The Magazine

Not Your Grandma's YWCA

From the June 9, 2003 issue: A Christian organization in name only.

Jun 9, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 38 • By CHRISTINE ROSEN
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Today, the YWCA's website goes so far as to note that the founders of the organization "had a religiously based concern for the worth of all individuals." Mostly, though, the website expresses a vision of social justice unmoored from biblical injunctions and inhospitable to all but the politically correct. Interestingly, the parallel organization for males--the Young Men's Christian Association--has hewed more closely to its original mission. Its stated goal remains "To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all." The YMCA's advocacy is nonpartisan, and its activities include child care, healthy living, and character development programs.

Once, the YWCA sought to make a practical and moral difference in the lives of women; it did so in large part by pursuing an ideal of Christian service. By effectively severing its links to its Christian past--and taking for its leader a master of professional querulousness and victim politics--the new YWCA has chosen to blend still further into the crowded field of secular liberal advocacy groups. An expert face-lift may or may not succeed in revitalizing the YWCA's "brand," but it certainly won't save its soul.

Christine Rosen is a resident fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.