An edited version of this essay is included in my recently published book The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress:
For years I considered myself a conservative and probable Republican. However, over the last few years I have watched first with alarm, then with disgust and now with anger as the conservative movement has given itself over to lies, manipulation and hatred. While the Republicans were never great at care for the poor, for some reason, the debacle of the Bush administration and the failure of “compassionate conservatism” to make Republicans look kind and caring, seems to have lead people to focus more than ever on scapegoating the poor. There are many aspects to what is going on in the Republican party and conservative movement which are grounds for disagreement. However, the antipathy towards the poor is particularly alarming because it puts those who blame the poor for our country’s problems in direct opposition to God’s affinity for the needs of the poor. (Note that God didn’t preface poor with “working” or “innocent” or “virtuous” or “clean”. He just said poor.) So, based on some conversations over on facebook – thanks Darren! – here are some of my random thoughts and warnings:
Do you believe that generous unemployment benefits and social supports are destroying our country’s long-term survival? Right now, 3 million jobs are unfilled. Is this because of the many people who have been out of work for years? Companies are advertising jobs with the words “unemployed need not apply”. Sound familiar? Those who come after us will look on us with no more mercy than we give our forefathers who used those same words to keep out blacks, hispanics, the irish and others who were blamed for their own oppression. Only it will be worse for us because we have seen this before and will not be able to say “we didn’t know any better”.
Is your response to so many unfilled jobs to say, “The 3 million are unfilled mainly due to incompatible skillsets and location”? Then you admit that it is not an unwillingness to work and a desire to just suck money from the government teat that is creating poverty and draining our resources.
Do you believe that morality – particularly care for those in need – is a personal issue and not the job of business or governments? You can argue all you want, but God has set out his ways and they apply to all that man does. God judges men and he judges nations and tribes. God judges all that we do and trying to hide by claiming personal holiness even as one protects and benefits from a system that creates poverty and oppression didn’t work for kings and princes in the past and it will not work for us either. Loopholes are created by men writing their own rules and the rich pay others to find the loopholes they use. But God’s rules are absolute and no man is rich enough or smart enough to find loopholes in them. Those who do mock God and are active participants in their own destruction.
Many believe that taxes are inherently oppressive and oppose them on those grounds alone. How many of those people make enough money to be affected directly by any of the proposed tax increases? For those who do really are defending their own position, I will leave that is between them and God. But don’t expect those of us whose oppression comes from unemployment, poverty, working 80/week, having to move from family and place just to feed our families to fall in line and take up your cause. If you are not directly being asked to give more money to the government, then you are not fighting for yourself or your family or community. You are fighting for a rich man who has been blessed with abundance unknown on the face of the earth before. You are being held hostage to someone who uses the threat of with holding what the people need – jobs, education, security, abundance to avoid having his riches touched and put to uses he has not desired. IOW, you are serving and being held hostage by men who expect to be treated like gods. Don’t serve them and fight for them. Serve God and he will bring forward the sort of government you seek.
The rich expect workers to come to them, already be prepared to meet their needs, at a wage that is to their liking. Many Americans don’t blame or judge the rich for expecting to be treated and served like gods – having what they want brought to them according to their liking in return for their favors. Now that the favors of the rich are no longer sufficient to meet our needs, man are trying to protect the rich and serve the rich even more; just like the Mayans during times of drought and disease became more feverishly religious and ardent in service to the gods. Today we respond to oncoming calamity by working even harder to protect the assets of the rich, by passing blame on to those who do not follow the ways of the rich and by insisting that if we just work harder and take on the responsibility for giving the rich what they say they need – lower taxes, workers willing to leave family and place behind to serve them, wages determined by the needs, desires and rules of the rich rather than the worth of the worker. This is necessary, we are told, for the rich to be happy and secure enough to be willing to spare some of their blessings with those who have earned them by faithfully imitating their ways. This is the same relationship the ancients had with their capricious gods. Just like the gods of the ancients, these “gods” demand obedience, but are not loyal in return (I can get a cheaper engineer overseas). They don’t act for the good of the people who are trusting them for a good reward. Instead they act according to their own whims and desires. When they are confronted, they insist that we just don’t understand the ways of the gods – they are different sort of creatures with different rules and concerns than the rest of us.
Fortunately, the true God returns loyalty for loyalty and gives us what we need because we need it, not because we’ve earned it. His concern is for us and He will willingly die to ensure our well-being. He is the perfect God of heaven and not at all like the gods of Wall Street or Mount Olympus. And he says to love and serve the poor. Not the worthy poor or the innocent poor or the receptive poor. We cannot love God if we hate the poor. And when we love the poor, we are loving and serving God. If a particular poor person won’t respond to God’s ways, they will suffer at God’s hand and God doesn’t need your help with that judgment. The rich don’t need protection from the poor or the government or regulations. They need protection from God’s judgments. When we expect the rich to demonstrate as much care and protection for the poor as they have been offered, we are helping to rescue them from their own suicide.
****A bit of clarification because I know that the accusation will be made. I do not hate rich people. I do not think that being rich makes you bad. I do not think God wants us to live in poverty. I am unbelievably blessed to come from a family with a lot of material abundance. Most of the people I know who are rich are good people. Some are arrogant and contemptuous in their wealth. I am using rich as short-hand for those whose primary identity, desire and purpose is wealth and all the privileges that can come with wealth. Many very good people have been blessed with wealth and experience it as abundance. Bill Gates and Oprah are examples of this, imo. Whatever else they are getting wrong, they are trying to use their wealth to serve mankind which is the same as serving God. Wealthy people like that are a blessing to the land. Wealthy people who bitch and moan about not being able to control all they touch and don’t think they should have to use their wealth for anything other than their own desires or anyone not of their own choosing are a curse on the land.