Neither guns nor moral depravity are to blame for the social ills plaguing York and other American cities.

The root of the problem is hopelessness, the Rev. Jerry Carter Jr. told a room full of York's faith leaders Thursday.

"And where there is hopelessness, there is no reason to live," he said.

The Baptist pastor from New Jersey was the keynote speaker at York City Mayor Kim Bracey's FaithNet gathering, the fourth installment of Bracey's initiative to bring religious leaders of all backgrounds together for an evening of problem-solving talks. Thursday's theme centered on helping youth through male leadership and took a cue from President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" program.

Everyone gathered at FaithNet benefitted from a positive role model, Bracey said.

"Why shouldn't we return that favor?" she said.

Carter encouraged people to become "lifters," a reference to a Bible story about the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah got himself into trouble preaching against war with the Babylonians. He was thrown into a cistern, where he got stuck in mud.

But a man named Ebedmelech objected — going so far as to interrupt the king's political meeting to protest Jeremiah's treatment, Carter said.

With the king's permission, Ebedmelech took 30 men to rescue Jeremiah.

Ebedmelech was a lifter, Carter said.

"To be a lifter, you first of all have to have a consciousness of need," Carter said. "In order to be a lifter, you have to be an interrupter."


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Many of today's youth are stuck in the metaphorical cistern of hopelessness, Carter said.

They need help from lifters — people with the "courage to confront" — to get out, he said.

"Where you are tonight, you didn't get there on your own," Carter told his listeners.

Too often, religious people are offended by the wrong things, he said, using profanity as an example.

He offered a startling statistic about the number of young black boys unable to read at grade level by fourth grade.

"That ought to offend us," Carter said. "That ought to keep us up at night."

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.