Newsweek: A Post Katrina "Come-to-Jesus" Moment
From the latest Newsweek, on Post-Katrina politics, and Christian morality in the US...I especially like her observation that the mistake of shrinking Christian conern down to a few sexual issues turns out to be "incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us." Here are excerpts:
"There was a great piece in Harper's last month, "The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong'' by Bill McKibben, about how three out of four Americans believe the Bible teaches this: "God helps those who help themselves.'' The Gospel according to Mark? Luke? Actually, it was Ben Franklin who came up with these words to live by...
"The thing is," McKibben writes, "not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counterbiblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor.
We as a nation—a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation—have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too. (What a deal!) You know how this works: It's wrong to help poor people because "handouts'' reward dependency and thus hurt more than they help. So, do the right thing—that is, walk right on by—and by all means hang on to your hard-earned cash.
Thus do we deny the working poor a living wage, resent welfare recipients expected to live on a few hundred dollars a month, object to the whopping .16 percent of our GNP that goes to foreign aid—and still manage to feel virtuous about all of the above.
Which is how "Christian" morality got to be all about other people's sex lives—and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us. Defending traditional marriage? A breeze. Living in one? Less so. Telling gay people what they can't do? Piece o' cake. But responding to the wretched? Loving the unlovable? Forgiving the ever-so-occasionally annoying people you actually know? Hard work, as our president would say, and rather more of a stretch.
A lot of us are angry at our public officials just now, and rightly so. But we are complicit, too; top to bottom, we picked this government, which has certainly met our low expectations.
The Bush administration made deep and then still deeper cuts in antipoverty programs, and we liked that. (The genius of the whole Republican program, in fact, is that it not only offers tax cuts and morality, but tax cuts as morality. Americans do, I think, want to feel they are doing the right thing, and when I hear an opponent of abortion rights say, "I'm voting for the most vulnerable, the unborn,'' I have to respect that. Of course, we also like tax breaks and cheap gas and cranking the thermostat up and down—so when Republicans play to both our better angels and our less altruistic ones, it's not that tough a sell.)
But have Democrats loudly decried the inhumanity—or even the hidden, deferred costs of the Bush cuts in services to the most vulnerable among the already born? Heavens, no, with a handful of exceptions, such as former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, who spoke every single day of his campaign—and ever since—about our responsibilities toward those struggling just to get by in the "other America..."
Immediately after the disaster, Bush quickly intervened—to make it possible for refiners to produce dirtier gasoline. He has since zapped working people on the Gulf Coast all over again by suspending the 1931 law that requires employers to pay the prevailing wage to workers on all federally financed projects.
Others in his party have expressed concern about all the freebies evacuees will be enjoying: "How do you separate the needy from those who just want a $2,000 handout?'' Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski asked—by way of explaining why debit cards for Katrina victims were a bad idea.
So far, though, I'd love to be wrong, I see no reason to think the president's sinking poll numbers will persuade him that there's more to (pro-)life than opposing abortion.
I still dare to hope Democrats may yet remember why they are Democrats, though. And that would be a real come-to-Jesus moment."