The political left (read Democrats) rolled out road shows in black and white this past week to advertise their program for courting the strong bloc of "values" voters. Dems see no reason to concede these folks to the Republican Party, so they're out to explain to people of faith why the Lord loves big government.
The black version, which took place in Dallas, was focused on a target audience of black clergy, and headlined by the usual line-up, including the Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Joseph Lowery.
The white version, convened in Washington, was sponsored by the Sojourners, led by the Rev. Jim Wallis. This, also a clergy focused event, had hundreds in attendance from all over the country, and included speeches by Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republicans Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback.
Wallis' Sojourners call themselves "progressive evangelicals."
"Progressive" is the new term Democratic spinmeisters have come up with to try and shed the politically deadly baggage that the "liberal" label has become.
It's the political equivalent of the automobile companies transforming old, recycled "used" cars into elegant and prestigious "pre-owned" cars.
"Progressive" sounds so cool and modern. But, when we listen to the message, whether in black or in white, we discover the same old clunker behind the sexy new label.
Identical, politically choreographed messages defined both the Washington and Dallas events, and both were a pure re-hash of everything we have learned over the last 50 years that not only doesn't work, but actually makes things worse.
The lefties ("progressives") want "social justice" (eliminate poverty, social and economic inequality) as opposed to the focus on "personal morality" that they say the right wing "bible thumpers" want to focus exclusively on (abortion, gay marriage).
Now I reject claims that homosexual behavior is genetic. But I am beginning to believe that liberalism is. If being a liberal is not genetic, how else can one explain a complete inability to learn from history and a total incapacity to connect dots?
Might it not be possible that Americans are concerned because abortion (1.2 million last year _ 38 percent black), promiscuity and family breakdown (one third of all babies in America now born to unwed mothers), in addition to being morally repugnant, are major problems that threaten our society?
And might it not be possible that these problems are a direct result of a mindset, a "progressive" mindset unleashed in the 1960s (which, ironically, Howard Dean announced at the Sojourners conference that he wants to "enter again") that marginalized and minimized personal responsibility and traditional personal standards of behavior? It was indeed the very argument that personal standards are relative and not relevant to our public life that served as the rationale for the Roe v. Wade decision.
Literally trillions of dollars have been spent since the 1960s to address poverty, both in the United States and in developing countries, in exactly the manner that Revs. Wallis, Sharpton, and Jackson suggest we should continue doing today. That is, to cast poverty not as something that individuals rise above and out of, but as something that bureaucrats spend other people's money on to eliminate.
The result, after trillions spent, has been negligible results and massive social costs. The so-called "progressives" are really "regressives." For reasons that I cannot explain, they want to return to a well traveled path to nowhere.
On the other hand, what is quite clear is that the likelihood of a black child in the United States living in poverty is five times higher if that child is living in a home headed by a single parent than in one headed by married parents. It is also true that the incidence of child poverty in homes headed by married parents is virtually no different between blacks and whites.
We can look to the Europeans to see how Rev. Wallis' and Rev. Sharpton's progressive agenda works. France and Germany sit with double digit unemployment rates, massive red ink from welfare state obligations, and fertility rates so low that their overall populations are shrinking.
The beauty of a free country is that we can choose to interpret the bible as we wish. However, if indeed there is a truth, and anyone of faith must conclude that there is, time will tell who is right.
My take on scripture puts individual responsibility front and center and says that the quality of our lives directly reflects how we choose to live our lives. Rev. Sharpton wants to continue to insist that "The problems in our community have been systematic and because of structural problems within the system."
The black left has dominated black life and thinking for the last 50 years. Black family life is, on average, in much worse shape today than 50 years ago and black poverty persists.
Our Lord is merciful and forgiving. But surely we should not expect infinite patience. We have some responsibility to learn from the errors of our ways. I think those errors are pretty clear. It is time to get some real work done, one human being at a time.