The emergence of the term "faith-based organization" in political discussion (and its acronym FBO) may signal one of the most significant new developments in American public life. Vice President Al Gore’s May speech on the role of faith-based organizations has raised the issue to another level. The most likely Democratic nominee for the 2000 presidential race proposed a "new partnership" between the government and the pioneering efforts of faith communities that are finding real solutions to the poverty and violence in many local communities around the country.
George W. Bush, Gore’s likely Republican opponent, has already been experimenting in Texas by partnering with faith-based groups for social service delivery. Bill Bradley, Gore’s only Democratic challenger, has been advocating a stronger role for the organizations of "civil society," including religious ones. It appears that the role of faith-based social programs will be part of the next election debate.
That gives us an important opportunity for putting the agenda of poor people on the political agenda. President Clinton’s four-day poverty tour barely caused a blip on the American political radar screen. But the well-being of the widow, fatherless, poor, and oppressed is not merely a blip in the Bible, but a subject of constant discussion. To make it a matter of serious political discussion in America today should be the task of faith-based organizations.