I’ve carped about the failure of the mainline religious denominations to speak to the daily realities of working people in the United States for so long that when I start those who have heard me before tune out. I don’t get as acerbic as some do, but I’m glad others who share this concern cut through the clutter and get down to the point. Joe Bageant does.
In an essay on the BBC today he explains why “Rednecks May Rule the World.” I’ve spoken with Joe and exchanged ideas about this common concern. He gets it. And he explains it better than anyone writing in the media today. You may find him too sharp and, perhaps, too honest.
Never the less, the failure of progressives to speak the language of working people and to understand their values while also displaying a haughty aloofness from them is not merely politically costly. It’s classist and, in the case of mainstream theology, unfaithful.
For those in the Methodist tradition which rests on the willingness of John Wesley to step out of the pulpit of his Anglican parish and go to the coalfields of Birmingham to preach to miners, and who also organized study groups for poor people who were left out of England’s Industrial Revolution, it’s also a betrayal of their history.
That the church has not been outspoken as working class folks lost their jobs, are exploited by usurious credit, see public education go down the drain is frustrating. We’ve wrung our hands but not been outraged at the rising number of uninsured. We’ve protested the war that takes a greater number of working kids because they see greater opportunity in the military than in the job market at home, but…well the list goes on and on. It makes clear how little the church has to say to working people and the working poor.
If, in this context, Bageant seems outraged, it’s more than understandable. It’s justified.