I wrote this quite a while ago, but in light of recent news, it seems it bears repeating.
Allow me to put the clarification up front: “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. . . 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.

The Upside Down World

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…

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4 thoughts on “

  1. Theologians like Walter Wink and William Stringfellow did some interesting work around “Paul” ‘s concept of ‘Principalities and Powers’… that these are our true adversaries we need to confront, rather than any particular human beings.

    A more modern description might talk about ‘paradigms’, ‘gestalts’, ‘models’ of society, modes of thought…
    —– —— ——

    George Lakoff in _Moral Politics_ analyzes alternative metaphors that different people have available for judging moral questions. Some people tend to automatically view things through the lens of maintaining order, upholding proper ‘authority’, and so forth (even employing violence, lies, ethically unacceptable means if “necessary” for that purpose) — while others tend to make nurturing human beings their automatic first priority.

    Most people are capable of looking at a issue from either of these standpoints, depending on how they’re accustomed to seeing it — but not doing both at once. That would be like trying to use two tools with one hand… It might be possible to switch tools; but it’s far far easier to go on using whichever you’re already holding.
    ———————————————

    Once someone has put an issue into the context of, say: “defending All That Is Good and Right and Holy against the [Choose all you like] ‘wicked lazy violent cowardly greedy irresponsible lustful puritanical uncool smarter-than-us stupid cunning crazy law-breaking tyrannical feckless’ ________s” —

    It won’t do you a whole lot of good to explain that “The _____s aren’t really _____” because most people will have already gotten accustomed to thinking of ____s in those terms —

    and now every time an issue comes up involving the _____s — You’re going to find people talking about how ____ those ____s are. Even if they’re only saying that ____s really aren’t that way,…

    and at that point the whole discussion has been derailed. The actual situation of the ____s is going to fall largely on deaf ears….
    ———————————————–

    Republicans have become really adept at raising the fear that some poor person somewhere is probably getting away with something… while you only wish you could! Not able to fight this with ironclad proofs that no poor person anywhere on Earth is getting away with nuthin [and certainly not even close to what the rich have been hauling off — Where’s the money, after all?] — the Democrats have largely gone along with it, even joined in contests over which party can kick poor people around the hardest. [But everybody still “knows” that they’re really a bunch of softies!]
    ————————————————

    Whether poor people are bad, or good — whether rich people are bad, or good —
    is one of those easy-sidetrack questions. There was a reason God implied that ‘The Knowledge of Good and Evil’ would be hard for us humans to handle.

    Sometimes a whole situation is simply a “moral sink” — In an environment where good behavior is discouraged and bad behavior rewarded, the scum are simply going to rise to the top. Ain’t no point saying “Bad scum!”

    Our economy has largely become that kind of system; and this has had its effects on our politics.

    While there are some excellent books on this, both from former regulators like William Black and former ‘investment’ pushers… _Fiasco: The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader_ by Frank Partnoy is downright freaky… You might prefer a good talk (with transcript) at http://michael-hudson.com/2012/09/set-up-to-fail/

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  2. The divide is no longer between “conservative” and “liberal”, Republican and Democrat. It is beween revolutionaries, with their narcissistic desire for coercive power and evolutionaries who put their faith in the transformative suasive power of unconditional Love/Grace.

    “Conservatism” is not a philosophy at all but an attitude. The word “conservative” (fm L “conservator” = “one who preserves”) simply refers to a rigid conformity with orthodox or established ways or beliefs, it doesn’t refer to what those beliefs might be. A hard core old guard Democrat is just as much a conservative as a hard core old guard Republican, both are clinging to the past. “Conservatism” is term people use to justify whatever their own beliefs are by attributing them to the past and thus claiming this validates them. That’s why people tack labels onto Historical figures, like calling Washington a “Born Again Christian” as Limbaugh does, in order to misrepresent those peoples views as supporting what the people of today think. People who claim the “Conservative” label rarely agree on everything, in many cases they differ radically, William F. Buckley, for example, supported legalization of marijuana and cocaine, which other people who think themselves conservatives call the height of liberalism.~Source Unknown

    Link:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/09/dear-christian-if-the-thought-of-either-romney-or-obama-getting-elected-makes-you-fearful-angry-or-depressed-you-have-what-we-call-a-theological-problem/

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  3. Carol – the reason “People who claim the “Conservative” label rarely agree on everything” is simple: Conservatives agree on being fiscally responsible, want small government (individual freedom), and trust in our founding father’s vision (i.e. Constitution and Declaration of Independence). We all move in that direction, but feel free to offer ideas on how to best get “there”.

    Liberals are hive-minded. They purport freedom of speech and other ideals of being tolerant, but rarely allow any opposing view without derision and violence. With “the Left”, you either follow their drummer or be summarily branded a racist, a sexist, or some other equally vile derogatory term. Nothing is individual with Liberals…unions, social justice religious groups, etc. are all “believe what your told” or you don’t belong.

    So Carol, allow Conservatives/Tea Party folks/Republicans to label themselves how they wish without ascribing some b.s. motive. Trust me, Liberals spend most of their time trying to label everyone else instead of finding their own moral/social compass.

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  4. The last couple posts here are very clear about how to paint conservatives and rich people in a positive light too and how to paint liberals/revolutionaries/democrats in a negative light….getting the two of them no closer to the truth in the process.

    We have to be willing to focus on our own short-comings as much as we are able to focus on our own goodness — a goodness which we are soooooo clear on already and feel sooo very sure of (while we, every one of us, hurt other people without looking twice at what we are doing, individually and collectively by what society we hang out with and fund).

    I found it very interesting on another post at this site that several people were very clear that they were ready for Jesus to come back — and were very clear where that would leave them (apparently going up to heaven to sit at God’s right hand given how sure they were of their righteousness). They were so meek about it, but so sure. I can only assume that this form of clarity is reserved for those who are not actually aware of what they are funding and yet are so ready to recommend themselves to Jesus and to the online community.

    I would like to counter Sarah’s comment with — just for sake of exploration — a counter balance to her first two paragraphs:

    The reason People who claim the “Progressive” label rarely agree on everything is simple: Progressives are known for valuing diversity and a government that supports the civil rights and responsibilities of all citizens. Outside of that we frequently disagree strongly on how to best get “there”…. including the vehement distinctions that occur between progressive people of faith and progressive atheists or nontheists (nontheists — a group that’s not fundamentalist and opposed to spirituality in the way the atheists can be, though not into a “God”).

    Conservatives, unlike Progressive folks, are very hive-minded. They purport freedom of speech and other ideals of being tolerant, but rarely allow any opposing view without derision and violence. With “the Right”, you either follow their drummer or be summarily branded a homosexual, a heathen, or some other equally bigotted term (actual progressives all know that if you like gay people as they are you don’t call them “homosexuals” — that’s reserved for those who purport to stand in judgment of said gay people). Nothing is individual with Conservatives…their organizations, political parties, and churches are all “believe what your told” or “you don’t belong…. go to the big city but you aren’t welcome here!”

    See now where did these two previous paragraphs get us?? Can we actually humble down and listen to Jesus’ words and actions and stop being all hoity toity about our own tribes and our own righteousness? Any chance of that?

    And incidentally: GO REBECCA!!

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