Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy



October 2013



With $6 billion running through our election cycles, it is time for people of faith and moral commitment to get more involved in reforming the role of money in American politics. Guided by the wisdom of our religious traditions, we can take constructive action for a more just political system.

What They’re Saying About the Report

“profound religious wisdom”

“highly recommended”

“breaks critical new ground”

“expands the debate”

“a must-read”

David Gushee, Christian Ethicist and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University

This concise yet powerful document offers profound religious wisdom that I can hope can help spark a much-needed national conversation about the role of money in US politics.”Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy” is a reminder not just of the particularly disturbing dominance of money in American politics right now, but of the role that ancient sacred texts–and contemporary religious leaders who bear responsibility for interpreting those texts –can and should play even in our contemporary pluralistic public square. My main takeaway is that a money-dominated political system can be counted on to ignore the needs and the voice of the poor, and that this is desperately wrong morally and religiously. I highly recommend this study.

John Bonifaz, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Free Speech For People

This new report breaks critical new ground in the growing movement to end the big money dominance of our politics. It expands the debate on this issue of our time to include important new voices and perspectives from the faith community, and by doing so, invites us all to rethink the underlying assumptions of our current political system. This report is a must-read for anyone concerned about the role of money in politics today and about how we can broaden a national conversation for reclaiming our democracy.

The Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Author, Faith-Rooted Organizing

In order to recognize God as the ruler of the whole universe, the faithful desperately need our leaders and institutions to speak to the public decisions that impact our lives. Yet, we often ignore the issues that seem most complex and abstract – those areas in which we often most need scriptural and theological guidance! “Lo$ing Faith in our Democracy” is a wonderfully comprehensive theological guide to the questions and issues surrounding corporate engagement in the democratic process. I thoroughly recommend it for anyone seeking to live out faithful citizenship. I would hope that our seminaries and congregations will take full advantage of this resource.

Melissa Spatz, Piper Fund

The influence of money in politics is perhaps the greatest current threat to our democracy, and there is increasing recognition that responding to that threat will require a broad, diverse movement to demand change. “Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy” is an important contribution to this growing movement. In addressing the issue from a diversity of religious and moral perspectives, and reaching a set of clear conclusions, it provides a framework for conversations with faith communities about how they might address the issue , and suggests a key role for religious leaders and communities to play. This is an important read for those looking to engage the public in building a broader democracy movement.

Minister Michael Ellick, Judson Memorial Church, New York City

These days more and more people are waking up the fact that the United States is no longer a democracy, but in fact something closer to a plutocracy (a government run by the rich). Thus, “Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy” is exactly the kind of resource so many of us faith leaders have been looking for… In our post-Industrial (and post Citizens United) era of American public life, economic justice is necessarily at the forefront for all people of faith, and the ancient contours of our spiritual traditions are more relevant than ever. Thus this thorough and thoughtful collection gets to the heart of a modern theological crisis, and I’m pleased to say that it is as theologically sound as it is useful in the public sphere. Many thanks for everyone at Auburn who helped pull this together.

Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, Chair, Department of Theology, Bellarmine University (KY)

“Losing Faith in Our Democracy” is taking up one of the most important contemporary issues for U.S. democracy. For the last thirty years, political debates have largely been informed by the assumption that markets are more efficient and government in providing for the common good. We are now seeing the disastrous consequences of that assumption in the well-documented acceleration of wealth inequality and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. The theologians included in this report witness to the critical reframing that the world’s religious traditions can offer in response to the role of corporations in U.S. society. Most importantly, these theologians and religious leaders underscore the neglect of people in poverty and their own role as agents for change. Auburn is playing a critical role in filling the theological void in the broader public debate about big money in politics by bringing these theologians to the table for discussion.

About the Report

We asked a group of top theologians – six senior theologians and four emerging theologians – from Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, and Jewish perspectives to write about what their traditions can teach Americans about how to use money in politics. What they came up with is not only intriguing, its inspiring.

Great political debates are won by whomever can define the moral or values-based terms of the debate. Perhaps there are seeds of those frames embedded in the pages of this report.

Money in Politics: Ten Theological White Papers

“Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy” is based on ten theological white papers commissioned by Auburn on the topic of what our faith traditions can teach about the role of money in American politics. The white papers, about 80 pages in total, can be downloaded here. Included with the ten papers are a brief field report by Isaac Luria at Auburn on the 2012 elections, and a short primer on the U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The ten theologians that participated are:

Senior Theologians:

Charles C. Camosy is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Fordham University. He is writing his second book, and is founder and co-director of the Catholic Conversation Project and an editor and contributor for catholicmoraltheology.com.

William T. Cavanaugh is Senior Research Professor at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University. He is co-editor of the journal Modern Theology and author of five books.

Aryeh Cohen is a rabbi and professor of rabbinic literature at the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. His latest book is Justice in the City and he blogs at justice-in-the-city.com.

Aryeh Klapper is a rabbi and Dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership and Rosh Beit Midrash of its Summer Beit Midrash Program, Instructor of Rabbinics and Medical Ethics at Gann Academy, and a member of the Boston Beit Din.

D. Stephen Long is professor of Systematic Theology at Marquette University. He works in the intersection between theology and ethics. He has published numerous essays and eleven books.

Ron Sider is Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry & Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary. He is the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, a think-tank which seeks to develop biblical solutions to social and economic problems.

Emerging Theologians

Adina Allen is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College’s transdenominational program in Boston (to be ordained in 2014) and is a contributing scholar to the interfaith blog State of Formation.

Caitlin Michelle Desjardins is completing her M.Div at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She was a 2011 Fund for Theological Education Ministry Fellow.

Matthew Zaro Fisher is a PhD Student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont. His PhD research is aimed at investigating issues at the intersection between theology and science.

Nate Kratzer is a PhD student at the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy. He is also the youth director and social justice chair at Third Lutheran Church in Louisville, KY.

“Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy” was funded in large part by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.