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UCCtruths

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The Role of Religion in Politics: Day 3

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PastorDan doesn't think this blog debate is going well. I think it's simply a difference in approach and we may be talking past each other. Let me be clear on a couple of things: I don't believe in any way that Niebuhr was a centrist - he was most certainly left of center - but he also recognized that the church was not infallible and that there is a fair degree of moral ambiguity in politics that many times cannot be addressed by our idealism alone.

Let's look at this from a real world example by reviewing our political response to the crisis in Sudan. I pick the crisis in Sudan because it is an issue that we should universally agree deserves a response from the church (not just ours, but all).

What has been the response from the United Church of Christ?

1) Pray
2) Donate to CWS which will be used to provide relief to refugees
3) Build a tent to raise awareness
4) Numerous email campaigns targeting the White House to "take leadership" of the situation in Sudan

In April, 2004, it was the U.S. that raised global awareness of the crisis in Sudan before the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission in Geneva. It was nearly 6 months before the UCC had any formal reaction. In October of 2006, the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries exploited the crisis with an email campaign suggesting that the White House wasn't taking a leadership role on the crisis... two weeks before the mid-term elections. It's worth noting that during this period, the U.S. was the only country submitting resolutions to the U.N. security council.

It can be said without doubt that the UCC's efforts (and all mainline churches) have not done a single thing to help end the crisis and if anything, used the crisis as a political football. This does not, however, suggest that the church has all the right answers all the time to every crisis in the world. This crisis, which the UCC called the worst humanitarian crisis in decades, deserved a better response from the church than was given.

So why didn't we?

Bringing this back full circle to Niebuhr, we were (and still are) handicapped by our own idealism which has rendered us ineffective and ultimately irrelevant. While Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. to "ensure that any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a U.N. force for Darfur calls for U.N. forces to use all necessary means to protect civilians", the UCC couldn't bring itself to back it. I believe this is because of our theological identity as a "Just Peace" church. We choose instead to build tents and pretend in our self-righteousness that we are making a difference.

I believe this is the kind of idealism that makes us irrelevant.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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