This is the official position of my church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, on labor and collective bargaining. Before going further, I should explain that the ELCA is an extremely diverse "mainline" denomination. It was created a little over 20 years ago when the Lutheran Church in America merged with the American Lutheran Church to create the single largest body of American Lutherans. The divisions between these groups were to some extent ethnic, but they also reflected ideological and political rifts that remain and fester. Thus, for the past 20 years, the ELCA has generally been quite careful not to step on anybody's toes.
At least that's my perception. I know that many conservative members of the ELCA feel very antagonistic toward the national leadership, which they believe does not speak for them or their concerns. This exploded a few years ago when the ELCA agreed to ordain and bless people in committed same-sex relationships. The denomination's honest striving not to disrespect anybody's views was reflected in the qualifying statement that no congregation would ever be forced to do either. That's more or less how we stay together, despite the friction.
The above position statement on labor, though, is unusually clear for an ELCA document, and I want to suggest why. The idea that the poor and down-trodden have a particular claim on God's favor is central to the Gospel, as is the denunciation of wealth and the power it gives to its possessors. It is very hard for anyone who has read the New Testament to believe that Jesus, were he to appear suddenly in Madison, WI, wouldn't call on both sides to tone down the rhetoric and then give a lecture on the impossibility of serving both God and Mammon.
I've written recently that there seem to be two completely irreconcilable views of where American is now and where it is going. I'm now going to make the bold statement that, no matter what Glenn Beck may think, Jesus was always on the side of social justice. That's why he began his ministry in the Gospel of Luke by reading from Isaiah, saying that he had come to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (when all debts would be forgiven) and to bring good news to the poor. Jesus understood these concepts well. He had never heard of capitalism. It's fair to say, though, that in a lot of the stories he told, people with a lot of economic power don't come out looking very good.
Does that mean a Christian can't be a capitalist? Of course not. After all, most Christians wear zippers in their pants. There's a lot about the modern world that could not have been anticipated in 1st century Palestine. What I will say unequivocally, though, is that capitalism is like a cancer; it eats away at the souls of those who catch it, and they must undergo frequent sessions of spiritual chemotherapy in order to remain alive.
When I look at what is going on in Wisconsin, I see excesses on both sides. The people participating are, after all, human. I'll even concede that some public sector unions have developed their own kind of institutional cancer that requires some drastic treatment as well. However, I also see a budget crisis that was created by lowering taxes on the richest citizens, and I see hard-working teachers and their supporters trying very hard to retain some sense of dignity as their own voices are marginalized, giving those wealthy people even more control over their lives. To extend the analogy above, the cancer the rich people have is being allowed to grow freely, while the cancer the hard-working teachers have is being removed by blunt instruments and without anesthesia.
Now here's the catch - as long as this continues, both patients will die. Any hope for recovery requires an acknowledgment that there is cancer on both sides, and a mutual willingness to enter treatment together. In short, it calls for sitting down at a table and doing some collective bargaining. If, in the process, all the people involved come to have a deeper respect for the humanity and integrity of those on the other side, there may yet be some hope.