Religion, Money and Politics

The three topics “polite” people avoid are all we’ve been talking about today. It started with a megachurch that meets in a mall. Not just any mall, but the “MegaMall” . The second largest mall in Asia. Apparently the sacred/secular is very common. The que to get into the third service of the day literally snaked around the perimeter of the 5th floor shopping area. As one  (foreign) woman remarked to me, “This is longer than the line at St. Peter’s!” (The one in Rome).
 My husband once remarked that as a Catholic, he could go to mass anywhere in the world and know just what to say, do or sing next.  The megachurch is the next mass. The whole world is singing the same songs (“Lord I LIFT your name on high! Lord, I LOVE to sing your praises!) with a worship band, lead guitarist, and expressive male worship leaders.  Glancing around about a quarter of the congregation were foreign — and we all felt right at home. We all knew what was coming next.
More interesting was what happened at lunch when I talked with two amazing
people. The wife who has worked on behalf of the poor her entire life is taking a lead role in campaigning for a new political party. A party whose entire platform is built around advocacy for the poorest of the poor. This new party, Append, marks a new day for Christian engagement in politics. They have taken a lot of heat for it too. The husband worked as a pastor for 5 years before returning to graduate school for a Master’s in Community Development. Even his former church members wonder why he is “getting his hands dirty” with politics.
My members asked me, why don’t I just focus on the spiritual life? Why should I get involved in changing the laws?” John said. 
His answer is that the poor truly have no one looking out for them. They seem to be disposable at every turn. Living in flood planes that are often underwater, co-habitating and having children without legal protections since even the modest fees of a wedding license ($45 US) are outside the reach of those who are living on < $1/day.  According to John, the church is good at speaking about personal sin but almost entirely silent on societal sin.
So, John is getting his hands dirty, hoping to change some of the laws that might start to change a system. He asks for our prayers- not for himself, but for the poor whom he serves.
John and Marelle don’t know what’s coming next. But I know this for sure: they are singing the Lord’s praises.
The elections are May 13th. They welcome our prayers.

4 thoughts on “Religion, Money and Politics

  1. Bravo for John and his wife. So many of the big issues facing our world-war, militarism, poverty, inequity, environmental destruction- are justice issues,and therefore political issues and therefore really difficult for the Church to address. We can talk about poverty in the Church, but it is difficult to talk about the causes of poverty and inequity without talking about politics. But we need to figure this out. For one thing young people are finding the Church irrelevant.

  2. Ditto to what David said, Laura – bravo to John and Marelle! Sounds like they are quietly plugging away at something God has called them to and will have enormous impacts on several levels. It’s so interesting how we think that social justice issues are not ‘spiritual’! We need to keep hearing stories like this. Thanks for posting and for blogging during what is I’m sure a great, but also jam packed trip! We’ll continue praying!

  3. Some elements of politics are unavoidable, slavery, caste systems etc…, but the reality is that these do not begin with politics, they simply play out through it. If we address the root of such demeaning systems, we can have more effect, beyond just secular manipulation of political strongholds, we can impact the denial of human value which is one of the core elements of humanity’s lostness. The people we deal with on these famous Philippine garbage sites, are often as lost a those who oppress them. The difference is, they may be cognizant of their needs, actually poor in Spirit, in addition to their cultural entrapment.

    • I completely agree Thom. In some ways politicians are the last to be part of the conversation. You’ve probably seen that up close.

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