Our Lady of Soccorso

All posts in the '' category


Part One

By Stephanie Block

 

If you place any faith in God, the following may interest you.  Faith in Public Life, the name of a fledgling coalition, is a double entendre: it could mean taking one’s spiritual and moral values out into the public arena.  Or, it could mean that one’s faith – one’s hopes and dreams – rests in the domain of public life. 

In the latter view, one really needs very little faith in God.  Religious institutions are understood primarily as social goods, as places for community building and the nurturing of social skills.  As such, they are useful tools in the political struggle for power and influence.  Such a view doesn’t disallow for the spiritual dimension of religion but relegates it to a strictly “private” place.    

Within the new organization, Faith in Public Life, one will no doubt find people from both camps.  The organization itself, however, understands its mission in the second sense.  Its website (www.faithinpubliclife.org) explains that its founding was sparked by the 2004 elections to support what it calls the “social justice faith movement” and develop “increased and effective collaboration, coordination, and communication on the national, state and local level.”  It says:

 

We have faith in public life. In other words, we have faith in the positive and significant role that faith should play in public life, and we have faith that public life will support justice and the common good. We believe the positive role for faith in public life is fulfilled when: (1) religious voices for justice and the common good impact public discourse and policies; and (2) those who use religion as a tool of division and exclusion do not dominate public debate. We also believe faithful contributions to public life should not, and need not, violate America’s central tenet of separation of church and state.

 

What, then, does Faith in Public Life understand by the “social justice faith movement?”

Faith in Public Life first explains what the movement isn’t: it isn’t addressing what it dubs the “Religious Right’s” issues of abortion and homosexuality.  Faith in Public Life issues, by contrast, are “social and economic justice.”

Now, one might think we’re talking compatible and complimentary concerns, as if the politics of the right is exclusively concerned with the protection of vulnerable human life while the politics of the left is concerned about a high standard of living for all.  If that were the case, right and left are allies – not enemies.  Both would be working toward the common good.

Faith in Public Life is clear that this is not the case.  To take the issue of homosexuality: of the 2470 organizations around the US with an affiliation to Faith in Public Life, 150 have “gay rights” as a primary policy focus.  Thirty-seven of those are Roman Catholic dissident factions - Call to Action groups - many of which are Dignity chapters that have changing the Roman Catholic Church’s moral teachings about homosexuality as their express ambition. 

 Thus, the Catholic Church and Faith in Public Life are working at cross purposes.  Advocates of same-sex marriage and other public policy legislation that would make homosexuality a protected lifestyle are at utter odds with a religious faith that teaches homosexuality is a sin. 

The Catholic Church is not the only target of these change agents.  Similar clusters of homosexual advocates target other faiths.  For example, there are four, local Integrity groups affiliated with Faith in Public Life.  Integrity operates in mainline Protestant denominations much the same way Dignity operates in the Catholic Church. 

In the case of abortion, Call to Action has promoted “reproductive choice” and “family planning” since its inception in the 70s.  Its presence and the presence of other groups (see, for example, the public affairs policy of Faith in Public Life member National Council of Jewish Women – Austin chapter) who have, as their political agenda, those particular issues as their defining characteristic means that Faith in Public Life also is supportive of abortion and contraception.  While the Church teaches that abortion is murder, Faith in Public Life is coordinating a national collaboration to assure, among other things, that pro-abortion politicians are elected.  In an Orwellian bit of newspeak, the “right” to legally murder one’s unborn children is “social and economic justice.”  “Social justice” used to mean a social awareness of, and care for, the poor and vulnerable - within the boundaries of justice, rendering to each man his due because of his dignity as a man, in the image and likeness of God.  The current misuse of the term isn’t simply ambiguous. It’s a thought-terminating cliché: just tell Catholics that a certain position, no matter how vile, is demanded by “social justice” and who dares oppose it?   

 The most ironic aspect of this is that Catholics, with a clear and deliberate mandate to fight the secular culture of death, are assisting many of the Faith in Public Life organizations through its so-called anti-poverty collection, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  Among Faith in Public Life are hundreds of Alinsky-style, broad-based community organizations and their networks, which receive millions of dollars annually from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The Catholics aren’t the only pawns.  Other religions have their own funds: the Jewish Fund for Justice, America’s Domestic Hunger Program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church USA’s One Great Hour of Sharing Fund, the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program, the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, to name a few.  Together, they are supporting many of the organizations that make up Faith in Public Life. 

 The magnitude of this networking of leftwing organizations, in the name of religion, is difficult to comprehend.  The names are legion and they mutate faster than bacteria.  An organization like Faith in Public Life, however, gives the observer some insight into what has been constructed through the resources of churches, synagogues, and mosques - and the end toward which they strive.

Part Two

By Stephanie Block

Back in 2000, Bishop Loverde canceled two speakers scheduled for a Women’s Spirituality Series in his diocese. There names were Diann Neu and Mary Hunt. Explaining his decision in the diocesan newspaper, the bishop wrote that Neu and Hunt "are co-founders and co-directors of an organization which calls itself WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual)…. Dr. Hunt refers to herself ‘as a Catholic feminist liberation theologian, pro-choice and lesbian.’ …. Neu has authored a prayer service referred to as ‘liturgy’ and called ‘Eucharist’ in its call to celebration….A version of this service was celebrated at a Call to Action conference in Detroit, MI and at a Women-Church Convergence meeting in Washington, D.C."

A videotape of Neu’s liturgical ritual workshop at the 1996 Call to Action conference included an imitation of the Lord’s Prayer: "Our Mother and Father who is everywhere, holy be your name. May your new age come."

Discussing abortion, Neu asked, "What about abortion liturgy? When women make a very difficult choice, the community needs to support that choice. We don’t have to make a judgment on what choice is right or wrong. We need to support any one of us who makes a choice for whatever reason."

These were not speakers who deserved Catholic support or the use of Catholic resources. Bishop Loverde made a responsible decision.

So what is WATER doing in a political network with the Maryland Catholic Conference? It was placed there by Faith in Public Life – a network of progressively-minded institutions banded to "fight the right" by creating "strategic partnerships" and developing coordinated actions. What is the "right" they are fighting?

Looking at the organizations working with Faith in Public Life gives a good idea. There are at least 150 groups in the Faith in Public Life network concerned with "gay rights," for instance. Besides the above-mentioned WATER, there are also at least 27 Dignity chapters and 18 Soulforce chapters. Dignity is an organization that specifically targets the Roman Catholic Church, seeking nothing less than a complete reversal of Church moral teaching about sexuality and sin. Soulforce has a broader mission and targets all organized religion. It seeks "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance" and claims that it is a misuse of religion and spiritual violence "to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God’s children." Both Dignity and Soulforce seek full legal protection of same-sex marriages.

Does this mean that the Maryland Catholic Conference is supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage? Yes, it does. By its placement among progressive-minded organizations, the force of its reputation as a religious representative of the Holy, Roman Catholic Church gives progressive political goals moral credibility. They are supporting same-sex marriage.

How about the Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – an organization that "seeks to ensure that every woman is free to make decisions about having children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs" – and the Minnesota Catholic Conference? What’s their common denominator?

Same answer: Faith in Public Life. Both are there on the Faith in Public Life map of "groups around the country working for the common good."

Along with lots of other Catholic groups in Minnesota – Catholic Charities and various Catholic Relief Service offices around the state – they are listed with organizations that seek to destroy Catholicism, namely local Call to Action chapters. Call to Action was first convened in the 1970s to demand the Church change its positions on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and episcopal hierarchy. It had a new vision of a "peoples’ church" that was social-justice oriented – as they defined social justice – with every parish belonging to an ecumenical community organization.

Interestingly enough, the ecumenical community organizations receiving lots of Catholic money and made up of many Catholic parishes are part of Faith in Public Action, too.

Does this mean that the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the various Minnesota Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Service offices (all members of Faith in Public Life) are supporting abortion rights? Yes, it does. By their presence among this progressive, political cadre, they help to place progressive-minded politicians in office. They are putting the force of their reputation as religious representatives of the Holy, Roman Catholic Church behind these politicians. They are supporting abortion rights.

Looking state by state at the map of organizations affiliated with Faith in Public Life, one observes the same uncomfortable networking taking place all over the country. Call to Action chapters, homosexual activist groups, ecumenical community organizations, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and progressive political organizations are uniting to counter the voice of the "religious right."

Missouri: The Faith in Public Life network includes the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, Catholic Campaign for Human Development funded Gamaliel community organizations (Churches United for Community Action, Churches Committed to Community Concerns, ISAIAH, and Metropolitan Congregations United) and PICO community organizations (Kansas City Church Community Organization), the St. Louis office of Catholic Charities, and the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City on one side and homosexual and/or abortion rights organizations such as Dignity St. Louis, the National Conference for Community and Justice, and two chapters of Progressive Christians on the other.

New Mexico: The Faith in Public Life network includes three chapters of Call to Action as well as 10 chapters of the Call to Action affiliate Pax Christi, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development funded Industrial Areas Foundation community organization (Albuquerque Interfaith), Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Social Services, Dignity NM, the Diocese of Las Cruces Social Ministry, and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Office of Social Justice.

Florida: The Faith in Public Life network includes three chapters of Call to Action as well as 9 chapters of the Call to Action affiliate Pax Christi, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development funded DART community organization (People Acting for Community Together and Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity), 6 Catholic Charities offices, 7 Catholic Relief Services offices, 5 Dignity chapters, Soulforce, and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Every state is represented on the Faith in Public Life networking map. In each, Catholic organizations – often directly related to diocesan offices – are engaged, deliberately or unwittingly, in political fellowship with groups that were created explicitly and deliberately to destroy Catholic moral teaching.
 


Who’s Running This Show?


Of course, Faith in Public Life will argue that abortion and same-sex marriage is precisely what it isn’t addressing – unlike the "religious right." Faith in Public Life issues, by contrast, are "social and economic justice," although many of its 2470 affiliate groups will tell you that abortion and homosexual rights are social and economic justice issues.

That’s apparent by examining the policy positions of those who speak for Faith in Public Life. Its Media Bureau (Voicing Faith) is studded with people for whom these are critical battlegrounds.

For example, Rev. Tim Ahrens of the United Church of Christ and Cantor Jack Chomsky, who is Jewish, are not only spokesmen for Faith in Public Life but poster boys (actually, in organizational jargon, the first "case study") for the sort of successful network-action Faith in Public Life hopes to replicate all over the US. The two are leaders in the Cleveland-based We Believe Ohio organization, which was founded by people "seeking to define their faith, and their politics, outside of the domain of the religious right."

During a radio interview, Ahrens said that while the religious right calls gay marriage and abortion the moral issues of the day, his view is: "The greatest moral issue of our day is poverty." How does that play out in Ahrens politics, however? A July 14, 2006 Press Release issued by his We Believe Ohio group denounced political campaign tactics using religion as a weapon of attack. Specifically, they decried a Republican assessment of Congressman Ted Strickland as a "minister who admits he doesn’t even attend church" but has voted against legislation that would protect traditional marriage, against abstinence education programs, and for same-sex marriages.

So this is how it works: the person who supports same-sex marriage may flaunt his faith because he is promoting "social justice." The person who upholds the traditional moral teachings of his faith traditions is "narrow" and "hateful" and has no right to call upon his traditions to support his political positions.

Kim Bobo is another Faith in Public Life speaker. She is a Call to Action speaker who founded the Chicago-based Interfaith Worker Justice. She also sees "conservative Christian forces monopolizing the morality-in-politics debate around such issues as abortion rights and same-sex marriage." To counter this, Bobo helped write the manual How to Win: A Practical Guide for Defeating the Radical Right in Your Community. The manual specifically identifies pro-lifers as "radical right," naming groups such as the American Life League, and provides materials in support of abortion and gay "rights" and a host of other issues.

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, current national coordinator for the "Catholic" social justice lobby NETWORK is a Faith in Public Life speaker. NETWORK also has Call to Action ties and a long, sordid history of connections to pro-abortion and homosexual activism.

Then there’s Sr. Joan Chittister, who made headlines in 2001 for delivering the keynote address at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide Conference in direct defiance of a Vatican request, is another Faith in Public Life "leader." In addition to advocating a Catholic female priesthood and dissent against Church doctrine, Chittister is a Call to Action speaker and supports abortion as a woman’s "right."

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is represented in Faith in Public Life through its general secretary, Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, a United Methodist minister. In 2004, the NCC proposed 10 "Christian Principles in an Election Year" that it hoped all politicians could embrace. Deliberately absent were issues "on which churches aren’t united - among them, abortion and gay marriage."

We have Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes, whose Faith in Public Life expertise is in the topic of homosexuality and the Church. Dr. Elnes is co-president of CrossWalk, a group whose purpose is "to arouse public consciousness to the misuse of Christianity in American life today. [CrossWalk activists] are Christians who want to reclaim their faith from what they believe are the distortions of the ‘Religious Right,’ that so often appears to interpret Christianity in narrow, prejudiced and even hate-filled ways….They seek to raise awareness to the fact that fundamentalists, in both Catholic and Protestant forms, do not by themselves define American Christianity. They are embarrassed by the present alliance of political conservatives with fundamentalist Christians, who seek to impose a sectarian and moralistic religious mentality upon our population. They are offended that negativity to homosexual persons and opposition to the century long quest by women for equality and the right to define their own life choices, are now in the public mind, the defining essence of their faith. This enterprise, known as CrossWalkAmerica, is the vehicle through which they seek to educate America."

Another Faith in Public Life speaker is Rev. Debra Haffner, director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, a sexologist and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. According to her Institute’s principles, faith communities must "advocate for sexual and spiritual wholeness," which calls for "a faith-based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion" and "full inclusion of …sexual minorities in congregational life, including their ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions."

One of the most intriguing Faith in Public Life speakers is Dr. Glen H. Stassen who, according to Faith in Public Life autobiographical information, has "written extensively about the link between rising abortion rates and detrimental Bush economic policies." His analysis has been seriously challenged, but outrageousness of the assertion is irresistible.

Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, can speak on behalf of Faith in Public Life to the topic of religion in public life. In an address to the Planned Parenthood National Meeting Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2006, Thistlewaite spends a lot of thought on the Catholic Church and its position on abortion: "My overall premise is that political strategists are manipulating religious faith in an unprecedented way in our times…. despite reactionary religion and my own and I’m sure others’ defensive reaction, I want, within the space of this presentation at least, to create a space to think theologically in a non-reactive way about reproductive rights…..

Radically conservative Christianity, on the other hand, has flatly declared that the soul is implanted immediately at the moment the egg and the sperm meet. This is currently the position not only of Protestant fundamentalists and many evangelicals, but also of the Catholic Church…. even for those who regard all abortion as the taking of human life, there is still moral precedent within especially of Christian thinking on war and peace to allow abortion. Christians have written at length on when it may be considered moral to engage in war—this is Just War theory. Frances Kissling made a cogent argument in 1991 that if war can be just, then abortion must be also."

And then one comes to the organizers. Greg Galluzzo, national director of the faith-based organizing network Gamaliel, is a Faith in Public Life speaker on that same topic. Rabbi Jonah Presner represents the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network. These community organizing networks get millions of dollars from faith-based poverty collections like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to draw congregations – a high percentage of them Catholic – into the progressive network. That’s abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

One could go on but it’s almost too much to absorb.

The ironic and tragic conclusion is that Catholics, with a clear and deliberate mandate to fight the secular culture of death, have become pawns in the hands of their enemies. Even good, solid bishops, who would never knowingly give Communion to a pro-abortion politician, seem unaware of how the Church in their diocese is being used.

There’s a hopeful side to this, however. Faith in Public Life has inadvertently done a service to pro-lifers by alerting them to the deadly connections that have been operating for years but have been difficult to demonstrate and were therefore difficult to oppose. However, it’s out in the open now for all to see: "we have met the enemy and they are us."

 


In a Nutshell


Faith in Public Life is a propaganda vehicle that has allies in every state.


Faith in Public Life identifies official Catholic organizations – that is, organizations that are in good standing with their dioceses and operate under the authority of their local bishop – as part of their progressive network.


Faith in Public Life exists to fight any political attempt on the part of religious bodies (particularly the Catholic Church) to oppose abortion or homosexual "rights." Many Faith in Public Life member organizations and spokespeople are abortion or homosexual "rights" advocates – that is, their sole political effort is to sustain legal abortion or obtain homosexual "equality."

Some Faith in Public Life member organizations specifically target Catholic moral teaching about abortion and homosexuality, seeking to change it.

Paul Loverde, Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, "Bishop Cancels Speaker Series at Dominica Retreat House", Catholic Herald, 2000. Les Femmes, The Truth - Twilight Zone, Spring 2000
HYPERLINK "http://www.lesfemmesthetruth.org/v52twilight.htm"

See Faith in Public Life website:
HYPERLINK "http://www.faithinpubliclife.org"

Soulforce Mission Statement,
HYPERLINK "http://www.soulforce.org/article/7"

"Defining Faith & Politics: We Believe Ohio" Interview with Tim Ahrens and Jack Chomsky, 90.3 WCPN Public Radio Cleveland, aired May 17, 2006
HYPERLINK "http://www.wcpn.org/news/2006/04_06/0517weBelieve.html"

Don Lattin, "Pushing Poverty into moral-values debate: Some religious leaders trying to broaden description beyond abortion and marriage,"  San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2004.
HYPERLINK "http://www.crosswalkamerica.org"
HYPERLINK "http://www.religiousinstitute.org"

Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
Wm. Robert Johnston, Analysis of a claimed increase in post-2000 U.S. abortions, December 29, 2005
HYPERLINK "http://www.ctschicago.edu/pdf/SBT_PlannedParenthoodBreakfastSpeech.pdf"

Part Three: Ecumenical Politics

By Stephanie Block

 

Meet Jim Wallis.  The Reverend Jim Wallis is a writer[1] and a progressive political activist who founded and edits Sojourners magazine and directs an organization by the same name.  He is a non-denomination Evangelical Protestant minister. 

In anticipation of the 1996 elections, Wallis convened what was, at the time, called an “evangelical parachurch political action group,” Call to Renewal – Christian for a New Political Vision, “created out of the perceived need to present an alternative viewpoint to the dominant conservative political agenda – represented by such groups as the boards of Christian Coalition.” [2]  Today, its literature describes it as “an interfaith effort to end poverty” and during the summer of 2006 it merged boards with Sojourners’.

 Call to Renewal partners and affiliates were a modest fellowship six years ago, comprised primarily of progressive protestant organizations and a handful of powerful Catholic groups.[3]  It described itself as politically “moderate.” 

“Moderate,” was a rhetorical term meant to sooth anxieties about Call to Renewal’s political activism.  Wallis, who was the president of the radical Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)[4] during his college days and is a stout supporter of Alinskyian faith-based organizing, is certainly aware of the organizing adage: “You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments….all effective action requires the passport of morality.” [5] 

Now, as the 2008 presidential elections loom, Wallis has begun a more ambitious political project, Faith in Public Life.  The website for Faith in Public Life [6]explains that its founding was sparked by the 2004 elections to support what it calls the “social justice faith movement” and develop “increased and effective collaboration, coordination, and communication on the national, state and local level.”  In contrast to the “religious right,” Faith in Public Life eschews, according to its spokes-folk, the issues of abortion and homosexuality and focuses on “social and economic justice” – although many of its 2470 affiliate groups will tell you that abortion and homosexual rights are social and economic justice issues.

 

Who are Faith in Public Life members?  First, there are the faith institutions. Catholics are particularly well represented by diocesan offices around the country and various chapters of Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Social Services, to name some of the more respectable players.  Groups that exist to destroy Catholic teaching and Church structure have an impressive presence, too, particularly Call to Action and its related Pax Christi and Dignity chapters. 

Liberal factions of Jews, Methodists, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Muslims are participants, also, as one can readily see from a small sampling: The Episcopal Public Policy Network, Jews United for Justice, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the National Council of Churches, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action

Secondly, there are the organizers.  Among Faith in Public Life affiliates are hundreds of faith-based groups and their member institutions, from all around the country, and all of them related to the organizational theories of Saul Alinsky.   Most of them fall into their own networks – the Industrial Areas Foundation, PICO, Gamaliel, ACORN, ICWJ – producing a dizzying array of names and acronyms, but besides history, they have structural and “prophetic” commonalities.  That means they think and work alike – and together.

Lastly, there are the “friends,” the secular organizations that have, over the years, contributed to the “vision.”  Among these are the Children’s Defense Fund, The Interfaith Alliance, People for the American Way, and the Center for American Values and Public Life.

 

A little background.  The great social upheaval of the 1960s had been taking place, underground, for some time.  Its US roots lay, in part, with the Protestant “social gospel” movement of the late 19th century and the Catholic “liberation theology” movement that began in the mid-twentieth century among European intellectuals and spread to impoverished areas of Latin America.  The common denominator of both movements is a false historicity,[7] a reinterpretation of the Christian faith through an economic-political lens, and a flirtation – if not open marriage – with socialism.

The US Catholic Church witnessed the first major, public assault against its authority during a three-day Call to Action Conference in Detroit in October 1976, which had been sponsored by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.  This Conference brought together delegates from across the United States to ratify eight position papers that had been prepared in advance.[8]

Several of these papers had the clear imprint of Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) on them.   For example, the working paper on Neighborhood recommended (and it was approved by the Call to Action delegates) that every parish support a “competent,” ecumenical neighborhood action group, with diocesan resources used to train organizational “leaders” for their use.[9]  The IAF had also been involved the year before in a pre-Detroit “hearing” on the topic of Nationhood.  The Nationhood working papers subsequently proposed that the Church establish priorities for public policy,  define major election issues, educate the laity on the moral dimensions of public issues, and implement these goals ecumenically, that is, in conjunction with other churches and civic groups. 

Monsignor Jack Egan of Chicago, “a longtime Alinsky supporter, IAF board member, and activist on Chicago urban issues,”[10]  served as co-chair of the 1976 Call to Action plenary sessions. [11]  The Call to Action  “working papers” contained specific challenges to the discipline and doctrine of the Church. “…[M]ore than 2,400 delegates at the conference - people deeply involved in the life of the institutional church and appointed by their bishops - approve such progressive resolutions, ones calling for, among other things, the ordination of women and married men, female altar servers, and the right and responsibility of married couples to form their own consciences on the issue of artificial birth control.”[12]   

Obviously, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was in no position to ratify these proposals but it has been the effort of Call to Action-related organizations, including the IAF, each within its own sphere of influence, to bring about the changes it could.   For example, in the years after the 1976 inaugural Call to Action Conference, it may not yet be that every United States Catholic parish supports a “competent,” ecumenical neighborhood-action group, with diocesan and parish resources used to train organizational “leaders,” but there are over scores local IAF affiliates in various cities around the United States, most of which have the membership a number of Catholic parishes.  These IAF locals receive Catholic money through an annual “poverty appeal” called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and through the dues of their member parishes.  Add to that dozens of additional IAF- style networks that are also receiving CCHD funds and local Catholic parish membership dues, and one can see that the Call to Action dream of organizing every Catholic parish is underway.[13]

So far, we’ve only been speaking of Catholic history.  There is a similar story to tell in each of the mainstream Protestant denominations. 

 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was born in1987, the product of various splits and realignments among the US Lutheran population.[14]  According to a Faith in Public Life document, “Community Organizing and National Denominations,” the ELCA began meeting with members of the larger, national organizing networks in the early 1990s.  From these discussions, the ELCA developed a six-point strategic plan on the integration of faith-based organizing throughout the denomination, hoping “to produce a powerful force that can act as a real agent of social change.” [15]

The four major Alinsky networks are all involved – the Industrial Areas Foundation, founded by Saul Alinsky, and DART, Gamaliel, and PICO, whose founding organizers learned their craft at Alinsky’s feet.  The Faith in Public Life document explains that “[t]he ultimate goal of this effort is to change the culture of the church so that community organizing is an integral part of every congregation of the ELCA.”   

It is hardly coincidental that at the same time the ELCA has been moving toward the goal of reinventing itself as an earthly “agent of social change,” that the denomination has been changing doctrinally, too.  Official positions on homosexuality – expressing the traditional, Biblical belief that marriage was between a man and woman, that homosexual erotic activity was sinful, and that people leading homosexually active lives could not hold positions of ministry – have been shifting over the last two decades.

Naturally, the newly organized ELCA will bring its new moral values into the public – and political –arena. 

 

According to the same Faith in Public Life document, the Presbyterian Church has signed a joint statement with the ELCA concerning plans to get more involved nationally with local community organizing.   It’s a fascinating position paper,[16] the product of a national gathering coordinated by

the Urban Ministry Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Congregation-

based Community Organizing/Leadership Development for Public Life Office of the

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  It observes that congregation-based (faith-based) community organizing, already an established fact in many congregations, has “proven to be a revitalizing strategy for congregations and expands the reach and vision of ministry.”  It therefore advocates that each denomination increasing funding for organizing and explore the ways it “can be a vital part of congregational re-development and new church development…. working together with other denominations on a national strategy around public policy using a community organizing framework.”

For seminarians, there is the particular recommendation to “engage in appropriate learning

projects related to congregation-based community organizing. Faculties of seminaries [should] be encouraged to provide resources to the larger church of the theological and biblical foundations

of social justice through a CBCO [congregation-based community organizing] strategy.”

Lastly, congregations are to employ “the strategies of community organizing – individual meetings, house meetings, building a relational culture – for congregational transformation….[u]sing CBCO as a primary strategy for mission, understanding its systemic approach as compared to direct service or advocacy.

 

Rabbi Jonah Presner is a Faith in Public Life spokesman who serves the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network as co-chair of its Boston IAF affiliate and also as the director of Just Congregations, a social action program developed by the Union of Reform Judaism to train Jewish congregations across the country in IAF-based organizing.  Just Congregations provides the “language and organizing out of their faith tradition,” as “the language of Christianity, in particular, can make Jews uncomfortable and hesitant to participate. Exacerbating these feelings can be conflicting positions by the two faiths on issues such as abortion and gay rights.”[17] 

Like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, there is a Jewish funding mechanism for faith-based organizing – the Jewish FundS for Justice (JFSJ).  “The Just Congregations Initiative would support several JFSJ projects: recruiting synagogue leaders for the national gathering; engaging clergy in the CBCO [congregation-based community organizing] task force, connecting leaders locally to JFSJ initiatives; and encouraging [seminary] faculty and students to support and attend CBCO seminary training sessions…. most importantly, the Union/Just Congregations staff members would coordinate a national strategy together with JFSJ staff to determine together which geographic regions are ripe to be targeted for Reform Jewish engagement in CBCO.”[18]

 

What’s it all about?  The pertinent aspect of this organizational effort is to use the wealth and “moral capital,” that is, the respect and influence that religious institutions have in the US, for political purposes – specifically left-wing politics.  

With over 150 homosexual-activism organizations among its members, Faith In Public Life will be promoting same-sex marriage around the country.

With groups like the Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – an organization that “seeks to ensure that every woman is free to make decisions about having children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs” – Faith In Public Life will be fighting any efforts to curtail legal abortion.

With groups like the dozens of Pax Christi chapters among its members, Faith In Public Life will be an advocate against US military interventions.

With faith-based community organizations among its members, Faith In Public Life will be changing religious institutions into “mediating” institutions between government and its citizens.  Every participating congregation will eventually reflect some variant of liberationist theology. 

 

One reviewer for a book on the liberal politics of mainline churches makes two sanguine observations.  The first is that all liberally-minded mainline denominations are in decline.   The second is that the political threat of conservative Christianity is vastly over-rated as most conservative churches are not focused on politics.  She may be right on both counts, and there is no comfort in either observation.

    

 

 

 

[1] God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (2004); Faith Works: How Faith Based Organizations Are Changing Lives, Neighborhoods, and America (2000); The Soul of Politics: Beyond "Religious Right" and "Secular Left" (1995).

[2] Religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/Callrenu.html, accessed 1/15/07.

[3] Specifically identified as “collaborating organizations” were the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the United States Catholic Conference – Department of Social Development and World Peace, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Pax Christi, USA, Maryknoll Justice and Peace, and Catholic Charities, USA.

[4] Students for a Democratic Society was the youth branch of the socialist educational organization League for Industrial Democracy (LID).

[5] Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: Tenth rule of the ethics of means and ends, (1971)

[6]  www.faithinpubliclife.org

[7] Various thinkers in these movements accuse the Christian churches not only of indifference toward the plight of the poor, but of a class-based alignment with the rich and powerful couple with “pie in the sky” theology.   While one can, of course, find examples of such abuses throughout its 2000 year history, the Church has been one mankind’s most powerful earthly advocates.

[8] The position papers were on the topics of 1) Nationhood, 2) Neighborhood, 3) Family, 4) Humankind, 5) Personhood, 6) Ethnicity, 7) Church, and 8) Work.  They are described in a number of places, one being the Call to Action “Working Papers: Introduction,” NCCB, undated (@ 1976).

[9] 1976 Call to Action working paper on “Nationhood,” p. 12, l. 13-17.

[10] The Neighborhood Works, op.cit.

[11] Heidi Schlumpf, “Remembering the First Call to Action Conference,” The New World News, September 20, 1996.

[12] The New World News, op. cit.

[13] Other IAF-style networks, with hundreds of affiliates around the US, are PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organization), ACORN (Association of Communities Organized for Reform Now), DART (Direct Action and Research Training Center), and the Gamaliel Foundation.  There are other, smaller networks, as well.

[14] www.elca.org carries a detailed history

[15] www.faithinpubliclife.org/content/case-studies/partnerships_between_national.html; The ELCA has a website for those interested in its organizing efforts: www.elca.org/organizing/index.html

[16] “Lutheran—Presbyterian Congregation-based Community Organizing Consultation,” signed October 13-15, 2005, www.interfaithfunders.org/PresbandLutherans.html.   

[17] Daniel Levisohn,  Assistant Editor, JTNews: “Faith Alliance reaches out to Jewish congregations,”  

www.jtnews.net/index.php?/news/item/899

[18] urj.org/justcongregations/jfsj 


 
 
Take away God, all respect for civil laws, all regard for even the most necessary institutions disappears; justice is scouted; the very liberty that belongs to the law of nature is trodden underfoot; and men go so far as to destroy the very structure of the family, which is the first and firmest foundation of the social structure.
- St. Pius X, Jucunda Sane, March 12, 1904