Thursday, September 6, 2012

GOP and Democrats on God-Talk and Faith: Rube Bait and the Least Among Us

At National Catholic Reporter, Pat Perriello takes a close look at the Republican platform in 2012, and finds it lacking on ethical grounds.  He concludes:

There is a harshness and meanness to the Republican proposals. It seems they just don't care about people except for the winners, the wealthiest in our society. Where is the compassion for illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as young children, are here through no fault of their own and are Americans in every meaningful way? Do they care about the rising number of poor in our country and the additional hardships their policies would create for them? Does their right to bear arms trump the right of our citizens and our young people to be safe in their places of work, school and worship? 
The policies seem to be based on an unhealthy individualism. The notion seems to be a selfish one that as long as I can protect myself and get ahead, I have no responsibility for the rest of my fellow citizens. This might be a great credo for the world of capitalism, but it is difficult to square with Christianity. It's clear we will all have a lot of soul-searching to do between now and the election. I, for one, find it difficult to feel at all comfortable with the document that is the 2012 Republican Party platform.

And in her remarks to the Democratic National Convention, Sr. Simone Campbell echoes this assessment.  She told the delegates last night,

Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.  . . .  
In Milwaukee, I met Billy and his wife and two boys at St. Benedict's dining room. Billy's work hours were cut back in the recession. Billy is taking responsibility for himself and his family, but right now without food stamps, he and his wife could not put food on their family table. 
We all share responsibility for creating an economy where parents with jobs earn enough to take care of their families. In order to cut taxes for the very wealthy, the Romney-Ryan budget would make it even tougher for hard-working Americans like Billy to feed their families. Paul Ryan says this budget is in keeping with the values of our shared faith. I simply disagree. 

Even with these strong faith-based voices issuing moral challenges to the decision of one of our major political parties to exclude the least among us from social participation and social safety nets, the GOP still wants to depict itself as God's party, and to tag the Democratic party as a party of godless secular liberals.  As Ben Adler notes at The Nation today, the Republicans continue to try "to rev up the evangelical right-wing base" with dog whistles about how the Democrats have removed God from politics.  

And as Peter Montgomery indicates at Religion Dispatches, the outrage about the Democrats' removal of God from the public square is entirely manufactured, when the current Democratic platform includes an extensive section on faith, and when there have been prayers left, right, and center at the DNC.

Given that the obvious overriding concern of GOP leaders is to promote the interests of the rich--at the expense of the rest of the nation's citizens--why the continued insistence on God-talk?  Why the manufactured outrage about the removal of God from the public square?  And why the preposterous pretense that the Republican party is God-approved and God-ordained?

Former Republican Mike Lofgren explains to Bill Moyers why the GOP continues to bear down on the religious culture-war issues even as it maintains that the central debate between the parties ought to be about economic issues:

The party is really oriented towards the concerns of the rich. It's about cutting their taxes, reducing regulation on business, making things wide open for Wall Street. Now you're not going to get anybody to the polls and consciously pull the lever for the Republicans if they say, "Our agenda is to further entrench the rich and, oh by the way, your pension may take a hit." 
So they use the culture wars quite cynically, as essentially rube bait to get people to the polls. And that explains why, for instance, the Koch brothers were early funders of Michele Bachmann, who is a darling of the religious right. They don't care particularly, I would assume, about her religious foibles. What they care about is the bottom line. And these religious right candidates, many of them believing in the health and wealth, name it and claim it prosperity gospel, believe that the rich are sanctified and the poor punished

[T]hey use the culture wars quite cynically, as essentially rube bait to get people to the polls.  And they'll keep doing that, and cynically so, as long as it provides them political returns, and as long as working- and middle-class Americans continue to cut off their noses to spite their faces and vote for the party of the super-rich on spurious "faith-based" grounds.  

The more loudly people scream about how God is on their side in public debates, the more likely they are to be entirely disconnected from what the Judaeo-Christian tradition understands God to be all about.

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