Since retiring two years ago, I have had the pleasure of making friends with folks in society I was distant from: homeless, poor, mentally impaired, seniors alone in life, uninsured, to mention a few.
As I reflect on these friendships I am coming to see religion in America in a different light. While speaking of being a "church of God," actions more and more identify the American church as a Church of Capitalism.
Individual churches and followers can decide how much or little this is true for them, but the pattern is clear. As I am most familiar with Christianity, I will share what I see there. However, other Americanized churches are not immune.
The Christian church and followers in America are visible protesting and active in politics regarding abortion and homosexuality. I am not going to debate the merits of their arguments here. But, while homosexuality and abortion were common during Jesus' time, he prioritized those so low that he did not even mention them as being worthy of discussion. The issues Jesus did prioritize high receive no protests or political interest from the American Capitalism Church today. In fact, they are viewed with indifference at best and often with scorn.
The church and followers are silent about the poor and say nothing to politicians about cutting assistance for programs like food stamps. They are silent about cuts to children programs like Head Start. They are silent, supporting cuts through their silence, to programs like Meals on Wheels for the elderly, needy and mentally impaired. They support gun advocates who talk about needing mental health addressed while promoting the demise of the Affordable Care Act. There are protests against healthcare for the uninsured calling for killing the Affordable Care Act while being silent on alternative suggestions to solve the problem.
Where is the church advocacy for health care coverage to support human dignity? I see church and follower protests, anger and hate for others and encouragement for politicians in support of hate, but there is silence from the American Capitalism Church regarding love and respect for every person, whether or not their perspectives on some life choices are different.
I see churches becoming more like businesses and less like advocates of Jesus' priorities. They seek followers who are customers. Customers are focused on what they get. To attract customers they focus on providing better entertainment, a weekly and seasonal energy fix, or ego and superiority boost, an assortment of social activities, et cetera.
Why are churches quiet about the priorities of their spiritual leader? To be a Church of Capitalism you must follow the rules of capitalism. Customers come first.
Churches are people and they deserve all they can get and keep. Power is a priority. Politics is a source of power so embrace it, no matter how it influences your perspective.
Why are churches quiet about the poor, sick, uninsured, children, mentally impaired and elderly without families? Asking their customers to prioritize their time, money and voices for the welfare of people like this may take from their experience and alienate them. Hate creates energy and enthusiasm and plays into the feeling of customers being better then others. Good customer service is a must.
This is not about criticizing a theology. It is about where the church and followers choose to be silent and who is setting the priorities. Are priorities set by an economic system, a political party or the priorities of God? The poor, sick, elderly, children and mentally impaired are devoting their energy and resources to survival. They lack respect fueled by hurtful rhetoric, so when they do speak, they are not heard. Issues such as health problems and the lack of a permanent address disenfranchises them from the voting booth. Isn't it supposed to be the voice of God speaking up for them, or has the voice of God in America been replaced by a church restructuring?
Rezek, of St. Albans, is a retired meteorologist.