When Christians get involved in politics, the mainstream media tends to assume they'll take conservative positions and focus only on abortion and homosexuality. The Church has gained this image for a number of reasons, including that many journalists don't understand religion and that conservative Christians are better at using the media than liberal Christians. But the truth is, mainline Protestants rarely resemble non-denominational fundamentalists (many of whom are broadening their own focus), and most denominations have an office in Washington, DC for lobbying Congress to act on social justice issues.
I just finished an internship with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, which “represent[s] the social policies established by the General Convention and Executive Council, including issues of international peace and justice, human rights, immigration, welfare, poverty, hunger, health care, violence, civil rights, the environment, racism, and issues involving women and children.” The wonderful staff, pictured here, lobbies Congress, networks with other advocacy groups, makes presentations to events like the Lambeth Conference and the Episcopal Youth Event, and maintains online resources such as background papers and bulletin inserts.
OGR also maintains the Episcopal Public Policy Network, which I hope you'll consider joining! EPPN members receive a small packet in the mail that includes information about EPPN's mission, and then get about one e-mail every week (they make sure not to clog inboxes) either asking them to write public officials about important legislation or providing valuable information like how that legislation is progressing or what your parish can do to help publicize the Millennium Development Goals. Recent EPPN alerts have focused on remembering the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, supporting comprehensive sexual education, stopping cluster bombs, and passage of the Global AIDS bill. During Lent, the e-mail alerts focused on the link between climate change and poverty.
Prior to my time at EPPN, I interned for Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), so can testify firsthand to the value of contacting your Senators and Congressperson. True, calling your Senator may not have the same impact it did thirty years ago, but it still matters. In Senator Baucus’ office, a staffer reads every single letter and writes a reply (or picks a form reply, depending on the letter’s content). Then, tallies of the letters’ subjects and positions are made and passed along to the Senator and his Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, and executive assistant. So, even if the Member never reads letters him(or her)self, they do see what their voting constituents care about the letters do help to inform the staffers who inform the Members. (House members are more likely than Senators to read a few letters themselves.)
EPPN is an important arm of The Episcopal Church. The Presbyterians, Lutherans, American Baptists, and others have similar outreach efforts. Christ calls us to take care of God’s children and God’s creation, and we do that when we forgive debt in a modern Jubilee, distribute medicine and education to the least of these, try to create affordable housing, raise the minimum wage, and fight teenage pregnancies. If you’re an Episcopalian, I hope you’ll peruse EPPN’s website today and make just a couple of quick clicks to join the cause!