Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Grassroots, Downhome Jesus People

I've seen versions of these meme before, and when I see it I usually point out that "entitlement" doesn't mean "some kind of charity or handout."  It's true, I suppose, that some government and corporate elites have turned the word "entitlement" into a cussword; but then they also consider any form of government assistance, for anyone except the rich and big corporations, to be an intolerable drag on taxpayers' money that could better be spent subsidizing Wall Street.  The people I know who post memes like this generally regard everyone who receives government assistance (except themselves and their families and friends, of course) as lazy parasitic free-riders, so I don't take their political acuity for granted anyway.  So, it's the same old same-old, the "Get Your Government Hands Off My Medicare" syndrome.  Probably these people are ineducable, but they should at least be confronted and challenged when they lie.

But this time something else occurred to me.  What's wrong, exactly, with "some kind of charity or handout"?  There seems to be a general social consensus that charity and handouts are Very, Very Bad Things, and that people who accept charity or handouts should be ashamed of themselves; so, they often are.  Of course, people who believe this will pay lip service to help for those in genuine need.  The former Welfare Prince (son of a Welfare Queen) Ben Carson told The View, for example:
I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people., in a convoluted post, tried to defend Carson against charges of dishonesty and hypocrisy by pointing to this quotation among others.  But it's a meaningless evasion, typical of the Right.  Judging from their attitudes, I suppose they wouldn't mind providing that safety net as long as those to whom it's provided are relentlessly and heartlessly reminded of their shame for not being able to care for themselves.  It's this attitude that has put the stench into the word "charity," especially when it's preceded by "Christian."

The thing is, the people who post the above meme and others with the same agenda are mostly obnoxiously devout Christians, studding their Facebook pages with declarations of their faith in God and the certainty that he is looking out for them.  (Which are often the less creepy of their religious declarations.)  Yet Jesus himself did works of charity, provided food and healthcare handouts without (mostly) asking anything in return.  The daily bread mentioned in Jesus' prayer is provided by God, not by human effort.  The earliest Christian groups did a lot of charity work, supporting widows and orphans and the poor; ostensibly they didn't limit this support only to their fellow Christians.  This is all in the New Testament, including the gospels. There is no indication I remember that those who received such handouts were supposed to be ashamed of doing so.

Yet right-wing Christians tend to be extremely hostile to works of charity that benefit other people, people they judge unworthy of receiving help.  (Especially children.  Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?)  Given their hostility to some fundamental Christian values, it's not surprising that people like those behind this meme regard "charity" and "handout" as cusswords.  Nor are their hypocrisy and inhumanity any surprise.  This is just one more point on which to challenge them.