In what ways do people of faith seek to see their values represented in the work of the government?
That's a question the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life wondered about, so researchers there set out to find out how the world of lobbying by faith communities has changed over the years and what it looks like today.
A report issued this week, "Lobbying for the Faithful," suggests religious bodies are as anxious as all other interests groups to have a say in the political process.
An online summary of the report's findings begins with these highlights:
"The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $390 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy."
Some people may find these results depressing and evidence that religion is just as worldly and cynical as any other group of people.
I don't react that way at all. Although I'm sure there are occasions when religious lobbying is as ethically out of line as some of the more egregious types of lobbying we've seen in other cases, much of religious lobbying has to do with making sure that public policy protects the most vulnerable in our society and that people are treated fairly by government.
In that sense, you could look at such lobbying as having failed in many ways in the last decade or more. The economic crisis that began in 2008 and has its roots in such disasters as sub-prime mortgage lending is evidence that public policy often runs roughshod over the desires of religious lobbyists and the people of faith they represent.
At any rate, the link I've given you to the report will let you read about the findings yourself and draw your own conclusions. I conclude that religious lobbyists need to figure out how to be more successful in advocating public policy that reflects universal values taught by the world's great religions. That's what it means to have and exercise a prophetic voice.
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SINNING ON THE WAY TO THE WHITE HOUSE?
Mitt Romney admits that despite Mormon prohibitions against alcohol and tobacco, he once tasted beer and a cigarette, but only once. Why does this sounds so much more credible than Bill Clinton's assertion that he didn't inhale? And yet why do many of us find Clinton so much more approachable?