Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bernie Sanders’ Lesson for the Church!

Or, How the Church Can Save Itself!
Progressive American churches ought to learn – had better learn – something from Bernie Sanders and his 2016 campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for President of the United States. It appears Sanders will not win that campaign, but it is also very apparent that Bernie Sanders won over massive numbers of millennials during his campaign.

by Charlie Leck

The word on the street is that the American Protestant church is in trouble. The generally accepted thought is that young people and young adults (often called “the millennials”) have no stake or any interest in the Protestant Church as a relevant or important institution or organization in America. The theory is that America’s Protestant Churches will be nigh onto empty in another decade or two. I understand this.

The church has never historically thought of itself as a builder of communities nor a promoter of the manner in which communities serve its residents. And it is true that most of the creators of community organizations and the fundamental laws and practices of cities and towns have never thought the contemporary church had any role in such shaping. Too bad!

It’s too bad because someone, somewhere, somehow, is missing out on powerful institutions in America’s communities that could be an influential force in determining community practices in America’s future.

What if contemporary progressive churches took loud and public positions in favor of a real and fair redistribution of America’s wealth? What if those same progressive churches made it obvious that they stood four-square against homelessness? What if these same churches declared date-goals by which such homelessness and such out-of-balance wealth should be eliminated (and these dates would not be in some far-distant time)?

What if this large body of cooperating churches agreed and demanded that hunger in America be abolished completely? And, even beyond that, what if these same churches agreed together to demand the total end to poverty itself. And, that prisons should be improved to the point that they are humane and safe places in every single state.

What if hundreds – even thousands – of such progressive churches stood adamantly together in favor of such goals? And what if they, together, pledged millions of dollars to lobby city councils, county bodies and state legislators to support and fund such programs.

What if thousands of churches across America stood firmly together to end loose and frivolous ownership of guns and weapons that went beyond sport-hunting, self-protection and target competition? What if the same churches also agreed adamantly that all Americans should have medical services of equal quality at no cost; and Americans should have free access to all government owned colleges and universities?

Imagine if all these churches – linked together – demanded just voting laws, fairer pay and wages for everyone, and no sexual discrimination in any field or occupation.

Imagine if these churches – thousands of them – linked with similar churches and progressive religious organizations around the world – demanded peace and humane living standards for all peoples all around the globe.

What if the progressive church decided to do what our God and our Master has begged and begged us to do down through the centuries and now also – now – at this particular moment in history?

What if our hymns, all the time, were about true justice, liberty and equality for all people – now?

What if the church, with one voice, demanded honesty, fairness and adherence to our nation’s laws from the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals? Of weapons? Of Tobacco? Of the food we eat?

What if all the progressive churches – together – demanded the break-up of the giant banks and financial institutions? What if they demanded boycotting American companies that abandon our nation just to escape income taxes while still reaping most of their profits from our citizens? What if we demanded that the super wealthy contribute more fairly through taxes to meet the nation's financial needs?

Such sermons pouring from our pulpits – from progressive clergy and pastors – would sound like the voice of Bernie Sanders! And, they would, as well, sound like the voice and commandments of our Lord!

Such is the way, we would tell the millennials, that our Master spoke when he walked upon the earth and called fellow human beings to follow him. Such is what he wanted from us so that we might know God!

What if the progressive church provided, in addition to its centers of worship, facilities that would provide its members with ways to stay healthy and fit in mind, body and spirit?

The contemporary, progressive religious organization could be just what the followers of Bernie Sanders are looking for. Come unto us ye who want justice, fairness and liberty for all mankind, and we will join you in demanding it!

To date the progressive protestant churches have been too meek and too silent about that for which they stand – about that for which our Lord stood! We’ve got to begin to shout it out as loudly as Bernie did!

“Come join us, you who want justice and fairness for all peoples, and raise your voices with us! Come organize with us! Come pray for and work for justice!”

How can the modern, Protestant, American church save itself? By following the commandments of our Lord! By working for justice! By working for physical and spiritual health! We must boast of such goals and let our communities know that it is this for which we stand! It is why we gather! It is why we organize! It is why we pray! If we sounded like Bernie -- or Jesus -- the millennials would gather with us!


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