Flavin’s Corner

God, Republicans, and Payback

Everyone’s heard about Bush’s newly created “White House Office of Faith-Based and Community  Initiatives,” right?  Large chunks of America’s budget surplus will be doled out to religious organizations under the pretense that “faith” enables certain groups and entrepreneurs to possess better economic solutions to such social problems as drug abuse, unwanted pregnancies, violence, and the perennial whine about family image, than current state and federal agencies.  Bush’s privatization pretension concerns ambivalent assessments of government responsibility toward its most needy citizens and attempts to advance a model in which a belief in God automatically makes one more qualified in the area of social services than a government employee.  Of course that’s a smoke-screen, a ruse, a con perpetrated on the American people.  Republicans are in a position to pay back their supporters and this “faith-based” initiative is just a blind behind which a chosen few may acquire the monies of the many.  It’s going to be a rough four years!

Article 11 of the 1796 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary begins: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...” [Note: this treaty may be read here, but beware as the website belongs to one of the Internet’s most crazed Scientologists.] Some may argue America is a Christian nation and point to many vague references in documents and speeches by famous Americans, but these examples beg the question: If America really is a Christian nation, exactly what Christian denomination (sect) is meant?  Catholic, Unitarian, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker, or another?  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...,” is how the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution opens.  Our Founders wished to avoid the tangle of church and state, spiritual as opposed to secular, or showing favor to one religious segment of our population over another.  Now, instead of applying the budget surplus to Medicaid or the national debt, a select group of Born-Again bigots will temporarily leave their cable-television pulpits to spend our money while pretending to help the needy.  Bush has said, “We will not fund the religious activities of any religious group, but when people of faith provide social services, we will not discriminate against them.”  Not all discrimination is improper, Mr. President.

John J. Dilulio, Jr., Bush’s pick to head this new initiative, has said in an interview that he’s impressed with “relevant empirical data” which suggests religion can make a difference in certain inner-city programs.  I’ve personally talked with homeless people in Chicago, New York City, and Boston, who would rather live on the street than be lectured to about “God” at a religious mission.  They expressed revulsion at anyone who would choose to preach at them in exchange for food and shelter.  We need to help the needy, not kick them when they’re down.  I seriously believe this initiative isn’t about helping people, but just another way to separate the American people from their budget surplus.

Also named to the “faith-based” initiative (as “official advisor” to the White House) is the ex-mayor of Indianapolis, IN, Stephen Goldsmith, regarded by many as the “high-priest” of privatization.  Goldsmith is well known for his taking such government responsibilities as waste processing, transportation, and the like, and contracting these services out to bidding companies.  Sure, a French company might very well provide a cheaper service than a mismanaged local government agency, but how will “faith-based” privatization help drug-addicts, AIDS victims, or pregnant teens?  Who’s kidding who?  Hey, our U.S. military hasn’t been up to par recently, perhaps we should rent a foreign army to guard our shores?  Government agencies which provide much needed social services should be improved, not skipped over.

This is, of course, just the first salvo.  We’ll see attacks against the theory of evolution, a woman’s right of choice, and legislation to inhibit the security of homosexuals.  Bush and his Republican pals will argue Clinton did this and Clinton did that, and America needs to return to an imaginary Republican utopia of moral values.  Maybe we should invest in cowboy boots, as the manure is likely to pile quite high.

I’m reminded of the admonition from Matthew 6:3, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth...”  Charitable works greatly assist society and it’s my understanding the reward, if any, is in the accomplishment of charity itself.  So-called “faith-based” groups should be encouraged to commit random acts of kindness, but ...with their own money, not the taxpayers’.

Who will earn a share of the estimated $10 billion designated for this initiative?  Neo-pagans?  Taoists?  Of course not!  It’s politics and only those “faith-based” groups and individuals who are successful at lobbying (can you say “soft money”?) will be considered.  Oh, it won’t be just the Born-Again bigots who will receive our tax-dollars!  Earlier this week Unification Church founder, The Washington Times newspaper owner, and convicted felon, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon married two hundred couples at the United Nations as part of an international forum of “Dialogue Among Civilizations,” which former Vice President Danny Quayle and ex-president of Poland, Lech Walesa, attended.  I’d guess the Moonies will have their hands out for federal funds, perhaps to provide free rice and beans to out-of-work fishermen in Gloucester, MA, where they’re said to be the largest owners of waterfront property.  And, unfortunately, the Scientologists will probably use extortion and blackmail to get their hands on some of the funds.  Some groups are better at acquiring cash than others.  It shouldn’t be this way.  It shouldn’t be about these groups at all.  It should be about the needy, not the greedy.

That’s it for now.  I have faith that the ACLU and a host of constitutional lawyers will ride to the rescue, but I also need to be mindful that “faith” has the inherent connotation the believer might be wrong.  Get ready for ten billion mistakes.

Hoping I don’t need help anytime soon,

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