FrontPage Mag | Mark D. Tooley | Dec. 28, 2007
The financially and demographically struggling National Council of Churches (NCC) is mulling over a new “Social Creed for the 21st Century” that will succinctly articulate its left-leaning political activism. Many of the NCC’s heterodox officials and activist supporters could not affirm traditional Christian theological creeds. For them, political creeds are the desired alternative.
This new creed is supposed to update the Social Creed of 1908 developed by the NCC’s predecessor church council, and which focused on rights for laborers, child labor laws, and old age pensions. The NCC, and its predecessor Federal Council of Churches, were founded by religious and political progressives. Not until the1960’s did far-left radicalism began to displace the NCC’s formerly mainstream liberalism.
“It is not enough to celebrate the centennial of the 1908 social creed,” a Presbyterian drafter told the NCC’s General Assembly in November 2007. “It can strengthen the common witness of our communions on a broad range of social concerns — far broader than in 1908.” NCC officials commonly believe that their declining council can be rejuvenated by new injections of left-wing causes. But the more estranged the NCC politicized officers and staff become from the still largely conservative members of its denominations, the faster the NCC’s decline accelerates.
The recently departed NCC chief the Rev. Bob Edgar, now the new head of Common Cause, supposedly had rescued the New York-based NCC from financial ruin. Temporarily, Edgar had succeeded by gaining left-wing foundation funding for the NCC’s political programs, even as denominational money continued to decline. But eventually, the NCC’s growing addiction to secular left wing dollars could not be sustained. And even the NCC’s board was discomfited by Edgar’s high octane activism. The new NCC chief, the Rev. Michael Livingston, is taking power amid reorganization and staff reductions. According to a report by my colleague Ralph Webb, Livingston warned the NCC’s General Assembly of further turmoil: “It’s been frustrating, the tension, conflict, and we’re surely not beyond that … in the future,” while another NCC official regretted that the NCC “face[s] difficult days ahead.” The new Social Creed will not likely ignite a sufficient revival to restore the NCC to its former prestige.
Supposedly this new Social Creed responds to the “concerns of churches and peoples around our globe.” But actually, it expresses the skewed and statist fixations of left-leaning mainline Protestants in North America. The NCC explained the need for an updated Creed by asserting “some challenges seem greater [than in 1908], as the costs and consequences of war and the persistence of racism meet massive environmental degradation.” In explaining the new Creed, the NCC intoned: “Global warming threatens our very existence; and “divisions of wealth [are] etched along lines of race and gender;” and most people seem resigned to accept the “present shape of our global market system and fail to see that any alternatives may exist.” The NCC claimed that “divisions between the rich and the poor grow wider by the day,” and explained that the Creed was “written in the face of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the danger of additional war in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
The Creed itself demands “employment for all at a family-sustaining living wage, full “economic rights” that are “protected by new governance structures,” greater emphasis on public education, a “de-racialized” criminal justice system, “universal healthcare,” more effective social security, “tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and poor,” “equitable global trade,” “sustainable” and “alternative” energy sources, “mutual security rather than unilateral force,” a “strengthened United Nations, and a “redirection of military spending to more peaceful and productive uses.”
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