New Civic Engagement Primer and Study Guide Available
The Pennsylvania Council of Churches recently released a new Civic Engagement Primer and Study Guide providing an enlightening resource for faith communities to utilize in Sunday School and Faith Formation classes. The Pennsylvania Council of Churches has long believed in our call as Christians to be faithful citizens, participating in the public square in ways that support God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves (without defining neighbor as only those in our affinity group) and to treat others as we wish to be treated (known as “The Golden Rule”).
The Council has observed there appears to be much confusion concerning history, our government systems, and what we can do as faithful citizens and as congregations. We forget that many of our forebears came to this continent to escape religious persecution. In remembering this, we are reminded that many of our neighbors face persecution and injustices as well—and that we have a responsibility to ensure that they are not forced to endure that which we would not want inflicted upon us. We forget (or perhaps never understood) that “the wall of separation between church and state” was meant to protect us from religious tyranny exercised by the state—that is, the imposition of state-sponsored religion that drove many of our forebears out of their homes. This so-called “wall” is not a barrier to exercise our rights as faithful citizens, guided by our faith. However, it also needs to be noted that this does not mean that we have the right to impose our specific beliefs and practices on those who believe and practice differently.
Finally, it seems that our educational systems are not providing comprehensive instruction on how our government works—at least not in the same way some of us may remember. Time spent in educational forums in congregations has revealed that many are confused by the different levels of government, separation of powers, and how laws are constructed and passed. When they recognize a problem to be addressed, or legislation they would like to see passed, they often don’t know where to go to make their voices heard—or even when they do, they feel intimidated or powerless. Knowledge of these systems and how to work within them is essential if we are to engage in ways that are constructive and successful.
We hope that this guide will help you to discuss faithful citizenship within your own congregations, regardless of whether your congregation leans to one end of the political spectrum or the other, or is a true mix of folks from across the spectrum. The materials are offered to you at a time when the Council believes it is is needed more than ever.
LAMPa and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches invite your questions and feedback.