The theological roots of Social Security

Diana Butler Bass reflects upon the Feast of the Ascension which also commemorates Francis Perkins, who was instrumental in the creation of Social Security. Did you ever ponder the spiritual and theological roots of Social Security? Read on…

New Deal Spirituality: The Politics of Generosity

From Diana Butler Bass at BeliefNet

On May 13, Christians celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. The Episcopal saints calendar marks an additional commemoration on May 13, a day set aside to remember Frances Perkins (1880-1965), the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet, who served as Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt. An Episcopal laywoman, Perkins worked tirelessly for the rights of working class people including the establishment of social security, unemployment insurance, child-working laws, and the federal minimum wage–all programs that grew out of her spirituality and passion for a “politics of generosity.”

When asked about the motivation behind her work, Perkins responded, “I came to Washington to serve God, FDR, and the poor working man.”

. . .

At the beginning of the Great Depression, some religious Americans advocated a “politics of righteousness,” that is, that people got what the deserved. In other words, the pious became wealthy, and sinners were poor. Perkins and her circle rejected this idea in favor of a “politics of generosity,” the theological belief that God has been generous with all humankind, and that those people who are more prosperous have wealth only because of grace. It is their spiritual duty, therefore, to be as generous with the poor as God has been with them.

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