Working in the city with "poor people" definitely affects the way I look at the world and this nation.
An added complication has to do with the fact that for the last forty-five years I have been a serious student of the Bible.
The pain of the poor coupled with a fairly well-developed understanding of the "value documents" of the American faith can be a maddening combination.
One of the great ironies of the last quarter of the 20th century is how the church has surrendered the high ground in the battle against poverty, injustice and inequality in America. It makes me wonder what Bible is being read in churches today.
But the irony continues.
The church has walked away from the poor in favor of advancing another value-based agenda, one that is much more narrow. The combination of an increasing emphasis on individual salvation, the amassing of greater and greater wealth among conservative Christians and an almost exclusive focus on sexual morality, as defined by the issues of homosexuality and abortion, has resulted in the abandonment of the poor as a moral matter.
Wealth places millions of believers in the upper class. Wealth tends to drive tax policy and domestic budget formation. In such a situation justice fades as a moral concern for believers. The pulpits go silent. Get my drift?
But, religious people are moral and must espouse a moral agenda by definition, right? Concern over abortion and the gay rights movement fill an important void. And wouldn't you know it, such a concern costs tax payers nothing.
Wealth is protected. Morals are championed. The poor are on their own. After all, we all get wealthy and powerful in this nation by hard work, personal responsibility and the blessing of God, right? Surely our advantages had little, if anything, to do with our success!
I can just hear Amos crying out!
All of that to say, read Jim Wallis' new book: God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.
Wallis argues with power that the values debate in the nation must be broadened again. He contends that faith has a place in the public square. Establishing justice and fairness is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian faith systems.
Further, the faith has been hijacked by a narrow, unjust movement that ignores the fullness of the faith from a moral standpoint.
Things must change. True believers, you know the ones who understand the heart of God as taught by Moses, Isaiah, and Jesus, must re-engage the American political system as that system relates to the poor. And this must happen because such is the clear agenda of the faith itself.
You may not agree with me or with Wallis. But you should give him a hearing. Buy his book and read it.
[Buy Jim Wallis' new book at Amazon.com by going to this site: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060558288/qid=1109212696/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/002-9898673-3819238?v=glance&s=books&n=507846]
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