What Should be Done?
I certainly don’t expect Progressive individuals and organizations to embrace conservative ideas for welfare reform. However, even this position doesn’t preclude the finding of common ground. For example, the Progressive community could say something like this:
“While we believe that conservative ideas on welfare reform are fundamentally flawed, we yet agree that the current set of welfare policies has not achieved their intended results. In fact, on numerous key measures of well-being the beneficiaries of welfare have significantly digressed over the past decades. Therefore, we will support an open discussion on what has gone wrong and why. From there we will support an open debate on the reforms necessary to correct past mistakes and increase the likelihood of future success.”
The tragic truth is that virtually no one finds this imagined statement by our Progressive elites to be in the slightest credible. This is because their power rests on the false assumption of their intellectual and moral superiority. Thus they cannot survive if they ever admit to have been wrong. Not surprisingly then, what we have observed is retreat into reactionary positions from which any criticism of the Welfare State or proposal for welfare/education reform is viciously attacked. When “welfare reform” was passed in the 1990s the Progressive community pulled out all the stops to retard and ultimately reverse this initiative. The Progressive community continues to be opposed to “school choice” even though a majority of disadvantaged parents support it.
In the 1960s and 70s Mainline denominational leadership tied itself to the secular Progressive movement as the vehicle for positive social change. We can legitimately debate the wisdom of this decision within context of what was known at that time. However, from the 1980s on it has become progressively more clear that the Great Society and associated policies have had the opposite effect of those claimed to be intended by their supporters.
We Mainline Christians must seriously ask ourselves what we really are accomplishing by our continuing support of these destructive social policies. If we want an endless supply of people in poor and oppressed communities as recipients of our charity then by all means continue on. In that direction lies the continued affirmation of a godless elite class who value us only to the extent that we slavishly uphold their power and follow their political line. In that case Jesus’ words should burn in our souls.
1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
Matthew 6:1, 2 (NIV)
If we want to actually improve the lives of the people trapped in these communities then we must open our hearts and minds to the concept of reforms that challenge the current Progressive orthodoxy. In that direction lies suffering, as we will be subjected to the full force of hatred that holds current policies in place. We will be called terrible names. Our motives will be attacked. Our Christian faith will be denigrated. Everything will be done that can be to make the world consider us pariahs. But if we reject their power to destroy we may actually through God’s grace find new paths that lead towards renewal and hope.
18“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 15:18-27 (ESV)