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Faith in Public Life

by Stephanie Block

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    Stephanie Block explores the purpose of Faith in Public Life, a coalition of left wing organizations networking in the name of religion.
  • Larger Work:
    Los Pequenos de Cristo
  • Publisher & Date:
    The Pepper, 2007

If you place any faith in God, the following may interest you.  Faith in Public Life, the name of a fledgling coalition, is a double entendre: it could mean taking one’s spiritual and moral values out into the public arena.  Or, it could mean that one’s faith – one’s hopes and dreams – rests in the domain of public life. 

In the latter view, one really needs very little faith in God.  Religious institutions are understood primarily as social goods, as places for community building and the nurturing of social skills.  As such, they are useful tools in the political struggle for power and influence.  Such a view doesn’t disallow for the spiritual dimension of religion but relegates it to a strictly “private” place.    

Within the new organization, Faith in Public Life, one will no doubt find people from both camps.  The organization itself, however, understands its mission in the second sense.  Its website (www.faithinpubliclife.org) explains that its founding was sparked by the 2004 elections to support what it calls the “social justice faith movement” and develop “increased and effective collaboration, coordination, and communication on the national, state and local level.”  It says:

We have faith in public life. In other words, we have faith in the positive and significant role that faith should play in public life, and we have faith that public life will support justice and the common good. We believe the positive role for faith in public life is fulfilled when: (1) religious voices for justice and the common good impact public discourse and policies; and (2) those who use religion as a tool of division and exclusion do not dominate public debate. We also believe faithful contributions to public life should not, and need not, violate America’s central tenet of separation of church and state.

What, then, does Faith in Public Life understand by the “social justice faith movement?”

Faith in Public Life first explains what the movement isn’t: it isn’t addressing what it dubs the “Religious Right’s” issues of abortion and homosexuality.  Faith in Public Life issues, by contrast, are “social and economic justice.”

Now, one might think we’re talking compatible and complimentary concerns, as if the politics of the right is exclusively concerned with the protection of vulnerable human life while the politics of the left is concerned about a high standard of living for all.  If that were the case, right and left are allies – not enemies.  Both would be working toward the common good.

Faith in Public Life is clear that this is not the case.  To take the issue of homosexuality: of the 2470 organizations around the US with an affiliation to Faith in Public Life, 150 have “gay rights” as a primary policy focus.  Thirty-seven of those are Roman Catholic dissident factions - Call to Action groups - many of which are Dignity chapters that have changing the Roman Catholic Church’s moral teachings about homosexuality as their express ambition. 

 Thus, the Catholic Church and Faith in Public Life are working at cross purposes.  Advocates of same-sex marriage and other public policy legislation that would make homosexuality a protected lifestyle are at utter odds with a religious faith that teaches homosexuality is a sin. 

The Catholic Church is not the only target of these change agents.  Similar clusters of homosexual advocates target other faiths.  For example, there are four, local Integrity groups affiliated with Faith in Public LifeIntegrity operates in mainline Protestant denominations much the same way Dignity operates in the Catholic Church. 

In the case of abortion, Call to Action has promoted “reproductive choice” and “family planning” since its inception in the 70s.  Its presence and the presence of other groups (see, for example, the public affairs policy of Faith in Public Life member National Council of Jewish Women – Austin chapter) who have, as their political agenda, those particular issues as their defining characteristic means that Faith in Public Life also is supportive of abortion and contraception.  While the Church teaches that abortion is murder, Faith in Public Life is coordinating a national collaboration to assure, among other things, that pro-abortion politicians are elected.  In an Orwellian bit of newspeak, the “right” to legally murder one’s unborn children is “social and economic justice.”  “Social justice” used to mean a social awareness of, and care for, the poor and vulnerable - within the boundaries of justice, rendering to each man his due because of his dignity as a man, in the image and likeness of God.  The current misuse of the term isn't simply ambiguous. It’s a thought-terminating cliché: just tell Catholics that a certain position, no matter how vile, is demanded by “social justice” and who dares oppose it?   

 The most ironic aspect of this is that Catholics, with a clear and deliberate mandate to fight the secular culture of death, are assisting many of the Faith in Public Life organizations through its so-called anti-poverty collection, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  Among Faith in Public Life are hundreds of Alinsky-style, broad-based community organizations and their networks, which receive millions of dollars annually from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The Catholics aren’t the only pawns.  Other religions have their own funds: the Jewish Fund for Justice, America’s Domestic Hunger Program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church USA’s One Great Hour of Sharing Fund, the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program, the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, to name a few.  Together, they are supporting many of the organizations that make up Faith in Public Life. 

 The magnitude of this networking of leftwing organizations, in the name of religion, is difficult to comprehend.  The names are legion and they mutate faster than bacteria.  An organization like Faith in Public Life, however, gives the observer some insight into what has been constructed through the resources of churches, synagogues, and mosques - and the end toward which they strive.

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