Seriously, just what the hell is wrong with conservative Christian Republicans? Why are they so hostile and angry and mean-spirited?
It’s not because they’re conservative; I know people who are politically conservative, but who are also rational and thoughtful. It’s not because they’re Christian; I know a lot of Christians who are caring and loving and compassionate. And it’s not because they’re Republicans; I know many Republicans who understand that governing a nation as complex and diverse as the United States requires a certain amount of compromise.
But it seems when you combine conservatism, Christianity, and Republican ideology, some sort of toxic reaction occurs. It’s like Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk — if the Hulk was capable of hypocrisy.
This is Stephen Fincher, a conservative Christian Republican from Tennessee. In a speech arguing against providing the poor with food assistance, he recently recited the following from 2 Thessalonians:
He who does not work, neither shall he eat.
When Fincher refers to ‘He who does not work’ he’s talking about the poor. He’s apparently under the impression that if the poor are necessarily lazy. If they had more incentive to work — say, starvation, for example — then Fincher apparently feels they’d get off their indolent asses and get a job. If he’d taken the time to study the situation — if he’d done his own fucking job — Fincher might have understood that most of the people in the U.S. who receive food assistance do work. But because so many of those jobs are low-wage jobs (thanks to members of Congress like Fincher who fight against raising the minimum wage), and because so many of those low-wage jobs don’t include health care (thanks to members of Congress like Fincher who oppose universal health care), and because so many of those workers are single mothers who need affordable day care in order to work those low-wage jobs (and thanks to members of Congress like Fincher, affordable day care isn’t so affordable any more), because of all that, food assistance is necessary for a lot of people.
Fincher, by the way, isn’t the only politician to have used 2 Thessalonians to support his political ideology. So did Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. During the Russian famine of 1918 Lenin also recited that same Biblical verse. Lenin, however, was referring to the capitalists and the wealthy who live off of the labor of others. He argued that the early stages of a communist revolution required ‘He who does not work’ to shed his expensive suit and tie and pick up a shovel, and labor alongside the workers who made him rich.
To be fair to Stephen Fincher, he isn’t entirely against government assistance. He owns a farm (on which, by the way, other people do the work while he’s in DC doing the heavy lifting for Congress). Last year Fincher received more than US$70,000 in direct government subsidies. This is money given directly and automatically to farm owners, regardless of need, even if the farm isn’t producing crops that year. The subsidies go predominantly to the largest and most profitable farm operations, rather than to small family farms. Since 1999, Fincher has received about $3.5 million dollars in direct government subsidies.
Let me put that in perspective. The $70,500 that conservative Christian Republican Stephen Fincher received in 2012 is nearly double the median income of Tennessee households. The average annual food assistance grant to poor Tennesseans is just under $1,600. The government gave Fincher about 43 times that much money just for owning a fucking farm. And yet he feels $1,600 is too generous for the working poor.
Tell me, what’s conservative about that? What’s Christian about that? What’s Republican about that? I’d really like an answer to that question.
The famous physicist Steven Weinberg said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”
And Glen Frey’s “I’ve got mine” lyrics are a poignant reminder of how people look aside from those less well off once they’ve had some success in life:
There’s another kind of poverty
That only rich men know
A moral malnutrition
That starves their very souls
And they can’t be saved by money
They’re all running out of time
And all the while they’re thinkin’
“It’s okay ’cause I’ve got mine”
I’ve got mine, I’ve got mine
I don’t want a thing to change
‘Cause I’ve got mine
Full lyrics can be found at [ http://www.songlyrics.com/glenn-frey/i-ve-got-mine-lyrics/ ]
I’m not equating conservatism with being rich, as the song does, but it captures the “I’ve got mine” sentiment exactly.
I’m not sure that it takes religion for “good people to do bad things,” but there’s no denying that religion allows them to justify those bad things in their own minds.
People do not have to directly commit terrible acts but by exercising overt or covert prejudice and persecution, faith-based voting for persons who would deny other’s rights, etc., they would make the world over into a mean, narrow-minded and intolerant religious dystopia.
Christian Republicans would put religion above the rule of law, or more frighteningly, want to see the law aligned with fundamentalist Christian interpretations in a born-again Sharia. These same folks believe the US constitution begins with “The right to keep and bear arms…” and can’t conceive that the “Freedom of religion” amendment also has a “Freedom from religion” interpretation repeatedly supported by the SCOTUS. As a Canadian, I see our current leadership following the same Christian Republican playbook which is why I am flipping out on your blog. (apologies, greg)
Bill Mahar’s monologue [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyHhAoxTXKI ] on why religion is not just about quaint harmless belief in a magical friend, but a past and present threat to rights, peace and security, describes the situation with his typical biting satire.
There’s nothing conservative, Christian or Republican about it. It’s greed pure and simply.
That may be so…it may be nothing more than greed. But it’s presented as representing conservative Christian Republican values. It may not represent any one or two of those groups together, but it’s clearly come to represent the combination of all three. And that’s a shame.