Saturday, July 01, 2006

How My Christian Faith Enlightens My Politics

One line that I hear from Republicans and Republican talk-show hosts is that we need “less big government.” In fact, I believe some might go so far as to argue that all government social programs should be disbanded. So, let’s pretend that happens. Theoretically let's completely disband the government. No government regulation of any business interests. No taxes. I guess we have to work out something about that military which is supposed to protect us (although I don't think we're being protected very well right now by their energies being diverted in the "splendid little war" in Iraq!). They don't want any taxation taken "from the citizens by force" so how are we going to sustain a military? Private donations? I don't know.

Anyway, let's keep going. Let's just depend on the good will of all American citizens. No one will be prejudiced. No racism. After all, it’s the government's fault. It's all the government's fault because the government makes us benevolent racists. So, African-Americans (is it all right if I use the politically correct term?), Latinos, Arabs, and all the other many nationalities of people would get a completely fair shake in our society because without the evil government messing up everything, the playing field would be level and utopia would be with us. No racism. The Civil Rights Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave legislation, minimum wage laws, occupational safety laws, and a host of other laws designed to protect people from being taken advantage of by the powerful (all programs vehemently opposed by Republicans by the way) would be gone because we'd no longer need them. Wow. I'd love to live in a society like that.

No one will be poor because all Americans will take care of the poor. There will be no orphans because all the good American citizens will adopt all the unwanted children. This one is particularly close to me because Pam and I are adoptive parents. We oppose abortion and have done something about it. My wife and I would take in a 1000 unwanted children if we could afford it. We've seen orphanages overseas. We've seen poverty. We've seen the conditions that some children live in and my heart breaks about it. The problem is that there are people in America who can afford to support 1000 unwanted children, who are opposed to abortion, but who don't lift a finger to help those children out. But, we don't want any government programs to help them do we? That makes those children "dependent upon the government." And we can't have that because that would make those children grow up to be lazy. And they'd never get a job. And they'd just depend on the government for the rest of their lives. They'd just be out there sucking off of the rest of us. Because that's what the evil government does isn't it. If we follow the Republican Party line on things like Welfare, they argue that it creates a class of people who are leeches on the rest of society. And we don't want our tax dollars going for them do we? Heaven forbid.

There will be plenty of college students for us here at Campbell because out of the generosity of wealthier Americans, millions of dollars will be given to colleges (more than what is already contributed by government loans, grants, etc.) so that the poorer students can go to college. And there will be no public universities (which might be good for us in the private colleges because we'd all be on equal footing!). The colleges would be busting at the seams because of the money flowing into them out of the generosity of the good American people who without the government interference and without being "forced to give up their money" would generously give to the colleges.

Furthermore, there would be no hungry people. Everyone has enough money for retirement from their 401Ks and their careers (Oh yeah, there will be no greedy executives like the Enron crowd that rob the retirements of their workers because we all know that the government made Ken Lay do it anyway!) And there are no worker's compensation programs. No Social Security. No disability because we all know that everyone on disability cheats anyway. They're just lazy people who don't want to work. So, like the orphaned children, they're just leeches sucking off the rest of us hard-working Americans who don't want our money forcefully taken from us. Besides, if a person is permanently disabled on the job, we can trust the good generosity of that factory or corporation owner to provide for that person and his/her spouse and children for the rest of their lives. I guess his children could go into the factory and work because now there are no child labor laws! "Better for them to be working than to be hungry after all." (A professor here at Campbell actually told me that once when I asked about child labor laws!) Great line. I've always remembered it. It is a great example of Christian compassion!)

There are no public schools. No fire departments, no police stations. Because once the government gets out of the picture, everyone behaves. And all the neighbors chip in out of the generosity of their good hearts and gives millions necessary to build and equip fire stations. And the schools, my goodness, without the government involved, how they will blossom! You'd never have to worry about the poor or the minorities being shut out of those private schools they can't afford to attend. Because the generous American citizens who now have all their hard-earned money will provide scholarships for them to attend. And, since there is no racism, they will be treated fairly and will have an equal place at the table won't they?
What about the food we eat? We would no longer need a Pure Food and Drug Act or any regulation of the food industry or the pharmaceutical industry. Let's just depend on the good generosity of the corporate executives to "do the right thing." They would never risk the safety of the American public to make a profit now would they? So, we would need no government regulation in those areas either. No meat inspection. No FDA.

What about the airwaves? We wouldn't need the FCC would we. (Glory to Jesus, Madelyn Murray O'Hair would finally be defeated because without the FCC she would never successfully get religious broadcasting off the air and maybe that stupid petition would go away!) We could just trust that all radio broadcasters and television broadcasters would realize that there are young minds in the audience. And Janet Jackson's breast would never been seen again by the American public. Quite frankly, I'm glad for the FCC because I don't want to have to explain those kinds of things to my 10 year-old and 5 year-old. I'd rather for the government just to outlaw such things. Maybe we can agree that this is one place we'd allow government regulation! I don't know. It seems like the Republicans want the government to regulate personal morality but when it comes to fiscal morality or business morality they seem to shy away from it. And, in all honesty, it works the other way for many on the democratic side too.

Now, I know that there are millions of good, well-meaning, praying Christians who vote Republican. And, I know that many of these people are very generous with their money. They give to their churches. They give to charitable organizations. And, if they saw a person in need, I trust that many of these people would give to help that person. The problem is that many Americans are not so generous. In fact, I would venture to guess that greed is a common human trait. And I'm not willing to trust the generosity of Americans to care for the underprivileged. I'm not willing to trust the corporate executives to "do the right thing." I'm commanded by Jesus to care for the underprivileged in our society. I take Matthew 25 quite literally. I believe God wants us to provide for the widows and orphans and underprivileged. I believe I'm called to make life better for those in society who don't have what I have. And furthermore, I believe I'm called by God to speak out loudly when I see injustice done. When I see the poor taken advantage of by the Ken Lays of the world I believe I'm supposed to fight it! When I see hungry, unwanted children I believe God wants me to act. When I see unjust war being waged in the name of all Americans I believe God calls me to speak out against it. So the bottom line is that I believe I can best follow the call of God on my life by supporting Democratic candidates. I believe the Democrats have been the party through the years (at least in the 20th century) who have attempted to put programs in place to care for the underprivileged. They have worked to end racism with the Civil Rights Act. They have been the party of the average wage-earning worker supporting unions and organized labor. Yeah, I know the labor unions make the product cost more. But money is not my god. So, the cost of an item I purchase is not the number one thing I care about. If I can't afford it, I don't buy it. And, (even though the Progressive Movement had Republicans at the turn of the century) they have consistently worked for legislation like the Families and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, and Social Security, and a host of other things which have been fought by Republicans. And, perhaps most importantly, I fear that if Republicans had their way unchecked, they undo all these programs. But, these programs make life better for millions of Americans. And I just can't trust that those people will be cared for if the government programs go away.

I do not understand how Christian people can support the party which wants to make life easier for the wealthiest of the wealthiest among us and which has consistently worked in the 20th century against the very programs I mentioned above (Great Society, New Deal, etc.) which were clearly designed to help people have a better life. For these reasons, I believe that the Democratic Party, even though it has its share of “crack-pots” is the party which affords me the greater chance of helping the kind of people that Jesus calls us to help and identify with.

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