Daphne Holmes: Prison Reform holds Key to a More Peaceful Society

Guest Post by Daphne Holmes

While some believe inmates languish in luxurious settings, with too many creature comforts, prison reformers paint a much bleaker picture of the conditions plaguing inmates in federal and state corrections facilities. Penalties like solitary confinement, for example, are seen as inhumane and ill-suited for rehabilitating criminals.

Wherever you stand on prison reform, it is hard to deny a link between the way we function as a society on the outside, and the way we mete out punishment for those serving time on the inside.  Compassion and empathy are central to human interactions outside prison walls, so they should also play roles in the way inmates are rehabilitated. Until we establish effective programs to break the cycles of crime and recidivism, natural order will continue to be elusive on the streets.  Viewed in this light, prison reform holds real potential for supporting a more peaceful society.

Balance is Essential to effective Corrections Policy

Corrections systems are tasked with protecting law-abiding citizens from harm, by incarcerating offenders.  But the system is also responsible to maintain a balancing act between punishment and rehabilitation, which are not always administered equitably.  The best outcomes are seen when prisoners have opportunities to better themselves, so that positive contributions to society become distinct possibilities for those committed to legitimacy once they are released. Continue reading

It’s time to end homelessness

By Alan Bean

Nobody is a fan of homelessness, but we’ve learned to live with it.  We are most adept at living with it.

I will never forget my first encounter with homelessness.  I was visiting Washington DC with my wife and three children in the late 1980s.  We were walking through a park en route to the Mall and the kids were amusing themselves with a game of hide and seek.  As my daughter Lydia searched for her brother Adam, she happened upon a large square piece of opaque plastic lying on the grass.  Thinking her brother might hiding under there, she lifted up the plastic sheet and discovered an old man fast asleep.  He had obviously spent the night sleeping in the park.

I had spent most of the early 1980s in Canada or in isolated places like Glenrock, Wyoming, so I had no idea what was going on.  I rememb.ered speaking to a weeping nun in Louisville Kentucky when I worked as a social worker at a mental hospital.  She told me that federal funding for mental health services was being cut back and soon there would be nowhere for people to go but to the streets.  The woman was inconsolable with grief.  This was in 1980, before Ronald Reagan had worked his magic on the safety net.

As I looked down at the sleeping old man under the plastic in a Washington park, I realized what the sister was talking about.  Frankly, I was horrified.  I was also embarrassed to be living in a country that tolerated such horrors.

But I got used to it. Continue reading

The Beast and the Border

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The Beast

By Alan Bean

Mike Seifert works with poor immigrant families, documented and otherwise, in the Rio Grande Valley.  The story he tells below hasn’t received a lot of attention in the mainstream media, fact that is significant in itself.  A border patrol agent kidnapped, raped and attempted to kill three Honduran women who were attempting to surrender.  This happened in Seifert’s back yard.

No one is saying that the agent responsible for this outrage is typical of the men and women we employ to guard the border.  But when you hire vast numbers of people in a hurry you don’t get the brightest and the best.  When government officials keep telling you to hire 100 more agents, you do the best you can, but you can’t be choosy.  Hence, what happened to these Honduran women is a direct consequence of a failed immigration policy.

Please read Father Seifert’s entire post.

The Beast

By Mike Seifert

Several times a day, a train rumbles through our neighborhood. Johnny Cash may sing wistfully about the lonesome locomotive’s whistle, but there is nothing romantic about this train’s horn. The blasts come every few seconds as the long line of boxcars pass churches, parks and schools. The constant racket of the rails is a reminder of how much international commerce flows through Brownsville.

This is the same train that immigrants from Central America and southern Mexico take to get to the US border. The migrants call the train “La Bestia” (the Beast), no doubt for the horrific accidents and deaths that often happen to those who choose to ride the rails.  People fall from the train; people are thrown from the train. The amputations and the deaths are well-documented, and the rail line offers a daily chronicle of nightmares. A Beast indeed.

Once, years ago, while visiting Honduras, I rode The Beast myself. I had clambered up on the roof for the absolutely inexcusable reason of wanting to have the experience.  It was a terrifying few moments, as there was not much in the way of handholds. After a very short while, I crawled down the side of the car and back inside. I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t stand up. Continue reading

This brand of conservatism might win my vote

By Alan Bean

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Andrew Bacevich and blurry colleagues

Andrew Bacevich could easily be dismissed as a liberal.  He is a political scientist who teaches at Boston University, and  he has been a persistent and outspoken critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He thinks abortion and gay marriage are part of the American landscape and should be accepted as such.  He isn’t in favor of gutting the American welfare system.

But Bacevich is a conservative and a Republican, just not the kind whose star is currently in the ascendancy.  That is, he is a conservative and he is a Republican; but he’s not what is commonly understood as a conservative Republican.

Bacevich is a fiscal conservative.  He believes America needs to get its fiscal house in order–but he thinks the cuts should come from our bloated military and our alphabet soup of national security agencies, not from programs that help the poor.

Bacevich is also a social conservative.  A devout Roman Catholicm he believes the family is the primary building block of American society, and he thinks the family is in serious trouble.  In his view, the problem isn’t that gays are getting married; it’s that straights aren’t staying married.  But we won’t solve the problem by preaching personal responsibility; we’ve got to create jobs that pay a living wage.

Bacevich, in other words, wouldn’t feel comfortable among most Republicans I know or among most Democrats; he represents the kind of third-way thinking that I have long advocated. Continue reading

“We’re not about Hispanic history” . . . or maybe we are

By Alan Bean

Houston Independent School District just voted in favor of teaching Mexican-American Studies in district schools.  The vote was unanimous.  As the article below indicates, HISD intends to petition the Texas State Board of Education to make Mexican-American studies part of the statewide curriculum.

This suggestion will be strenuously opposed since it flies in the face of recent SBOE precedent.  Pat Hardy, a state board member representing parts of Tarrant and Parker Counties, summed up the prevailing attitude when she said,

“We’re not about Hispanic history; we’re about American history,” Hardy said. “We’re not about taking each little group out and saying, ‘You’re the majority, so we’re going to teach your history.’ We’re Americans, United States people.”

 

Hardy’s “We’re Americans” appeal may reflect the fact that she is facing a strong challenge from a Tea Party candidate, but this perspective has controlled the ideological playing field in the Lone Star State for decades.   Continue reading

Our silence is driving Millennials out of the Church

By Alan Bean

David Gushee, a theologian and ethicist who teaches at the McAfee School of Theology, struck a nerve when he suggested that moderate Baptists with roots in the Southern Baptist Convention could benefit from a statement of faith.

Bill Leonard, my esteemed church history professor, asks which of the many Baptist statements of faith we would use.

Others worry that creeds have traditionally been used to patrol the borders of acceptable belief, drawing a line between us and them.

Finally, with all the theological diversity evident within moderate (and immoderate) Baptist life, how could we agree on language that was acceptable to everybody.  What’s the old joke: when you have four Baptists you have five opinions. Continue reading

World Vision and the evangelical protection racket

By Alan Bean

The old protection racket has been featured in hundreds of gangster movies.  “Nice business you got here,” the mafia drone tells the owner of the corner grocery, “it’d be a real shame if something terrible were to happen to it.”

Message: “Pay us $250 a month or we will ensure that something terrible does happen.”

The evangelical protection racket works on the same crude principle .  Orthodox racketeers condemn the sin of homosexuality from the rooftops.  But they understand that the orthodox message is a bit too close to the Fred Phelps franchise for some evangelicals.  Some prominent evangelicals may know GLBT people too well to buy the demonizing chatter.  In fact, there are leading evangelicals with gay children.  Left to themselves, these leaders might send mixed messages and confuse the faithful, so a way must be found to silence them.

To make a protection racket work you must be willing to follow through.  The slightest deviation from the party line must be punished swiftly and without remorse.  If the corner grocer refuses to pay up he gets a rock through the window and a follow-up visit.

If a pastor, Christian author, or parachurch ministry (say, World Vision) has the temerity to hint that gay or lesbian people might be children of God in good standing, something really terrible will happen.

World Vision is a ministry of compassion that gives desperately poor children and their families food, shelter, and a path out of poverty and oppression.  On Monday their president announced that the US side of the organization would henceforth be hiring qualified gay and lesbian applicants living in committed relationships.  World Vision wasn’t endorsing gay marriage or signing off on “the gay lifestyle”; they just said the ban on hiring would be lifted because the standing policy was creating pain within parts of World Vision’s diverse constituency. Continue reading

Fred Clark: Satanic baby-killers have destroyed American Christianity

By Alan Bean
Fred Clark is the best Christian blogger in the world.  Well, at least he’s my favorite Christian blogger.  He may be American evangelicalism’s harshest critic, largely because he grew up in the belly of the beast and knows how these people think and feel.  He’s not some out of touch liberal bashing a culture he doesn’t understand; he grew up in this world and, to a large extent, never left.  Fred doesn’t enjoy bashing evangelicals . . . well, maybe he does, but for the very best reasons.

In this piece, Clark explains why pro-life politics has become such a big deal for a group that, prior to 1980, believed abortion was a regrettable fact of life that should be legally protected.

Satanic baby-killers have destroyed American Christianity

The greatest danger of someone like Fred Phelps, Amethyst Marie writes, is that ”Phelps and others like him let us believe that being better than them is good enough.”

That’s what I’ve sometimes called “Melon morality” — from Rodney Dangerfield’s character in Back to School, who said, “If you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people.”

And if you want to look righteous, you compare yourself to the most evilest evildoers you can imagine: Satanic baby-killers.

Compare yourself to Satanic baby-killers and you can think of yourself as being righteous without having to do anything at all. No need to do anything difficult. No need to love anyone. No need to seek justice or to risk anything in speaking out against injustice. You can just sit there, content, complacent,superior. You know you’re good because, after all, you’re so much better than the Satanic baby-killers.

Alas, the initial self-righteous buzz of smug satisfaction from this comparison quickly begins to fade. To maintain that intoxicating reassurance of your own goodness you will need to make this Melon morality structural. You will need to reshape your politics, your religion and your culture to fortify and perpetually reinforce this constant comparison. You will need to rebuild and reconstitute all of these things around this one central fact: Your moral superiority to the Satanic baby-killers.

But wait — do such Satanic baby-killers really exist? Doubts may creep in. Shout them down. Silence any voices and any thoughts that might cause you to question the Satanic monstrosity of the evil other. Never allow any questions that could cause you to waver from the certainty and the conviction that the baby-killers are killing babies because killing babies is what baby-killers do.

This man will show you how it’s done.

This woman right here? Believes in killing babies. That man believes in killing babies. That woman over there, that woman over there, that woman right there, that woman right there, believes in killing babies. That is against the law of God.

 

It is against the law of man, of “Thou shalt not kill.” When a man — when a husband and wife come together — life begins at conception. You ask me why these people are holding signs? I’m gonna teach you. They want to kill babies.

He knows he’s better than those evil Satanic baby-killers. “They want to kill babies.” He does not want to “kill babies.” Therefore, he is better than them. Therefore, he is good. Therefore, his life must mean … something, something more than the torture of restlessness and vague desire, the quiet desperation, the receding echo of distant voices singing of a better self and a better world. He knows he doesn’t need a better self because he is already better — better than the Satanic baby-killers.

He is not alone.

That same idea has become the central organizing principle of evangelical Christianity in America. Forget the etymology of those terms. Evangelical Christianity is no longer about the message of good news or about Christ. It is about being better than the Satanic baby-killers. That is the core of evangelical identity. That is the one essential tenet of white evangelicalism that cannot and must not ever be questioned. See those people over there? They want to kill babies. We do not want to kill babies. We are better than them.

And yet it doesn’t work. Not even after demolishing and rebuilding our entire religion, church and faith around this central principle of our moral superiority to these supposed Satanic baby-killers.

It can never work, because no matter how hard we try, we can never wholly forget that being “better than” someone else is never good enough. Our desperate quest to find some extravagant evil other with whom we can compare ourselves favorably will always end with the hollow recognition that such comparisons cannot satisfy. Reassuring ourselves that we are “not as bad as” someone else will always seem empty because it doesn’t address the ever-present sense that we are not as good as we ought to be or as we are capable of becoming.

Becoming better, though, is hard. So instead of working at that, we set out to imagine others as ever worse — as not just worse than us, but as superlatively evil. Thus the central focus on Satanic baby-killers, and the steady stream of accompanying Hitler analogies.

C.S. Lewis warned us that this could only end badly:

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

That’s from Mere Christianity — perhaps the most popular book by the most popular author among American evangelicals. But as much as they cherish and revere Lewis and his book, American evangelicals have emphatically rejected that advice. And they have failed that test.

American evangelicalism has been reshaped and redefined as precisely the thing that Lewis warned against — a never-ending quest for “the sheer pleasure of thinking [our] enemies are as bad as possible.”

“They want to kill babies.” It doesn’t matter that this is not true — that this is false witness borne against our neighbors. The only thing that matters is how it feels to imagine what it would mean if it were true — the “sheer pleasure” of being able to tell ourselves that others’ supposed wickedness somehow constitutes righteousness on our part.

That is the process that has made us into devils.

Continue reading

Collins: Milquetoast liberal religion won’t challenge conservative values: a history lesson

By Alan Bean

From the time of the Niebuhr brothers, the social gospel has been getting a bad rap.  In his the Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr issued this withering characterization of American-style liberalism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Ouch!

Sheila Collins doesn’t necessarily reject Niebuhr’s assessment, but she thinks the social gospel got a lot of things right, laid the foundation for the New Deal activism that brought America out of the great depression and provided much of the theology that galvanized the civil rights movement.

If she had to choose between a social gospel and the tepid bromides currently emanating from Protestant liberal pulpits, Ms. Collins would take the social gospel every time.  Please give her argument the attention it deserves and tell us what you think.

Milquetoast Liberal Religion Won’t Challenge Conservative Values: A History Lesson

By SHEILA D. COLLINS

Congress’s year-end slashing of food stamps and refusal to extend unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million people whose benefits were about to expire are just some of the latest examples of the heartless approach to poverty and unemployment that characterizes contemporary policy making. Not only have millions of the long-term unemployed started the New Year with no safety net, but many of those with full-time jobs earn less than the poverty level for a family of four (18 million people in 2012 or 17.5 percent of all full-time, year-round workers).

It was not always like this. There was a time in our history when the poor and unemployed experienced a more compassionate government. During the Great Depression the federal government not only provided safety nets in the form of relief, food aid, public housing, mortgage assistance, unemployment insurance, and farm aid, but more significantly, it undertook a series of job-creation programs that gave back to millions of unemployed workers and their families precisely what the Depression had taken from them—the opportunity to support themselves with dignity.

The jobs provided by the New Deal made it possible for them to put their broken lives back together again while they waited for the private economy to recover. Moreover, these jobs contributed invaluably to the building of the nation’s infrastructure, to the conservation and preservation of its natural resources, to its national culture and to the soul of its people.

So how is it that the 1930s approach to poverty and unemployment was such a far cry from the cruel indifference we see today? There are a number of reasons, among them the fact that when Roosevelt took office, conditions were far more desperate for a far larger segment of the population than they were when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. This was, ironically, thanks in part to the very reforms like unemployment and food stamps that the New Deal had established.

More importantly, however, the New Deal’s approach to economic distress was shaped by the kind of people Roosevelt appointed to deal with the crisis. These weren’t economic technocrats with Wall Street ties, like those appointed by contemporary presidents, but people who had come of age in the progressive era and who’d been imbued with the values of the Social Gospel. Many had direct experience working with the poor and unemployed in the urban settlement houses of the time.

Social Gospelers emphasized the ethical teachings of Jesus and sought the Kingdom of God through the transformation of the socioeconomic structures of society. Intensely critical of capitalism, they sought a more egalitarian and democratic society, some espousing one or another variant of socialism. By 1908 the Social Gospel movement had succeeded in penetrating the institutional structures of the churches with a “Social Creed” that was adopted by the mainline denominations.

Anticipating by three or four decades many of the reforms enacted in New Deal legislation, the Social Creed called for the alleviation of Sunday working hours, the abolition of child labor, a living wage, the negotiation and arbitration of labor disputes, social security for workers in old age, disability insurance, poverty reduction, and a fairer distribution of wealth. According to Gary Dorrien in Social Ethics in the Making (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), the Social Gospel movement, though often “sentimental, moralistic, idealistic and politically naïve,” nevertheless “produced a greater progressive religious legacy than any generation before or after it,” paving the way for everything else in social ethics.

Faced with mass unemployment, social workers-turned-government administrators like Harry Hopkins, head of Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration, and his assistant, Aubrey Williams, held the view that unemployment was caused by a lack of jobs, not by the failure of the unemployed to seek or accept work, which was the view (supported by the teaching of classical and neo-classical economists) on which the nation’s existing poor law system was based.

The belief that joblessness is the fault of the jobless has returned today in the assumption, shared by most Republicans, that the unemployed can be prodded into getting a job by the withdrawal of the “crutch” that extended unemployment insurance supposedly provides. Many liberal Democrats share a less pejorative variant of this belief, of course, attributing joblessness to a “skills mismatch,” lack of education and training, or the excessive demands of unions, all of which place the onus for unemployment on the victims instead of an economic system that fails to deliver enough jobs—in good times and bad.

Religious bodies follow suit. Instead of organizing their constituencies to reverse this assault on the poor and unemployed, they dole out charity. However well motivated, providing soup kitchens and homeless shelters can never meet all of the need; but more importantly, it doesn’t do anything to confront the psychological and moral devastation faced by those without the prospect of meaningful, self-supporting work.

Putting America to Work

The underlying logic of the New Deal was that society had an obligation to offer aid to persons denied the opportunity to be self-supporting. Hopkins, in particular, favored jobs programs over relief or “welfare,” although relief was to be available to those who couldn’t work. For New Dealers, the goal was to close the economy’s job gap, not to correct the supposed moral failings of jobless individuals or to put pressure on them to seek and accept work when there wasn’t any.

The most obvious strategy was to use public funds to create jobs, which the New Dealers did in two ways. The first was to increase federal funding for public works contracted with private companies. Over its seven-year life, the Public Works Administration (PWA) awarded contracts to build more than 70% of the nation’s new educational buildings, 65% of its courthouses, city halls, and sewage-disposal plants; 35% of its new public-health facilities; 10% of all of new roads, bridges, tunnels and subways, in addition to large dams, airports and recreational facilities. The first effort to provide affordable housing for the working poor was undertaken by the PWA.

The second approach was to establish public employment programs for needy workers in which the government itself acted as the employer. The creation of these new jobs then stimulated job creation in the private sector by increasing both consumer purchasing power and capital goods orders.

While conservatives frequently accused these programs of being useless “make-work,” a waste of taxpayers’ money, the reality is just the opposite. Useful work which would not otherwise have been done literally changed the face of the country and provided a lasting legacy. Workers built and repaired 1 million miles of roads and 200,000 public facilities—including schools, playgrounds, courthouses, parks and athletic fields, swimming pools, dams, bridges, and airports—drained malarial swamps, eradicated malaria, and exterminated rats in slums. They planted over 3 billion trees, essentially reforesting a country whose original forest cover had been decimated, taught farmers how to conserve soil after nearly one-sixth of the nation’s topsoil had blown away in the Dust Bowl, reseeded a large part of the Great Plains, restored wildlife and built a system of over 800 state and county parks.

They electrified an entire region of the country, bringing what had been America’s “Third World” up to 20th century standards. They created works of art, gave concerts, set up theaters throughout the country, ran nursery schools, served over 1.2 billion school lunches to needy children, gave immunizations, taught illiterate adults to read and write, conducted surveys of economic, social and geophysical conditions, collected forgotten pieces of the nation’s heritage like the slave narratives, and wrote state guidebooks—classics that are still in use, providing invaluable material for historians and writers. They sewed 383 million coats, overalls, dresses and other garments, and, using surplus cotton, made more than a million mattresses that were given to destitute families, as were the garments.

These work programs weren’t perfect. Enacted on an ad hoc basis they were temporary emergency measures—and the number of people they could employ was limited by political opposition and the fear of government deficits. Moreover, the racial and gender discrimination of the time, enforced by Southern Democratic control of key committee chairmanships, limited their capacity to reach everyone who needed work.

Nevertheless, beyond the material benefits to the nation, these programs brought hope, a sense of purpose and dignity, and a feeling of national unity and pride to millions of people who had been beaten down and deeply stressed. They were a manifestation, however limited, of the “Kingdom of God” the Social Gospelers had preached about, and they showed a nation steeped in an ideology of individualism that government could alleviate problems beyond the scope of the private sector.

Near the end of World War II, President Roosevelt, fresh from the experience of the Great Depression and having seen how economic desperation had led to fascism in Germany, called for an Economic Bill of Rights that began with the guarantee of what he subsequently referred to as the “paramount right”—the right to living-wage work that would “earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”

In addition, he called for the right to decent housing, adequate medical care, good education, adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment, and freedom from unfair competition and monopoly power. Unfortunately, Roosevelt’s untimely death, the military industrial complex that emerged from the war, and the failure of organized liberals to place job creation at the top of the agenda doomed this proposal to failure.

The Rise of Timid Religion

By the end of the war, those who’d been inspired by the Social Gospel—those who’d seen poverty and unemployment up close—were no longer in charge of the government. In the liberal churches and seminaries the Social Gospel gave way to Christian realism and neo-orthodoxy with some liberals during the Cold War even turning to neoconservatism. With a private economy booming as a result of the new markets opened up by the Marshall Plan and deferred domestic demand, the specter of mass unemployment no longer loomed, though unemployment would continue to be a chronic problem.

Even in the boom years of the 1960s there were twice as many job-seekers as there were jobs. And despite the 1963 March on Washington which had called for “jobs and freedom” and Dr. King’s call for a “Poor Peoples’ Campaign,” with his death the moral traction for economic justice was aborted.

But did that moral traction have to die with King? Why, at this pivotal moment was there no prophetic religious movement to carry his banner forward? There may be several answers. Certainly, the assassinations, the political trials and the ongoing Vietnam War had a traumatizing effect on the nation. In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador, 2008) Naomi Klein wrote that when traumatizing events like these happen, capital rushes in to take advantage of the crisis to restructure the economy in favor of the radical free market. It was this period—the end of the 1960s and early 1970s—when the business community embarked on a war of ideas to take back the country from the “radicals” who had been undermining faith in the free market.

One of their targets for conversion was the country’s religious leadership. Using both the carrot (invitations to all-expenses paid weekend retreats where the values of laissez-faire were extolled) and the stick (the establishment of religious fronts like the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) among others that targeted liberals and progressives in the mainline denominations), they succeeded in both enabling the rise of a militantly political religious right and in weakening if not destroying whatever was left of the Social Gospel in the mainline denominations and their ecumenical bodies.

The liberal churches were ill-equipped to counter this assault on their values. Some time during the post-war dominance of the New Deal coalition they had given up the prophetic edge to a politics that sought accommodation within a liberal status quo. They would lobby the government on issues of “fairness,” seeking more funds for poverty alleviation or affordable housing, or, as they are doing today, for an extension of unemployment insurance or a raise in the minimum wage, but they dare not question the underlying structures that create poverty or homelessness or long-term unemployment. The more they were targeted by the Right for even these liberal aspirations, the more timid and uninspiring they became. In the liberal pews there is rarely a naming of the “principalities and powers” that now dominate our landscape. Is it any wonder that according to a recent Pew Research poll, millennials today have fewer attachments to traditional political or religious institutions than any other generation in the last quarter century?

With no movement like the Social Gospel to develop the ideas that could carry us into a new millennium and inspire young people with the idealism that the people, working through their government, could create a more humane social order, the stage was set for the triumph of the business counterrevolution with its ruthless privatizations, its wholesale destruction of democracy and the environment, and a return to the days of the Poor Law.

In the progressive era the banner for economic justice had been carried by the Social Gospel movement with its belief in the redemption of the sociopolitical order, a message inspiring enough to set the stage for some of the most significant reforms this nation has ever seen. We could use more of that alleged political naiveté today.