Lets work together in 2013
As the new year and the fiscal cliff approach, various groups are calling for a solution which makes sure that changes do not occur that make the elderly and the poor worse off. Sadly, these groups do not talk to each other. As a Catholic Progressive, I am issuing a call for us to work together.
In the Catholic community, the Campaign for Human Development works for social justice - both within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and within parishes. While there is some diocesan activity, some bishops are better than others. Likewise, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association are players (with a close access to the President on poverty issues and health care).
There is also a large group of progressive Catholics who either are not concerned with what the organized Church is doing, even if they go to Mass weekly (I would be one of those) - or else they simply don't attend frequently - often because they disagree with the Church over sex (including the abuse of minors, its stand on birth control and even personal sexual sin and the ordination of women, gays and married people). Even then, these voters still take comfort in the belief in a personal relationship with God, even if they do not gather for worship as frequently as their more orthodox brethren. (As far as the Orthodox themselves, I am unsure of their politics on social issues).
On the Protestant side, there are mainline denominations of a more liberal bent or with an emerging liberal base, as well as the Emerging Church Movement which also is a more liberal brand of the Evangelical Church. Most importantly, the African American Church is strongly liberal on economic issues.
Then there are the non-Christian Churches, many of whom are strongly liberal on economic issues - from the Buddhists to the Jewish Community.
All of these groups share some degree of commitment to community activism and public charity to the poor. The Buddhists believe strongly in compassion and Torah and the prophets speak of a strong core belief in public systems to help the poor and the bad consequences on a nation that ignores these teachings. Both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel were exiled for this reason, according to scripture.
Secularists, also known as atheists, also bring something to the party. Indeed, the social service structure now under threat exists largely because the labor movement, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party were perceived as a threat to capitalism. Now that this threat is no longer apparent, with labor safely in decline, questions of religion and belief are used to divide labor from believers - especially on the abortion and gay rights issues (although there is an emerging group of Christians who are now very friendly to gay marriage and doubt the wisdom of governmental action to stop abortion, even if they are personally against it).
People of faith should not fear secularists, as many of them are opposed to religion for the same reason many Catholics no longer attend Mass on a weekly basis, because it is seen as corrupt and a tool of the ruling class. This is not a new view. Anti-clericalism has a long history in Catholic countries, especially where bishops make life worse for the poor.
The opposition to gay marriage and fixation on abortion without actually offering any program to stop it are just the latest act in a long history of the hierarchy of the Church supporting the rich and shameless who give them money. Recognizing this, secularists, atheists and Marxists should realize that some of their strongest potential allies are among those who go to Church, even those of us who go every week.
There is little danger of any comprehensive solution to the Fiscal Cliff happening in the next two days - more likely the parties that be will kick the can down the road on most issues. The enemies of the poor - the CEOs who sponsor Fix the Debt - will keep fighting. If we wish to counter them, and even find ways to use tax reform to shift ownership and control from the CEO/Investor class to rank and file workers, then we must work together - and soon. History is not necessarily inevitable given how adaptable capitalism is. People of Care, Unite!