Today, the ONE campaign is rolling out their ONE Sabbath initiative. As part of the roll-out they invited a bunch of bloggers to hear what they had to say including Matt Lewis from Townhall, Rev. Amy Butler from Calvary Baptist Church and Talk with the Preacher, Lane Hudson from HuffPo, CPS from GreenMountain Politics, and a couple of people from CrossLeft. On the call, there were a number of people whose name I did not catch, but it included Matt Anderson from Mere Orthodoxy and someone from Street Prophets.
Regular readers will know that I am pretty supportive of the ONE campaign on religious and international policy reasons. They have a great mission. They recognize that social change happens in the US by getting the buy-in of churches. Mark Brinkmoeller, their head of Coalitions, made the point quite clear that all progress in civil rights came from the churches. He is completely correct, and his background at explicitly religious groups like Bread for the World demonstrates a great model for accomplishing this kind of thing.
Mark made the argument quite well. And, unlike one of the first ONE blogger meetings, the bigots at Firedoglake weren’t there to bash believers. But something was strange. Secular and faith groups don’t know how to talk to each other. Every church that I have ever attended has an "Invitation to Give" in which the congregation is asked to open their wallets to help others. Missionaries come through asking for support and telling their stories. And in most cases –the only major exception that I know of is some people at the Southern Baptist’s International Missionary Board — the missionaries focus more on service than evangelism.
Getting churchy people to focus on poverty is like asking the fish in the water to swim. They are already doing it. My church runs an after-school program for poor DC kids 4 days a week, runs a day program once-a-week for chronically mentally ill, works with a whole bunch of DC groups to serve the needy in the region, founded the first women’s homeless shelter in DC in the 70s and still supports it, etc. And we give money to a bunch of international missionary groups.
Therefore, it is not surprising that most of the early ONE members came through their church partners. The people that I have met on the ground in early primary states have all been religious. If a movement comes together on ONE, it will be because religious people off all stripes and ideologies, the mainstream of America, mobilizes.
Will this drive the numbers on this? Will they change the priorities of Americans on this? What are the trade-offs? Do they need to just find more activists? Or do they need to really change the values and ideas of Americans on these issues? Those are different objectives. I don’t know which the ONE campaign really wants.