May 1995 – We are in the midst of a spiritual war, but many in leadership positions in our churches have yet to recognize it – much less become involved in it.
On the front page this month is an article concerning the investment of church pension funds in companies involved in the entertainment industry. I’m sure that there will be some criticism because we elected to run the article. The purpose of the article is not to attack either of the denominations mentioned (or any of the many others which no doubt have similar investments but are not listed). The purpose of the article is to show the contradictions.
The decision by The Walt Disney Company to release the film Priest clearly points out that contradiction. Disney originally planned to release the film on Good Friday, but delayed the release after complaints from the Christian community. The film depicts the lives of five priests – one involved in a homosexual relationship, another having sex with his female housekeeper, another a drunk, the fourth an uncaring bishop and the fifth a psychotic country priest.
Most denominational pension programs do not invest in liquor and tobacco and gaming stocks, and for good reason. These industries are involved in producing destructive products. But what about the entertainment industry? Is there any other industry in our country which even comes close in its destructive impact on that which we as Christians claim to be good for individuals and society? Has the Christian community any greater antagonist than the entertainment industry? Why would any church want to fund an industry which seeks to destroy it?
One must wonder what kind of witness this makes. Churches and pastors regularly make contributions to their retirement accounts. I suspect that few of them realize that they are investing in companies which are intent on destroying the very faith they preach and promote.
I found John Leo’s article (page 14) interesting. In April 1991, I wrote to the United Methodist Board of Pensions explaining Time Warner’s involvement in pornography and asked that the board divest funding in the company. Obviously, they rejected my request. (Although, I must add, they did eventually divest from Kmart. And the Southern Baptist Annuity Board divested from Time after the company published Madonna’s porn book.)
Those who serve on the pension boards of the various denominations are good people with one desire – to provide the best retirement package possible. Many, if not most, serve without pay. Perhaps this situation has arisen because no one has ever considered it a problem.
Is it a problem the various boards can solve? Yes. I guess the place to begin is a letter from those who are concerned to those responsible in the various denominations. Thank them for their hard work and dedication. And ask them to please consider this matter.
I’m sure this will help the entertainment industry – and our own people of faith – to understand our concern better.