MTF’s Luke Bobo Cited in New York Times Essay about FWE Movement

The New York Times recently posted an expansive essay about the faith and work movement and how it fits into the broader evangelical movement. The article opens at a Made to Flourish broadcast event in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and our organization figures prominently into the piece.

Starting with the headline —“What Would Jesus Do About Inequality?” — and through out, author and columnist Molly Worthen sets the current faith and work movement in contrast to earlier iterations that she sees as overwhelmingly wealthy and politically right-wing. She documents the progression of the faith and work movement from Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work starting in 2002 to newer organizations like us. And she writes that the inclusion of a more economically and ethnically diverse group in the movement as a positive development, one that she thinks may be able to affect real-world social and economic change today’s often fractured religious and political climate.

In addition to Made to Flourish, Worthen interacts with The Denver Institute for Faith and Work, Praxis, and New York’s Center for Faith and Work. She interviewed several leaders from various faith and work organizations, including our director of strategic partnerships, Luke Bobo. Here’s part of his contribution:

Luke Bobo is the director of strategic partnerships for Made to Flourish. He told me that he is well aware that the evangelical faith and work movement still skews white and white-collar (although black churches have their own long tradition of applying the Bible to questions of economic justice), and ministries like his need to confront racial iniquity. “My banner, my mantra, what I live for, is preaching to churches that have assets and resources to help identify systemic issues. For example, redlining still happens,” he said, referring to the mortgage industry practice of denying home loans to borrowers who seek to buy in a neighborhood deemed a poor financial risk, a policy that disproportionately affects black home buyers. (The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned redlining on the basis of a neighborhood’s racial composition, but researchers argue that it persists.)

Made to Flourish has helped bring a poverty-simulation program, called the Cost of Poverty Experience, to conservative churches. “When white folks go through this experience, they get a small taste of the life of someone who’s earning minimum wage or lower,” Mr. Bobo told me. The goal is not necessarily to push for expanded Medicaid or any other specific policy change. Like many people I spoke to in the faith and work movement, Mr. Bobo hastened to add that he is “not advocating government overreach.”

But just because these Christians aren’t rallying for Bernie Sanders doesn’t mean their aims are superficial: They are theological, and pre-political. In many cases, they are challenging what the sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith have called the “white evangelical tool kit,” which traditionally credits poverty or wealth to an individual’s “effort and personal responsibility” while ignoring the economic and social structures that constrain free choice.

“We’re simply asking, let’s find ways to level the playing field,” Mr. Bobo said. “Can we, as a community of believers, work toward the flourishing of all people — and what does that mean? It means giving kids of all stripes access to affordable health care, quality education, affordable, livable housing and all those amenities that are basic to the flourishing of human beings.”

You can — and should! — read the whole essay on the New York Times, and in the “review” section of this Sunday’s Times.”

Topics: The Faith at Work Movement

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