By Tom Ehrich

Maybe there was a time when mainline preachers could "speak truth to power."

Wealthy men and women sat in their pews, taught in their Sunday Schools, and were nominally available for teachings about generosity, self-sacrifice, social responsibility, choosing God over Mammon, winning the victory over greed, and the folly of building bigger barns.

Except in rare instances, we didn't do such teaching -- in many cases not even mentioning such things, and in some cases casting them in the pleasing velvet of noblesse oblige. We didn't do what Jesus did.

In any event, that time is over. Mainline religion has ceased to matter to many wealthy people. They run their hedge funds, merger-and-acquisition firms, Big Pharma, Big Money, Big Oil, Big Auto and other wealth accumulators without benefit of clergy saying what they should want to hear for the sake of their souls.

Mainline churches are on the margins of society now. It's where we belong. Our "truth" needs to be spoken to the powerless, not to the powerful. We won't convince the 1% to give up anything. No matter what Jesus taught about wealth, we can't make that word hearable.

Instead, we need to look at the broken souls outside our walls. We need to see the vast majority of young adults who are struggling with careers and financial insecurity. We need to see the young families wondering how they will ever raise their children and send them to college. We need to see the middle-aged workers whose pay has plateaued and prospects are grim. We need to see the elderly who come to retirement under-funded and facing a vengeful political environment that wants to steal their Social Security benefits to avoid raising taxes on the wealthy.

We need to see people of color being further marginalized by a white-power insurgency. We need to see immigrants being denied the dream that earlier immigrants found. We need to see failing schools, decrepit housing, and looming fights over potable water and breathable air.

Then we need to take sides. The "class war" is already under way, and the great majority are losing. The tiny entitlement set is winning. We need to take our stand with the poor and middle-class. We need to take our stand with the marginalized.

If we truly want to fulfill a Christ-centered mission going forward, we need to get outside ourselves and our narrow focus on institutional survival, and speak truth to the powerless.

We need to help them rise up against the wealthy. At the ballot box, in the workplace, in demanding their share of America, in fighting for better schools, in saying No to the noisy forces of bigotry -- we need to help the voiceless find their voice.

Forget about softening the hearts of the 1%. They will plunder the nation as long as they can get away with it. Our holy work is to help the many push back against the few.

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