Recent findings from a Pew Research Center study, "America's Changing Religious Landscape,"[i] claim a rapidly increasing percentage of the United States population is disaffiliating with traditional religious institutions and self-identifying as atheist or agnostic. In contradiction of several other recent studies, the Pew survey found that even the Catholic Church, bolstered by a steady influx of Catholic immigrants, has experienced a drop in adults who classify themselves as Catholic.
Obviously, there are many societal reasons why this may be so but it is obvious that at least one of those reasons is that the clergy of mainstream religious institutions understands their own traditions from an increasingly secular perspective. For instance, a little over a decade ago, the Presbyterian Church (USA) signed a joint statement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America pledging to get more involved with community organizing. It recommended more funding for organizing so that 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.” [ii]
Furthermore, seminarians were encouraged 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 were told 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.”
So why bother with membership in a Presbyterian Church (USA) or an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregation? What does either of these denominations offer that membership in the Democrat Party doesn’t?
Not to pick on the liberal branches of the Presbyterians and Lutherans, let’s turn our gaze back to the Catholics. The United States Catholic bureaucracy (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/USCCB) has aligned itself with progressive public policy for decades – coordinating its actions with the same ecumenical, congregation-based community organizing that has seduced the Protestants.
The USCCB supported the 2006 White House Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to bring religious groups and community organizations into “partnership” with the federal government on poverty “service” – including “increased resources for faith-based and community-based mediating institutions” to provide those services. While Catholic organizations may struggle to remain faithful to Catholic moral understanding, these “partnerships” create intense pressure to capitulate and create a media nightmare. For instance, one headline reads: “Catholic Charities Abandons Thousands of Children Instead of Adopting to LGBT Parents.”[iii]
Participation in local ecumenical, congregation-based community organizations only makes matters worse. In Chicago, the mega-organization, United Power for Action and Justice, an affiliate of the Alinskyian IAF network, has among its members a number of healthcare facilities that provide and/or refer patients to family planning “solutions.” This creates a horribly compromised position for the Catholic congregations that also members of United Power.
A Denver affiliate of the Alinskyian PICO network, Together Colorado, works with Metro Community Provider Network “to wrap high quality primary care services around high emergency room utilizers to save money.” Since Metro Community Provider Network provides birth control, emergency contraception – which is often abortifacient – and “Pregnancy Options Counseling,” aren’t the Catholic congregations in Together Colorado materially cooperating with evil?
There are hundreds of more examples but the question remains the same: what is gained from these damning, secular alliances?
Do the poor benefit? No, because while the solutions may be the best the secular world has to offer… the secular world doesn’t really understand the radical nature of the problems it attempts to address. For that, one needs Truth.
Do the Faithful benefit? No, because they are systemically reeducated to accept the secular perspective as “real” and a faithful perspective as a fiction.
Do religious leaders who embrace increasingly secularized alliances gain more moral authority? The secular world may be temporarily charmed by “faith leaders” who have finally reached “enlightenment,” the World is notoriously fickle. Meanwhile, the faithful, shepherdless, either wander off their own or make other accommodations, shifting to less ambiguous parishes or denominations.
Secularizing religious institutions – turning them into political advocacy machines – is a really bad idea.
And now we’re reaping what we’ve sown.
[i] America's Changing Religious Landscape report: www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape
[ii] “Lutheran—Presbyterian Congregation-based Community Organizing Consultation,” signed October 13-15, 2005, www.interfaithfunders.org/PresbandLutherans.html.
[iii] Jamie McGonnigal, Community Director, New Organizing Institute, “Catholic Charities Abandons Thousands of Children Instead of Adopting to LGBT Parents,” Huffington Post, 1-15-12.