this journey breaks down boundaries around the postmodern, post-Christian, relationally scarred, sexually broken, economically marginalized peoples of our day. Exploring the depths of the Christian faith, Prodigal Christianity opens the pathway for every Christian and every church to journey forward into the missional frontier God is calling us to in these new and different times.

BUY NOW: Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier

From the Back Cover

“When it comes to pastoral theology, the only voices I care to hear are those who are pastoring, and pastoring well. David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw are such voices. Their book reflects a rare combination of faithful neighborhood witness, embodied church life, and theological rigor. The result is a compelling missional theology for today’s missional Christian.”
—Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary; author of numerous books including King Jesus Gospel

“Over the last decade the church has finally begun to engage what it means to be sent (missional). What we have yet to learn is how to be sent (incarnational). This is exactly the kind of book that is needed to re-engage the lost art of incarnational mission.”?
—Alan Hirsch, author of The Permanent Revolution; Untamed; Right Here, Right Now; and The Forgotten Ways

“Prodigal Christianity’s push to return to the local is not a fad. It is the aching, beseeching call of the Spirit to rediscover the deeply human shape of the gospel. In the midst of the unraveling of church life in North America, Fitch and Holsclaw grasp what’s at stake in the formation of Christian life at this time.” ?
—Alan J. Roxburgh, founder of The Missional Network; author of The Missional Leader, Missional Map-Making, and Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood

“Thoughtful, rooted, and direct. Fitch and Holsclaw do something with Prodigal Christianity that most authors can’t pull off. They hold the tension between the prophetic and priestly. As a result they make some readers squirm?and others question. Yet their love for the church, rooted in their own experience, provides a foundation so often lacking in the missional conversations.?As a result, nobody will be able to read this book and remain comfortable where they are.”
—Gary V. Nelson, president of Tyndale University College & Seminary, Toronto

About the Author

Geoff Holsclaw is a copastor at Life on the Vine Christian Community and an adjunct professor of theology at Northern Seminary. He is the Mid-West regional coordinator for Ecclesia Network.

David E. Fitch is a copastor and founder of Life on the Vine Christian Community and coaches church-planting for the Midwest District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He is the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary, Chicago, and is author of The Great Giveaway and The End of Evangelicalism?

Subscribe and receive a free gift about how God’s glory is intimately connected to God’s love for us.

Don’t Look Away; Look Deeper: #Ferguson

imageIt has only been a week since the grand jury in Ferguson returned the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, but it has felt much longer than that.

I’ve been shooting these articles and posts out on Twitter and Facebook over the last couple of days, but for my own sake of remembering and in case you all missed some of them, I’ve gathered what I have thought to be particularly important and informing.

Not just about Ferguson:

First off, this is not only about Ferguson, about what Darren Wilson could or should have done (not done), or what Mike Brown was doing or had done.  It is not that these are irrelevant, but to focus only on these is to miss the forest for the trees.

For a terrible example of this forest from Nov. 22nd (two days before the grand jury decision): Cleveland Police Shoot 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Within Seconds of Arriving on Scene  (For more, see this editorial)

And more generally, 3 High-Profile Cases of Black Men Killed by Police, Still No Arrests—Why?

The Only Thing to Ponder:

If you don’t read anything else (which you should), please this about “racial bias” and how we need to stop feeling guilty and defensive, even while understanding the responsibility: The new threat: ‘Racism without racists’

As a Follower of Christ:

Advent/Darkness (by Christena Cleveland)

Let #Ferguson Prepare Us For This Season Of Advent (by David Bailey)

Also, An excellent biblical reflection for those who call Christians to just trust the system and respect the judgment: Honor the Outrage: A Reflection on 1 Corinthians 6 and the Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

I Don’t Know Nothin – A post #Ferguson post. (by David Fitch)

About the grand jury:

Justice Scalia Explains What Was Wrong With The Ferguson Grand Jury

If you want to really look into the Grand Jury then see: Ferguson Documents: How The Grand Jury Reached A Decision


#Ferguson in Pictures
Lastly, my previous posts related to Ferguson:





Grieving For Ferguson and Beyond

(I’m in information overload about Ferguson right now. I can’t sort out my thoughts, which is rare, but I have an overriding feeling: GRIEF)

I grieve for those who think justice was served.
I grieve for those who think justice was ignored.
I grieve for those who lost property.
I grieve for those who destroyed property.
I grieve over death (every death).
I grieve for Ferguson.

I grieve for those confirmed in their opinion about black people.
I grieve for those confirmed in their opinion about white people.
I grieve for those who don’t feel they can trust our justice system.
I grieve for those who are in our justice system.

I grieve for those who do not want to understand the need to grieve these things.
I grieve for those who understand the reasons all too well.
I grieve for those who think they understand.
I grieve for those who know they don’t. 

I grieve that often it seems Black lives don’t matter.
I grieve that often the police see Black Men as enemies rather than citizens.
I grieve that often Black Communities see the police more as occupiers than servants.
I grieve because it is often thought that just because a police force is integrated this will make it trusted and trustworthy for a Black Community. 

I grieve that White people often only SEE the anger
but don’t seek to UNDERSTAND the anger of the Black Community.

I grieve for Mike Brown and his family.
I grieve for Darren Wilson. 

I grieve that I am not sure if I am even grieving the right things.
I grieve that I can’t trust my grief and I dare not to. 

I want to grieve as Christ grieved in the Garden of Gethsemane, over Jerusalem, how he still grieves for the whole world.Gethsemane

The Practice of Living: All Saints Day


Why do we run from death if death has been defeated? Why do we forget those who have gone before us and pretend that we have to go it alone?

All Saints Day is good for us here in America, in the West, where we are prone to ignore death and live alone.

All Saints Day breaks through our willed ignorance of death and our own myopic isolation.

All Saints Day is the day we remember the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us by remember that the Church of Christ is much bigger than just those we see day to day, and it has lasted much longer than our own local extension of Christ’s Body.

Death has been Defeated

We must come to remember death instead of ignoring it, and for getting about those who has passed before us. But we must also remember that death has been defeated.

Much like Ash Wednesday, All Saints Day helps us remember that from dust we have been taken and to dust we will return. And yet the accent on All Saints Day is on the Church Triumphant, raised in Christ, the one who has overcome the grave and stolen death’s sting.

It is a day to remember and rejoice the lives of our friends and family who have died before us and sleep in Christ.

Here at Life on the Vine we spend the hour before our service bringing pictures and sharing stories of our loved ones who have gone on before us. And these pictures then stayed around our altar as we worshipped and shared the Communion of Christ together in the main service.

The Great Community

All Saints Day helps us remember the community of faith who have gone before us. It helps us remember that we are not alone, in this time and place, but that Christ’s church, the community of faith, is much bigger and longer than we often think.

all saintsFor we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12), a great cloud of the faithful from all ages, whose lives speak of God’s great love, whose lives tell of God’s great work, whose lives continue to spur us on to love and good work.

In a long but good prayer our liturgist led us in remembering the Saint from the early church, from all continents, and all tribes, and all peoples who bear witness to the risen Christ.

Not the End

Let us remember that “This is not the End”, for the story goes on, “further up and further in.”

How have you celebrated All Saints Day in churches and traditions?


The Human Side of Prayer (along with Tim Keller)

I came across this on twitter and it caught my eye and made me think.

What do you think?

As a Reformed pastor and theologian I know Keller is seeking God’s Glory in all things, and rooting out humanity’s pride and arrogance in all things. I agree with this framework, to a point, in that in the Garden Adam and Eve fell because they wanted to be like God.

But this is only half the story.

Isn’t it also correct to say that Adam and Eve fell because they didn’t want to be who they were made to be?  They were trying to be other-than themselves, other-than created beings made in the image of God, designed for fellowship and communion with God. It is not just that they weren’t treating “God as God” but they weren’t treating “themselves as themselves” (I know that is an awkward phrase, but you get the point).

Returning back to prayer, I think it better to say not just that if we fail to pray we aren’t treating “God as God” but that in failing to pray we aren’t treating “ourselves as ourselves.”  When we don’t pray are not doing what we need to do to be truly human.  When we don’t pray we are becoming more and more sub-human (as it were).  It is not “weak” humanity that needs to pray, but rather it is “true” humanity that needs to pray.

This doesn’t make prayer all about humanity, but rather that true humanity is always a prayerful dependence on God, a prayerful seeking of God’s ways in the world.  True humanity always knows itself to be coming from and returning to God.

I worry that often times Reformed theology creates an “us” versus “God” dynamic (in this case it is prayer) rather than fostering an “us” with “God” perspective.

Why did Jesus Pray?

Let’s do a thought experiment and ask “Why did Jesus pray?”

Did he pray because he wanted to “treat God as God”?  Well, that seems funny because he already was/is God and so in that sens there would be no need for prayer.

Did he prayer in order to be a good example to his disciples about how to “treat God as God”?  Well, maybe, but again that would seem particularly disingenuous and inauthentic to fake prayers as an example (I suppose this would be something like a dad letting his kids win at a game).

Rather I would say we must not forget about Jesus’ humanity and this in his humanity (or better, as the “true” human) Jesus prayed because this is what he needed and had to do.  As the image of the true humanity living in faithful obedience to God, Jesus prayed to God for all that he needed (and even argued and pleaded with God, at least once in the Garden of Gethsemane).


So let us keep our understanding of prayer (and other practices) as balanced as our Christology (divine and human), taking into account both the human and divine directions of these practices (we could easily talk about evangelism, preaching, sanctification, etc).

For other thoughts about Tim Keller on prayer see Scot McKnight’s recent post on Keller’s Rules for Prayer.

(If you would like to stay connected about what I’m reading and writing, please subscribe to my blog at the top of the righhand column.  That way you’ll never miss a post)

Deeper Than We Thought (3): Drug War Myths


Post One and Twostopanfrisk_590_356-1

(This just happened: While writing this post on The New Jim Crow at a coffee shop an African American man asks me about the book and then tells me that he advised his son NOT to bring his car to college because the dad was worried his son would be arrested in the small college town.)

True Crime

True confession: I don’t really like crime shows.  And they seem to be everywhere.   How many different “CSI”s are there?  Well, after more of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow I’m glad that I have not been watching.

As she says: “These television shows, especially those that romanticize drug-law enforcement, are the modern-day equivalent of the old movies portraying happy slaves, the fictional gloss placed on a brutal system of racialized oppression and control” (59).

Why does Alexander say this?

Chapter two discusses the “how” of mass incarceration, getting into the details of the mechanisms of the “War on Drugs” that has led the US to imprison a higher percentage of its population than any other country (last time I talked about how the “War on Drugs” was the transition between Jim Crow oppression and the oppression of Mass Incarceration).

The details are so dense and the content so intense that it is going to be difficult to summarize without just reproducing the entire chapter here.

But I will try under the rubric that Alexander’s chapter is a “Mythbusters” concerning the “War on Drugs” and how it plays out on the streets (next chapter bring it into the court house).

Myth #1: We are getting the Kingpins

High level drug dealers and Kingpins are rarely arrested or prosecuted (and if they are they have the money/lawyers to get drastically reduced sentences).  Rather, the majority of arrests are for minor violations like possession without intent to sell.  And the majority of those imprisoned have no history of violence or of selling drugs.

Myth #2: We are getting the serious drugs

Most drug arrests and convictions have been for marijuana possession not connected with more dangerous or violent drugs.  But even so sentencing has dramatically increased (but that is for the next chapter).

stopAndFrisk-300Myth #3: The Supreme Court is protecting your freedom 

When it comes to the war on drugs the Supreme Court has consistently opened up your person and possessions to law enforcement searches.  Most of the remaining myths are variations on this theme (but with very racial directed overtones).

Going back to British antagonisms, our Fourth Amendment prohibits police from carrying out unwarranted stops and searches on persons or property without probable cause of criminal activity.

In 1968, before the War on Drugs began, the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer could, if s/he had “reasonable articulable suspicion” that someone was dangerous, stop and search them for a weapon.  This became the “stop-and-frisk” rule.

Once the War on Drugs began this “stop-and-frisk” rule was extended (and supported by the Supreme Court) to include any drug related suspicion.

Myth #4: This is a Legal Search (kinda)

Of course the different between probable cause in relation to violence and probable cause in relation to drugs is pretty big, so police cannot just stop and search anyone.  So instead they seek “consent” for a search.  If a police officers stops you and wants to search you, they issue their orders in the form of a question (such as, “Will you put your arms up and stand against the wall for a search?” or, “Will you step out of your car please so I can search for drugs?”).  If obey their command-in-the-form-of-a-question then you have tacitly given your consent

And who besides this guy would refuse such pressure (esp. if you are from the minority culture)(watch out for explicit language). Watch the entire video because it illustrates some points below.

Myth #5: This is a merely traffic stop

In order to facilitate these types of searches police often rely on traffic stops (for any reason: changing lanes without signaling) to then begin fishing for drugs.  Minor traffic violations become the “pretext” for searching for drugs.

I remember in college being stopped for a tail-light or brake-light being out.  I’d have to give license and registration.  And then let go.  But if I hadn’t been white would I have been asked to get out of the car while it was searched.  Yes, probably, as was the case for the above video.

Myth #6: If you don’t give consent you won’t be searched

Maybe you didn’t notice in the video, but the man talked about a dog searching the car.  You see, even if you refuse consent the police can still search your car with a drug-sniffing dog.  The Supreme Court has ruled that walking a drug-sniffing dog around your car is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and if the handler interprets the dog as giving off a “hit” signal (again, as in the video), then this becomes the “probable cause” that was lacking.

Myth #7: This is an undirected process

No, unwarranted traffic stops used to fish for drugs has been a nationally coordinated and financed program.  Federal dollars have been used to train police in in pretext traffic stops and how to carry out “consent” searches.

Federal money has been used to train officers “how to use a minor traffic violation as a pretext to stop someone, how to lengthen a routine traffic stop and leverage it into a search for drugs, how to obtain consent from a reluctant motorist, and how to use drug-sniffing dogs to obtain probable cause.”


Ok, so this post has already gotten long enough, and I haven’t even gotten to the good stuff: like why our police for has been militarized (remember the show of force in Ferguson); how it “pays to play” the drug game; and who benefits from the “War on Drugs”.

I try and get to this early next week.

My last thought of the day is that while the “War on Terror” has certainly weakened many of our freedoms here in the US, but this process already started with the “War on Drugs”.  While now it is our phone calls and emails being illegally searched, before it was our cars and persons that were illegally searched.

Stop and Frisk Example: