.But they'll become dependent, My Lord!. by Google Images w/caption by Rev Dan
In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. - Confucius
Right Wing Watch:
"Last month, the Family Research Council's Kenneth Blackwell hailed House Republicans for passing a massive cut in food aid for low-income families, arguing that there is 'nothing more Christian' than kicking millions off the food stamp program."
A matter of "Dependency"
Blackwell also suggested that there was "nothing more Christian" than "not locking people into a permanent dependency on government handouts, but making sure they are participants in their own upliftment and empowerment so that they in fact through the dignity of work and can break from the plantation of big government."
Using antebellum messaging has been the strategy of today's Right: people on welfare have been made slaves to government, their dependency locking them into a socialist system that is totally anti-capitalist and therefore un-American. It's the dependency that is destructive. It is the dependency they hate.
Or so they say.
However, whenever you take away something people have gotten dependent upon (or enjoy), you must replace it with something else, or else you invite insurrection, anarchy or ... heresy. Early Christians were wise in replacing pagan holidays with feast days and saint's days: Christmas, for example, replaced winter solstice festivities. So what should the poor become dependent upon?
Keep'em Poor And They'll Come To Jesus has been the strategy for the Right (OK, the Christian Right) for a very long time. Switch the dependency. Simple.
Luke 14:12-14 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Although Tony Perkins' comments might might seem ridiculously hypocritical to "bleeding heart" liberals (the Christian Right crying for a theocracy - through Reconstructionism - for many years), it makes perfect sense to people trying to hang on to their money in a taxless and minimum-government world. "The government has a responsibility to care for the poor? That's not what Scripture says." Grover Norquist gets the point, so why not the rest of America?
Luke 11:42 "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God."
Compassion Costs Money
Boiling down to money may seem too simple an answer for why so many on the Right seem to hate compassion and social justice, but it's unavoidable: Pope Francis I recently hit a nerve with his focus on it (capitalized by his new economical papal style). Money is not for the poor, but for rich people to dole out to the poor subjectively. Money is for large homes and Bentleys (see video) with which to demonstrate God's love. Money is for ministry administrative costs.
Yes, the contorted reasoning for not legislating compassion is based solely on money: the Puritan, bootstraps, God-helps-those-who-help-themselves mentality governs the Right and that form of self-government is driven by money. Everyone knows it, but the reasoning must be cloaked in compassionate terms or else no one buys it.
And certainly the most compassionate term today is "Christian." What Jesus would say to using His name in such a manner, is obvious:
From Andrew Sullivan:
In an interview with the novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, Robert Long asked her about the too-frequent identification of Christianity with the religious right in America. She doesn't hold back:
Well, what is a Christian, after all? Can we say that most of us are defined by the belief that Jesus Christ made the most gracious gift of his life and death for our redemption? Then what does he deserve from us? He said we are to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek. Granted, these are difficult teachings. But does our most gracious Lord deserve to have his name associated with concealed weapons and stand-your-ground laws, things that fly in the face of his teaching and example? Does he say anywhere that we exist primarily to drive an economy and flourish in it? He says precisely the opposite. Surely we all know this. I suspect that the association of Christianity with positions that would not survive a glance at the Gospels or the Epistles is opportunistic, and that if the actual Christians raised these questions those whose real commitments are to money and hostility and potential violence would drop the pretense and walk away.
The ever-widening gap between rich and poor in America should be proof that of religious institutions have not been willing fill to the gap. Rep. Paul Ryan once remarked that faith-based charities would pick up the slack left from budget cuts.* That remark must have made those institutions shudder: soup kitchens for the poor are one thing, but expensive programs are quite another matter.
It's their money, after all.
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