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Do faiths model business or faith in decisions?

As nonprofits and churches seek to be “with it” as professionals and businesses, they can easily slide into a corporate mindset, sloughing off values of faithful living in just, peaceful sustainable relationships.

Ostensibly, corporations model understandings or interpretations of the law, professional ethics and relationship standards that may appear reasoned, acceptable and appropriate, but some practices caused or exacerbated the recession.

Are local, regional and national faith bodies and nonprofits accountable to tenets of faith and mission as they absorb corporate expectations?  When they hire secular experts, are those employees accountable to the faith and mission?

Faith institutions are corporations.  They need to follow laws.  Many have influenced laws to protect against discrimination, inequality, injustices and oppression that toss people into lives of poverty.

While we would like to think faiths and nonprofits put their values first, some are caving in, thinking they can follow the lead of corporations that are shoving people aside and out of the economy as that economy has fallen into recession/depression that calls for “tough” decisions to be made to make budgets balance.

We tend to fall into the same mentality as the rest of the corporate culture—leaving out women, children, elderly, poor people, people of color, people with unpopular viewpoints and orientations—“the least.”

How many churches in Spokane are facing budget shortfalls?  What are the criteria used for making the decisions in the midst of the crunch to uphold professional salaries, provide ever-more-expensive health care, cover costs of energy usage and maintain buildings?  Where do mission, caring and justice fit in the budgets?

Do we just fire those who use health insurance, such those who have surgery or pregnant women?  Do we challenge the profiteering of health insurance companies—concerned with providing 30 percent for investors?  Do we challenge health insurance companies that deny claims or coverage?  Do we assume our national bodies are calling corporations to social responsibility?  Do we know how a drop in private insurance coverage will affect our national faith and nonprofit bodies’ pension, investment and endowment plans?

Are we willing to let the gains made for Equal Employment Opportunity, for human rights, women, minorities, family leave, immigrants, health care or people with disabilities erode?

Are we willing to make budget decisions on the same basis as corporations and legislative bodies, hounded by lobbyists, cutting gains in support for the poor, the disabled, the homeless or the indebted?  Are we willing to join the cultural bandwagon that says they are of less value or beauty?

Should congregations and national bodies not model an alternative, just economy that recognizes the value of everyone who contributes to creating corporate wealth?  How many times greater than other church workers do our faith bodies pay our national executive leaders?  Will the move to cut corporate CEO salaries influence others?

To what extent do we already model an alternative economy?  To what extent do those models free faith bodies to challenge the top-dollar-for-the-top-dog corporate cultural expectation? What corporations offer better models than faith and nonprofit corporations?

Do you believe it is possible for the lions and lambs to live together without the one devouring the other?

When have you had a desire to speak out for justice and silenced yourself to save your job?

Just because we are faith and nonprofit bodies may not make us holy, righteous  or just.  We still need to examine ourselves to see if we are—as the prophet Micah urges us—doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God.

Mary Stamp, Editor