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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005 01:55 am

Ministering, not preaching

Democrats need to learn the right lessons from evangelicals

All of the pundits and consultants are unanimous these days about what Democratic Party candidates must do to gain political favor: emulate Republicans by wearing religion (specifically Christianity) on their sleeves, making alliances with evangelical churches, and openly engaging in “faith politics!” The pundits and consultants are, of course, wrong. Yes, professing one’s heartfelt spiritual beliefs can be a positive thing to share with voters, and Democrats will put themselves on particularly strong turf by expressing their political vision and goals in terms of Jesus’s own values of economic and social justice. But it’s totally wrong to think that faith talk and photo ops with evangelicals will be enough to convert people to the Democratic cause. Such shallow, quick-fix thinking misunderstands what goes on inside those megachurches that are home to millions of evangelical Christians — including millions of lower-income working-class folks who logically should be Democrats. While the pundits and consultants focus on the preaching inside such churches, the congregations themselves are filled with people who go because of the ministering that the churches provide. Most Americans these days are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, and they sense that no one in power — political or corporate — gives a damn about them. In many of the megachurches, however, they find a community that not only says “We care” but also offers material needs that make a difference, including child care, legal help, job searches, housing assistance, dental work, and language classes. Labor unions used to fill this social void, as did many of the Democratic Party’s big-city political machines of old, delivering real service and earning true loyalty in return. The Democratic Party’s future rests not in preaching, but in ministering — actually delivering the goods to help the hard-hit, workaday majority of folks who need them.
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