‘Faith-Based’ Aid Means ‘Kissing Pharaoh’s Behind,’ UCC Pastor Tells NPR

A United Church of Christ minister in Washington, D.C., has warned his fellow pastors that government funding may lead congregations to be co-opted by the state.

Discussing the issue on National Public Radio Feb. 17, the Rev. Grayland Hagler of Plymouth Congregational Church, said, “And you know, one of the perspectives I have to take is, when you take money from Pharaoh, you end up having to kiss Pharaoh’s behind. Let me just be very honest about that.”

Continued Hagler, “And the reality is, when we look at Washington and the politics that play here nationally and look back, even at the last election, there was no mention in any of the political debate about the poor. Everybody talked about the middle class. Nobody talked about the poor. And there are congregations and communities that work every day on the ground. But the problem becomes when government begins to produce monies for the budgets of faith-based organizations, it becomes another creative form of a patronage system.”

Hagler’s remarks came as Republican Party officials and their Religious Right allies have stepped up their campaign to build support in the African-American religious community by stressing the “faith-based” initiative and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Some black pastors who think priority should be given to economic issues, health care and the fight against poverty say they are distressed to see fellow ministers being wooed by the White House.

“Where did this come from? It came from Bush and the Christian Right, and the carrot is the faith-based money,” the Rev. Madison Shockley, pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif., told The New York Times.