Liberal Churches, Politics, Social Policy

Copyright © by Kenneth Cauthen  2005

Liberal Churches have little influence on public policy debates these days. They are present but well-nigh impotent as a social force affecting legislation for the poor. They are practically invisible when TV news stations seek the voice of religion on hot current debates.

Take the recent Terri Schiavo case. Who were the spokespersons of religion? They were hysterical fundamentalist zealots, reactionary Catholic priests, ignoramuses with heat and no light. Pat Robertson's statement that it was "judicial murder" is representative of the lack of knowledge and insight attributed to religion. There was Jesse Jackson, usually a sane voice for the down and out, right there with the rest of the irrational chorus, ignorant of or ignoring law, standard medical practice, and common sense that gives the right of patients or their proxies the right to refuse or demand cessation of life-sustaining measures.

Time Magazine recently featured the 25 most influential evangelicals. Jim Wallis, who is a voice for the poor and for justice for all, was not among them. When will we expect an issue devoted to the most influential liberal Christians? Don't hold your breath. Many of the featured evangelical do good work with projects to assist the poor and suffering around the world. This is commendable, but the public voice of the religious right, conservatives, evangelicals, whatever, is not for a higher minimum wage, a demand for universal health insurance, environmental sanity, and the like but against abortion, gay marriage, abstinence only sex education, prayer in public schools, "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the like. The voice of Jesus on these issues is mute, but he spoke plainly about meeting the needs of the poor, healing the sick, and relieving suffering. Common sense should teach us that these goals require political,public, and social approaches as well as ministry to individuals.

Liberal churches have been caught up in internal debates that have consumed much of what energy they have left. They have argued over the role of women and whether homosexuals should be welcomed without conditions or ordained. It should have been immediately forthcoming that women and men, heterosexuals and homosexuals, are equal in every ecclesiastical and other respects and should be so treated in church and society. While these are inevitable and important, though regrettable, debates, they do absolutely nothing to help the poor and those those without health insurance. They do nothing to raise wages for the poor and working class. They do nothing to counteract the aim of the Bush Administration to redistribute income away from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy. They do nothing to combat the power of huge corporations, polluters, and others to have their selfish way in public policy.

Consequently, there is no loud and effective public voice on matters of global peace, social justice, and the suffering of the masses of people around the world.

Those knowledgeable enough to do so are welcome to refute, modify, and amend as necessary. But I am sure that the final outcome will not be far from the dismal generalizations set forth here in sorrow.
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Updated: Friday, 15 April 2005 11:12 AM EDT