Sunday, July 13, 2008

Religion Respected by the Working Class and Poor

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).

I read a very interesting column in our local newspaper today. You may access it at Here are the first few paragraphs:

"In her 2001 memoir of seminary life, Episcopal priest Chloe Breyer expressed befuddlement that the Rikers Island inmates to whom she was ministering mocked her liberal approach to religion.

"'They want answers, not questions,' Breyer wrote in frustration. 'The more contradictions I point out in the Bible, the more the inmates decide there is no point in wasting their time with a religion that lacks answers.'

"Can you blame them? The poor and working class tend to prefer non-squishy religion prescribing a stark moral code--even if they struggle to live up to its demands.

"It's not hard to see why. Unlike Breyer, whose father is a Supreme Court justice, and other social elites, folks living nearer the economic margins have far more to lose from individual and communal moral failure.

"A Mexican immigrant housekeeper whose husband works on the road told me that her Pentecostal congregation in Dallas is the only thing she has to help her keep her teenage girls on a path to a stable future. Given the skyrocketing teen pregnancy rate among Latinas, you can see why a mother like this housekeeper gravitates toward Pentecostalism, not liberal Protestantism or laissez-faire Catholicism."

As a guy in a working class job (mail carrier) who is involved in a ministry to the urban poor (Contact Church of Christ), I concur with the conclusions of the author. Among the majority of people with whom I associate, the moral relativism of postmodernism has little appeal. It's more of a concept to be discussed among university professors, editorial writers, preachers, and guests on National Public Radio programs. In real life, most of us understand that genuine right and wrong exist. We do not debate whether it is right or wrong to torture children, cheat people out of money, or spread harmful gossip. We do not respect churches without the sense to recognize the existence of truth or the backbone to tell the truth.

Because we fail to live up to the highest ethical standards, we also want to be in churches that will tell the truth to us with grace. We want leaders who are both honest and compassionate. We are attracted to the forgiveness available through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We are drawn to the hope offered in his resurrection and promised return. We appreciate being in the presence of people who have his Spirit within them, people who care about us and will help us in dealing with our sins, temptations, and problems.

If a congregation wants to reach the working class and poor, it will proclaim the truth and love the people.

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