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The Next Challenge for ProgressiveChristianity.org

 
I have a PhD in political science with a specialty in Latin American politics. Thirty-five years ago I was both tenured and bored with my specialty. It was also about that time when I first became aware of the terrible threat climate change posed to our planet.

My response was to take all of my retirement savings and invest in alternative energy companies. I concluded then that while capitalism was a major contributor to the climate crisis there was no way out without massive investments in alternative energy companies. It was a decision that at the time made little financial sense, but I was so proud of my companies. I saw them almost like my own children.

Because of these investments, I took advantage of my tenure at the university and focused my study on corporate behavior. I learned about socially responsible investing where investors look for companies that promote minority hiring, work to protect the environment, are progressive on women’s issues, refuse to participate in the immensely profitable military/industrial complex, and are generous contributors to the local communities in which they operate. Many mutual funds have achieved considerable financial success by investing in these companies.

Progressives frequently demonize corporations for their irresponsible behavior, much of which is well deserved. However, I have learned from my study that the situation is more complex, that simple demonization is often unfair. Corporations are human organizations, and, as a result, reflect the mixed moral behavior we see exhibited from human beings.

Corporate cultures reflect more than the bottom line. Corporations must conduct themselves in ways which do not violate the values of their employees or they risk losing them. Technology companies, for example, have been quite progressive when it comes to the environment because they typically have younger employees who believe in environmental protection. Corporations also feel a need to conduct their business in a way that does not anger the publics they serve.

Recent events support this thesis. The Georgia election laws designed to disenfranchise minorities have led major league baseball to move the All-Star game out of Atlanta. The film industry is also threatening to leave the state. Delta Airlines, Coca Cola and several other major corporations have threatened to end financial contributions to politicians responsible for enacting these mean spirited laws.

Another case in point is currently playing out in Texas. Conservative lawmakers there are blaming frozen wind turbines for the deadly February storm that left millions of Texans without power for several days. The first point to make is that the charge is untrue. In fact, gas plants made up the bulk of the power plant failures.

Despite this self-evident truth, Republican lawmakers have proposed new laws that would place unfair costs onto wind and solar farms. The obvious intent of the legislation is to discourage investments in alternative energy to the great benefit of oil and gas companies. Three of the largest utilities in the country, NextEra Energy, Duke Power, and Southern Company, all investor-owned corporations, are strongly opposing the enactment of these laws. It will be interesting to see how this drama with major consequences for the health of the environment plays out.

Here’s the point of all this. I see a great opportunity for ProgressiveChristianity.org to move in a new direction. I must admit to making this recommendation in fear and trembling because I know nothing about the internal operation of an organization I dearly love.

When I look at ProgressiveChristianity.org, I see an organization with a truly inspirational vision. It presents this vision in a way that is clear, direct, without compromise or apology, and with essays that are generally well thought out and written. It achieves these impressive results without a paid executive director, through mostly volunteer labor.

What I would like to see is for the organization to take on the challenge of presenting this vision to the general society. We must start preaching beyond the choir. I would like to see the organization raise enough money to hire an executive director who would focus on this challenge. This would involve creating partnerships with other progressive organizations, both spiritual and secular, to lobby government institutions at all three levels of governance on issues that relate to our vision. This person would also work to pressure corporations to act more responsibly on issues that matter to us. The Christian right has demonstrated that influencing political decisions is both possible and can be effective. The analysis on corporate behavior above has demonstrated that corporations can also be effectively influenced.

We could become a leader in such a movement. If the Christian right can do it, why can’t we?

There has never been a better time to move in this direction because the vision of the Christian right is losing credibility and because they are running out of the passionate energy required to make the hard work of political action effective. They have left a vacuum for us to fill. Let’s do it!
 
Dr. Rick Herrick (PhD, Tulane University), a former tenured university professor and magazine editor, is the author of four published novels and two works of nonfiction. His most recent book, A Christian Foreign Policy, presents a new way of looking at the relationship between religion and politics.

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