by David Atkins
It's no secret that Christianity broadly speaking and the Left haven't been on the greatest terms over the last few decades. Part of that, of course, is that the Left tends to be more inclusive, which in turn means fighting for the rights of of minorities of all sorts, including religious minorities. That tends to earn the ire of dominant groups, Christianity among them.
Liberals also tend more towards atheism than conservatives do, largely out of a greater respect for the scientific method and a more skeptical approach toward authority.
All of that is self-evident. But there's also a mutually reinforcing contempt that has arisen ever since the rise of the Religious Right started to turn (predominantly white) churches into Republican activist grounds. Christianity in the United States took on a more political edge with a distinctly right-wing tilt beginning around the 1970s.
Given that Jesus' message was mostly concerned with social justice rather than sexual morality, it has been difficult for the Left to take the movement seriously as a religious movement, rather than one of socially conservative reactionaries using religion as a cover.
The absence of a serious religious left to counter this trend has been a big part of the problem. If mainstream Christians don't want to become tarred by association with the bigots and charlatans, it's up to them to push back and retake the initiative.
So this is a good sign in context:
A small but growing number of religious communities across the country are removing their money from Wall Street banks to protest what they see as unfair mortgage foreclosures and unwillingness to lend to small businesses.
The New Bottom Line (NBL) coalition of congregations, community organizations, labor unions and individuals is promoting a “Move Our Money” campaign with the goal of shifting $1 billion from big banks to community banks and credit unions.“In a way, the banks have divested from our communities, especially communities of color,” said the Rev. Ryan Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Los Angeles. “So we’re basically telling Bank of America that we want them to invest in our communities, and until they do that we’re not going to give our money to them.”
Bell’s church was one of six Los Angeles Christian congregations that announced they would divest a collective $2 million from Bank of America and Wells Fargo as part of the Move Our Money campaign.
The campaign has been slow to get off the ground; but after a recent national convocation of clergy in New Orleans, about 100 more leaders from a broad cross section of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations pledged to move an additional $100 million.
Of course, these are mostly minority churches, which have always placed a greater emphasis on the social gospel. Hopefully this movement will go beyond that. But if more white churches don't get on board, it will only reinforce legitimate accusations of hypocrisy, and exacerbate the divide between them and the Left. And while the Left may suffer from that somewhat in the short term, in the long term the churches and the image of American Christianity itself will be far more severely hurt.