One of the most inane aphorisms tossed around is that one shouldn’t mix politics and religion. It ranks right up there with “everything happens for a reason” on the list of adages that drive me crazy. 

 

One organization that emphatically rejects the notion that politics and religion shouldn’t mix is Sojourners, an American Christian social justice group.  If you aren’t familiar with Sojourners, you should go straight to Google and learn about them. I’ve mentioned them in this blog a time or two. Sojourners understand that not mixing politics with religion is an impossibility for people possessed of a conscience.

 

The head of Sojourners is the Rev. Jim Wallis, one of the most intelligent Christian leaders in this country.  In an article published April 30 in Sojourners, the group’s eponymous magazine, entitled “Unequal Suffering: Here’s How Congress Should Help,” Wallis lays out eight actions Congress could take to address the demonstrably uneven suffering caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. Here’s the link:

 

https://sojo.net/articles/unequal-suffering-heres-how-congress-should-help

 

To state the obvious, the actions recommended by Wallis are based on the fact that the pandemic is inflicting much more suffering on the poor, especially poor people of color, than on middle- and upper-class white people. This fact and what it says about our societal values has been widely discussed in mainstream media for weeks. Another article I came across in Vox lays it all out pretty neatly. Here’s a link to that piece: 

 

https://www.vox.com/2020/4/17/21225610/us-coronavirus-death-rates-blacks-latinos-whites

 

While our country’s poor citizens are seeing more death and devastation than the rest of the country, the billionaire class is seeing its wealth grow. Yes, grow. According to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, the billionaire class saw its wealth increase by $308 billion between March 18, 2020 and April 22, 2020. Follow this link to see the details. 

 

https://ips-dc.org/lets-stop-pretending-billionaires-are-in-the-same-boat-as-us-during-this-pandemic/

 

We are constantly being told how great our country is. It is the mightiest in the world, we hear. We can beat anyone in a war. We have the greatest economy ever known. We have the best of everything. No other country can touch us. Sadly, I am afraid that tens of millions of our countrymen actually take pride in hearing such bragging. It’s part and parcel of the myth of American exceptionalism. For the wealthiest 5 to 10 percent of our population, these United States are indeed an exceptional place to live and accumulate material wealth. But for people at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, our country is a grindingly tough place to live, and still tougher during a recession/depression brought on by a pandemic.  

 

Systemic racism and 50 years of dismembering any controls over capitalist greed have yielded the most unequal of countries. And we are at a point where someone in power must stand up and shout it. Tinkering around the edges won’t do the job; only major change. Capitalism, once fettered by sensible governmental oversight, now operates unrestrained, solely to create wealth for the owner class. During the pandemic, the Trump administration has continued to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Gutting the EPA is a gift to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Neutering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a gift to the big banks.

 

It’s way past time for us to talk purposefully about what ails our country — not as if it’s an abstraction that affects only the under-class, but as a malignancy that will bring down all of us if it persists. Another article in Sojourners is a good place to start this quixotic undertaking. No one will take me seriously, but I am dead serious. I think we need a good dose of Liberation Theology. The key to understanding Liberation Theology is captured in this sentence from the article: “. . . the message of the Gospels is that poor, oppressed people are called to be agents of their own emancipation, and that the Church must be in service to that struggle.” In other words, the church must unequivocally stand with the poor in their struggle to escape poverty and oppression. 

 

A key tenet of Liberation Theology is the notion of a “a preferential option for the poor.” Please read this article about Samuel Cruz, pastor of a Lutheran church in Brooklyn.

 

https://sojo.net/articles/liberation-theology-calls-together-religious-and-political

 

Cruz speaks eloquently of how Liberation Theology helps him reconcile his religion with his politics. The article gave me many ideas — too many for one blog. So I am merely planting a seed with today’s link-laden post. 

 

More to come on the same subject in the coming weeks. 

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About Buck Close

Buck CloseDeacon Buck Close serves on the staff of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI. He was born in South Carolina, graduated from Tulane University in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies.

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