Saturday, September 8, 2007

Jim Wallis and the Christian Coalition


Might as well hear what Jim Wallis has to say in this undated editorial:

[T]he deeper reality is that by focusing on the "moral agenda" of abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and Hollywood sleaze, the [Christian] Coalition consistently ignored other moral issues of poverty, racism, and economic inequality. In January 1997, the Coalition had taken a promising step by initiating the "Samaritan Project," designed to work with inner-city churches on these issues. The project, however, was never given the necessary resources, and in the staff cuts, was first to go. That quick turnaround and the broken promises made to inner-city pastors was one of the most cynical and disreputable political moves by a Christian organization in years....

Cal Thomas, a former Moral Majority official, notes that "The religious right was a series of issues that ultimately affixed themselves to a particular party, so therefore their success in dealing with those issues depended on whether or not that party came to power, locally and nationally."

Today, both conservative and liberal churches are showing a deepening social conscience on the issues of poverty and race. A recent survey showed that 86% of the American people (religious or not) believe that "churches and religious organizations should spend more time helping the poor." This public opinion is echoed in both presidential candidates' emphasis on new partnerships between government and faith-based organizations to overcome poverty. And many churches associated with the religious right are now among those involved in social service ministries in their communities.

This new moral conversation and action shows great promise for the future of America. History teaches us that the most effective social movements are also spiritual ones, which change people's thinking and attitudes by an appeal to moral or religious values. These changes in attitudes then change the political and cultural climate, which then make policy changes more possible. The best example is, of course, the civil rights movement.

I am not one of those who think the religious right has been an entirely negative force in American politics. Their cry for a more values-centered politics is a positive development. Indeed, the unacceptability of a continuing high poverty rate in the midst of our great prosperity is a values and morals issue. Better yet, it is bringing together liberals and conservatives in a biblical concern for "the least of these." If we can unite over this moral issue, both the poor and the country will be better for it, not to mention the integrity of the religious community.

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