Category Archives: poverty

The Biblical And Moral Case For Trump?

This is the man that evangelical Christians are lining up behind. Take a minute to get your head around that thought.
Is there a moral or biblical imperative to vote for this man?

Like a lot of folks this election season, evangelicals are struggling with the “lesser of two evils” argument. Interestingly, many of them are reacting the same way as progressives: contemplating either a third-party vote or not voting at all. Today, I want to address a couple of  articles advising evangelical and fundamentalist Christians on how they should vote by laying out a biblical or moral case for Donald Trump.

The first is from Wayne Grudem, titled “Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice“. The second is “To The “Never Trumper”- A Biblical Case For Trump” (no author credited). Perhaps the most interesting thing about these two articles is that neither present anything particularly biblical or moral about Trump. I wondered why that might be and began comparing some of Trump’s actions and words with scripture and found that much of what The Donald has said, done or proposed flies in the face of almost everything Chirstians stand for. Here are a few examples:

  • “I love the old days, you know? You know what I hate? There’s a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed punch back anymore. … I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.”_  “But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.” Matthew 5:39
  • “It’s a horrible thing. They’re using them as shields. But we’re fighting a very politically correct war. And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.” _ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you, so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44-45
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,”_ “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:36 (Not a direct quote, but a policy position)
  • “(Cruz’s) father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right, prior to his being shot? And nobody even brings it up…, What was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.” _ “The Lord detests false lips; he favors those who do what is true.” Proverbs 12:22 (So many Trump statements have been proven false, it is not feasible to list them all here. I chose this one as a representative sample because it’s one of the most outrageous.)
  • “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” _ “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
  • “My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.” _ “But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him?” 1 John 3:17

These are just a few of the things that I found and I believe that they, along with the scripture references provided, conclusively debunk the idea that there is a biblical or moral context to vote for Donald Trump. You can vote for the man if you want, but you probably shouldn’t use the Bible to justify it. Because it just doesn’t hold up.

Don’t Do It, Charlotte? Too Late, They Done Did It

satire def
^^^Because some people are irony-impaired.^^^

So, the Charlotte city council recently voted to allow transgenders to use whatever bathroom they damn well please. Well, beloved, if you need a sign of the moral degeneration currently taking place in the United States, here it is. I mean, we’re seriously going to let men use women’s bathrooms just because they claim to “feel like a woman”? If it’s not immediately struck down, we’re headed for a disaster of biblical proportions! Complete with human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria.

You may think that response is a little over the top, but you’d be oh so wrong. You see, in the two days since Charlotte passed this abomination, some of North Carolina’s most God-fearing leaders have begun shouting from the mountain tops to alert the citizens that the dreaded “gay agenda” is attempting to take over our fair state.

As I told you a couple of weeks ago, Franklin Graham spoke up about the menace to our children represented in this legal anathema. And, right before the vote, Governor Pat McCrory emailed the two conservative stalwarts on the council to inform them that passage would “most likely cause immediate state legislative intervention.” Yesterday, Speaker of the NC House Tim Moore released a statement that legislators are planning a bill to block not only Charlotte’s ordinance, but also in any other similar laws passed in the state. Thank you, God, for men such as these.

Make no mistake, brothers and sisters, this is the moral crisis of our generation and we need to stand strong. Oh sure, several NC communities are all over lists of the hungriest cities in the nation and, a list of municipalities where poverty is growing the fastest includes the four largest cities in the state, but who cares about a bunch of deadbeats now that the government has decided to take up for the gays? Even worse, they want to protect a bunch of she-males? There’s a word for those people and we all know what it is (it starts with “pr” and ends with “edator”).

Is there any basis for the fear that child molesters will use this “bathroom bill” as a way to find little girls for their nefarious purposes? Of course not. Are there, in fact, multiple places where such ordinances have been on the books for several years and haven’t resulted in an increase in sexual assault or rape? Absolutely (see above link). Stop clouding the issue with facts, damn it!

Look, I know that persecuting gays and trannies seems to fly in the face of Christianity since Christians suffered awful persecution in the days of the early church and we follow a man who taught to us love and accept everyone, not just people who look like us. And, a Republican-controlled legislature passing laws to subvert a city council’s decision seems utterly absurd, as they constantly remind us that the GOP is the party of small government. But, seriously, none of that matters. Things are changing and, as a straight, white, cisgender (and by “cisgender”, I mean “normal”) man, I am terrified that gays and the transgenders might  treat me as bad as I’ve treated them. I’m not sure I could stand that.

Christians for Trump 2016!

 

Christians for TrumpI don’t know about anyone else, but I have been so underwhelmed by the choices in the upcoming presidential election. Until recently, I floundered around, looking for the true, evangelical Christian candidate, all to no avail. Ben Carson was looking good for a while, but then I realized he’s a Seventh-Day Adventist, and I just can’t hang with a such weird, semi-magical faith. Jeb Bush is a Catholic and, as we all know, the Pope is the Anti-Christ. So, he’s out. I had all but settled on Ted Cruz as the one, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought all was lost until, just a few days ago, the clouds parted, the trumpets sounded and the answer I was looking for was revealed.

You see, that’s when Jerry Falwell, Jr, president of Liberty University and son of Rev. Jerry Falwell, endorsed Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, calling Trump “a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.” Yes! Coming on the heels of Sister Sarah Palin’s declaration of support , it is clear that God wants Donald Trump to lead this country back to greatness.

We’ve had hints that Brother JJ might come out for the Donald. Since Trump, aka “the last great hope for this hell hole of a country”, stepped onto the pages of history by declaring his intent to run for president, Falwell has put some time into building a rapport with the man. In recent weeks, he has compared Trump to Falwell, Sr and stated, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment.”

And, the country is ready for this, beloved. As this sign at an Alabama rally for Trump back in August shows:

trump4

Of course, some wag is going to point to the Donald’s less-than-stellar knowledgee of the Bible or the fact that he can’t remember ever asking God’s forgiveness, questioning his evangelical bonfides. But, honestly, none of that really matters. What does matter? That Trump is the only person who can save us from the dreadful mismanagement that has characterized the Obama administration. I mean, seriously, how much more employment, peace and economic prosperity can this country take?

Mr. Trump is also the strong man we need to lead us against the forces that threaten to destroy the very fabric of our nation. Who else but Trump can go toe-to-toe with ISIS, Vladimir Putin and China? Sure, he backed out of the debate last night rather than face Megyn Kelly. But, after the way she went after him last time, who could blame him? Intelligent women who won’t put up with your crap are scary.

Does it matter that he’s greedy, privileged, willing to use all the resources at his disposal to stroke his own ego while others suffer (often on account of what he’s said), and cares nothing for the consequences of his words and actions so long as they don’t affect him personally? Of course not! All good Christians should aspire to be like Mr. Trump; rich as Croesus and unashamedly politically incorrect. Because, really, isn’t that what the Gospel is all about?

The Battle Of The Cup

Red cup returns ! #starbucks #holiday #ueno

Apparently, this is what a “war on Christmas” looks like.

I had originally planned to start this piece by telling you that the conservative’s “War on Christmas” has started early this year, thanks to Starbucks’ new minimalist holiday cup design. Unless you live under a rock, however, you already know that because “The Battle Of The Cup” is all but inescapable. If, however, you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is in a nutshell: the 2015 Starbucks holiday cup is red and unadorned with any Christmas-ey decorations. For some reason, that has sent conservative Christians into a frenzy and declare that Starbucks did so “because they hate Jesus.” I don’t know who started this shit, but Starbucks needs to track them down and thank them because you just can’t buy this kind of publicity.

This brouhaha started over the weekend and, by now, it has been written/discussed/dissected by people much smarter than I and all the decent, intelligent comments about this situation have already been made  so there’s no point in my going there. But, that’s okay because it allows me to play to my strengths: ridicule and sarcasm. And, I have to say, if ever a situation called for ridicule and sarcasm, it’s this one.

Think about it for a minute: Some Christians, members of the dominant culture in this country (78.4% of Americans identify as Christian, a decline from previous studies), are upset because a business decides not to cater to their whim and declare that it’s part of some liberal, PC “War on Christmas”. I swear, some days, this shit writes itself.

Now, most of this freak out is part of the the aforementioned “War on Christmas”, which is really a fabrication perpetrated by a certain television news network to keep conservatives whipped up about bullshit so they don’t realize how badly they’ve been used by the Republican Party. But, that whole “decline in the number of people who identify as Christian” plays a role, too. If only because, without it, said news network wouldn’t have any fear to play on and what would they do then?

Seriously though, have things gotten so bad for Christians that we can no longer afford to share the month of December with folks who believe a little differently? I mean, we’ve only been sharing this month for, well, as long as there’s been this thing called Christmas. In the next month and a half, there are at least 8 non-Christian holidays being celebrated. Granted, the majority of them are either Muslim or Pagan, which don’t really count as far as the folks who have their knickers in a twist over all this are concerned. But, at least one of those holidays is Jewish and I thought we liked Jews. Or, do we only like Jews when we’re separated by an ocean?

But, all the reasons aside, I really don’t get what all the shouting’s about. I mean, it’s not like previous Starbucks holiday cups were an integral part of “putting the Christ back in Christmas”. In years past, the cups have featured snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas ornaments, and other secular symbols of the season. No nativity scenes, no stars, no Madonna’s (Jesus’ mom, not the singer). So, what’s the big deal about a plain red cup? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that most of these people were singing some piece of crap song about red cups? Maybe if they’d put a little of the stuff from their red solo cup into the Starbucks cup, they wouldn’t be so pissed off.

Look, there are plenty of things in this country that are a war on the very spirit of Christmas: violence, poverty, hunger, racism, homelessness, etc. Why is it that those things are bearable, but a fucking paper cup that doesn’t have Christmas crap plastered all over it means secular forces have declared war on the season? A more cynical person would probably say it’s because getting mad at Starbucks doesn’t require people to do actually do anything other than be outraged, while addressing those other things might mean giving up some of our stuff or interacting with “those people”. But, I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that at all.

Pope Francis and The GOP: Where Is The Love?

Both the media and the GOP think Francis is a "progressive". At least one of them thinks that's a bad thing.
Both the media and the GOP think Francis is a “progressive”. At least one of them thinks that’s a bad thing.

Unless you live under a rock, you know the Pope is visiting the U. S. this week. What you might not have known is that Frankie is a “progressive”. At least, that’s what the media (and the Republican party) keeps telling us. Only in the America of the 21st century could a man who’s pro-life, anti-LGBT and against the ordination of women be called a “progressive”. While the media is having a field day with Francis’ visit, saying that the GOP isn’t exactly happy about the whole thing is a bit like referring to the Hindenburg disaster as a “fire”: true, but an understatement of massive proportions.

Take Marco Rubio, for instance. This good Catholic boy recently said, “As a Catholic, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter and the head of the Church…And in theological matters, as a Catholic, I believe when he pronounces himself from the chair of Peter, which is actually very rare, he is infallible in those decisions, in those issues. That does not extend to political issues like the economy”. He added, “On economic issues, the pope is a person.” Fellow Catholic Chris Christie agrees. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I just think the Pope is wrong. The fact is that his infallibility is on religious matters, not on political ones.” Isn’t it funny how the Pope’s infallibility evaporates as soon as he starts contradicting conservatives about money or the environment?

Two other cradle Catholics, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Rick Santorum (who, thanks to Dan Savage, needs no introduction) get a little more specific in their criticism of Pope Francis. Both take issue with Francis’ comments on climate change, with Gosar claiming the Pope is promoting “questionable science” and Santorum declaring, “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.” Rick went on to say, “I think we [Catholics] are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.” Couple of things here: 1) I love how any science that doesn’t allow the GOP’s corporate pals to continue raping the planet in their quest for riches is “questionable” and 2) Francis is scientist, having graduated as a chemical technician and working in that capacity for the Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory before entering the priesthood. Sounds like someone didn’t do their homework.

You would think the GOP’s very own propaganda channel media outlet, FoxNews, would back them up on all this asshattery. But check out this commentary from the network’s own Shepard Smith:

“I think that we are in a weird place in the world when the following things are considered political. Five things, I’m going to tick them off. These are the five things that were on [the pope] and our president’s agenda. Caring for the marginalized and the poor. That’s now political. Advancing economic opportunity for all. Political? Serving as good stewards of the environment. Protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom globally. Welcoming [and] integrating immigrants and refugees globally. And that’s political?

I mean, I don’t know what we expect to hear from an organization’s leader like the pope of the Catholic Church other than protect those who need help, bring in refugees who have no place because of war and violence and terrorism. These seem like universal truths that we should be good to others who have less than we do, that we should give shelter to those who don’t have it. I think these were the teachings in the Bible of Jesus. They’re the words of the pope, they’re the feelings of the president. And people who find themselves on the other side of that message should consult a mirror, it seems like. Because I think that’s what we’re supposed to do as a people, whatever your religion. I mean, it seems to me — and I think to probably, as Bill O’Reilly would put it, most clear-thinking Americans — that that’s how we’re supposed to roll.”

A FoxNews anchor taking Republicans to task on the air? Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more weird.

Taken by itself, Smith’s comments could be written off as a cynical attempt to make Fox look like it’s living up to its tagline, “Fair and Balanced”. But, lately, the network has been giving Trump hell and Chris Wallace called Carly Fiorina out on her Planned Parenthood BS, both of which gives some credence that “change of heart” theory. Holy crap on a cracker. Is there a rip in the space-time continuum that I didn’t know about? Or, maybe, the Apocalypse is upon us; I don’t know. Either way, this is uncharted territory and it’s a little scary.

Of Frogs, Pants and “Promoting Sin”

A couple of months ago, I pretty much swore off stories about Franklin Graham. The guy is a broken record, bitching about the “gays”, the “muslims” and President Obama and I was approaching burnout where he’s concerned. That all changed this morning when I read this Facebook status he posted yesterday:

FG Muppets

Yes, beloved, the Muppets are “promoting sin to a younger and younger audience” and Franklin is joining One Million Moms (don’t worry, we’ll get them in a minute) in “urging parents to call on ABC to take it off the air. Okay, then.

So, One Million Moms. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this organization, here’s a little background on them: Basically, they’re the email/fundraising arm of the lovely American Family Association, one of the more despicable anti-LBGT hate groups out there. They’re also one of the crazier ones, promoting such ideas as Christians are now just as oppressed as black folks were prior to the Civil Rights movement, equating people who are LGBT allies to Nazi’s, that the President hates white Americans because he authorized changing the name back to Denali and other insane rantings. But, their latest petition leaves all that (and Graham’s puny Facebook condemnation) in the dust: “The Muppets” is not suitable family fare because “…Kermit doesn’t wear pants”. I’ll pause for a minute and let you try to absorb that statement.

Okay, now that you have your brain wrapped around the fact that a group of adults who want to be taken seriously have their knickers in a twist because a puppet is not wearing pants (well, as much as you can, anyway), let’s look a little deeper into this insanity. Citing the fact that Kermit isn’t wearing any pants as part of the reason that the show isn’t fit for kids is…, let’s say “interesting”, since Kermit has never worn pants! Okay, so he did in a couple of movies and the occasional bit on the TV show, but the frog’s default setting is most definitely sans pants. Especially on Sesame Street. Guess that means one of the most revered kids shows of all time isn’t “suitable for family viewing.”

There are other complaints besides Kermit’s attire (or lack thereof): according to 1MM, “Miss Piggy came out as a pro-choice feminist during an MSNBC interview” which means “The puppet characters loved by kids in the 1970s and 1980s and beyond are now weighing in on abortion and promiscuity”. I suspect these two issues are more of a problem than Kermit’s pants. To be fair, though, the pants comment was probably an attempt at humor on the part of 1MM and, while it definitely succeeded, I don’t think the resultant laughs were the kind they were shooting for.

The Moms also ask “How many parents want to explain the punchline of sexually charged jokes to young children?” Which is a bit odd because Parker and I watched the first show last night and neither of us can remember anything “sexually charged” in the episode.  It’s almost as if they were watching an entirely different show. Oh wait, they didn’t watch it at all before weighing in. Seems to me actually viewing a show might be something you’d want to do before calling for its cancellation.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire thing is the lack of outrage at “interspecies relationships” (though it does get a mention in Graham’s FB tirade). Seriously, you’re torqued about a frog not wearing pants, but his thing for pigs isn’t a problem? Let me get this straight, Kermit’s relationship with Miss Piggy and Gonzo’s creepy chicken fetish were both “family friendly” and wouldn’t bring up uncomfortable questions, but jokes about where a bear might take a dump or Animal’s reluctance to go on the road with Imagine Dragons (“Too many women, too many towns“) cross the line? That’s one weird-ass line.

Both Graham and One Million Moms make a mistake that many of us have for quite a while:we see the Muppets and their shows/movies as children’s fare. That’s not been true since Kermit and company started working outside Sesame Street back in the 70’s. Oh sure, there have always been elements of the Muppets that kids enjoyed, but the humor was aimed squarely at adults. This new show drops all the pretenses and goes after its targeted audience directly. Considering that most young kids today have almost no connection to these characters, that’s actually pretty smart.

In their zeal to “protect” kids from such awful things as sex, bodily functions and actual issues facing us today, Graham and 1MM fail to live up to their calling: protecting kids from things they actually need to be protected from. You know, abuse, hunger, homelessness, poverty, etc. If these people want to get your panties in a wad about things that aren’t “family friendly”, seems like those might be a good place to start.

Kim Davis And America’s Favorite Pastime

Just a little sample of the shittiness I'm talking about.
Just a little sample of the shittiness I’m talking about.

You may have noticed that I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet about Kim Davis since she’s been jailed for contempt of court. There are two reasons for that: 1), I felt like crap last Friday and writing was not exactly at the top of my list and 2) I’ve been taking some time to sort out what I think about the whole thing. Yes, I realize that second item is a bit of a novelty for me, usually I just say whatever pops into my head. But, looking at the discourse surrounding Ms. Davis, I didn’t think that would be such a good idea. Plus, being sick when the shit hit the fan forced me into a period of self-reflection; which is probably a more truthful rationale for the reasonable, well-thought out tack I seem to be taking (it’s too early to know if I actually mean all this).

First, disclaimer: no matter what else is said in this post, I firmly believe that it is wrong, both legally and morally, for Kim Davis to refuse to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples and that if she cannot do so in good conscience, she should resign her position immediately. You might think that I wouldn’t need to say that here, as I’ve said it at least once before on this very forum. But, I have to waste time and space repeating myself because, on the internet, saying something once (and, a week ago, to boot) is like never having said it in the first place. Okay, let’s get on with this.

A little earlier, I mentioned “the discourse surrounding Ms. Davis”, saying that it gave me pause. That’s because a lot of it has been pretty fucking shitty. And, I’m not talking about the people taking up for her, either. There have been some really ugly and derogatory memes and comments floating around progressive circles since last Thursday, some almost gleeful that she “got what was coming to her” and others denigrating her faith and her background. As much I’d like to say “Come on, people; we’re better than that”, after the past 5 days, I’m not so sure.

Let’s get one thing straight: what’s going on here is nothing but redneck shaming (if that’s not an actual term, it should be) and I don’t understand it. Why  do  people freak out when poor black folks are called “freeloaders”, “thugs” or “welfare queens” but have no qualms about calling rural white folks (especially southerners or mountaineers) “inbred”, “ignorant” and “redneck”? Maybe it’s cognitive dissonance or maybe  it’s just plain, old hypocrisy. Either way, it’s fucking wrong.

This goes deeper than a few ugly memes and comments about Davis, however; it’s about the fact that rednecks are the last group of people we can denigrate with impunity. In an article on white, rural poverty, Leonard Pitts wrote, “In a vacuum, yes, Honey Boo Boo, would be fairly meaningless. But the show is not aired in a vacuum. Rather, it is aired in a country where art and scholarship have spent two centuries pounding home the idea that some of us are ‘white trash,’ ignorant ‘crackers’ and, most infamously, ‘hillbillies’ — America’s unalterable and unfixable misfits.” Indeed. It seems that America believes rednecks exist for two reasons: the entertainment of their “betters” and, more importantly, to fill the slot of the ultimate “other”.

All this is not to say that you must agree with Kim Davis; you can disagree to your little hearts content. And, you can continue making your shitty little “redneck” and “hillbilly” jokes. But, understand that if you do, you’re really no better than the people you’re ridiculing. Maybe even worse, because what they’re doing, they’re doing out of love; misguided though it is. You have no idea how much I wish I could say the same about the rest of us right now.

You Stay Classy, Oklahoma!

What a classy way to greet the first African-American president!
What a sensitive way to greet our country’s African-American president!

This has been a rough news week for folks in Oklahoma. In the space of 4 days, residents of the Sooner State have been subjected to a Facebook post from their Republican Party that compared people who receive SNAP benefits to animals and the President of the United States being greeted in their capital city by a group of 10 protestors waving Confederate flags. All I can say is “You stay classy, Oklahoma!”

Let’s tackle these faux pas in chronological order, starting with the GOP’s online “misstep” (which is a nice way of saying “total fuck up”). On Monday, the brilliant soul who manages their social media presence felt the following post was an excellent idea:

“The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because ‘The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.’ Thus ends today’s lesson in irony #OKGOP.”

No matter what you think about people on food stamps, mentioning them in the same breath as animals probably isn’t the smartest thing you could do. Not only does it open the door for your opponents to make you look callous and uncaring towards people in poverty, it’s punching down, which is not cool. Not to mention that it’s also fucking offensive!

After catching a little heat for their attempt at what I can only assume is humor, state Chairman Randy Brogdon issued an apology…, of sorts. He started out by saying he was sorry if anyone was offended and that such was never the intention of the post. And, that’s where he should’ve stopped. But, of course, he didn’t, going on to “explain” what he was trying to say about the Republican approach to helping the less fortunate. I’m not going into all that right now because I just don’t have the time or the will to discuss such inane ideas. I will, however, point out that any apology that contains an “explanation” usually isn’t much of an apology. Especially when you end with “I apologize for any misconceptions (italics mine) that were created.” I don’t think there were any “misconceptions”, Randy. I believe everyone got your point just fine.

Next, let’s talk about this “greeting” for President Obama. It seems that a group of Oklahoma citizens decided to exercise their 1st Amendment rights and stage a Confederate flag protest in front of the hotel where the president would be staying while in town.That’s right, beloved, people in a state with a long and storied history of racism met our nation’s African-American president with a flag that has come to symbolize racial discrimination and oppression. But wait, there’s more! Why was the president in Oklahoma City in the first place? To visit a federal prison as part of his push to reform a criminal justice system that is incredibly biased against people of color. Why don’t we pause for a second or two and let the irony of all that sink in.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying all the “compassionate conservatism” on display in Oklahoma and elsewhere around the country. Between stories like these and Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants from Mexico, the Republicans are looking really good, aren’t they? Why, it’s just a matter of time before they have the “minority vote” locked up and (insert whack job GOP candidate name here) is residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, by “it’s just a matter of time”, I mean “hell will freeze over”. And, with the current state of the Republican Party, that’s just fine with me.

 

The Poor Will Always Be With Us

Franks poorThe meme to your left has been making the rounds on the internet, lately. Quite a few progressive people, myself included, were quick to share it. As memes go, it’s not bad. Well, except for one thing: Franks never actually said that. It  comes from the Facebook group Stop The World, The Teabaggers Want Off, whose stock in trade is publishing made-up quotes attributed to conservative politicians. Now, if this fabricated quote from Franks was the only thing on this subject making the progressive rounds, I’d just publish a retraction on Facebook and be done with it. But, it’s not. And, some of those things are real live quotes from real live people.

In the last few months (coinciding with the opening of the 2016 presidential campaign season, oddly enough), Republicans have finally started talking about income inequality. And, as you might expect, they are getting it wrong. Like Rick Perry, who said back in Decemeber that “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.” Now, you may be thinking “But, the Bible does say that!” Yes, it does, but it doesn’t mean what Perry and his pals think it does. These yahoos are using it to justify their own greed by saying that poverty is just the way things are and we should learn to live with it. Personally, I think Jesus was making a dig at greedy-ass religious people when he said, “You always have the poor with you…” and that there was an unspoken trailer that went something like, “because you’re a bunch of selfish assholes.”

As blogger extraordinaire Fred Clark points out, much of what Jesus said references the Torah and needs to be understood in the proper context. This particular passage was based on Deuteronomy 15:11, which says:

Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.”

My, that’s a bit inconvenient, isn’t it?

So, what’s a good conservative Christian to do when they read Jesus’ uncomfortable statements about “the least of these” or “the poor”? How are they supposed to maintain the status quo (which, incidentally, consists of judging, ostracizing and marginalizing certain people while keeping as much of their money as possible) when the man they claim to follow said they shouldn’t do that? Luckily, Denny Burk has come to their rescue.

Burk, professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, recently published an article which uses some very impressive mental gymnastics to say that the “least of these” Jesus referred to aren’t people in poverty, it’s “Christian” bakers, photographers and florists. On what does he base this claim? I’ll let him explain it in his own words: “… contrary to popular belief, “the least of these” in Matthew 25:40 is not talking generically about our obligation to care for the poor and needy. We know this because the terms “least of these” and “my brothers” appear elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, and in each case the terms specifically refer to Jesus’ disciples who have been sent out into the world to preach the gospel.” Yes, beloved, Burk ignores the previous 9 verses where Jesus specifically refers to the poor, the hungry, the stranger, etc. to back up his contention that the real people we should be helping are Jesus’ “disciples”.  Isn’t it interesting when biblical literalists start interpreting scripture that doesn’t fit their chosen narrative?

Look, if you want to shit on poor people, that’s your business. But, I really don’t think you should use the Bible to justify such a despicable action. And, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t claim you’re serving Christ while you do it. But, mammon? That’s a different story.

You’re Going To Be Disappointed

disappointmentFor those of you who don’t already know, I volunteer at Love Wins Ministries, “a ministry of presence and pastoral care for the homeless and at-risk population of Raleigh, NC.” It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first met Hugh at The Morning Times coffee shop in downtown Raleigh (his “office” at the time) five years ago. After an early retirement from the fire department in 2012, I was finally able to jump in and help on a regular basis. I’ve spent most of my life serving my community one way or another and that’s not an impulse you just turn off. Thanks to my friends at Love Wins, I didn’t have to.

One of the things I do around the hospitality house is provide rides to a local food pantry. It’s really a great way for me to be involved; as someone who’s more introverted, I do better in small groups and I’ve made some amazing friends on these runs. Getting to know some of the folks who come by our little oasis in the desert that is poverty/homelessness has changed many of my attitudes about people dealing with these situations. While it’s been good for everyone involved, it hasn’t been easy.

In the years I’ve been hanging out at Love Wins, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and I’ve celebrated their good days and shared the sorrow of their bad ones. Unfortunately, the latter seems to outnumber the former by a pretty significant margin. And, a lot of the time, those bad days are the result of my friends’ lack of judgment. I’ll be honest with you, it’s exasperating beyond measure to put time and effort into helping someone better their situation only to see them shoot themselves in the foot over and over again.

Hugh has said more than once that if you do this work expecting people to get better, you’re going to be disappointed because, by and large, people don’t change. It’s one thing to hear these words in the abstract and think to yourself, “Sure, but I’m tough; I can handle it.” It’s a different story when you’re actually invested in the situation. Things change after you’ve bent over backward to get someone into housing only to find they about to be evicted because they aren’t paying their rent. You can tell yourself all you want that you don’t expect them to change (i.e.”get better”), but the simple truth is that, on some level, we all expect it. At the very least, we want it and it hurts when it doesn’t happen.

Regardless of what The Big Man says, being disappointed comes with the territory when you do this kind of work and it’s happened to me a few times (and by “a few times”, I mean “so many times, I’ve lost count”). When it does, I have to remind myself that what I see is only a snapshot of this person’s life. I don’t know what went before and I really don’t know what comes after this moment where our paths have crossed. Maybe they’ve tried so many times to “get better” without success they’ve given up.  I can understand that; all too often, the deck is so stacked against my friends that I’m amazed they can get out of bed in the morning, much less get through the day. A ride to the food pantry or a local church for a shower isn’t going to magically change anyone’s attitude and make them what society calls “normal”, but it probably will make their day a little more bearable. In this business, we call that a win. And, yes, that’s a little disappointing in itself. But, it’s enough to keep me going. One day, it might not be. One day, I may get so burned out that I throw up my hands and say “Fine! If you don’t care, why should I?” and just walk away. But, today? Today, is not that day.