The political inconvenience of consistent Christian leaders…

“A photograph published in the Washington Post shortly before George W. Bush took office featured the president in conversation with a group of American religious leaders.  The Post intended the photograph to illustrate President Bush’s appeal to a new generation of black religious leaders, and the faces were a welcome sight to many participants in recent church-based activism.  Nonetheless, the notion that Gene Rivers, Cheryl Sanders, and John Perkins (respectively, a Pentecostal social radical, a womanist evangelical, and a black pacifist whose favorite senator is Hilary Clinton) would somehow be easier to placate than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton was comical (the group was not invited back).

In fact, as the idea of the faith-based initiative has taken rough form at the federal level, its planners have steadily refrained from endorsing the Christian community-building movement as represented by CCDA- as well as by other faith-based organizating traditions such as the Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO) and the Industrial Area Foundation (IAF)- and preferring instead general affirmations of community service, the good and decent and politically useful provision of goods and services to the underprivileged by congregations and religious agencies.

Community building and community organizing, on the other hand, too often require the politically troubling practices of resistance and reform and push toward a deeper identity of person and community than that of nationhood:  all humanity created in God’s image, redeemed from its fallenness by ‘the great event of the Cross.'”

-Charles Marsh, in The Beloved Community:  How Faith shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights movement to Today

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