Hijacked Faith?

Some religious leaders, especially from within conservative evangelical Christian communities of faith, have worried out loud that religious bodies that receive government support will, over time, become dependent on Caesar's coin....They fear [that] government-religious partnerships will enervate the spiritual identities and characters of the participating churches and stifle their prophetic voices. Even if strictly limited to public support for specific social service delivery programs, they fear the resulting secularizing influences put the churches on a super-slippery slope to losing the "faith" in "faith-based."...

Such concerns are entirely understandable and, for many congregation leaders and faith communities, ought to be controlling. Charitable choice ought to be open to all qualified community-serving groups, but not all groups ought to participate. Faith leaders, organizations, and communities that perceive the slope as secularizing and slippery ought simply to opt out. But...America's faith communities are as diverse in their traditions of public-private partnerships as they are in their theological understandings.

In particular, compared to predominantly ex-urban white evangelical churches, urban African-American and Latino faith communities have benevolent traditions and histories that make them generally more dedicated to community-serving missions, and generally more confident about engaging public and secular partners in achieving those missions without enervating their spiritual identities or religious characters. There are, to be sure, many urban clergy who want nothing whatsoever to do with government as well. But the "hijacked faith" fears expressed by some are less pointed and less prevalent in metropolitan America....

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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