Since the financial crisis, Protestant pastors have turned their attention to poverty, a new study finds:
According to a series of telephone surveys conducted by LifeWay Research between 2008 and 2012, there is a growing awareness of and involvement in social justice ministries among Protestant churches in the United States, aimed at caring for the forgotten, disenfranchised, and oppressed.
Almost all -- 95 percent -- of the 1,000 or more Protestant senior pastors we surveyed agreed that caring for the poor is mandated by the gospel. When pastors believe this, their churches tend to care more about social justice issues. Studies show the percentage of churches engaged in care for the poor has increased over the past four years.About a year after the financial crisis, poverty had even outpaced hot-button social issues as the "most important issue facing our country" for Protestant pastors:
It's probably worth noting, though, that for many Protestants, particularly conservative evangelicals, there's no connection between a Biblical mandate to care for the poor and support for government programs to care for the poor. Increasing attention to the "social gospel" does not directly connect to support for or advocacy for political policies that benefit the poor or reform the economic systems producing poverty. It connects rather to charities and church-supported programs.
Much of what's here being called the "social gospel" (though by no means all of it) could also correctly be called compassionate conservatism.