Christian Churches Together (CCT) was founded in 2007 as a “fellowship” of Pentecostals, Evangelicals – particularly Jim Wallis’ progressive political groups, Sojourners and Call to Renewal – Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and other assorted Protestants. This interfaith organization advocates for “two basic commitments,” namely, “the key importance of evangelism and the biblical imperative to overcome poverty.” [Jim Wallis, “Christian Churches Together – Finally,” Huffington Post, 2-16-07]
The expression, “the biblical imperative to overcome poverty,” should set off alarms. There is no such “imperative.” Scripture’s imperative is, rather, to respond charitably to poor people, which is quite another matter.
For CCT to phrase its “basic commitment” in such false terms exposes a political perspective – one that seeks a restructured society, with government providing the “solution” by which poverty is overcome.
CCT’s insistence, made in its Statement on Poverty, that it is “not an interest group” and that is has “no partisan political agenda” then begs the problem. A political agenda is built into the fabric of its self-expression. A commitment to “overcoming poverty” rather than alleviating it is a political act, not a theological act. Any “evangelization” done in the service of such a political position is, then, not religious evangelization but political propaganda.
The vision of a restructured society whose ills have been “overcome” by the State is apparent in the “four objectives” that CCT sets forth in its Statement on Poverty…one if which is “guaranteeing that full time work offers a realistic escape from poverty.” Now pleased don’t misunderstand. Having “full time work” is an undeniable good. Guaranteeing “full time work,” however, requires a body with control over the mechanisms that can create full time work – hiring, firing, payrolls, training, etc. The better such a system operates, the smaller the freedom afforded the worker. Guaranteed “full time work” is slavery. Federally-regulated guaranteed “full time work” is totalitarian.
Furthermore, if one seeks to “overcome poverty” through the degree of government control it requires to guarantee “full time work,” the result is an oppressive social situation that, ironically and realistically, offers less “escape from poverty” than a system that doesn’t guarantee “full time work” but leaves individuals a reasonable degree of freedom to seek wealth.
Most importantly, the political “vision” that one must guarantee “full time work” is essentially anti-religion, evangelizing a political position in lieu of authentic religious expression. So, one discovers, for example, that Dick Hamm, Ministry Partner with The Columbia Partnership, is CCT’s Executive Administrator.
The Columbia Partnership exists to satisfy “five passion categories,” which include “transforming” congregations “for vital ministry” and making certain that those ministries “are generously funded.”
Among the ways “this passion has been addressed during the past year are” taking “congregations through a process of Spiritual Strategic Journey as a strategic planning approach that focuses on developing their future story of ministry” and “providing executive leadership for two denominational collaboration organizations,” of which CCT is one and is where Ministry Colleague Dick Hamm comes in. See: [George Bullard, a Ministry Colleague with the Columbia Patnership, “The Passion of the Columbia Partnership,” 1-3-11 columbiapartnership.typepad.com/the_columbia_partnership/2011/01/transforming-the-church-for-vital-ministry.html#more]
Now, it just so happens that CCT 2009 Report from its annual meeting found that one of the “shared principles” among member denominations is the supporting “the efforts of community organizing which empowers local communities in their efforts to overcome poverty.” The “community organizing” that the CCT member denominations supports operates under many names but has a single organizing principle: Alinskyian faith-based organizing. The largest Alinskyian faith-based community organizing networks are the Industrial Areas Foundation, Gamaliel, PICO, and DART and the theology they evangelize is liberationism.
Now, look – people from all sorts of religious traditions have the right to band together for political purposes. The problem isn’t in CCT’s political nature, per se.
Its problem is that it isn’t honest or open about its political “vision.” Seeking federally-regulated guaranteed “full time work” is a political position. It sounds nice, the bit about overcoming poverty, but it isn’t nice. It’s seeking socialized government and that doesn’t help the poor.
Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper and is a founder of the Catholic Media Coalition.