Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Moral Monday, and the voice of faith in progressive politics

Dorothy Day's quest for social justice for working folks was deeply grounded in her Roman Catholic faith.  The Civil Rights movement marched with banners of righteous Christianity and Jewish justice.  But then faith got co-opted by the right wing, the fundamentalist Christians grabbed the label of "Christian" for themselves, and religion got a bad name.

But maybe that's changing.  

In the march-no-one-told-us-about in North Carolina this weekend, 80,000 people came together to protest injustice and politics that hurts the least amongst us.  Voices of faith were speaking out. And those on the left need to get used to that--and work together.
Progressives are not used to so much religion in their politics. I met someone who planned to avoid Saturday’s protest because of the God talk, and it’s clear that for many liberals, it’s easier to speak openly about one’s relationship with a sexual partner than a relationship with God or spirituality. But there are a lot of liberals who live on the seam between faith and politics. And one of the core messages of Moral Mondays is that ceding all talk of faith and morality to the political right in this country has been disastrous for the left. Or as Barber put it when he spoke, those who dismiss these protesters as “violent, and losers, and leftists, and socialists” fail to understand that the great prophets of the Bible and the founders of American constitutional democracy were “violent, and losers, and leftists, and socialists,” too.

As discomfiting as it may be to hear the Bible quoted alongside the Federalist Papers, the truth remains that for most people of most faiths, kicking the poorest and most vulnerable citizens when they are down is sinful. Stealing food and medical care from the weakest Americans is ethically corrupt. And the decadeslong political wisdom that only Republicans get to define sin and morality is not just tactically wrong for Democrats. It’s also just wrong. This is a lesson progressives are slowly learning from nuns and the new pope. When we talk of cutting food stamps or gutting education for our poorest citizens, we shouldn’t just call it greed. We should call it what it is: a sin.

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