Needed: A Progressive Christianity to Restore the Nation’s Civic Virtues

Tom Ehrich, writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York, penned this article. It is cutting and deep and, in my judgement, right on the money. He castigates conservative Christians for their voting record and hints that many are bigoted racists who don’t give a damn about economic justice.

Here is his article:

(RNS) Election 2014: Something important has just happened.

Big money bought an election. Fear prevailed over confidence and loathing over reason. The majority chose not to vote, allowing a passionate minority — older, whiter — to change the balance of power. Attack ads drowned out issues. A broken political system tolerated cheating and bullying.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

Most worrisome is the absence of the virtues that enable a democracy to function in a challenging world. Civic-mindedness gave way to clever voter-suppression tactics. Freedom of the press got lost in attack ads and deliberate distortions of reality. Respect for opponents is gone. So too is the search for common ground, competing ideas, confidence in the nation, confidence in government, confidence in the future. Gone, gone, gone.

How could this happen? Several reasons — from intellectual laziness to self-serving leaders. The reason that touches my world is the collapse of progressive Christianity as a teacher of civic virtues.

Progressive Christianity is only one voice on the spectrum of religious opinions. But over the years it has had a large impact in its insistence on honesty, fairness, tolerance and humility. Progressive Christians have fought slavery, racial injustice and oppression of the vulnerable. Our search for truth has allowed room for other truths, other voices — a critical attitude in preserving democracy.

Our voice, however, has gotten weak. Our obsession with sexuality and institutional survival rendered us self-referential and timid. As we fought battles that were too much about us, we left the door open to a tragic re-emergence of racism and practices oppressing the poor.

I know that, individually, many of us are deeply concerned and eager to act. Nothing will change, however, until we speak as a community with a more forceful and coherent voice to the very real issues that people are facing. We know our voice can make a difference. Look at what Christian witness contributed to the call for justice in Ferguson, Mo. Look at the Moral Monday demonstrations in North Carolina.

For that voice to grow, we need to let politics into our pews. Not church politics, which are safe, but national and local politics, which tend to be unsafe. We need, for example, to be asking why racism is suddenly out in the open. We need to ask what our own people have contributed to economic injustice. Jesus spoke truth to power. We have tended to send them pledge cards.

We need to respond with theological and ethical clarity to critical issues, not just discern whether we “like” this or that cause. And certainly not sit back while Bible bullies make outlandish claims about what God wants and loathes.

We need to be forming alliances with minorities, the bruised and marginalized, and with people who want to make a difference, especially young adults. We need to stand for generosity and civility and against the politics of meanness that would suppress votes, deny benefits, punish women and minorities and wink at overzealous police power.

Our national and local politics are awash in money and fear. Gone missing are ideas and solutions, and a sense of confidence. Progressive Christianity needs to call out the destructive forces pursuing oligarchy, even when they sit in our own pews.


9 thoughts on “Needed: A Progressive Christianity to Restore the Nation’s Civic Virtues

  1. “Big money bought an election.” I believe the spending in the NC Senate race did not buy that election…The losing Democrat Senator outspent her GOP opponent, and the Republican won….

  2. A non-sequitur….from beginning to end…”Needed: A progressive Christianity to restore the Nation’s civic virtues”….”progressive Christianity” now there is one for you…progressive and religion just don’t go together. Then completeing a second non-sequitur in this one title is saying religion will restore our “civic virtues.” Religion is a pathetic defender of the old order…what it does is “restore” the ancien regime of order, stability, only specific laws in a Constitution, rule by privilege He who tithes the most sits in Pew No. 1. Only a secular Nation will provide freedoms. This is why the Constitution crafted by the Founding Fathers is a godless document. They knew religion is synonymous with tyranny……This is why Pres John Adams, a conservative christian said in the Treaty ending the War against the Pirates, “the United States is NOT a Christian nation…..

    This is putting the fox in the hen house…..

  3. When “dark money” is spread around, does that count toward the amount spent by a particular candidate?

  4. Good to hear from you again, Up the Flag. Did you get involved in any local politics or voter turnout during the midterm elections?

    1. some…made phone calls to registered
      voters. The Dem senate candidate was a loser from the get-go. The Party put up a former GOP congressman…His main plank was no immigration bill and send them all back…And, the choice to be the
      Dem REP was as bad and so was his defeat….Did you and NON defeat Latta ?

  5. Hello All,
    This is becoming so predictable. Republicans win the Senate and immediately begin using the impeachment word.

    The major controversy over immigration reform is reaching a fever pitch, with President Obama ready to issue executive orders if Congress does not take action by the end of 2014.

    The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill 68-32, but the House will not consider it due to Tea Party extremists, so Obama is ready to do what he feels is essential.

    Now here is the kicker…”There is nothing illegal about the use of executive orders, whether for immigration or any other issue, as it is a common thread throughout American history”.

    Of course, Neo-Cons / Tea Baggers just hate facts.

    Every President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has utilized executive orders on immigration, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, and only now is there the threat of impeachment if Obama does the same!

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