19 January 2006

The Christian Middle

Colorado has a political voice for Christians that doesn't sound anything like the one you usually hear about in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. You might think, listening to the media, that this country is made up entirely of the Non-Christian Left (folks like me, who are one of the most reliable Democratic party constituencies) and the Christian Right. Each of those political factions are important elements of our current partisan coalitions. But, this excludes the "Christian Middle", people who are Christians, but are not fundamentalists. Their voice, in Colorado, is the quiet, but sensible and moderate, Colorado Council of Churches.

Their make public policy statements each year (the most recent of which was issued for January 2006) that reflect a consensus statement from all member denominations. No statement is adopted that a single representative from a single member denomination opposes (although there may be some denominations that neither approve nor oppose some of the statements in the list). They reflect the mainstream Christian values of mainline Christians and the vast majority of non-Catholic Christians outside the United States.

The member denominations almost certainly have several churches in your neighborhood. The member denominations are:

African Methodist Episcopal;
American Baptist Churches;
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ);
Christian Methodist Episcopal;
Church of the Brethren;
Episcopal Church;
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.;
Presbyterian Church, USA;
United Church of Christ;
United Methodist Church;
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

One of these denominations is the largest non-Catholic denomination in most of the counties (and far more than a majority of the state if weighted for population) in Colorado. And, Colorado has one of the most diverse mixes of Protestant denominations in the country.

Their "Public Policy Statements" for the year doesn't appear to be available online, but I'll give you the guts of it from a hard copy (with significant changes of format and omissions of explanatory material explaining the religious basis for the stances) here:

Affordable Housing
Legislation that:
1) Creates housing trust funds at the city, state and national levels,
2) Gives builders incentives to provide housing for low and middle-income persons in any building project,
3) recognizes the negative impact upon the environment, transportation systems, the community and individuals when service, public sector, and other workers must live many miles from their employment and when communities are built to exclude a diverse population,
4) Provide quality and safer housing for the very poor, out of work and homeless populations, including support for those trying to get back to work and into a permanent home.

Criminal/Restorative Justice
Supports legislation which:
1) protects the human dignity of prisoners,
2) preserves their civil rights,
3) enables their spiritual growth,
4) facilitates the healing of victims and offenders alike,
5) enables mediation,
6) fosters community support.

They support state-paid, professionally trained chaplains in penal institutions and the concepts of restorative justice and alternative sentencing.

And they support legislation that will reduce the implementation of the death penalty:
(1) the elimination of the death penalty coupled with the option of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,
(2) a moratorium on the death penalty,
(3) any reduction in offenses that may qualify for the death penalty.

Education of Children
They support legislation that creates adequate and equalized funding for public schools as one of its priorities to assure access for all Colorado children to excellent comprehensive public education.

(1) Support efforts toward environmental justice, defined as the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to environmental laws and policies.
(2) Support policies that develop effective alternatives to one-car/one-driver transportation, especially as those police's decrease energy use and pollution, and minimize urban sprawl..
(3) Support policies that preserve open space and wildlife habitats.
(4) Support policies that preserve open space and wildlife habitats.
(5) Support policies that reduce the use of fossil fuels, and that encourage alternative energy sources.
(6) Support "right to know" legislation that requires genetically engineered foods to be labeled in grocery stores.

Health Care
(1) Each person should have access to basic health care services that include preventive, acute and chronic physical and mental health care at an affordable cost,
(2) Health care should attend to the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of the person seeking care. In cooperation with religious and other community organizations, pastoral and spiritual care should be available at all levels of health care services. We endorse efforts to incorporate mental health services more substantially within the health care system and to grant mental health needs parity with other health care needs.
(3) We call on government, at all levels, to provide sufficient and timely reimbursement to health care providers, community clinics, and social ministry organizations for the services they offer on its behalf, allowing them to fulfill their missions with integrity and faithfulness.
(4) We urge renewed political and financial support for public health services undertaken on behalf of the entire community to prevent epidemics, limit threats to health, promote healthy behavior, reduce injuries, assist in recovery from disasters, and ensure that people have access to needed services.

They support legislation that:
(1) Seeks a just, sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all,
(2) Increases financial and medical assistance for those most in need,
(3) Protects programs that support the poor and the most vulnerable when budget cuts need to be made.

They support these changes to our justice system in order to ensure equity for all people:
(1) Expand the definition of racism and racial profiling to include cultural and ethnic/religious background as well as skin color,
(2) Support legislation that would oppose racial profiling, extending the definition beyond current "traffic stop" to oppose surveillance in stores, religious gatherings, or in any other setting,
(3) Support legislation that would decrease or eliminate inequities in criminal sentencing legislation,
(4) Support legislation providing for immigration equity,
(5) Support legislation to maintain equity at our borders, both North and South,
(6) Support legislation against dismantling current legislation providing for an even economic playing field in terms of opportunities and jobs for all,
(7) Oppose legislation that would contribute to the segregation of our people on the basis of culture, ethnicity/religious beliefs, and/or color, e.g. inappropriate zoning laws.
(8) Support legislation that would eliminate racism in all forms in our schools, including dismantling legislation that labels schools and students in areas of high concentrations of racial/ethnic groups as failures. Providing funding that is not limited to property values and supporting any other legislation that would ensure equity in education for all students.
(9) Support legislation that would review our public policies for any racist assumptions they may contain, and to take that racism out. Such policies may include but not be limited to criminal justice, transportation, education, and the environment.

Sexuality, Families and Abuse
They support legislation affirming that adults and children shall live their lives in households free from violence, fear, or abuse in any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual aspects of their relationships.

Of course, Marc Holtzman has told us that the agenda of these churches, which closely mirrors that of politicians like Mayor Hickenlooper of Denver, is simply a "secularist agenda." Funny, I don't recall the title Reverend in stories about him, but that probably just got omitted by the liberal media.


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Buy my stuff or burn in hell! It is so nice to see that the forces of negative advertising are alive and well.

And, of course, a bit ironic, given that the Protestant reformation had its roots in commercial sale of salvation by the Catholic Church (as the Protestants saw it).

Also, does anyone recall the time Jesus got really angry. Something about throwing the merchants out of the Temple. But, hey, clearly they weren't Christian merchants.

I'm just a Prophet, and I expect to die (aka perish) some day, so what do I know?

Eric said...

Thank you for writing this. Isn't it funny, how the historically important churches are now shunted to the side in favor of new religious movements?

The largely conservative, single-issue evangelical/non-denominational/"born again" phenomenon is astounding. More Americans are familiar with the views of Rick Warren's Saddleback Church than the National Cathedral.

For example, most of the denominations on that list signed a statement opposing Proposition 8 in California. The Californian Presbyterian church alone is larger than the Mormon church in CA, but I didn't hear a word about it.

Sigh. That's life, I guess.

Anonymous said...

What about the Christian Left or the Non-Christian Right? Those exist too, you know?