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A preacher’s Christmas wish list for Baltimore boys

The Cardinal Shehan School Catholic choir performs "This Christmas" for a Facebook Live concert. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)

Considering the date, I thought it appropriate to share a few lessons revealed in the story of Jesus’ birth and those of similarly situated male children in Baltimore.

I understand that some may consider the idea of a pastor using the local paper to share Christian theology unacceptable, but I feel the same way about the overwhelming exploitation of this Christian holiday, so I feel that we can call it even. Back to the story.

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This story of Jesus’ birth begins with Herod, the Roman-appointed king of Judea, ordering the newborn’s death. The king feared Jesus would usurp his power. And so he tried to trick visiting Magi — a biblical term for priest — by asking them to find this infant, who was born into poverty, so he could worship the child, but he really wanted to kill him. The priests discerned the king’s plans and made a wise decision to do things differently.

Because their decision assists in preserving the life of this child, the men become known as “wise” men. They bring gifts to the child out of respect for his birth and presence in the world.

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Like Jerusalem, Baltimore is also filled with wise men and women who have the potential to offer gifts this year that better reflect the respect and reverence for all life. Gifts that recognize the needs of too many of the city’s young boys, especially those of color.

Wise men and women should consider gifts that raise the expectations of young people.

Where were the wise men and women when the Board of School Commissioners considered a plan to establish a GPA requirement of 1.75 for participation in athletics?

District's "staggered implementation" of new standards stir debate about expectations

Where were the wise men and women when it was discovered that a number of children had been socially promoted?

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And where were they when testing data revealed that “one-third of high schools in Baltimore, last year, had zero students proficient in math”? Or when a Baltimore school leader pointed out to Fox News that “nine out of 10 black boys in Baltimore City are not reading at grade level”?

In the traditional Christmas story, it’s said that an angel appears and warns that the king was trying to kill the child, who should be hidden in Egypt with his mother for safety.

Now we can no more separate Egypt from Africa than we can Baltimore from Maryland. Therefore, we could re-read the story and interpret it as the boy is to be hidden in Africa for his own protection.

The Bible story goes on to say that the king finds out and is frustrated and puts forth an edict to kill all the boys in a certain area of a certain age range. This would suggest that public policy created to destroy the futures of young boys of color has a long history. When wise men and women discern any such plans today, they should do something.

Before Michael ever saw the inside of juvenile lockup, caseworkers recommended he be sent home. The 13-year-old came from a stable, two-parent home in Columbia. He watched over his three younger siblings, did chores around the house, and enjoyed playing in his youth football league.

Therefore, in the true spirit of Christmas I want to suggest two of the best gifts we can give young boys of Baltimore, because we must respect their birth and their current life.

The first gift we could give this year is a responsible adult in their lives who sees them as individuals of value and promise. It is assumed that I would be referring to the parents when I reference adults, but if the Christian story is true, the person, Joseph, who goes out of his way to preserve this youth’s future is not his biological parent. Therefore, my wish is that all of us would see ourselves as potential rescuers of this next generation of black and brown boys.

The second gift we could give the young males of Baltimore would be a five-year commitment from our philanthropic community and local government agencies to focus on addressing their needs. What might our future look like if every major foundation dedicated a minimum of 50 percent of its allocated funding for the next five years toward supporting the futures of black and brown males whose birth resembled that of Jesus?

This is what’s on my wish list this year.

Merry Christmas.

Kevin A. Slayton Sr. is pastor of the New Waverly United Methodist Church. His email is revkevinslayton@gmail.com.

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