In the depths of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt and Congress established Social Security, a program that has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Three years prior to its adoption, the Federal Council of Churches called for passage of social security legislation.
The Federal Council of Churches later became the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). The NCC comprises 37 Christian denominations, including African-American churches, Orthodox churches, mainline Protestant churches, and peace churches. All told, there are more than 100,000 local congregations comprising some 35 million people in the NCC.
These churches supported the creation of Medicaid and Medicare and anti-poverty programs. To this day, the NCC works to safeguard programs that help the poor and needy. This ministry begins at the local church level and is complemented by public policy advocacy at the national level.
This year, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the passage of the Social Security Act. Certainly, members of my own family have been helped through Social Security. And, one of my college roommates was able to attend school because of the Social Security survivor benefits he received after his parents died in a tragic auto accident. Many of us have similar stories to tell.
Not everyone has the good fortune to retire with adequate savings. Social Security serves to care for those among us who need help.
The National Council of Churches believes government bears a responsibility for all of the citizens under its care. All faith traditions follow a similar directive to honor father and mother and to care for widows and orphans. Social Security is a modern-day manifestation of our commitment to care for the last, the least, and the lost.
The National Council of Churches joined the recent Faith Week of Action to commemorate the anniversary. We shared among our churches a toolkit that can assist congregations not only in honoring the success of Social Security but in raising awareness of the programs available through it.
Although I have contributed for many years to my retirement account, and I am grateful that the NCC does so, as well, I know I will depend on Social Security payments to keep me out of poverty in my retirement years.
Many people are unaware they are eligible for disability or survivor benefits, or they have no idea how much Social Security retirement income may be due to them in the future. Local churches often hold health fairs, job fairs, blood drives, food pounding Sundays, etc. I encourage congregations to make use of these types of events and invite representatives of the Social Security Administration to lead workshops at local churches.
There are some who view the passage of Social Security as a political act that has nothing to do with those in the faith community. I humbly disagree. Caring for those in need is a fundamental principle of all people of faith. This support need not take place solely through tithes and offerings to the church. We have a responsibility to care for the monies we contribute to the larger tax pool to ensure those in need are cared for.
NOTE: This is the first in an occasional series of guest blog posts from national faith leaders