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Robert Rector, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, wrote "God and the Underclass," which appeared in the July 1996 issue of National Review.

It starts off with stunning snippets of what's daily fare in predominantly black cities: In Queens, N.Y., a heroin-addicted mother murders her 4-year-old daughter, stuffs the body in a bag and tosses it into the East River. In Detroit, a 5-year-old is thrown from the 14th floor because he refuses to steal. In Chicago, police raided an apartment of five welfare sisters that was swarming with roaches and whose floor was covered with garbage and feces. Inside, they found 19 cold and hungry children sharing food in a dog bowl with several dogs. Dazed, one kid asked a policewoman, "Can you be my mommy?"In the nation's capital, a gunman empties a semiautomatic into a swimming pool crowded with children. In Cleveland, black illegitimacy is 85 percent; in Washington, nearly half of all young black men are either in jail, on parole or under arrest. Young men in Harlem are more likely to die of violence than soldiers were in Vietnam.

White people might give a sigh of relief and say, "That's a black thing; thank goodness it's not us." American Enterprise scholar Charles Murray warned against such complacency in his 1993 Wall Street Journal article, "The Coming White Underclass." Illegitimacy among whites approaches 25 percent. That's what it was among blacks during the mid-1960s, when now-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his first prophetic warnings about black family collapse.

Illegitimacy is the harbinger of just about all underclass problems. Boys growing up without fathers are less likely to become civilized. The values in communities without fathers are adolescent values: predatory sex, violence and self-destructive behavior. Our welfare system produces what is known in the insurance industry as "moral hazard." Young women who lose self-control, are promiscuous and engage in early sex activity are rewarded with welfare benefits. Welfare rewards self-destructive behavior.

Rector says, "Religion is a social penicillin, lethal against a wide array of behavioral pathogens." He cites a study of black inner-city youth by Harvard University's Richard Freeman: Boys who regularly attend church are 50 percent less likely to commit crimes. They are 54 percent less likely to use drugs and 47 percent less likely to drop out of school. In Rector's own studies, he finds that churchgoing boys and girls are two-thirds less likely to engage in teen sex. Regular church attendance halves the chances a woman will have a child out of wedlock.

These statistics confirm my long-held belief that, contrary to what liberals preach, the solutions to the devastating problems of black communities lie neither in Washington nor at state capitals but in our own communities. Think about it. Helping people requires that you be a part of their solution. Someone has to be there, nearly on a day-to-day basis, to suggest, encourage, threaten, scold and praise. Can that be done by a politician or a welfare bureaucrat?

Black people have come a long way since slavery. Most of that progress has been the direct result of strong families, traditional values and community organizations such as churches, sororities, fraternities and clubs. There would be much greater dispersion of the benefits of that progress if we hadn't bought into the bankrupt idea that government programs can be a substitute for local institutions. The good news is more and more black people are coming to the realization that only we can solve our problems.