2011-07-23

#Social Security Killed the Church?

Ran across this article today by Doug Baker, arguing that by endorsing Social Security legislation in the 1930s, the church abdicated it’s responsibility of caring for the poor to the state. At the time, many church leaders were supportive of this policy, believing that it aided the church’s mission to care for the poor and infirm. Baker calls this disturbing,” saying that the state began to function in roles once reserved for the church—to the detriment of any who would question the legitimacy of the legislation on theological grounds.”

And I kind of agree with him. I think the church as a whole has largely minimized its true commitment to helping the needy, prioritizing their bank accounts towards new buildings, high production values, and glitzy media campaigns. This is certainly not to say that all have; many churches do great things for those around them. I don’t feel the main problem is Social Security, though. It has more to do with the creeping rationalization of the pursuit of monetary success and individualism. When does Jesus ever say anything about the rich being blessed? How refreshing it is to read that at one point in time American church leaders were actively campaigning for the American people, as a whole, to make the care of the poor a national priority. Having steadily aligned with the right, much of the church has now lost this calling, spending more time defending capitalism and individual rights than a collective concern for those less fortunate.

From another angle, I’m having a tough time differentiating between Baker’s argument and the cadre of church leaders today campaigning against issues like abortion and gay marriage (to just name two). They have made it very clear that they believe America should be a Christian nation, and that we should elect leaders that believe the same. So, if we’re fighting to impose Christian morality upon the nation at large, why are we not fighting for what should biblically be one of the core missions of the church? Could it be that with a national program, we don’t get to choose who to help? Is that the stance we’re taking with this, that the help of the church should only be dispensed to the approved?

The fact that Baker finds reason to be disturbed” by any church’s alignment with progressive ideals” speaks to the state of the American church today. If we can campaign tooth and nail to fight civil unions, and support candidates that openly support the obstruction of other religions’ right to practice, while at the same time bemoaning any sort of collective well-being, we have to take a moment and ask ourselves why. Thoughts?


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