Captive to Capital

The American church and organized labor appear to have core values in commonùa call to justice, equity, dignity for individuals. So why is it that church-owned or connected institutions are arguably among the most difficult to organize?

Institutions connected to churches in name or by financial ties are usually in a class of "human services" that include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and child care centers. These institutions emerged from the Puritan belief that when one was in need, Christian men and women would, as God would have it, respond. Indeed, the earliest colonial social policy, that of "kith and kin," meant that if one of your own was in need, it was your job, as a Christian, to respond with aid. This view informed the development of social services for the next three centuries.

Schools, likewise, came out of the early Puritan community's desire to train children in the ways of God. American colonial schools met in the church or in a common building also used by the church, and the early textbook was often the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

So the connectorsùphysical, financial, psychologicalùbetween the church and social services are long and deep, with the work of the early church becoming the work of social services, the human-care arm of the state. It follows, then, that institutions which emerged from church systems would continue to carry the names of the churchùSt. Mark's School, Methodist Hospital, Baptist Retirement Centerùeven once significant relationships with the church faded, further implying an environment of caring.

But if these are places of caring, why then are they so darned hard to organize? Better yet, why is organizing even necessary in such a caring place?

It's About Money

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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