Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Elephant in the Discussion of Public Benefits

Over a few days in the last week, I have gotten into an involved discussion over the state of health care in the United States, specifically the problem of a proposed bill that would cut $880 billion from Medicaid, the government program which provides health insurance for the lower income citizens of our nation. These are working class people, the working poor, but also the disabled, the seriously ill, seniors who are below the poverty level, and those in nursing homes. These are the most vulnerable of our population, and one party is determined to stop helping them. And because they are poor, if this lifeline is cut, they will simply have to do without meaningful access to health care. (And no, the ER is not a substitute. Try managing cardiovascular disease or cancer or diabetes using the ER. Or getting a timely diagnosis of a fixable problem.) This is the primary reason why the nonpartisan CBO estimates that about 28 million will lose health coverage as a result of the GOP plan.

In the course of this discussion, a common thread keeps coming up:

These people should pay for themselves. It is immoral to take money from those who deserve have earned it, and give it to those who do not deserve it haven’t earned it.

The working poor are accused of being lazy, of not caring enough to take care of themselves, and so on. No amount of facts will sway these people either. I have pointed out that someone who earns $10 an hour as a single person is in this category - and the same earner with a family of four is actually below the poverty level. No, the poor deserve to go without health care, and the real problem with the world is that we reward the the poor, who don’t deserve anything, with benefits, taking funds away from the wealthy, who have “earned it.”

I may well blog in more depth at some point about how Social Darwinism has become the guiding ethic for the Right - and for far too many American Christians. But for now, I just want to look at a little history.

About four years ago, I ended up researching the connection between the Christian Patriarchy movement and White Supremacy, and I ran across a fascinating and chilling document from the past.

Looking back, I believe this was the turning point in my journey away from the Republican Party and from my former political beliefs in general.

But, you asked for my opinion of this fearful question of the negro in our common schools. It is not necessary for me to repeat the points so strongly put by “Civis.” To one of them only, I would add my voice: the unrighteousness of expending vast sums, wrung by a grinding taxation from our oppressed people, upon a pretended education of freed slaves; when the State can neither pay its debts, nor attend to its own legitimate interests. Law and common honesty both endorse the maxim: “A man must be just before he is generous.” The action of the State, in wasting this money thus, which is due to her creditors, is as inexcusable as it is fantastical. I do know that not a few of our white brethren, before the war, independent and intelli­gent, are now prevented from educating their own children, because they are compelled to keep them in the cornfield, labor­ing from year’s end to year’s end, to raise these taxes to give a pretended education to the brats of the black paupers, who are loafing around their plantations, stealing a part of the scanty crops and stock their poor, struggling boys are able to raise. Not seldom has this pitiful sight made my blood boil with in­dignation, and then made my heart bleed with the thought. (From The Negro and the Common School)

That quote is by Robert Lewis Dabney, a Confederate chaplain, purveyor of viciously racist (and sexist) ideas. The whole article is worth reading, because it pretty clearly lays out the exact same argument made by the Right for why it is supposedly immoral to spend tax dollars on the poor.

After discovering this quote, and realizing that - at least back then - the argument against public sector investment was based on racism and a desire to dehumanize and deprive African Americans of full access to society, I started to look a little closer at the subsequent history.

And guess what? It turns out there is a real history of race as the undercurrent in our discussion about public benefits. (Yeah, I know, I’m late to this realization…)

First, let’s unpack the Dabney quote.

Dabney makes the argument that it is “unrighteous” to tax whites to pay for public schools for blacks. This is such a direct parallel to the argument made today that it is startling. The idea is that wealth “belongs” to those who happen to have it (in many cases because of systems which benefit them at the expense of the poor) and that it is morally wrong to change that. Basically, this is the spirit of “I deserve and earned everything I have, and the fact that you don’t have it is not my problem.”

Second, note that Dabney claims that using funds to benefit blacks deprives whites. This too is the exact same argument, that spending funds on health care (or other benefits) for the poor causes hardship to those who deserve what they have. This is also the false dichotomy at work. It isn’t “either we educate blacks or we educate whites.” As it turned out, whites still got educated after we started funding public schools for blacks. Heck, whites still get educated after Brown v. Board of Education.

Third, Dabney insists that blacks are lazy thieves, and don’t really benefit from the education. Again, this is the exact same argument made today.

And there is more, if you read the entire article. Dabney claims that public education for blacks will cause them to become dependent on government.

Dabney complains that his tax dollars - which are rightfully his, of course - are being taken from him for a project he deplores.

In what sounds appalling today, Dabney dismisses the counterargument that as long as blacks can vote, shouldn’t they be educated with a statement that he doesn’t think blacks should have the vote, so why should he pay to educate them.

And there is more: public education just encourages idleness in blacks. Education encourages him to be uppity, rather than content and hardworking at the manual labor to which he is destined. And the training for manual labor should be started at age five, and if necessary, blacks should be “apprenticed” to white folks. Hmm, at some point, this starts to sound a lot like slavery. Or at least Jim Crow, right?

And Dabney goes on to condemn the idea of education being in the public sector at all. He argues that people should take care of it - pay for it - themselves. Whites can fund their schools, and blacks can fund theirs. And even the low income whites? They should just fend for themselves. Hmm, this too sounds familiar. Let the poor take care of their own health care - they surely can make it happen if they try hard enough. And if they can’t, well too damn bad.

It struck me at the time, and strikes me even more now that this is the exact same argument.

All we have done is change the terms slightly. We now do not expressly say “negroes,” but just use “lazy takers.” The rest is the same.

How about the history of public benefits? The more I read, the more I am struck by the fact that the popularity of any government benefit is directly related to which people it is perceived as benefiting. In the case of public schools, it is clear Dabney deplores them primarily because they benefit blacks. But there are more.

Here is an early example: The Homestead Act.

This is the government program that allowed my immigrant ancestors in the 1880s to rise from poverty to the middle class. We got free land from the government (plundered from Native Americans).

Technically, the Homestead Act was available to non-whites, but whites (including 1st generation immigrants) were overwhelmingly the beneficiaries. Why? Well, you had to start with enough to farm the land - seeds, animals, tools - and build a shelter. How would you get that? Well, you might save a grub stake. Or you might borrow money. Neither of these were readily available to non-whites. This isn’t to say that blacks didn’t homestead. Some did. In fact, there is a historical African American settlement not too far from where I live, preserved as a state park.

But for the most part, this was a program that benefited whites, not blacks. I would say equally important was that it was perceived as benefiting whites, and that is what ensured its popularity.

Another example: Social Security

When the Social Security Act was passed in 1935, it did not apply to all workers. It specifically excluded domestic workers and agricultural workers.

Much ink has been shed about why this was, with the official SSA position being that it was “administrative,” that is, that it would be too much work to collect payroll taxes from small farms and from families that employed servants. But I think this is too simplistic. The issue isn’t whether the act was intended to exclude non-whites, but whether the fact that it did in practice tend to benefit whites much more than blacks contributed to its popularity.

In fact, 65 percent of the black workforce (and 66 percent of other, non-white races) were excluded from Social Security. These government benefits largely went to whites for decades, until the law was changed.

Those who discount the racial aspect point out that more whites were excluded (by numbers) than blacks. This too misses the point. If two thirds of white men were excluded, there is no way in hell the act would have passed in that form. If things were reversed, with most non-whites getting benefits, while whites were excluded, there would have been mass hysteria over the bill.

Again, perception is key. When most of us whites think of Social Security, we think of grandma. We don’t think of the ghetto. Social Security is (for good reason) a wildly popular program, which has made old age less of a terror for all of us.

Later on, Medicare and Medicaid were created, and their parallel yet divergent courses also shed light on the way that perception as to who gets benefits determines perception of the program. Both Medicare (which is a single payer, heavily subsidized, guaranteed issue insurance for the elderly) and Medicaid (which is similar, but for the poor, disabled, and those in nursing homes) were established in 1965. This was one year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This fact is vitally important.

The Civil Rights Act ended Jim Crow and Segregation. But Medicare and Medicaid were vital parts of this change too. Neither Medicare nor Medicaid would pay anything to hospitals or other medical providers that segregated, either by excluding non-whites OR by physically segregating patients in the hospital. Money talks, and this desegregated hospitals overnight.

It is easy to forget that prior to this, it was literally impossible for many blacks to obtain health care, even if they could afford it. Doctors and hospitals would not accept them.

Medicare is linked to Social Security, and shares its perception as being the way to take care of grandma. Medicaid, on the other hand, is squarely in the sights of the GOP as a program to be abolished. Perhaps this is because it is perceived as benefiting people of color - those moochers - at the expense of whites.

Let’s look back too at the segregation issue. Along with desegregation, the Medicare/Medicaid system also brought poor people into middle and upper class hospitals. A hospital that took Medicare had to accept Medicaid as well, so the poor - and non-whites - suddenly could afford medical care. There are people I know from my grandparents’ generation who still complain about having the “riff-raff” in the waiting room with them.

Just one more comment on this. It is in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - and the ensuing kerfuffle over Bob Jones University’s insistence on remaining segregated - that the Religious Right was founded - on a pro-segregation platform. At the same time, there was the recognition that naked racism wouldn’t necessarily play as a political cause. The Religious Right made an intentional pivot to abortion as the cause celebre, while embracing a libertarian and Social Darwinist economic vision - same result, but without the racist baggage.

Now, with the triumph of the Paul Ryan sorts, the official economic policy of the GOP is indeed one of Social Darwinism. (This is in contrast to even 9 years ago, with George W. Bush, who still believed that we should try to alleviate suffering.) The teachings of Ayn Rand, of Ludwig von Mises, and of Murray Rothbard are the official doctrine of the Right at this point. A discussion of the specifically Social Darwinist views must await a future post.

But it bears mentioning that all three of the above called for the abolition of civil rights laws. Rand herself said that the Civil Rights Act was worse than Communism (!!). Von Mises abhorred the Civil Rights Act, particularly the part that forbid employers from refusing to hire non-whites. Rothbard too made abolition of the Civil Rights Act central to his economic vision.

I do not believe the embrace of these ideas by the Right is an accident. It allowed people to come to the same policies while still thinking well of themselves.

I believe that at an emotional level, whether it is acknowledged to one’s self or not, we are still fiercely tribal creatures. Our willingness to share with others is directly proportional to how alike we perceive them to be. When we denigrate others as “lazy moochers,” or “unwilling to work hard,” or say they “didn’t earn it,” we aren’t envisioning our own children, our own relatives, our own tribe. We are envisioning “those people,” whoever they happen to be.

With 150 years of US history showing an ongoing problem with racism - really our national sin - it seems unlikely that we would be saying the same things about who does and does not deserve basic needs like health care unless we, deep down, meant the same thing. Even if we have somehow overcome the racial element, we have merely shifted into class hatred, and view all the poor (not just the brown ones) with contempt. Whatever else this is, it is in no possible way a Christian sentiment.

I’ll end with this thought:

For 150 years, we have justified withholding public benefits of various sorts, from education to health care, because of racist views. We have used certain arguments about why we shouldn’t help those outside our tribe.

Now, once again, we are making the exact same arguments, just with a more esoteric explanation - really a utopian philosophy that everyone benefits when we refuse to help the poor. Is it really likely that we rejected our racism, started from scratch, and came to the exact same conclusion, but this time for totally valid reasons? Or is it more likely that we continue to harbor the same tribalist, selfish instincts, and the same belief that non-whites are just a bunch of lazy moochers, unworthy of the basic humanity we grant to ourselves and those like us. We just know that we can’t say that out loud - even to ourselves…

***
More Dabney racism. 

***

The worst part about all of this is that every single person who made the above argument to me was:

  1. White
  2. Male
  3. Middle to upper class
  4. Considered himself to be a devout Christian

I believe that the reason that American White Evangelicals (and Dabney back in the day) have embraced the Social Darwinism of Ayn Rand, and also embraced the lies about the poor that go along with it, is that they are faced with a lot of cognitive dissonance: the founder of our religion clearly tied our eternal destiny to how we treat “the least of these,” so we have to have some rationalization for why we do not do what Christ commands - and why our politics works toward the opposite goal. Perhaps I will write about that in the future.

***

Note on comments: Please read my Comment Policy before commenting.

Also, for purposes of this post, I will delete any comments that repeat the same talking points, particularly:
  1. The poor are lazy
  2. Taking taxes and redistributing them is “theft.” I already know the Rand/Von Mises/Rothbard position.
  3. It isn’t the job of the government - it is for private charity. See below. And, if you can show any society since the invention of modern medicine, which has provided healthcare for its poor without government aid and only with private charity, then fine. But I have been able to discover evidence of any such thing.

I doubt anyone can honestly dispute that terminating or cutting funding for health coverage for the poorest citizens will cause them serious hardship. If you believe there is a better way to do it, you need to show the following:

  1. A concerted effort to create said alternative. Speculation isn’t enough: it must be currently ongoing as an effort.
  2. Such effort MUST be actively seeking out the poor, the sick, and those with preexisting conditions. If not, then it really isn’t addressing this problem. It may well be good, but it isn’t sufficient.
  3. Such effort MUST have sufficient funding - or a viable plan to obtain it - to cover a $880 Billion shortfall. Because if it doesn’t, it will not be able to actually cover the poor, the sick, etc.
  4. Such an effort MUST have a way of keeping the healthy from fleeing and leaving the sick to fend for themselves - otherwise, it will collapse.
  5. Such an effort MUST cover those outside of the tribe. So one that is just for christians of a particular theology (including no alcohol,tobacco, etc.) or just for people who do not have mental health issues will by its nature exclude many.
  6. It must be prepared right now to absorb 28 million who will mostly be sick and poor. If it cannot step in immediately to assist those who will be cut off, then it is illusory. If you burn my house down, it is of cold comfort that someday in the future, someone might rebuild it.

So, this rules out existing programs like Medi-Share, which does not fit any of the conditions except the first. If you try to sneak your “alternative” in and it does not satisfy these conditions, I will delete your comment. 


26 comments:

  1. Oh, man. This article just makes me sick. Not because I disagree, but because it is so horribly, horribly true. I've seen it. I've heard it. I am seeing this stuff of "taxation is robbery" and I deplore it because I know what kind of a mess would follow if all taxation were outlawed and people "voluntarily" supported the public services (many of which would just plain go away - health care and financial help for the poor being at the top of the list).

    My dad pastored small, non-wealthy churches and we knew quite a few people who would have been in serious trouble if there was no government health care for low-income people. Some or most of these people were actually handicapped - or the main provider was. One man is a paraplegic and can only help his family a little by drawing with his mouth. He needs his wife home quite a lot to take care of him. Another man had been in two head-on automobile accidents and was/is incapable of working at a job that required him to stay in one spot for long periods of time. (Formerly he worked for GM and was making good.) He did some things to help his family out, but he had to work when his body would let him and only for as long as he was able to endure it.

    I admit that these were all white people but, being poor, they would still be considered unworthy to live by some, because ultimately that's what they mean when they say that "those people should take care of themselves", isn't it? If they were "worthy to survive" they would be more productive and more fit to live. And it surely is a problem that pre-dates Civil Rights. My own grandfather was bullied by a teacher at his school because he was the equivalent of a welfare child in his day. His father had died and his mother was a partial invalid. (By the way, the WPA - another social program - likely saved them from destitution.)

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    1. Had to divide this into parts...sorry.

      I am so incredibly sick of hearing professing Christians say that their tax dollars are rightfully theirs and the government has no right to them! Do they never read their Bibles?! Jesus Christ Himself showed us that we pay our taxes, not because we aren't free but so that we don't offend others - and it was income tax, by the way. Peter was sent back to his occupation to collect the tax money for them both. Matthew 17:24-27 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

      This statement right here: "It allowed people to come to the same policies while still thinking well of themselves." This explains so pointedly what I've been seeing in some circles. They think they are still being "good, godly Christians" but, in at least some cases, they are blinded to what they are really saying. It's so depressing to see it in action! And, so maddeningly irrational from a real Christian viewpoint.

      This week I bumped into "Voluntarism" for the first time. Yuck. I can't believe that people who profess to believe in the basic sinfulness of mankind would actually imagine that a system where people "voluntarily" donate their money would end up working well and taking care of the poor. Beside the point that taxation and paying tribute is actually biblical, of course - even commanded in the N.T. epistles to the church!

      You know I have sometimes wondered if one reason God has been so merciful on this nation as long as He has is because it **does** take care of the poor and the elderly (and abused children by the much despised CPS). Since those programs are despised as more or less forms of socialism and injustice by certain people, that thought would be considered almost heresy by some. I just close with this verse from the Apostle Paul: "Galatians 2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do."

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    2. Very much agree. Excellent points. A friend of mine from law school who had been reading writings of John of Chrysostom (among other church fathers) recently pointed out the American Evangelical beliefs about wealth and poverty are a new phenomenon - completely opposite to the teachings of the church over history. It's just astounding to me.

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    3. I have spent time in a strain of fundamentalism that believed that one should avoid attending even moral movies because someone might see you at a "movie house" and think you were going to see the rated R movie, and this would damage your testimony. Likewise, don't drink root beer in amber bottles because someone might see you drinking it and think you are drinking beer (really--and I was like eight, so what, they would assume someone handed an eight-year-old a bottle of dark stout?). All this because the idea is that you want to maintain as sterling a testimony as possible, even if you are made uncomfortable or have to follow slightly ridiculous rules to do so.

      So WHY ON EARTH wouldn't these SAME people, who do stuff like avoid companies whose pharmacies might sell birth control pills (because they don't want to be associated with abortion), not be horrified at even appearing like they don't care for the poor? I'll point out that it's not because "well, I don't think the healthcare system WORKS" because they don't really care about whether something works in the other instances. Does avoiding K-Mart keep anybody from buying birth control pills there? Even if it did, does that keep anybody from getting an abortion? "Irrelevant, I need to keep my testimony pure and my conscience clean." Well, then you should be concerned about your testimony re: not letting poor old grandmas die in the street, right?

      I don't know that it is always consciously about race (note the "consciously"), but it's definitely about class, and in the US it comes to the same thing. MY insurance is moral because I "work", but the minimum wage worker just "flips burgers" which doesn't count.

      Although, interesting point: I don't actually "work" in the sense that they usually mean. I'm a SAHM who homeschools my children. Technically I'm a lazy moocher on my husband, and to be consistent I shouldn't be able to ride along on his insurance. BUT--I am a white, middle-class lazy moocher who is (here at least) following gender roles. Way different than a black single mom who has to work a couple different minimum wage jobs to afford rent and daycare and who can't afford asthma meds (out-of-pocket cost: well over $500/month, depending on which meds) for her kids without the government, right? She should just work harder?

      I also think that many people, especially privileged people, don't know how much things cost and cannot math. Like the senator who famously thought you could buy insurance if you'd forgo an iPhone (current price: $647? once? have you priced private insurance?), or the article making the rounds right now that suggests you can make a down payment on a house if you just restrain yourself from frivolously buying avocado toast. Those are the words of people either trying to be offensive, or of people who haven't actually looked at the out-of-pocket price of things in a long time *because they have so much money they don't have to*. It's only privilege that allows people to be that ignorant.

      I can't remember which (Trollope I think?) character it is now, but I remember there was one fictional 19th century wealthy maiden lady who liked to take a basket of leftovers to the local poor and lecture them on thrift, and was always miffed that they weren't more grateful. I have also read articles wondering piteously why blue-collar families are, statistically, much less likely to attend church than they were forty years ago. I....have a few ideas?

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    4. I too see a lot of "I'm not good at the maths" in all of this. What is both amusing and frustrating is that a number of the people I know who love to lecture the poor on budgeting make six figures and yet are in recurring cash crunches. As usual, I love your thoughtful commentary.

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    5. Lori Alexander is a rising star in the "christian" patriarchy world, and a devout lover of the Pearls. She has attracted some attention recently with her rather extreme views and lack of compassion. (Just for what it's worth, I managed to get myself blocked from her Facebook page several months ago.)

      I can't stand to read or listen to her stuff much because it's so nauseating, and I don't have time to answer all her nonsense on my own page. My understanding, though, is that she teaches that anyone who wants to please God can afford to have the wife stay home, they will just have to make sacrifices and be frugal, etc. Anyone can do it, though.

      A friend of mine from Australia started poking around, found out the Alexanders' street address, and looked up the estimated value of their house. Turns out they live in a 3,000+ sq. ft., 6 bedroom house in So.Cal. that is presently estimated to be valued at over a million dollars. So much "suffering for the Lord" going on there.

      "...but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." Luke 9:58

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    6. I actually think the idea that the poor are poor because they're not working hard enough at getting God to like them (i.e., doing stuff like having a wife stay home even when financially it doesn't make sense) is quite pagan--which is ironic since a lot of these folks (Pearls etc.) are so paranoid about other religions that they expunge the pages about Greco-Roman deities in the Abeka (!) history book. (I have seen it done, alas.)

      You can see it when you posit a really possible scenario, to wit: What happens if a breadwinner husband is hurt at work and disabled? (Note: my husband works in mining and this is not a hypothetical problem, we have seen it.) To keep the family fed and clothed, will you: 1) take disability money from the government? 2) find a church to replace your whole salary and pay for medical bills? 3) let the wife go out to work?

      Usually the response is something along the lines of "God won't let that happen because we are working so hard to please Him." But the idea that you can stave off bad events by doing the right rituals or engaging in the right taboos is not Christianity. Baal is the prosperity god, not Jehovah. ("Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" "Neither....")

      From my perspective, Baal worship and its modern cognates usually involve sacrificing people. Just because nowadays we don't do it literally with a knife in a temple doesn't mean that we're squeamish about ruining lives, if we think it will ensure our own safety. (And, apparently, we're not too worried about causing literal deaths, either, if you didn't do the right rituals and ended up poor. Too bad for you!)

      But that's not Jesus, thank God. And the followers of Jesus should not act like the followers of Baal.

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    7. Now, that is an interesting line of discussion, Breanna.

      One of the men that I mentioned in my first comment is a quadriplegic who broke his neck diving into a river (I suppose he was "bad" for swimming at all, but that's another whole issue - there is always some excuse, isn't there?). His wife has worked at various jobs at various times over the years, but they fit pretty exactly into the situation you describe. The truth is that they have been helped by all three that you mention plus friends and family. They probably couldn't have made it without those options being available at the times they needed them.

      The comparison with Baal worship and pagan superstitions is really interesting. From personal experience, I can say that I have thought that way myself at times. "If I do thus and so, God WILL do thus and so for me because blah, blah, blah." I suffered from scrupulosity during my late teens and early twenties, and I believe that this contributed to that mindset as well.

      Sadly, scrupulosity is also not acknowledged well in Fundamental and Evangelical circles, and I believe that we have been influenced by men and women who are viewed as "highly spiritual and dedicated to God" who are or were, in fact, suffering from scrupulosity. This blends neatly with the pagan superstitious tendencies because it is also very self-focused and preoccupied with earning God's favor by perfecting the "necessary rituals." And, from my own experience, I know that it holds the needs and feelings of others, and even the words of God, in low esteem in order to fulfill its own perceived "necessary means to holiness."

      Thank God, I had parents who held compassion and the actual word of God higher than rules and legalism.

      I also think that our misconstrued ideas about blessing have contributed to this. Have you ever noticed how many of the old hymns imply or outright say that we earn God's blessings by our works? For example - "You can never be blessed, Or find peace and sweet rest, Till you yield Him your body and soul." I don't remember when I first realized that I knew Christians who had not "yielded their body and soul" and God was blessing them anyway. The whole concept that God will and can bless people who are sinners galls those who want to earn His blessing. Combine this with the idea that God will prosper you if you do "right", and now we have a toxic poison that leads to despising the poor.

      Years ago my parents were visiting a church in Michigan in the winter. As they were putting on their coats to leave after the meeting, they overheard a conversation between two other ladies. One lady was putting some little shawls, ponchos or blankets around her daughters in preparation for going out into the cold. It was not enough coverage for children. The other lady, who was obviously very well to-do by her attire, had noticed and stopped to talk to the mother. She asked about their wraps and when she learned they didn't have coats, she made an appointment to take them shopping and buy coats for them. She was so gracious and simple in her manner and offer that the mother of the girls was not offended and she agreed. My dad still cries when he tells the story because of how it exemplifies the way Christians should care for each others' needs.

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    8. A good verse to go with this discussion: John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

      And another: Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

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    9. I always enjoy what both of you bring to the discussion.

      If I were to crystallize my thinking on this, it is that American Christianity has actually embraced Karma - the idea that there is a linear relationship between wealth and "godliness." And as you both point out, this is thoroughly pagan.

      And with that comes the idea that WE, of all people, should be focusing on increasing the degree to which OTHER people are punished and outright harmed for their perceived mistakes. We are the agents of God's wrath on those who do not comply 100%.

      (And of course, how to apply this to a friend who was left with teen children when brain cancer claimed her husband, or another friend left with small children when colon cancer claimed hers...and I could go on and on.)

      Also, "getting blocked by a Patriarchist" is up there with "getting picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church" or "Getting flamed by Doug Wilson" as evidence you are doing something right. :)

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    10. I found this quote today in my collection:
      "People have a habit of inventing fictions they will believe wholeheartedly in order to ignore the truth they cannot accept." It is attributed to Libba Bray. I thought it went with this discussion.

      My perspective is that the Karma was embraced because it fit a pre-existing condition, er mindset. One of my great-uncles was a missionary in China when the Communists took over. He was kept under house arrest for about a year and part of that time he was kept in a basement where he developed typhoid (or was it typhus?). Meanwhile back in his home church in the good, ol' USA, there were some people who were saying that he must have been living in sin or that wouldn't have happened to him. His mother was quite miffed at this! But, yeah, he's literally suffering for the preaching of the Gospel (he taught in a Bible Institute) and the "good, godly" (comfortable, dry, and well) people back home are accusing him of being wicked, otherwise that wouldn't have happened to him. And that was back in the day when Christians allegedly knew the Bible better. Enter Karma. "Ooooh! Just what we always said!" I've seen Christians post memes about Karma as if they believed it to be truth.

      About being blocked...I probably got more satisfaction out of that than I should have. :-) My Aussie friend and I both had our comments deleted, and I was blocked. In some ways it was a relief more than anything. There was so much accusation against women for everything that goes wrong in homes it was maddening. Also, the usual gross misuse of scripture. Sometimes I don't know why I bother, except I see the little people being hurt and then I get angry.

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    11. By that logic...what was Jesus' sin that sent him to the cross?

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  2. I always think of this quote during discussions like these (Wiki attributes it to Anatole France, although I've never confirmed)

    In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

    (La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain. According to Wiki.)

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    1. Another interesting quote on this is from, of all people, Adam Smith.

      “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

      I note that so many love to invoke Adam Smith (who, as far as I can tell, supported the English Poor Laws) to support what is really Ayn Rand's approach to poverty.

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  3. Ezekiel 16:49-50 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

    The verse generator on my blog put up this verse today and I thought it went well with this discussion. However, you may view the issue of abominations, I find it interesting that so many in the American church are so volatile over the homosexual issue, but they completely ignore all the other sins of Sodom. Pride, anyone? Or how about fullness of bread? (That one bothers me.) Abundance of idleness much? (Ouch again.) Not strengthening the hand of the poor and need? Hmmm. (Oh, yes, Rev., we see your $1700 suit and we raise you a BMW.) Haughty? Ahem. Ah, but Sodom was all about one sin only.

    Or was it?

    God's thoughts seem to be different than mankind's. Surprise, surprise.

    Please feel free to delete this comment if you don't want it on your page.

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    1. I'll just say that as a queer Christian I wish we could emblazon Ezekiel 16:49-50 on every church door.
      I love Christ more than I love my life, & nearly lost my life trying to turn my heart "straight," until I finally got very real & asked God what they think of me & discovered that yes, I really was born this way. & yet all the people who put up homophobic bricks in the growing wall between myself & God...every single one of them was full of pride, full of bread & clearly idle enough to have time to interfere in my life heh heh.

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    2. Thank you for stopping by, Hopestill. :)

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    3. I really wish that more Christians would take the time to actually listen to stories like yours before assuming they can understand your journey and relationship to God.

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  4. Great read. One of my pastors went on a trip to the Deep South and told me that one bastian of segregation is in Church on a Sunday Morning. He particularly pointed out that while the pastor was telling people that the Lords Day was a day of rest, the coloured people were outside taking care of the grounds.

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    1. (Just so you know, in the United States, "coloured people" is considered a pejorative. It's more subtle than others, but it has negative history here.)

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    2. Autumn is correct - a cultural thing here.

      I should point out that it isn't *just* the South. New York City is one of the most segregated *cities* in the US, and churches are mostly segregated all over. (Not completely, but they are generally *more* segregated than the communities in which they are found. I have attended one exception. But only one. And that was in Los Angeles. The pattern is one of segregation both by race and by class.

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    3. One more factor here. In the US, for the most part, Whites have segregated friend circles. Not all, and younger people (and those in larger cities) tend to have more diverse friendships. And if you look at *close* friendships, it is even more stark. "Some of my best friends are Black/Hispanic/Asian" is a thing, and it misses the point. If you are *not* white, then your circles tend (of necessity) to be broader.

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    4. I've been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for about 1 1/2 years now, & it's insane & frightening to me how many white people I know who have mostly white friend circles. The Bay Area is such a diverse place, you literally have to work to accomplish that.

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    5. & I forgot to add...that "some of my best friends are..." often ignores that some of their "best friends" have to "act white" in order for the relationship to thrive.

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