The AFL-CIO, as one of their efforts to rebuild the union movement's vibrancy and moral image, has begun hiring seminary students of all faiths to go out into the field and advocate for economic justice on theological grounds. The program, as of yet, is small, and I don't know how it'll work, but if this is any indication, it's got a lot of promise:
On a recent sticky afternoon, Klein found herself in a marbled-and-mirrored lobby in Washington listening to security guard Fernando McKinnon complain about his job. He did not get paid holidays, sick days or vacations, he said. He worked 11-hour shifts without overtime pay.
He wanted change; sure he did. But agitate for a union?
"I'm a Christian," said McKinnon, 46. "I keep my mouth shut and let God take care of things."
Klein didn't hesitate. "I'm with a group of religious leaders, and we all think it's really important to stand up," she said. "On your own, it might not be the Christian thing to fight, but when workers join as a group to stand up for justice, fighting may be the Christian thing to do."
McKinnon considered a long minute. "You're a godsend," he told Klein.
In a careful, deliberate hand, he signed the purple and yellow card authorizing SEIU Local 82 to represent him.
One of the questions for the social justice movement is how widespread that sort of passive Christianity is. Certainly anti-abortion activists, anti-gay marriage groups, and culture warriors aren't settling back to watch what happens, but are other Christians? Are we in some Marxist moment where religion actually is being used to justify poor standards in the now with promises of high living later?
No clue. But it certainly seems that the agitation for change is coming from the most conservative, reactionary elements of the Christian Coalition, with only a few scattered pockets crying for non-exclusionary forms of justice. Props to the AFL-CIO for trying to join the battle.